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Wok-in’ on Main
story and photo by Cody Moore

Two Jonesboro residents with roots in China recently opened a new eatery in the heart of Downtown Jonesboro with the hope of showing the community a new side of Chinese culture. With the addition of City Wok as a downtown eatery, Cory Clay and his wife, Li, who grew up in China, want to prove to locals that Chinese cuisine is more than they think.

Upon walking through the doors of City Wok’s quaint Main Street location, guests are immediately greeted by Cory, who works the front of the restaurant by himself. Meanwhile, Li’s time is spent in the kitchen making all of the food. The modern, yet intimate atmosphere of the interior of the building is exactly what Cory and Li envisioned when the idea of opening their own restaurant came to mind. The two describe the downtown location and timing as a happy coincidence.

“On the last visit to my wife’s family in China, I made a comment about how we didn’t have anything like what we were having that night back home, which sparked a conversation about the differences between what I knew as Chinese food versus what we ate at home every night,” said Cory. “That conversation led to us to thinking about showing Jonesboro that there was more to Chinese food than what they were used to.”

Being a family business and the only two running the establishment, they can guarantee an authentic, fresh and homemade food experience for every guest. Though the couple has never owned a restaurant before now, Li has had experience cooking for as long as she can recall.

“I remember watching my mom, dad and brother cook at home,” said Li. “I knew from staying in Jonesboro that we didn’t have anything like City Wok. … We just wanted to bring part of my home recipes back with us for everyone to enjoy.”

The City Wok menu has a unique array of options for guests to savor. One of the more popular things to order is the dim sum. Dim sum is a steamed Chinese cuisine prepared in bite-sized portions, better described as dumplings, shaomai or buns, and served with a signature tea.

“If I’m not cooking something else, I’m usually making the dumplings and buns,” said Li. “This consists of mixing the flour into dough, chopping up the vegetables and mixing them in with the meat and seasonings, then rolling them together.”

The menu also includes several ramen options, soups, Chinese wraps, takoyaki, bubble milk tea and desserts. The ramen isn’t like what customers would find in stores, either. Li prepares the meats and vegetables used in the ramen each day and adds her own spices to make each bowl as delectable as possible.

“No doubt that the ramen is a crowd favorite,” said Cory. “It’s homemade, so you get the real deal with slices of meat or the soup dumplings we have available.”

The choices of ramen can vary from chicken, beef, shrimp or even something as exotic as the new squid dumpling ramen. Also popular is the Chinese Wrap, which is a sandwich wrap filled with lettuce and a choice of meat or vegetable selection with grilled onions and glazes that are all made in-house.

“We don’t serve rice. … There is more to Chinese food then just rice, you know?” said Cory. “Also, egg rolls, crab rangoon and General Tso’s chicken are all basically of American design. My wife never went to culinary school or anything like that. She learned from watching her mom at home, so no flashy dishes that are all looks and no substance, just home cooking.”

As far as their Chinese desserts go, the egg tart is one of the more popular dishes; it consists of a flaky pie crust filled with a slightly sweet egg custard, then topped with sugar and served warm. The bubble milk tea and sweet buns are also a good choice for dessert lovers looking for an exciting new treat.

City Wok is a unique addition to Downtown Jonesboro, and Cory and Li are happy they get to contribute authentic Chinese recipes to the community. They both admit to being surprised that the public has supported them as much as they have.

“So far, our experience has been great,” said Cory. “Being responsible for yourself and having people come to the store specifically because of what we can do is definitely more rewarding personally than working at a chain restaurant and having people come for the name only. We haven’t even been open a full year yet, and we already have a ton of regulars, some of whom we have even made friends with.”

Because of the heavy customer flow, Clay and Li are currently working on more menu items to suit diners’ needs and to expand the flavorful options that City Wok offers.

Shannon Lamb is a City Wok regular and says she makes it a priority to visit the restaurant because of the experience alone.

“The owners will talk to you about how dim sum works culturally, and the atmosphere is great,” said Lamb. “I’ve eaten basically everything on the menu, and I’ve never once been disappointed. They’re doing something other shops don’t do; they have what other shops don’t have. It’s different and unique to the area.”

City Wok is located at 241 S. Main St. and is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To stay up-to-date on the new menu items and to see the latest announcements, visit City Wok on Facebook or call 243-8725.