On a wet and dreary Thursday, Danielle Short waited outside A&C Chinese Fast Food, eager to avoid the hungry crowd that had formed inside.
Short said she had been waiting at least three hours for her meal — fried chicken wings with rice and vegetables — but was determined to stick it out.
Inside, at about 2 p.m., some 20 others waited.
“It’s definitely worth it,” Short insisted.
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A&C, at 2200 Beatties Ford Road, reopened March 3 after a three-year shutdown because of the pandemic. The very next day, on Friday, March 4, it was forced to close again — this time to restock after selling out of food.
A family business
Husband-and-wife owners Jim Shi and Bonnie Zhao have owned A&C since 1997, their daughter, Leighann Shi, told QCity Metro, speaking for her parents because of a language barrier.
Shi said her family moved to Charlotte from China in 1989. Soon after, she said, her father began working as a cook for the restaurant’s previous owner. He eventually took over the small West End business.
As the pandemic took hold, the couple closed the restaurant in June 2020. Their daughter blamed health concerns caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.
With conditions now safe to reopen, Shi said, the couple had planned to inform a select few people. Instead, word spread in advance across social media.
“There was a line right before they opened, so they were surprised,” she said. “But they were thankful and happy to see everyone too.”
Shi said her parents felt “overwhelmed” by the support on reopening day.
She asked that customers be patient as the business ramps up. Jim Shi, 70, and Bonnie Zhao, 67, are doing their best, she said, to ensure a good food experience. Some of their chicken dishes, she said, take 24 hours to marinade.
Beloved in the community
A&C is known for its homemade food, especially its chicken fried rice. The Arnold Palmer lemonade is also a favorite, according to customers who spoke with QCity Metro.
DeVondia Roseborough said she saw a post on Facebook announcing that A&C was reopening. Because she had to work and could not go, her daughter surprised her with a meal.
Roseborough said she tried A&C for the first time in the mid-1990s after her best friend recommended the place.
“It was delicious,” she recalled, adding, “It has this flavor that draws you in.”
Roseborough said her best friend died of cancer in October 2021. Now, each time she eats at A&C, she’ll remember the special bond they shared.
“She turned me on the A&C. She turned my kids on. Now, my grandbabies have the opportunity to taste the chicken wings,” Rosenborough said.
Worth the wait
T.J. Jackson called A&C the “best Chinese food in Charlotte.” The New Orleans native said soul food was always his favorite, but when he moved to Charlotte in 2005, he found a new love.
“I came down here, and [now] I don’t eat nothing but Chinese food, and that’s because of A&C,” he said.
Jackson said he tried other Chinese restaurants after A&C closed but was typically disappointed. He said he’s glad the restaurant reopened and hopes people will appreciate it more.
Kia Wood, there last week for chicken fried rice, said long lines were a constant at A&C. She said she was surprised when the restaurant suddenly closed.
“Everybody was mad,” she said. “Nobody knew what was going on.”
Wood said people were posting on Facebook about the restaurant reopening, so she stop by last week to see if the rumors were true.
“I’m glad I did,” she said. “It’s definitely worth the hype.”
Short, meanwhile, after waiting three hours for her meal, walked back inside to check on the status of her food. She soon emerged with a bag containing two takeout trays.
“Finally!” she said, flashing a smile.