Customers sink into a cozy and homey atmosphere as they eat authentic Taiwanese dishes at Newtonville’s newest restaurant, Grandma’s Kitchen.
“People are surprised when they find out there’s actually a real grandma in the kitchen,” Andy Ma, an employee at Grandma’s Kitchen and nephew of owner Shiu Chin “Grandma” Chang, said.
Chang is originally from Taiwan and moved to the United States in 2000. She has relished the opportunity to give her customers a taste of Taiwanese cuisine, according to Ma.
Ma said business has been steady since the restaurant opened in November, which he credits to its customers and location.
“We’ve had a lot of nice, loyal customers who spread the word for us, telling their friends and family,” Ma said. “With the foot traffic and [Newton North High School] nearby, I think it’s been pretty fortunate for us.”
Chang briefly retired after a 28-year-long career in the restaurant industry, during which she owned restaurants in California and worked at her daughter’s restaurant, Dolphin Bay, in Brighton. But, she decided to go back into business, opting to open up Grandma’s Kitchen in Newton, according to Chang.
“It didn’t suit her, retirement,” Ma said. “She would always say she felt like she was just watching the TV and falling asleep and letting the TV watch her.”
Chang, whose infectious smile makes customers feel welcomed, receives joy from watching people enjoy the dishes she prepares, according to Ma.
Chang discussed the name of her restaurant through Ma, who translated what she said from Mandarin to English.
“All the grandkids, whenever they want to go see grandma, it’s always Grandma’s Kitchen,” Chang said.
Chang has two grandchildren aged 12 and 10 who also help around the restaurant, according to Chang.
Most dishes on the menu are $12 or under, with generous portion sizes.
Ma said he had a difficult time picking his favorite thing on the menu, as he enjoys many of the dishes the restaurant serves.
“Most nights, it’d probably be the braised beef noodle soup,” he said. “Recently, it’s been the spicy wonton noodles … it’s hard to get away from that one. And then, just for a quick snack, the popcorn chicken.”
Among the shareable appetizers, the popcorn chicken, spicy wontons, and beef pancake are particularly popular among customers, according to Ma.
The popcorn chicken, seasoned generously with salt and pepper, is served hot and crispy, in varying degrees of spice—from not spicy to mild to medium to hot.
The beef pancake, a scallion pancake wrapped around braised beef with hoisin sauce, offers a sweet and savory taste.
Lovers of spice may instead choose to begin their meal with the spicy wontons, made with pork.
Grandma’s Kitchen also offers a unique appetizer dish—golden blueberry wontons. These wontons are crunchy on the outside and have a soft, sweet blueberry cream cheese filling on the inside.
Another sweet appetizer option is the fried mantou, fried Taiwanese buns drizzled with brown sugar syrup and condensed milk. Like the blueberry wontons, these are both crunchy and pillowy soft on the inside, perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth.
When it comes to soups, Ma said customers at Grandma’s Kitchen especially love the beef rib noodle soup and braised beef noodle soup. Both are served at the customer’s desired spice level. Hearty and flavorful, these soups are perfect for a cold winter’s day.
There are also numerous dishes served with rice—chicken cutlets, pork chops, fried fish, and the scallion omelet.
The restaurant offers a variety of beverages to accompany customers’ meals, including avocado, mango, strawberry, and taro milk. Grandma’s Kitchen also serves imported sodas from Taiwan. One, in particular, is called Hey Song Sarsaparilla, which is said to have a similar taste to root beer.
There are many options for green and black teas and milk teas. Ma, who is in charge of making drinks, does an excellent job making their boba tea, which originated in Taiwan.
For Chang, owning her restaurant and being responsible for all the food coming out of the kitchen gives her more excitement and pleasure than retirement ever could.
“For her, it’s kind of just doing what she loves,” Ma said. “You know, if we’re busy, if we’re not, you know, she’s still happy.”