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New Chinese restaurant is a family affair

INDEPENDENCE -- Following in the family business is just part of the game for Chris Feng.

Happy Dragon Famous Chinese Cuisine manager Chris Feng, left, and his father and head chef, Li Nan, in the newly opened restaurant on Polk Street in Independence.

Photo by Aaron Newton

Happy Dragon Famous Chinese Cuisine manager Chris Feng, left, and his father and head chef, Li Nan, in the newly opened restaurant on Polk Street in Independence.

August 20, 2013

INDEPENDENCE -- Following in the family business is just part of the game for Chris Feng.

Feng, 25, opened Happy Dragon Famous Chinese Cuisine, his first restaurant, Sunday in Independence with a lot of help from his family -- a lot of help.

Feng's dad, Li Nan, has more than 20 years experience in the restaurant industry and was a key component to getting Happy Dragon where it is -- he's even the head chef.

The rest of the family joined in, too. Feng's mother, sister and cousins all provided invaluable support in the last few months.

In the weeks leading up to Sunday's grand opening, Feng's nerves were nonstop.

"I couldn't sleep very well and I've been getting up at 8 o'clock doing the menu," Feng said. "I have a lot of stress."

The Feng family has opened numerous restaurants through the Willamette Valley; most are in the Portland metropolitan area.

Feng moved from Portland to Independence to be close to the restaurant and involved in the community. His family is still in Portland and makes the drive to Independence every day.

"We did a lot of work. I drove down here every day for two months," Feng said. "It's a really long drive."

With Happy Dragon now open, Monmouth and Independence together have three Chinese restaurants.

Feng is hoping Happy Dragon's more traditional approach to classic entrees like Peking duck and various clay pot specials, all prepared by his father, will set it apart from the competition.

"We have our own Chinese barbecue oven, so we can do barbecue pork really fresh and really good," Feng said.

Lunch and dinner combos give patrons plenty of choices without hitting the wallet too hard.

The four-page, front-and-back menu gives patrons a sampling of what Feng's father is capable of without doing too much.

"Because this restaurant is a little small, we don't want to do a lot of things and confuse you guys (customers)," Feng said. "He can cook more, but he says this is a good amount."

Feng cut his teeth in one of his father's restaurants as a busboy at 16.

Since then, Feng has been helping out in other family restaurants, with plans of opening his own one day.

The building owner, Johnny Chan, is a family friend who has been trying to get them to open a restaurant at the location for a few years, Feng said.

The stars finally aligned a few months ago and Feng got to work cutting through all the red tape associated with opening a restaurant.

"This is my first time doing business, so I don't know what's going on," Feng said. "The first time is very hard. The city answered every question I asked. They're really nice."

Give It A Try

What: Happy Dragon Famous Chinese Cuisine.

Where: 101 N. Polk St., Independence.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

Specialties: Traditional Cantonese and Szechwan cuisine,

clay pot entrees and seafood options.

Of note: Full bar to open soon.

For more information: 503-837-0315.

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