By John Deming
Atlantic News, Thursday, November 11, 2004
HAMPTON BEACH — A plastic bag blows briskly across empty Ocean Boulevard and cradles to a stop before the locked gates of Bargain World.
Waves lap the shore of the vacant beach, the freezing surf on the verge of growing still colder as winter draws near.
Green tea, anyone?
Ocean Boulevard may be the veritable ghost town it becomes every year when summer tourists take flight, but Ocean Wok restaurant — located at 7 Ocean Boulevard — will thrive into and through the winter as it has each year for the past decade.
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, Ocean Wok, which one of few restaurants at the beach to stay open year-round, has survived from its loyal clientele. Business during the winter is "not much different" than business during the summer, according to Matthew Fan, who owns the restaurant with his wife Sophia. Their son, Chris, works at the restaurant during the summer.
"We have a lot of local people supporting this place," Matthew Fan says, noting that regulars come from as far away as Methuen, Andover and Newburyport. "The trust between the customer and the restaurant is very high."
The fact that business is so steady over the course of a November afternoon attests to this.
While several parties eat in the dining room, one woman sits at the bar early Thursday afternoon drinking tea, eating soup and awaiting the arrival of a friend she is meeting for lunch. She's been a regular for some time, she says, making at least two or three appearances a week.
"I love it here, that's all I'll say," she remarks, and sips her tea.
One of the restaurant's most popular offerings is its fresh green tea, introduced only in the last year, according to Fan.
"[Green tea] helps in every way," Fan says, noting its quality as an antioxidant. "To be really effective, you need to fresh brew it."
And fresh it is.
Any customer who orders the tea gets it in their own little silver tea pot. Removing the lid, one can see a pile of fresh green tea leaves nestled right at the top.
The restaurant and its clean, professional, friendly atmosphere — not to mention its swift service from bow-tied waiters — has not gone unnoticed. It received glowing reviews for its appointment from the "Boston Globe" in both 1995 and 1997, and has also been celebrated by the "Union Leader" and the "Lawrence Eagle-Tribune," among others.
But the restaurant is surprisingly affordable: 25 items of choice for lunch come with both soup and appetizer, all for a price not much more than a Big Mac.
As for how it has had such success in its first decade, Fan notes the restaurant's consistency.
"After 10 years, everything still looks like new," he says.
And he's right. The inside of the restaurant is clean and kept, showing no signs of decay and looking ready for at least another decade of service.
Though his restaurant has been in the same spot for 10 years, Fan notes that he would not shy away from moving. Given its location at number 7 Ocean Boulevard, it sits along the portion of road just before it hooks toward the beachfront. It is always been a dream of his, he says, for Ocean Wok to have an ocean view.
"We're not really thinking about moving right now," he says. "But maybe, if something comes up."
As customers leave the restaurant, Fan thanks them, many of them by name, and many of which they'll likely see again in the next few days.
"[The restaurant] requires a lot of attention," Fan says. "But we make it very comfortable to dine. We work real hard."