House of Chow
House of Chow, located at 2101 W. Broadway, Ste O, is the oldest Chinese restaurant in Columbia. Started in 1981, the restaurant is a fusion of Taiwanese, Chinese and Hong Kong flavors and recipes and combines these styles into a combination of traditional and new age recipes.
The play on words name came from the original owner of the restaurant, Amy Chow and her last name used as a synonym for food.
Three years ago, Chow decided it was time to retire. Her nephew, James Lowe took over the restaurant. Born in Hong Kong but a resident of Columbia for over 30 years, Lowe was not exactly well versed in restaurant ownership. Besides watching members of his family like Chow and his mother, who started Peking restaurant in Columbia, food service was unfamiliar to him.
A graduate of Hickman High School and The University of Missouri, Lowe found his passion in a career in architectural studies. Working in that business for 16 years, he always found cooking to be an enjoyable thing to do on the side and decided to transform his love for cooking into a full time job when Chow was ready to retire.
“I love to entertain I love to entertain with food,” said Lowe. “I always have dinner parties. Having a restaurant feels like I have a dinner party every day except at the end, people pay me, what a good deal,” he says with a laugh.
Lowe’s love for entertaining also translates to what makes House of Chow unique in its service and food. There is such a personal, caring factor in the service provided that sets House of Chow apart from other restaurants of the same cuisine in the area. Lowe points out that while many restaurants serve good food, the owners themselves often do not know how to cook. They are unable to educate customers or help them make good choices.
“So my uniqueness is when someone says ‘hey, I’m gluten free,’ this is what you can do. Or I had one customer say ‘hey, I’m allergic to basically everything.’ I said sure there is still stuff you can eat. I am able to help them make the right choice,” said Lowe.
His love for customers goes far deeper than just entertaining and choosing the perfect plate. As I sat with Lowe, many customers left the restaurant after eating lunch and many came in to pick up carry out orders. Each customer that walked by was greeted by his or her first name by Lowe.
“It is important to me to see my guests come to a beautiful place like this. I always emphasize a beautiful and CLEAN place, to enjoy, have a good time, meet up with friends. That makes me happy. You see when the customer is happy, I am happy,” said Lowe.
House of Chow provides two menus, one with more Americanized, familiar Chinese faire and one with more traditional Chinese recipes, stemming from family geographical heritage. Recipes are made with high quality ingredients and Lowe visits local farmer’s markets during peak produce seasons to create specials with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
Combining two passions and careers, Lowe has incorporated some of his own design around the restaurant but kept much of Chow’s original restaurant intact. Pieces of her design as well as Chow herself are still present in the venue. Chow often comes in to visit her customers who know, love and miss her being around the restaurant.
Stop by for House of Chow’s happy hour every day of the week from 4:30-6:30 p.m. and get $1 off your beverage. Live music is performed for guests on the weekends.
Singapore Rice Noodles-
This dish is one of the more traditional items on the menu. It is a delicious mixture of rice noodles, carrots, chicken, shrimp and egg tossed in a flavorful curry sauce. Lowe says lots of customers substitute the meat in the dish for tofu.
Tarro Fried Shrimp-
A dish unique to House of Chow and Columbia was created by Lowe. Perfectly cooked shrimp are beneath a thick coating of crispy fried taro root and served with a silky honey sesame sauce that doubles as a salad dressing.
Tea-White tea with a marigold bloom creates a sweet and earth flavor