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New Chinese restaurant debuts in Dawson County
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Qing Jin He recently opened Ling Ling Chinese Restaurant at 29 North 400 Center Lane, next to CVS on Ga. 53. - photo by Julia Fechter

While Ling Ling Chinese Restaurant is owner Qing Jin He’s first location in Dawson County, it’s actually his seventh time helping run an eatery. 

Following much public curiosity and anticipation online, Ling Ling’s opened in mid-May at 29 North 400 Center Lane, next to CVS on Ga. 53. Prior to its opening, He helped establish six other locations in New York and New Jersey. 

The Dawson County restaurant's hours are Tuesdays to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Sundays noon to 9:30 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. 

He shared that his whole family, including his parents, had experience in the restaurant business going back to their time in China. 

In a summer 2006 article by Annie Deck-Miller in “Western New York Life” magazine, He told a reporter that he learned recipes and cooking techniques from his mother. 

In 1980, He immigrated from the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian to the United States to help his cousin run a restaurant in Brooklyn, followed by another one in New Jersey.

Later that decade, He moved to Buffalo, New York, in 1989 and started the Kenmore location with his wife, Li Qing Xie, in the early 1990s. Also around that time, he started a Ling Ling’s location in Ithaca, about two-and-a-half hours southeast of Buffalo. 

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He stills holds on to previous media coverage of his businesses, like this 1989 “The Ithaca Journal” clipping about his location in that New York town. - photo by Julia Fechter

He additionally worked as the head chef for two other Buffalo-area restaurants. 

With all of those locations in the Northeast, one may wonder: Why Dawsonville? 

Well, similar to other business owners, the COVID-19 pandemic influenced his decision. 

Because of the pandemic, He’s teenage daughter was taking online high school classes by 2021. After visiting her older sister, who’d gotten a job in Atlanta, the younger daughter wanted to stay in Georgia.

So it was that He and Xie moved to the state later that year to take care of their teenage daughter, who began attending private school in Atlanta.

“I tried to retire early, and my wife mentioned that we’d moved here and had no business, so we could start a couple locations here,” He said. “I said, 'You want to do a business again? We can find it (a new location) here, no problem.'” 

Although He admitted his initial reluctance at starting another business due to his age, He ended up agreeing with his younger wife and started looking for possible spots along the Ga. 400 corridor in Forsyth County. 

That search led them to Dawson County. He brought three men from New York who’d previously worked with him to help staff the new location, and he hired two locals before opening the place.

Xie works up front at the cash register. 

He said the secret to his food “is in the sauce,” and restaurant dishes like General Tso's and orange chicken or broccoli and beef seem to reflect that. 

He mused that maybe, if the Dawson County location does well, they’ll find another location in the area within the next several months or year. 

Right now, though, He called this Ling Ling’s “the last one.”

For him, it’s all worth it to hear patrons return to the restaurant complimenting the food and ready to order more. 

“I enjoy seeing the customers come back happy to see me again…I love that,” He said.