When it comes to Corner 17, family is everything. The St. Louis Chinese restaurant is shaped by owner Xin Wei’s family and his experiences growing up in China. When Xin opened the doors to his restaurant in 2013 he invited in new family and new community.
Xin was 17 years old when he came to the United States — hence the name Corner 17. He recalls how difficult the process was for his family. They did not speak any English and his parents had to try to figure out a place to settle down, survive, and, eventually, thrive.
“That period of time was a changing point in our life,” Xin said. “It also reminds us of where we came from and our wishes for a better life beyond the point of 17.”
Before Corner 17
Growing up in rural China, Xin’s parents worked hard every day to make a living for their family. They passed on their work ethic to their children. Xin recalls getting up in the morning, before the sun rose, to pick jasmine flowers and sell them to tea vendors.
Xin says he cherishes the things that come to him because he and his family have had to work hard to get them his entire life. His older sister Rachel put her life on hold, giving up the opportunity to go to college herself. Instead, she worked in a Chinese restaurant as a server to send Xin to college.
“We love and support each other in every possible way,” Xin said. “We understood you had to work hard to get what you wanted ever since . . . we were kids.”
When they came to the United States, Xin’s chef parents started working in a Chinese buffet in Belleville, Illinois in order to feed their family. However, the pair always had a different plan in mind.
Xin’s parents started saving up to open their first restaurant, which eventually failed and set the Wei family back to square one. Not to be discouraged, they went back to work, saved more money, and bought Joy Luck Buffet in 2010 while Xin was studying at the University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL).
“Joy Luck was really old and decrepit so we had to renovate the restaurant,” Xin said, “but it proved that we were right.”
With Joy Luck Buffet, Xin and his family were able to pay back borrowed money and, in August 2013, opened Corner 17.
Food from their family to yours
When Xin was a student at UMSL he could not find good boba tea or authentic Chinese cuisine in town. St. Louis’ Asian population was growing so he decided to fill the gap with his own restaurant.
“We decided to open a new concept Chinese restaurant on Delmar Loop that would really show some differences compared to other Americanized Chinese restaurants in town,” Xin said.
Xin credits his parents for the delicious menu, which is filled with homemade noodles, dumplings, and more. His father develops Americanized Chinese recipes for the restaurant while his mother focuses on authentic Chinese recipes.
“[The] Chili Wonton and handmade Bao and dumplings are [a] must-try,” Xin recommends to first-time visitors of Corner 17.
Alongside his family, Xin has an incredible service team in his employ. He says his employees and customers are like friends and joked: “We may not have the best Chinese food in town, but we sure have the best employees and customers.”
Judging from Google reviews and Instagram comments, Xin’s customers would disagree with the first part of his statement. Comments on Corner 17’s Instagram are filled with love like: “Your taro buns are my absolute favorite,” “[I] can say without hesitation that your food is authentic, flavorful, and the best Asian restaurant I’ve had in St. Louis (and most other cities),” and more.
One Google review sums it up: “THE best, authentic, and fresh, Asian food! You will not be sorry trying Corner 17!”
Corner 17 is rooted in family
While working with family can cause some issues — Xin admits he argues with his parents, especially his father, a lot — family has always been core to Corner 17.
“I know that no matter how hard life is, my family will always be there for us and [we will] work things out together,” he said.
Xin has nothing but love for the community of family and friends he has built at Corner 17. Their support was especially clear to him after the restaurant’s social media made a viral post calling out the behavior of foodie influencers who use their large platforms to take advantage of small businesses.
After Xin politely turned down an influencer asking for free food, the influencer posted an intentionally bad write-up, going as far as writing that a dish “tastes like a$$.” Corner 17 fans and small business supporters from across the country have responded via social media with words of encouragement, and the line for Corner 17’s delicious food continue to grow.
Every day, Xin’s parents tell him not to live too comfortably and to never forget where they came from. He says those words shape the way he does business. They make him kind, compassionate, and appreciative of what he has today.
Xin continues to focus on his family as he looks to the future. His older sister Rachel is working on getting back to college while his younger sister Cher is also going into the restaurant business and is hoping to debut her vegan restaurant project in June.
As for Corner 17, he says they are still searching for their long-term goal. But, he is constantly making improvements to make it a better restaurant.