Wonder woks

. August 2, 2012.

Magic Wok was founded in Toledo in 1983. I’m embarrassed to admit I never realized it had T-town roots. I wrongly assumed several locations meant ‘big chain started elsewhere.' I will now be thinking beyond nuggets and burgers when grabbing a meal on the go for the family. Keeping an ever-watchful eye on ingredients due to my youngest son’s allergies, I can get stuck in a rut. We recently stopped in at a local Magic Wok and we’re glad we did.

Family run for almost 30 years

Sutas Pipatjarasgit came from Thailand in 1968 in search of the American dream and met his wife on the plane ride over. It’s the sort of thing that becomes fodder for Hollywood movies. They eventually moved their family from New York to Monroe, Michigan. After various restaurant ventures, he founded Magic Wok in 1983, with the first location inside Franklin Park Mall.

Though Sutas officially retired in 2000 and the business is now run by his son and daughter-in-law, he continues to stop in the restaurants and have a hand in the business. His son Tommy runs the restaurants and his wife, Annie, handles product development and marketing. “I’ve been working in the business since I was a little kid," Tommy says. Tommy’s sister, Tanya, an area realtor, helps manage the properties.

Fresh, fast, hot and healthy

Though we had never stopped in a Magic Wok until recently, my children can’t resist the urge to sing their jingle — "Fresh, fast, hot and healthy! Your
Magic Wok!” — EVERY time we passed the restaurant. Their tag line is “new generation Asian cuisine.” You can find Chinese, Japanese, and Thai entrees on the menu. "We make everything to order," Tommy says. “I think that makes it more kid friendly." I didn’t realize to what extent you can tweak your order until speaking with the Pipatjarasgit family.  Aside from the sauces made daily, your meal is prepared at the time you order. Maybe you’d like something made with less oil, light on the onions, a touch less spicy, or heavy on the veggies — go ahead and make your request –  your order will be made to your specification right in front of you in the open kitchen. In response to customer demand, they have also recently added the option of a serving of brown rice in place of traditional white rice.

The Pipatjarasgit family opened Tropical Grill and Juices in Westfield Franklin Park Mall about 15 years ago. The healthy menu and real fruit smoothies have maintained a loyal following. The family co-branded the smoothie concept at most Magic Woks, so customers can opt for an even healthier kick to their meal. Like their entrees, the smoothies are made fresh to order as well.

Generous portions, reasonably priced

The combination plates are the most expensive entrée on the menu at $5.69, and most other entrees start as low as $3.99. However, they are so generous I had to take leftovers home. The best deal is the kids’ menu for only $2.99, and that includes the drink. The four choices of almond chicken, sweet and sour chicken, rice and roll, or oven-roasted chicken rice bowl will make most any kid happy. All are served with rice, and some are served with their soy-based gravy if preferred. Have a picky eater? Go ahead and skip the sauces and just have the chicken and rice. Remember, you can order it how you want it.

Our table was filled with refreshing fruit smoothies, shrimp fried rice, chicken fried rice, egg rolls, won ton soup, crab rangoon, sesame chicken and Szechuan beef. My leftovers were all that remained. Though my husband enjoyed the Szechuan beef, he wished it had a bit more spice. Now that he knows he can request it with more kick, I’m sure he’ll be back for more. We’re looking forward to testing our skills with chop sticks next time!

Bottom Line: There’s a reason the Magic Wok’s slogan is ‘fresh, fast, hot and healthy.' Switch it up from the usual burgers and try something different for about the same price. Make your meals healthier by requesting more veggies, brown rice or light on the sauces. Even your picky eaters can customize their meals just how they want them. Stop in and dine or use their convenient drive through for those busy days when you’re on the run.

Multiple locations in Toledo and Michigan
Mon-Sat: 11am-10pm
Sun: 12pm-9pm

Karen Zickes is a mom of three active children and freelance writer who resides in Holland, OH. She can be reached in c/o editor@toledoparent.com.