SIOUX CITY — For the last 12 years, Alan Severson has spent just about every major holiday, including Christmas, eating at China Star Buffet in Sioux City.
Although the 66-year-old retiree is single and his only son is in Ames, Iowa, Severson never feels lonely when he comes to China Star, 3201 Gordon Drive.
“It’s like my family here,” he said.
A regular at the restaurant, he is often joined during his meals by 10-year-old Matthew Lin, whose parents work at China Star.
“It’s a great place to meet new people,” Matthew said. “It’s where I met Al.”
Despite the 56-year age gap, the two get along wonderfully and even spend time together outside the restaurant when Matthew’s parents are working.
On one recent visit, they watched “Star Wars: A New Hope” because Matthew is a big fan of the series and has a lot of thoughts about "The Last Jedi," the most recent film in the saga.
"Did you notice the thing about the walkers/AT-ATs?" he said. "The new ones, they're better. If you look at their legs, there's like spikes (on them) and they are bigger."
Besides the company of an esteemed film buff, Severson also enjoys the food at China Star.
“My favorite is everything; shrimp especially,” he said.
Jo Lin, Matthew’s mother, said because of the support they get from customers like Severson they don’t mind being open on holidays.
“They appreciate that we are open,” she said.
Dozens of other people also spent time at China Star, including a trio of high school students from South Sioux City who had their first Christmas Day dining-out experience Monday.
“We were just at the house doing nothing, so we were like let’s go eat somewhere,” said Eric Munoz, a member of the trio.
After 20 minutes of driving around the area, they discovered that China Star, a restaurant none of them had been to before, was open to their collective relief.
“He was jumping out the seat,” said Julian Khamphongphane, one of Munoz’s friends.
“I was hungry, bro,” Munoz replied.