The end of an era for 'Dragon'
IT HAS been lashing its tail at the intersection of the Pacific Highway and Coff St for 36 years, but next month Coffs Harbour's fiery red The Dragon Chinese restaurant will close its doors.
It will be the end of an era for three generations of the Young family, who have been feeding locals and tourists lunch and dinner seven days a week for more than 30 years.
Many celebrities also made a beeline for the restaurant and former Wallabies captain George Gregan, among many others, was a major fan of The Dragon's famous salt and pepper squid.
Once they close the doors of The Dragon on August 6, the first thing on the minds of Sam Young, his brother, Lawrence, and son, Owen, will be a nice long holiday.
Lawrence, who is 70, is retiring, while mine host Sam and Owen, the restaurant's chef, say they will be returning to work, but not for a while and possibly not even in the hospitality business, while Sam and Lawrence's sister, Janice Ko, has moved to Sydney.
Sam Young said the long involvement of the one family had been the secret of the restaurant's success and longevity.
“Everyone says it is an icon,” he said.
“All the family has been involved since the beginning.”
Sam Young, his late father, Joseph, his brother, Lawrence, and their families moved to Coffs Harbour from Armidale in 1980 to take over the restaurant, which was built by developer Donald Young in 1976.
It was one of three identical restaurants built by the entrepreneur and the Young family had their choice of any of them.
They chose the Coffs Harbour restaurant because it was the only one halfway between Sydney and Brisbane on a busy major highway in a seaside town.
It was also the only one that featured twin dragons at the entrance.
The building, with its pagoda-style roof, is now on the market and those dragons will be going home with chef Owen Young when the restaurant doors close.
Owen, who cooks Chinese, Indian, Thai and other Asian cuisines, as well as European dishes, literally learned his trade at his grandfather's knee.
“I remember my grandfather at the counter and I used to hang around him” he said.
“I started helping out with the dishes, like my own boy does now.”
Many local diners will be hastening to make their bookings to enjoy their final taste of The Dragon's salt and pepper squid, lamb pancakes, Peking duck, san tung chicken, lettuce bowl or fried ice-cream.