So family building the American dream

So family building the American dream

PK’s Grill enlivens the Orange dining scene with quality


My husband and I had the usual Friday or Saturday night conversation: “Would you like to get something to eat?” “Sure, where would you like to go?” And then the stall happens when neither knows the answer for sure. Each has a taste for something, but what?

We happened to be traveling down Strickland in Orange and passed what looked like a busy restaurant, PK’s Grill. I mentioned that there always seemed to be cars in the parking lot each time we passed going to do our normal errands. And we turned the car around and headed back to try the food for ourselves. What a delight. I have since returned to take my daughter and her husband to enjoy the delicious food we discovered almost by accident.

We were greeted promptly and seated at a beautifully appointed table with real cloth coverings and napkins. There was not a plastic-covered booth in sight. Every server was dressed in black and white and looked clean and neat. I was impressed already, and then our server brought the menu along with hot Southern styled biscuits and butter for us to munch on while making our choices.

My husband chose the seafood platter and I spotted a large Greek salad, a favorite of mine. I was delighted when the salad arrived with just the right touch of flavor and freshness. Nestled on top of the really fresh, crisp greens, delicious black olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheeses, imported Arezzo pepperocinis, capers, and croutons and other treats, was a boiled shrimp beckoning for me to go ahead and begin eating. When my husband’s seafood platter arrived, we were shocked at the size of the portions and admittedly, I had to taste several things before the evening was over.

The seafood platter included fried shrimp, catfish fillets, fried oysters, stuffed shrimp, stuffed crab, and his biggest surprise, more than 50 (yes, he counted them) fried crawfish. Our server, Tammy Yawn, verified that the tiny battered morsels were, in fact, crawfish. They were delicious and none of that picking the meat out from the whole crawfish. My husband could not eat the entire offering and had a nice sized meal to take home for the next day’s lunch.
We enjoyed the meal immensely and will be returning to PK’s as often as we are hungry for really good food in a local environment.

David and Jenny So, originally from Cambodia, began the restaurant as their American dream some 18 months ago. David has been in America for about seven years getting his college degree in business administration, and Jenny joined him six years ago. They decided that with a lot of hard work, really good and reliable recipes, a good staff, the freshest ingredients, and a dream in their hearts, they could succeed in America. This young couple has proved that they are not afraid of hard work. Both work seven days a week. Jenny said they have a lovely 2-year-old daughter, Kasey, but are blessed to have Jenny’s parents live here, too. “My parents keep Kasey for us, so we can work for now,” she said. “Some day when the restaurant is a success, maybe I can stay home with my child more.”

The Sos live in Beaumont but realized that there were a lot of good restaurants there, so they branched out when looking. “We knew exactly what we wanted,” said David. “We needed something that would seat a good number of customers and we wanted to guarantee ‘a fine dining experience,’ said Jenny. “We know you can get burgers and shakes in many places. We strived from the beginning to build a business that would be a pleasing experience to all of our customers.” The couple took turns telling of finding the building that formerly housed Southern Magnolia Tea Room on busy Strickland in Orange. “We met with the owner and were able to work out the deal to purchase the restaurant,” said Jenny with pride.

David supervises the kitchen staff and is an excellent chef himself. On a recent Friday night, David was working the kitchen with the air of an Army general, turning out meal after meal. The Sos have been most fortunate in employing and keeping an excellent staff. At least four of the employees have been with them since the doors opened and have no plans to go anywhere else. Judy Wilson, who retired from Dupont Chemical Company in Orange, was the bakery chef for Southern Magnolia, and she stayed on with Jenny and David. “They are just the sweetest folks you’d ever want to meet or work for,” said Wilson. “I hope they do well here in Orange and stay for a long, long time.”

Brandon Poole is a music education student at Lamar and appreciates his job at PK’s Grill. “I am so fortunate,” he told me. “The Sos work with me on meeting my schedule, and I know I am blessed to have this job.” Tammy Yawn, a personable server, agrees with Poole. “Yes, we are blessed to be on this team. They are just good people, the food is great, and we are building friends in the community.” The attractive young lady that greets you at the door is Abby Cole, who has also been on the team since the doors opened.

What the Sos have created while building their American dream is a convenient, upscale restaurant in Orange. Jenny said, “We want our customers to have a fine dining experience every time they come in to eat with us.” David added, “We respect our customers and want to count them as friends.” And those two sentences might be the secret of their success. The Sos provide employment for between 14 and 20 people in Orange.

PK’s offers party accommodations, room for showers, corporate gatherings, dinners for families, and are open seven days each week. One of the dining rooms seats 46 while the other seats 80. Monday through Saturday, PK’s is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on Sunday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Bring a copy of your church bulletin in and get a 10 percent discount. There is a lunch menu available from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. daily.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.