(First published in the January 24, 2019 issue of City Pages)
Since becoming full owners, Mitch and Lori Meurette have made subtle but fresh changes to the iconic Peking Restaurant.
Mitch and Lori Meurette are now the sole owners of Peking Restaurant in the historic Landmark building.
Mitch Meurette has worked at Peking in downtown Wausau’s historic Landmark building since 1990, starting out in the kitchen. “I wasn’t even cooking, I was just prepping food,” he says. He worked his way up to chef and in 2000 joined Jeff Cheng as a co-owner.
When Cheng and his wife Mimi retired in August, Meurette took over ownership of the Chinese-American restaurant with his wife, Lori. While not entirely transforming of the establishment, the Meurettes have made updates, upgrades and changes to both the menu and the impressively grand dining areas.
“People think we are brand new owners and think the menu and recipes have changed, but it’s not true,” says Mitch. “We still have 90% of all the popular dishes like Pork Shanghai and all the Szechwan dishes. We eliminated some of the lame duck items, which is the (Peking) Duck,” he says laughing. “But if somebody wanted that and gave us a few weeks notice in advance, I would go out of my way to make it.”
Because the dishes are prepared fresh and made-to-order, calling ahead for a reservation is a good idea. “We really believe in quality food,” says Mitch.
The menu includes Chinese Cantonese and Szechwan style food and favorites like Egg Foo Young, Fried Rice, and Lo Mein. A favorite dish, Strawberry Chicken, isn’t on the menu, but remains a signature dish since people have been asking for it for years.
“One of the things we do here, that I’ve never seen anywhere,” says Mitch, “if you brought a group in and said, ‘we are trusting you to prepare dinner’, with no advanced warning, the chef decides, we can create a masterpiece and maybe we make something brand new that’s never been made for the very first time.”
The Landmark building opened as Hotel Wausau in 1925, according to local historian Gary Gisselman, and what is now the dining room was once the hotel’s grand ballroom, with its lofty ceilings and windows and ornate architecture. The space was transformed into a restaurant in 1980 and not a lot has changed since, says Lori, pointing out that the original chandeliers still hang in the elegant dining area.
But beneath all those historic details, the Meurettes have made some fresh changes. There’s new furniture in the bar area. Instead of simple tables, there’s now comfy seating in the front dining space—formerly the lunch room—to create a new lounge area. The lounge features local musicians and space for guests to relax and listen to music or have a drink. Dates and times when music is scheduled can be found on their Facebook page as well as in the City Pages’ Big Guide.
One evident change is that Peking now focuses solely on dinner; lunched is no longer served.
Peking is open for dinner Monday through Saturday starting at 4 pm. Peking is located inside the Landmark Building at 221 Scott St. 715-842-8080, PekingRestaurantWausau.com.