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Oldest, Continuously Operating Chinese Restaurant


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I'm trying to verify whether King Yum (1953) is the oldest continuously operating Chinese Restaurant in NYC. I know its the oldest one in Queens, and probably the only one that has continously operated under the original owner and family, but I am guessing there may be one or two in Chinatown that might be a little older.

Anyone have any ideas of which one it might be?

EDIT: Fat Guy thinks its Wo Hop (1938), but I'm not sure of that.

Double Edit: Time Out New York verifies its age but I was sure there might have been one older. Wo Hop is currently operated by the original owner's son.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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In the 2004 Zagat on pages 267-268 there's a list of the oldest restaurants in town, in date order from 1726-1954. Wo Hop is the oldest Chinese restaurant on that list at 1938. I'm not sure if the list is comprehensive, but it probably is close. (Wo Hop is operated by the original family.)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There were two Chinese Restaurants operating on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx between 163rd St and Westchester Avenue that opened in the late 1920's that were still being operated by the same families. There were also several in Flatbush and other parts of Brooklyn still in business.

If I'm not mistaken there are several spots in China Town that are still operating since the 1st World War that are owned by family groups.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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One of my earliest memories was eating Beef Chow Fun at Wo Hop during the late 60's/early 70's. It used to drive my poor father nuts since there were so many other excellent dishes available, but I'd pick Beef Chow Fun every time, since we couldn't get it in New Jersey. Then we'd go across the street to the Chinatown Fair and feed coins into the machine with the Fortune Telling Rooster. :smile:

Hey, FG, do you, or anyone else here know how old Say Eng Look was before it closed? I had an uncle who worked as a waiter there for decades.

Be polite with dragons, for thou art crunchy and goeth down well with ketchup....

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Jason,

Avoid Woe-is-me Hop.

I think I've only eaten there once, and I remember the food being quite greasy, in an unpleasant way. As I recall I was dragged there late at night in a state of inebriation, so I don't remember much.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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...I was dragged there late at night in a state of inebriation...

That's how everybody gets to Wo Hop.

aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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...I was dragged there late at night in a state of inebriation...

That's how everybody gets to Wo Hop.

Me too only after being at your end of the dragging a couple of times, I've switched. Now I'm doing the dragging. Daybreak: salt and pepper squid and Beijing style pork chops with tea and coke. Fond memories of that. Tried once shortly after sunset and it wasn't nearly the same thing. Maybe fourteen aquavits followed by seventy-five beers can affect the palate?

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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I love Wo Hop. It's like a museum diorama of new york working class chinese circa 1974. All cops and firemen, and you know they like to eat. Ribs are Wo Hop's best, but I would also recommend the spicy salt pork chops (although I will say I've never had one I didn't like -- anywhere.)

The place next door, Hop Kee, is almost the same restaurant in many ways. I discovered Peking Pork Chops, spicy salt squid, and Hop Kee Steak there. Lots of clams in black bean sauce too.

Make me a boy again!

Note: edited for spelling

Edited by phaelon56 (log)
Mr-Cutlets.com: your source for advice, excerpts, Cutlets news, and links to buy Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivore's Guide to New York!
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I don't like Wo Hop, but I recall that there was a string bean dish there that was good, and that's a memory from no more than 3 years ago.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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According to one Jeffrey Steingarten, in It Must've Been Something I Ate (p. 256):

...the Nom Wah Tea Parlor, the oldest extant restaurant in Chinatown, [was] founded in the 1920s, and [is] now, I fear, on its last legs...

It's still listed in the yellow pages, at 13 Doyers Street.

"To Serve Man"

-- Favorite Twilight Zone cookbook

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Nom Wah is where we first discovered dim sum. I remember a lot of very stodgy dumplings and a lot of water on the plate from the steaming. The was bland, at least in my memory. It was however, a bit different from the rest of Chinatown's restaurants and thus seemed either exotic or authentic. It was never crowded and I always wanted to make it a regular once a month meeting place, but could never find anyone else interested in eating there regularly. Admittedly my interest them was perhaps more in the novelty of the place, than in any quality. For years their window displayed a faded reproduction of a series of line drawings of the dim sum offerings--maybe a half dozen or so--from an article in what I think was the Herald Tribune. It's probably still there. My guess is that when I frquented Nom Wah in the sixties, it had not been renovated in forty years or more.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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everyone I take to Chinatown wantss to go to Joe Shanghai. I walk along, and when the line is inevitably too long, I drag them to Wo Hop, kicking and screaming down the stairs. They love it.

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everyone I take to Chinatown wantss to go to Joe Shanghai. I walk along, and when the line is inevitably too long, I drag them to Wo Hop, kicking and screaming down the stairs. They love it.

Its funny how "kicking and screaming" is the universal reaction to descending into the Pit of Wo Hop.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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My mother had her engagement shower at the Nom Wah Tearoom and Bakery in 1935 we still have some pictures of the large China Trays of Dim Sum that they served and the Lovely Cream Fruit Cake that they Baked for the occasion.

At that time she had lunched there regularly with other workers from the area.

I used to enjoy eating at several Chinese Basement Eating Clubs that had no name in English and the only non-Chinese customers were Police, Firemen and Produce Workers who used to eat there in the AM hours. I actually continued eating at some of these Clubs until 1965 when I moved to Hong Kong.

My father used to go in the early AM hours to the 2 Martinson's Counter Coffee Shops that were open before the 1920's. They served good, dark rich coffee with Sweetened Condensed Milk or Regular Milk forever, could be that their still open.

There was a Restaurant that served Chinese Food and Excellent Steaks either Rib or New York at I think 11 Mott Street up 1/2 Flight of steps. again to mostly Police, Firemen, Walter Winchell and Night Workers including many cab drivers. What was unusual is that all night until Breakfast they had 2 Jewish Grandma's as waitress, who knew what most customers ordered as soon as you walked into the place. The place with it's warped wooden floors and dented tin walls and ceiling looked like original 19th Century Decor. Last time I ate there was around 1970.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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  • 8 months later...

Wondrous where a site search on Say Eng Look leads you. Another trip down memory lane.

Nom Wah Tea Parlor - we went there many times for dim sum in the 1970s & 1980s. It always looked like it was on its last legs. Pleased to know it's still there. We tried a couple of more upscale/highly rated dim sum places in those years, & they may have had some better individual dim sum pieces, but I always preferred Nom Wah; something about the funk of the place, to which Bux alludes, always made it enjoyable.

We went to Wo Hop once, but always preferred Lin's Garden (alas, they are no more) for good, cheap Chinese food. You knew the tea was cheap, they used it to clean the tables! :laugh: But 25 years later, I can still taste their roast duck chow mai fun.

Am I getting too far off topic here? Well somebody will tell me if I am.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Love this thread!

Was there another tea parlor on Doyers, at the bend in the road? Sun Luck? (Forgot the name)I believe it closed a few years ago. Another nurse and I (in the mid-50s) had a patient who worked there and invited us to dinner. I forgot what we ate (DARN!) but there were no menus -- just writing on the wall -- and he spoke very little English.

Loved Say Eng Look. I had my first Lions Head Dumplings there.

As far as the Hop family places, one of the down and dirties was a haven for hot soup and dumplings one morning, on a very cold and raw day. I'll never forget it!

Probably the oldest place, altho not a restaurant, is Quong Yuan Shing with it's old carved wooden decor.

Off the top of my head I would guess the Wo Hop and Hop Sing are the oldest remaining places.

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My mother had her engagement shower at the Nom Wah Tearoom and Bakery in 1935 we still have some pictures of the large China Trays of Dim Sum that they served and the Lovely Cream Fruit Cake that they Baked for the occasion.

A few months ago I took an audio tour called 'soundwalk chinatown', which was fun, and a little informative (although I was expecting more, but it is meant to be an adventure, not a learning experience). If I remember correctly, they said that Nom Wah was the oldest existing restaurant in Chinatown

http://www.soundwalk.com/

It was fun, the recording said to enter Nom Wah, and to ask for 'almond cookie and tea'. My finacee and I walked in, there was no one there except for an older man reading the newspaper in the corner (the recording told us he would be there), and the waitress. We ordered, it was served right away. the cookie and tea were not bad. It was more interesting to just be in the place itself. The place looks like it has never been renovated, with old booths and dusty decor. at 5:00 (i think it was 5), as the recording said, a bunch of older men walked in, sat down, and got ready to play cards. it was a fun experience.

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I forget the name of the place just east of New Green Bo. It's a gem. I don't believe it's ever been renovated. The interior is clearly a relic and the steamed buns are the real reason to go. Get the big one. The last time I was there, I would have guessed the guy behind the counter was there when it opened, although I suppose he might not really be old enough unless he started when he was about twelve -- which is a real possibility.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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We have so many Chinese restaurant dining veterans on this thread that perhaps I'll find the answer I seek...

1) Is the Hot Sour soup most places serve these days not as hot or as sour as it used to be?

2) Which of the places discussed above has the best Hot Sour soup?

I'm not necessarily looking for "authentic" but have found that the Hot Sour soup served at Chinese take-out places where I live and elsewhere is decidely more wimpy than what I was served 20 - 25 years ago when I first began enjoying that dish.

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We have so many Chinese restaurant dining veterans on this thread that perhaps I'll find the answer I seek...

1) Is the Hot Sour soup most places serve these days not as hot or as sour as it used to be?

2) Which of the places discussed above has the best Hot Sour soup?

I'm not necessarily looking for "authentic" but have found that the Hot Sour soup served at Chinese take-out places where I live and elsewhere is decidely more wimpy than what I was served 20 - 25 years ago when I first began enjoying that dish.

I've found this in general with spicy foods that I've eaten for a long time. The radishes we grew when I was a kid seemed way hotter than the ones I get today. The "Fiery Garlic Shrimp" that made me sweat at the local Mexican place 15 years ago seems pretty benign now, and I've asked the owner about it and was assured the recipe is the same. Spicy dishes in Chinese places suffer the same effect. I can only assume that we just become less sensitive to the spiciness of foods as we get older, especially if we tend to gravitate towards spicy dishes. Not that I would choose spicy stuff... firesmile.gif

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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The hot & sour soup that we used to get at Lin's Garden had a tomato-based broth. It was delicious. This was my first exposure to hot & sour soup, & we had it so many times there that when we finally tried the "usual" kind of hot & sour at another restaurant, it seemed weird: good, but strange. It took me a year or two to figure out that Lin's was the place serving the unusual variety.

Lin's wasn't overpoweringly spicy, but had a marvelous combination of flavors. I have a recipe for a similar version in one of my original Chinese cookbooks.

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I just came back from China town, and while there passed by "Shanghai Cuisine" on Bayard and Mulberry. It is supposed to have been there for 7 years, but I've missed it. I guess because its been a while that I've gone way down Bayard, and have concentrated my Shanghai quests on Shanghai Joe. But anyone know how this place rates?

As far as Hot & Sour Soup. I like my 'hot' from lots of black pepper, not chili. It seems that many places use the chili pepper ---which changes my love for it.

In the early 90s, The New School had a "course" called "Restaurants of Chinatown - The Hidden Cuisine" Chinese banquets were served at four restaurants: Oriental Pearl, Noodle Town. Say Eng Look and Sun Golden Island. It was fantastic! I don't get their brochures any more. They also had a 'walking eating tour of street food'. Both were fantastic! But they stopped offering them. ?Lack of interest? Anyone know if they are doing it again? I don't get their brochures any more.

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