Ace Chinese Restaurant

A Woodlands original celebrates 30 years

Ace Chinese Restaurant was an early favorite of Woodlands founder George Mitchell and a reliable constant in the ever-changing local dining scene. Despite the restaurant relocating from its original site that currently houses a Starbucks to a spot in the back of the village center nearly 20 years ago, Ace's longtime customers and those discovering a new favorite have kept the business going strong.

"I am so very grateful to my customers," owner Alice Quan said. "I never imagined [the restaurant] to be [so successful]. We have been very blessed to have been in business for so long."

The Panther Creek Village Center opened in the early 1980s and when it did the scope of its size and breadth of its services did not resemble what it does today. About 20 years ago, the shopping center was expanded to the west, more than doubling its size. Now, few of its original tenants remain. Ace is one of the businesses, however, that has endured despite the changes.

Ace got its opportunity more than three decades ago, Quan said, when Mitchell, who was close friends with Quan's brother-in-law, invited the family into his new community to open a Chinese restaurant. The Quan family hailed from Hong Kong, having moved to the Houston area in 1966, Quan said, where they operated a grocery store for 25 years.

Then in 1983, the Quan family hired its chef, Ben Nieto, and began serving fresh and distinctive Chinese cuisine in Panther Creek. Thirty years later, not much has changed, not even Ace's chef. The most recognizable difference is that management of the restaurant has shifted to Quan's son, Tommy, and his wife, Susan Quan.

"In my opinion, the success of the business is our dedication," Susan Quan said. "And also the food."

All of Ace's menu selections are hand-made with fresh ingredients, never frozen, she said.

The menu at Ace features much of what one would expect at a Chinese restaurant, such as sweet and sour chicken and pork, varieties of fried rice, egg fu young and egg rolls. Ace also offers a creative variety of selections, such as its own brand of vermicelli noodles, crab rangoon, ma po tofu and hong shew tofu, which is a stir fry served with vegetables.

"We have tried to change as little as possible," Susan Quan said.

Chinese New Year

Ace's 30th anniversary also coincides with the Chinese New Year, which was celebrated this year on Feb. 10. Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is China's most important social and economic holiday. The holiday serves to honor deities and ancestors, as well as renew family ties.

Year of the Dragon

According to the Chinese Zodiac calendar, the Year of the Dragon ran Jan. 23, 2012 to Feb. 9, 2013. Those born within those dates are said to be born in the "Year of the Dragon," and the Dragon is believed to be a deliverer of good fortune.

Ace Menu Highlights

  • Kung Pao Beef – Diced onions, water chestnuts and carrots in kung pao sauce tossed with roasted peanuts. $11.95
  • Szechuan Beef – A stir fry of shredded onions, bell peppers, carrots and bamboo shoots. $11.95
  • Hunan Chicken – Broccoli, bell peppers, snow peas, mushrooms, baby corn, carrots and mixed vegetables in Hunan sauce. $11.95
  • Buddha's Delight – Mixed vegetables stir-fried or steamed. Served with or without tofu. $9.65
  • Twice-cooked Pork – Sliced pork with bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and cabbage in Ace's special spicy sauce. $9.95
  • Orange chicken – Chicken fired with fresh ginger and orange peel for a spicy citrus flavor. $11.95

Ace Chinese, 4775 W. Panther Creek Drive, Ste. 490, The Woodlands, 281-363-3993, www.acechineserestaurant.com</p>

  • Mon.–Thu.: 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
  • Fri.: 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.
  • Sat.: Noon–10:30 p.m.
  • Sun.: 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.