Simon Cao figured Wendy's did a lot of research before putting a restaurant at the intersection of Interstate 64 and Illinois 157 in Caseyville.
That's why he and his partners decided to renovate the vacant Wendy's building and open their own restaurant, Jade Garden, last summer.
"It's right by the highway," said Simon, 40, of O'Fallon. "There's a lot of hotels and towns. It's just a busy area. A lot of cars pass by every day."
The challenge is getting those cars to stop and try Simon's Asian food, which is mostly Chinese with a few Thai dishes.
Cheryl Hunter and Roger Cumberland have become regulars, even though they live in Moscow Mills, Mo. The truck drivers report to their company terminal in Caseyville about once a month.
"The food (at Jade Garden) is good," said Cheryl, 43. "It's always hot. It's always fresh. It's always ready. And the hospitality is great."
On a recent weekday, Cheryl and Roger were eating lunch with their daughter, Alicia Cumberland, 18. They ordered Special Fried Rice, Orange Chicken, General Tso's Chicken and Crab Rangoon.
The family has gotten to know server Crystal Huber, 28, of Swansea. Her favorite dish is Mongolian Beef, seasoned with onions and served over fried rice noodles.
"It's just the right mixture of sweet and spicy," Crystal said. "The meat is thin-sliced and tender. It's delicious. I'm not even a beef eater, and I love this."
Simon grew up in China and moved to the United States 18 years ago. He worked at Asian restaurants in New York, New Jersey, Arizona and Jacksonville before settling in the metro-east with his wife, Nina.
Simon and his partners spent about six months renovating the Wendy's building, installing a new kitchen, booths and tables and hanging large photos of Chinese landscapes.
"It's a very homey atmosphere," Crystal said. "(The owners) make everybody feel comfortable -- customers, employees, all of us. They treat you like family."
Some of the most popular items at Jade Garden are pot stickers, which are Chinese dumplings with meat or vegetable filling.
Simon tries to make his dishes as healthy as possible. Customers can order brown rice instead of white or fried rice.
"We don't use much grease," Simon said. "Some restaurants cook the meat in grease, and then they drain it or rinse it with water. But no matter how much you do that, it's still greasy. Most food we steam."
Jade Garden offers lunch specials for $5.05 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily with a choice of a crab rangoon, egg roll or wonton, egg drop or hot and sour soup.
Customers can get quick items at the drive-up window or order anything online or by phone for pick-up.
"Some people can't get out of their cars," Simon said. "They're older or handicapped. It's a convenience for them."
At a glance
What: Jade Garden
Where: 2736 Progress Ave. in Caseyville
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays
Seating: 60 people
Handicap accessible: Yes
Delivery: Yes, with $15 minimum
Information: 618-398-5233 or www.jadegardenil.com
On the menu
Lunch Special -- Choice of 29 dishes over white, brown or pork fried rice with a crab rangoon, egg roll or wonton, egg drop or hot and sour soup, available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily ($5.05)
Pork Lo Mein -- Roasted pork with green onions and Chinese cabbage over soft lo mein noodles ($4.65 small or $6.90 large)
Mongolian Beef -- Thinly-sliced beef with onions and green onions over white or brown rice ($5.40 small or $8.40 large)
Dragon and Phoenix -- Crispy Orange Shrimp and General Tso's Chicken over white or brown rice ($10.95)
Seafood Combination -- Jumbo shrimp, scallops, crab meat and lobster with Chinese vegetables and white sauce over white or brown rice ($11.95)