Thursday, April 30, 2020

GlenDronach Scotch: Compelling Sherry Maturated Whisky

With the pandemic and social distancing, there aren't any wine dinners, tastings, seminars or similar such offline events. So, some companies are getting more creative, with virtual events, often using Zoom. Recently, the GlenDronach Distillery hosted a virtual Scotch dinner, inviting several writers to participate. Each writer was sent a dinner from The Haven, a Scottish tavern in Jamaica Plain, as well as two bottles of GlenDronach Scotch. Then, we dined and drank together on Zoom, as we learned more about GlenDronach from Rebecca Gardiner, their Boston Brand Ambassador.

Let's begin with a little history of the GlenDronach Distillery. The Aberdeen Journal (Scotland), April 27, 1853, reported the passing of James Allardes (also known as James Allardice), who was 82 years old. In the 1790s, Allardes started his career as a farmer in the Forgue region, part of the Aberdeenshire. The obituary also stated, "In the year 1825, the Glendronach distillery, whose mellow spirit has rendered the name familiar to all ears, was set on foot, mainly through the active cooperation of Mr. Allardes;..." Thus, GlenDronach is one of the oldest legal distilleries in Scotland.

This announcement, from the Aberdeen Journal (Scotland), September 6, 1826, is one of the earliest notices from the distillery concerning their Whisky for sale.

The Aberdeen Journal (Scotland), March 21, 1827, presented some statistics on Scotch distilleries, noting the total gallons of proof spirits made from malt only from January 5, 1826 to July 5, 1826. During this period, Glendronach produced 17,728 gallons. The Aberdeen Journal (Scotland), August 13, 1828, presented similar statistics, for the period from October 10, 1826 to October 10, 1827, and Glendronach produced 31,329 gallons.

The Caledonian Mercury (Scotland), February 27, 1830, reported there was a significant fire at the GlenDronach distillery, which began in the still-house. "The fire baffled every attempt to extinguish it, and in a short time completely destroyed the principal building, with the stills, utensils, and stock in it, leaving only the bare walls." The distillery was rebuilt, only slowed down a bit, and there was still plenty of stock for sale.

One of the first ads in the U.S. for GlenDronach was in the Daily News (NY), November 26, 1935. The ad noted that the Scotch was over 7 years old, and originally priced at $3.60 but on sale for $2.79. In the second half of the 1930s, other ads also popped up in both Massachusetts and Texas. This may have been the initial period when GlenDronach first started getting exported to the U.S.

The GlenDronach distillery is located in the Valley of Forgue, deep in the East Highland hills, and was named after the Dronac burn, a river that flows through the property. It's a very old-style distillery, and it's said they "run on GlenDronach time," a much more relaxing pace. For example, they own four huge pot stills with saxophone-like necks, and those necks take more time, slowing down the entire production process. And that is what GlenDronach prefers.

Over the course of the event, Rebecca Gardiner led us through the tasting, telling us the history and philosophy of GlenDronach. Her passion and knowledge were quite clear, and she also possessed a fine sense of humor. She made it fun, while also ensuring it was informative. At one point, she said that "Scotch is the Shakespeare of spirits." For some people, they get snobby about whisky and other people tend to avoid and fear it. Glendronach wants to make Scotch more approachable, to break down those artificial barriers and share it with everyone.

One of the ways they seek to make Scotch more accessible is through the use of maturation in Sherry barrels. Allardice himself used Oloroso Sherry barrels for aging, and the distillery eventually added, during the 1920s, the use of Pedro Ximénez (PX) barrels. Currently, they are the biggest user of PX barrels in the Scotch industry. Rather than just use Sherry barrels for finishing aging, they choose to use Sherry barrels for the entire length of maturation, which most other distilleries don't. These barrels are expensive, far more expensive than used bourbon barrels which are the norm, but GlenDronach is more concerned about the quality than the cost.

As I've previously discussed, I'm passionate that whisky producers should not place the term "Sherry" on their labels unless they are using authentic Sherry barrels, from the Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO. "Sherry," like the term "Scotch Whisky," is a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), worthy of respect and legal protection. Some whisky producers use barrels acquired from Sherry-style producers outside of the Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO, and they wrongfully refer to them as "Sherry" barrels. That use violates the law and it shows a lack of transparency on behalf of the producer who is concealing the true nature of the barrels they used.

I asked about the sourcing of GlenDronach's Sherry barrels and I was pleased and impressed that all of their barrels are authentic Sherry barrels from the Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO, and each barrel is traceable to its bodega in Jerez. This is very important to me, and GlenDronach is definitely a leader in this regard, respectful of the Sherry PGI and concerned about the true nature of the barrels they use for their maturation. Kudos to GlenDronach!

The Master Blender at GlenDronach is the famed Rachel Barrie, who has been in the whisky business for about 25 years, having begun her long career at Glenmorangie. In 2017, she became the Master Blender at the BenRiach Distillery Company, responsible for three distilleries, including BenRiach, Glenglassaugh and Glendronach.

Rather than call herself a Master Distiller, she prefers the term Master Blender, as she feels it is more reflective of her actual work. And as she has nosed and tasted over 150,000 whiskies, she brings an immense wealth of knowledge to her position. As I've long said, the art of blending doesn't always receive adequate appreciation, despite its importance to so many alcoholic beverages. It takes great skill and knowledge to be a proper blender, creating exactly what flavor profile is desired.

In many respects, GlenDronach flies under people's radar, especially as its production is relatively low, roughly 145,000 cases annually. The big names in the Scotch industry commonly produce millions of cases of whisky, so they get far more attention that a small distillery like GlenDronach. However, they recently received some serious attention, which may cause many Scotch lovers to start seeking out GlenDronach. At the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, held in March 2020, the GlenDronach Revival 15 Year Old Scotch won for "Best In Show Whiskey." Quite an honor.

Rebecca mentioned that "Scotch is very subjective," that different people will smell and taste different elements within the same Scotch. She also advised that you shouldn't add ice to your Scotch as it tends to dilute the whisky and freeze the Sherry aspect. Adding a little water is fine, but you might want to avoid ice. In addition, Rebecca stated that different foods bring out different flavors in Scotch, which can be fun to experiment with, to try out different pairings. And those pairings don't have to be fancy, like caviar and oysters, but can be simple, like a tasty fish & chips. I fully support these ideas, and have mentioned before that spirit-paired dinners can be fun and delicious.

The food provided by The Haven was tasty, and appealed to me enough that I want to dine at the restaurant once our current situation changes. I'm a big fan of Scotch Eggs, and the allspice in the coating around the eggs helped to bring out the allspice flavors on the Scotch.

The Fish & Chips offered a nice, flaky piece of white fish, with a pleasing batter, and large potato slices. As Oloroso Sherry often pairs well with fried items, the Scotch, matured in Oloroso barrels, benefited from that pairing. Now I'd like to pair that Scotch with fried clams from the Clam Box in Ipswich.

The Fish Chowder was tasty too, with plenty of fish and potatoes, and a savory and buttery broth, which also was intriguing with the Scotch. And it was true that each of these dishes brought something different out of the Scotch.

The creamy Haddie Spread, with Oatcakes, was flavorful as well, and the oatcakes also made for an excellent palate cleanser.

Scotch and cheese? Yes, this was a fine pairing too. With the Dubliner, we paired the 12 Year Old, and the sharpness of the cheese helped to bring out vanilla notes and creaminess in the Scotch. The butteriness of the cheese also drew out the Oloroso notes. With the Gorgonzola, we paired the 18 Year Old, and the mild sweetness of the Scotch contrasted well with the pungency of the cheese. Port and Blue Cheese has always been one of my favorite pairings, but I think I need to explore more Scotch and Blue cheese pairings.

The GlenDronach 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch ($62.99) was aged in a combination of Pedro Ximénez (PX) and Oloroso Sherry casks and has a 43% ABV. It's important to note that GlenDronach doesn't add any caramel coloring to their whiskies, and that their color is all natural, imparted only by the barrel maturation. With a light amber color, this whisky presented with an intriguing nose that would remind you of Sherry, with some sweet, raisiny notes of PX and the nuttiness of an Oloroso. On the palate, the Scotch was smooth, creamy, dry and full-bodied, with a complex melange of flavors, including vanilla, dried fruits, hints of citrus, spice notes, and plump raisins. The finish was lengthy and pleasing, with the Oloroso elements becoming even more prominent. Overall, a delicious and compelling whisky, which would make for an excellent introduction for those new to Scotch, but which would also please Scotch lovers.

The GlenDronach Allardice 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch ($179.99) was aged solely in Oloroso Sherry casks and had a 46% ABV. Rebecca stated this was her favorite, and that sipping it brought her home. She also recommended that you should let this Scotch breathe for about 20 minutes before drinking, to bring out its best aromas and flavors. It had a darker amber color than the 12 year old, and its nose was complex and alluring, with plenty of spice, chocolate notes, and nutty elements. The Oloroso aspect was noticeable and pleasing, especially to a Sherry lover like myself.

When I tasted this Scotch, I was immediately enamored with its complexity and fine taste. It was silky smooth, seductive on the palate, and each sip brought different notes to my mind. There were baking spices and salted nuts, chocolate notes and ripe fruit notes, honey and vanilla, sweet and bitter, and so much more. The finish was incredibly long, extremely satisfying, and beckoned you like a Siren to sip more. I loved this Scotch and its Oloroso notes, and continued sipping it long after the tasting event concluded. Highly recommended, and well worth the splurge.

GlenDronach makes other whiskies as well, including the Parliament 21 Year Old, the Cask Strength Batch 8, and the Grandeur Batch 10 (a 27 Year Old Scotch). I have great respect for the whisky-making philosophy of GlenDronach, especially concerning their use of only authentic Sherry barrels. And their Scotches are delicious and complex, compelling spirits which are worthy of much more attention than they receive. Their 18 Year Old Scotch is a rock star, and has become one of my new favorite whiskies.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

All About Boston's Chinatown, Chinese Restaurants, Baijiu & Related Matters

What was the first Chinese restaurant in Boston's Chinatown?

That question intrigued me and I wasn't satisfied with the answer I found through some quick Googling. So, I engaged in my own intensive research seeking an answer, poring through thousands of old newspapers and books. As I delved into that rabbit hole, I uncovered so much fascinating information about the history of Chinatown and its restaurants. Eventually, I decided to write a five-part series of articles about what I found, as well as providing some answers to my original question. These articles contained an abundance of references, especially to many old newspapers.

Even after completing this initial series of articles, I continued my research as I kept finding new and interesting information. Eventually, I began expanding and revising my original articles as well as writing additional historical articles, on a variety of related topics, from the first Chinese restaurants outside Boston to a history of Dim Sum in the U.S. All of these articles, about 25, were completed and/or expanded/revised during the first third of 2020, and consist of over 100,000 words, the size of a book, so there's plenty to read if you're so inclined.

To help bring more visibility to all of these posts, and to make it easier to find these articles, I've compiled all of the links into this single post. It will be a repository for all of these articles, and I'll update it when I write a new article. This should be helpful to my readers who want to delve deeper into the fascinating stories of the history of Boston's Chinatown, its restaurants, and related matters.

In some respects, these articles can be considered works in progress, as I try to update them whenever I engage in new research. I've written some of the most extensive articles you'll find about the history of Chinatown and its restaurants, and I'm always trying to improve and expand them. Plus, I'm working on other historical topics for future articles. I hope you enjoy and would love to hear feedback.

The First Restaurants In Boston's Chinatown
Check out Part 1, covering the 19th century
Check out Part 2, covering the years 1901-1920
Check out Part 3, covering the 1920s.
Check out Part 4, the tale of Ruby Foo.
Check out Part 5, covering 1930-1954
Check out Part 6, the tale of Anita Chue
Check out Part 7, the tale of Mary Yick
Check out Part 8, a Deeper Look into Two Restaurants

The First Chinese Restaurants Outside Boston:
Check out Part 1-Cambridge & Fitchburg
Check out Part 2-Pittsfield & Malden
Check out Part 3-Springfield
Check out Part 4-Fall River
Check out Part 5-Lowell & Lynn
Check out Part 6-Quincy
Check out Part 7-North Adams & Brockton

The First Chinese Restaurants in Connecticut
Check out Part 1: New Haven 
Check out Part 2: Hartford & Bridgeport
Check out Part 3: New Britain, New London, Stamford, and Waterbury

Assorted Articles
Blob Joints: A History of Dim Sum in the U.S.
Origins Of The Chop Suey Sandwich: A New England Invention?
What's A Chop Suey Sundae?
The Origins of American Chop Suey (Expanded/Revised)
Origins Of The St. Paul Sandwich: A Missouri Invention?
Origins of Crab Rangoon

Sampan Articles
#1: In Search of the First Chinese Restaurant
#2: Malden's First Chinese Restaurants
#3: Quincy's First Chinese Restaurants
#4: Ruby Foo, Chinatown's First Woman Restaurateur (Part 1)
#5: Ruby Foo, Chinatown's First Woman Restaurateur (Part 2)

All About Baijiu (11 articles about this Chinese spirit, the most popular spirit in the world)
Baijiu: The Durian Fruit Of The Spirits World (Part 1)
Baijiu: Its Unique Production Process (Part 2)
Baijiu: Drinking Etiquette & Some Reviews (Part 3)
Baijiu: Cocktails, Boston & World Baijiu Day (Part 4)
Baijiu: Food Pairings (Part 5)
Vinn Bajiu: Made in Portland
Baijiu: The Essential Guide To Chinese Spirits by Derek Sandhaus
World Baijiu Day: August 9
Taizi Baijiu: A New Zealand Treasure
Historical Tidbits About Baijiu, The World's Most Popular Spirit (Part 1)
Historical Tidbits About Baijiu, The World's Most Popular Spirit (Part 2)

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Yamhill Valley Vineyards: Pinot Blanc, Rosé & Pinot Noir

As Spring progresses, and the weather gets warmer and warmer, many people start craving more White wines, Rosés, and lighter Reds. Oregon is an excellent region to find such wines, from Pinot Blanc to Pinot Noir. One of the compelling wineries in Oregon, located in the Willamette Valley, is the Yamhill Valley Vineyards. I received media samples of a few of their wines and was impressed with their taste and quality.

Yamhill Valley Vineyards was established in the foothills of Oregon’s Coast Range Mountains, in 1983, by Denis Burger, Elaine McCall, and David Hinrichs, and they initially bought 34 acres, planting it with Pinot Noir. Over time, they purchased additional land, until they now own 150 acres, and have planted other grapes, including Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling. They have a current capacity of about 15,000 cases, growing, producing and bottling all of their wines on their estate.

In 2005, the McMinnville AVA, a subappellation of the Willamette Valley AVA, was established, and Yamhill Valley Vineyards fell within this new AVA, making them the oldest winery in that region. The McMinnville AVA currently has about 16 vineyards and about 750 acres of vineyards. Making McMinnville more unique, it's one of few AVAs that is designated in part based on elevation. Vineyards in this AVA must be located between 200 and 1,000 feet above sea level, and their soil is also different from much of the rest of the area. The soil is mostly uplifted marine sedimentary loams and silt.

The 2016 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Blanc ($25) was fermented in stainless steel, and then aged for seven months, 97% in stainless steel and 3% in neutral oak. With a 13.5% ABV, this wine has a compelling nose of stone fruits and floral accents, and on the palate, it is juicy and crisp, with delicious flavors of peach, melon, pineapple and nutty hints. Easy drinking but with a nice complexity and a lengthy finish. Very food friendly, this would work well with seafood to chicken, salads to soups. Or you could just sit outside and sip a glass on its own.

The 2018 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir ($16-$18) was fermented in stainless steel, and then aged for three months, 95% in stainless steel and 5% in neutral oak. With a 13.8% ABV, this wine has a rich pink color and a pleasing nose of red fruits. On the palate, it is dry and crisp, with delicious and complex strawberry, watermelon, cherry and mild citrus flavors, and a hint of herbal notes. It is fresh and clean, with a satisfying finish, and is excellent on its own or paired with food. This would be great with seafood, pizza or even hamburgers. You should definitely stock up on this Rosé, as it will please yourself, as well as any guests you invite over.

The 2014 Yamhill Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve ($40) is a select barrel blend, aged for sixteen months in French oak, about 20% new. With a 14.3% ABV, it has a light ruby red color, with an alluring aroma of red fruits and subtle spices. On the palate, it presents a complex melange of flavors, bright cherry, a touch of vanilla, a mild, spicy backbone, and a hint of clove. The finish is lengthy and pleasing, with a bit more spice. Medium-bodied, interesting and delicious. This is a type of Pinot Noir which I enjoy, and which should please any Pinot lover.

Check out the wines of Yamhill Valley Vineyards. It's the perfect time to experience the wines of Oregon.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Sake Industry News: John Gauntner's Latest Educational Endeavor

Even though Sake continues to grow in popularity every year, there still is only a small collection of sources for information about this fascinating and delicious beverage. There are less than 20 books available about Sake and most of the articles in the mainstream media are rather basic and introductory. Few articles dive deeper into the Sake industry, providing the type of stories which are readily found in the wine, beer and spirits world.

One of the exceptions has long been John Gauntner, the famed Sake expert and Sake Dendoushi ("Evangelist"). I've previously raved about some of his Sake books, such as Sake Confidential, and for many years he's published a free Sake newsletter, Sake World, which has always been informative and interesting. Most recently, he's been publishing a more specialized newsletter, Sake Industry News, and if you love Sake, if you want to dive deeper into compelling Sake industry, then you should subscribe.

The first issue of the Sake Industry News was released in September 2019, and it's now a twice-monthly newsletter, released on the first and 15th of each month. As their website states, you'll "get news from the sake industry in Japan – including trends, business news, changes and developments, and technical information on sake types and production methods that are well beyond the basics." Each issue contains about 6-8 articles on Sake, some with information that has only previously been disseminated in Japan. It would be difficult for most Americans to find these articles in any other way.

I've been subscribing to the Sake Industry News since the beginning, and I've been impressed with the range and diversity of information that has been featured. It's been an excellent way to learn more about the world of Sake, to acquire deeper information than what has been previously available. It's the type of industry intelligence that I can easily find for many other drinks, from wine to whiskey, but which has been unfortunately lacking in the Sake world.

If we just look at the last three issues, #12-#14, we can see the diversity of the Sake articles, as well as plenty of interest. For example, in issue #12, there were details about a new Sake brewery opening in Hawaii as well as some intriguing statistics about Sake exports. There was also a lengthier article about ethyl caproate and its effect on Sake. Though that sounds like an overly technical article, it actually was very approachable and utterly fascinating as it has to do with why certain Sakes possess certain types of flavors.

Some of the articles in Issue #13 touched on a new Sake rice, the revival of a Sake brand, and the planned opening, in the near future, of Kato Sake Works in Brooklyn, New York. There was also a lengthier profile of a specific Kura, Sake brewery, named Miyoshikiku Shuzō. Some of the articles in Issue #14 touched on a new Sake yeast strain, a Sake region acquiring Geographical Indication status, and a fascinating article on rice milling.

I've learned plenty from reading these newsletters and eagerly look forward to each new issue. They fill a niche that has long been missing in the Sake world, and hopefully it will encourage other publications to consider publishing more in-depth articles about Sake, and not just some introductory piece. I strongly encourage everyone interested in Sake in subscribing to Sake Industry News. 

The cost for a one-year subscription (24 issues, delivered to your email inbox on the 1st and 15th of each month) is $100, or if you prefer to subscribe month to month, it's $10 a month. When you sign up as a paid subscriber you'll get a 31 day free trial and you also have access to all the archives of the past issues. This is a very reasonable price for the value of the Sake information you'll find in these newsletters.

You can subscribe here. and read some prior newsletters here. I'm looking forward to the next issue, which should be out this Friday, May 1.

Kanpai!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The First Chinese Restaurants in Connecticut (Part 3)

Where were the first Chinese restaurants located? When did they first open? Did they have difficulties in the cities and towns where they were situated? What are their stories?

I've previously written an extensive five-part series, The First Restaurants In Boston's Chinatown, and a seven-part series, The First Chinese Restaurants Outside Boston. The second series expanded my coverage from Boston to a number of other cities and towns in Massachusetts, from Cambridge to North Adams, Malden to Quincy. I'm now expanding my coverage outside of Massachusetts, to cover various city and towns in Connecticut. Part One dealt with New Haven and Part Two dealt with Hartford & Bridgeport. Part Three now deals with New Britain, New London, Stamford, and Waterbury.

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NEW BRITAIN

Possibly the first Chinese restaurant in New Britain opened in 1917. The New Britain Herald, July 18, 1917, published an ad for The Asia, located at 73 Church Street, which planned to open on July 19 and would offer American and Chinese cuisine.

The New Britain Herald, September 5, 1918, noted that an existing restaurant at 294 Main Street had been sold to Chang Ben, who owned The Asia. Though it seemed maybe Ben would open a second restaurant, he merely relocated The Asia. The New Britain Herald, September 30, 1918, provided a brief noticed that The Asia would now be doing business at 294 Main Street, the former location of Walsh's Restaurant. It would offer a Special Dinner for 35 cents, from 11am-2pm.

The New Britain Herald, November 26, 1918, published an ad for The Asia, noting its Thanksgiving Day Dinner Menu. Mostly American dishes, there was also a course of Chicken Chow Mein or Chicken Chop Suey.

The New Britain Herald, October 10, 1918, posted an advertisement for a new American and Chinese restaurant, The Republic, located at 25 Myrtle Street, which was planned to open on October 10.

A curious law suit. The New Britain Herald, April 8, 1919, reported that there will soon be a hearing on a suit of summary process brought by John J. Walsh against Chong Ben for possession of 294 Main Street, the location of The Asia restaurant. No more details of the suit were provided. Whatever happened in this suit, it appeared The Asia continued to operate.

Striking waitresses. The New Britain Herald, June 9, 1919, mentioned that four waitresses at The Asia restaurant went on strike at noon, demanding higher pay. The waitresses were currently earning $6 a week, plus meals, but claimed that a few weeks prior, they had been making $8 a week. The waitresses left the restaurant during the busy lunch hour and the owner, Chong Ben, accused them to stealing the menus, which they denied. The women want their pay to be returned to $8 a week.

Sold! The New Britain Herald, May 4, 1921, Chong Ben sold The Asia to James Chromides, a chef who used to work at White's Cafe. Ben would now dedicate all his time to his Chinese store in Hartford.

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NEW LONDON

The Morning Journal and Courier, July 20, 1881, stated that Hung Wah, a Chinese laundryman who has lived in New London for two years, has vanished, and might have committed suicide. He has been sick and disappointed, and wouldn't avail himself of an American doctor. It is thought he might have drowned himself, as he had frequently mentioned he wouldn't die at home, but rather at the river, so his spirit could more easily return to China. In follow-up, the Morning Journal and Courier, July 25, 1881, mentioned that Hung Wah's body was found in the New London harbor. It is believed he committed suicide by drowning.

The first mention I found to a Chinese restaurant in New London was in 1911, though the restaurant could have existed prior to this year. The Norwich Morning Bulletin, April 15, 1911, mentioned the existence of a Chinese restaurant on Bradley Street, noting that its owner, Wong Yeng Yen had suddenly died of heart disease. This was only the second Chinese to have died in New London, the first thing Hung Wah. Wah was the first Chinese to move to New London and for many years, he was the only one, running a laundry on Bradley Street. His nephew, Sam Wing Sing, eventually came from China to assist him, making him the second Chinese to move to New London. At some point, Hung Wah became sick, lacked faith in American doctors, and ended up committing suicide by drowning.

The Norwich Morning Bulletin, March 13, 1916, briefly noted that Lem Troy owned a Chinese restaurant in New London.

White slavery? The Norwich Morning Bulletin, June 9, 1916, reported that Le Tong, 36 years old, who conducts, manages and is maybe an owner of a Chinese restaurant at the corner of Green and Golden Streets, was arrested in New York for violation of the Mann White Slavery Act. A suspicious police officer witnessed Le Tong accompanied by a young white woman, who turned out to be Julia Carson, The officer followed them on the train from New London to New York Central Station, where Le and Julia were both arrested.

As a follow-up, the Norwich Morning Bulletin, June 23, 1916, reported that after an investigation, the New York authorities felt there was insufficient evidence against Lee Tong and Julia Carson so they were both released.

Briefly, the Norwich Morning Bulletin, August 6, 1917, noted that the Mon Hing Low Co. owned an American and Chinese restaurant at 18 Bank Street. They were looking for experienced waitresses.

The Norwich Morning Bulletin, June 6, 1918, mentioned that a Pawcatuck laundryman would soon open a Chinese restaurant in New London, bringing the total number of Chinese restaurants to four.

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STAMFORD

Some of the earliest Chinese in Stamford. The Daily Advocate, February 20, 1893, noted that about three years ago, a non-sectarian Sunday-School for the resident Chinese was started by some Christian women in the Presbyterian church. There are currently 10 Chinese members in the school, although one has returned to China, and some of the students come from neighboring cities. All of the Chinese in Stamford go to the school, and generally own or work in the Chinese laundries. Laundry owners commonly make about $40 a week while their assistants earn $10 a week.

The first mention of a Chinese restaurant in Stamford is in 1908. The Daily Advocate, February 3, 1908, briefly mentioned that Chin Jim owned a Chinese restaurant at 442 Main Street. A few weeks later, the Daily Advocate, February 21, 1908, noted that Chin’s restaurant has been in the hands of Constable Schlechtweg for a day or so. Chin had called the police and wanted them to remove his "keeper," which seems to refer to his manager. No reasons for this request were provided, and I couldn't find any additional references to this restaurant.

Another new Chinese restaurant. The Daily Advocate, August 13, 1908, mentioned that Andow & Company, which owns restaurants in other towns, was going to open a Chinese restaurant at 442 Main Street. Again, there weren't any additional references to this restaurant.

And a third restaurant. The Daily Advocate, April 10, 1919, noted that the Canton Company would soon open a Chinese restaurant at 99 Atlantic Street, occupying the three floors above Gounden’s Pharmacy. The restaurant was granted a permit to erect a huge electric sign at their restaurant. A week later, the Daily Advocate, April 18, 1919, mentioned that the restaurant would open next week.

The Daily Advocate, May 16, 1919, published an advertisement for The Canton, and the picture above is the top portion of the ad. The restaurant, which is open from 11am-1am, also offers music every night from 5pm-8pm. The bottom portion listed some of the American and Chinese dishes on the menu, noting they were all served to order. The ad also mentioned that served a Regular Dinner Daily, from 11am-2pm, for 45 cents; a Regular Supper Daily, from 5pm-8pm, for 35 cents to 75 cents; and a Special Sunday Dinner, from 12pm-3pm, for 85 cents.

Another new spot. The Daily Advocate, March 5, 1924, printed an ad for a new Chinese Restaurant, Lem Tom Co., located at 19 Gay Street, which offered a Regular Dinner for 40 cents.

Open and close. The Daily Advocate, February 25, 1926, reported that The Republic, a Chinese restaurant which opened 2 months ago in the Advocate Building, had been closed by Constable Andrew Schlechtweg. It seems that several creditors sought the closure, including some musicians who hadn’t been paid in several weeks. It doesn't appear that this restaurant ever reopened.

The Canton restaurant appears to have continued to operate until likely the spring of 1927, when The Daily Advocate, May 5, 1927, reported that a serious fire torched much of the building housing the restaurant and a number of other businesses.

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WATERBURY

Leprosy fears! The Morning Journal-Courier, February 18, 1886, reported that Sing Lee, a laundryman, was found sick, with his lower limbs covered in white spots. Initially the Medical Examiner thought it was leprosy and it was said that maybe all of the Chinese in Waterbury might have to be relocated. However, the New Haven Register, February 18, 1886, then reported that it wasn’t leprosy, only blood eruptions in the legs. Sing had used flaxseed on his legs, which gave the impression of skin discoloration.

The first Chinese restaurant in Waterbury seems to have opened in 1903. The Waterbury Democrat, January 12, 1903, noted that a Chinese man from New York intended to soon open a Chinese restaurant on East Main Street near North Elm Street.

However, the Waterbury Democrat, January 26, 1903, published an ad for the Canton Restaurant at 217 South Main Street. Their menu included American and Chinese dishes, as well as special Chinese teas. Was the January 12 edition incorrect in the location of the new restaurant, actually being South rather than East Main Street? The Waterbury Democrat, April 6, 1903, noted there was a Chinese restaurant on South Main Street and the Waterbury Democrat, January 7, 1904, mentioned this restaurant was named the Canton. There didn't seem to be any ads for any restaurant on East Main Street.

Curiously, the Waterbury Democrat, June 28, 1904, had an ad for a Chinese Restaurant, at 217 South Main Street, which served “First-Class Chop Suey. Regular Meal 25 cents.” Though the name of the Canton restaurant is not listed in this ad, it is definite this ad refers to that spot, based on future ads found after this date.

The Morning Journal & Courier, August 25, 1905, noted that Chin Sam, who owns the Canton Restaurant, and his wife gave birth to a daughter, said to be the first child born to an all-Chinese couple in the city. Later, the Norwich Morning Bulletin, April 12, 1909, mentioned that a son was born to Chin Sam and wife, the only Chinese couple in Waterbury. Sam was also said to be known as the “Mayor of Chinatown.” And what Chinatown was referred to, as Waterbury obviously didn't have a Chinatown.

The Hartford Courant, August 7, 1909, mentioned that Chin Sam, also known as Gee Wah Lung,  restaurant keeper and tea merchant, had filed for bankruptcy. His liabilities are around $1600 and his assets only about $700.

There was a brief mention in the Hartford Courant, June 12, 1909, that the Hodsons ran a Chinese restaurant in Waterbury. And the Hartford Courant, February 4, 1913, mentioned that two Chinese restaurants in Waterbury were robbed, one located at 376 East Main Street and the other on South Main Street

Also check out:
Part 1: NewHaven 
Part 2: Hartford & Bridgeport

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The First Chinese Restaurants in Connecticut (Part 2)

Where were the first Chinese restaurants located? When did they first open? Did they have difficulties in the cities and towns where they were situated? What are their stories?

I've previously written an extensive five-part series, The First Restaurants In Boston's Chinatown, and a seven-part series, The First Chinese Restaurants Outside Boston. The second series expanded my coverage from Boston to a number of other cities and towns in Massachusetts, from Cambridge to North Adams, Malden to Quincy. I'm now expanding my coverage outside of Massachusetts, to cover various city and towns in Connecticut. Part One dealt with New Haven and Part Two now deals with Hartford & Bridgeport.

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HARTFORD

As mentioned in Part One, the first Chinese restaurant in New Haven opened for only three months before closing and deciding to move to Hartford. The Hartford Courant, February 3, 1898, noted the New Haven closure and that a Chinese restaurant would soon open at 184 State Street in Hartford.  They were excited about this new restaurant, stating it was “Another evidence that Hartford has become a metropolis…” The new Chinese spot would be named The Sign of the Yellow Dragon, headed by Charles Ying, and they would have a noted cook from Boston. There would actually be two cooks, one who would cook just American dishes. The restaurant would specialize in chop suey, but would offer other dishes too, such as chicken soup, boiled chicken, roast duck a la Chinese, and Chinese omelets.

The Hartford Courant, February 19, 1898, published an ad for this new Chinese Restaurant, mentioning its address was actually 182 State Street and that the proprietor was Do Yan Low. It's interesting that the restaurant opened at 9 a.m.. Chow Chop Sooy was noted as their specialty.

However, Do Yan Low lasted only about seven months before selling the restaurant. The Hartford Courant, September 30, 1898, reported that Low sold the place to Wah Hop of Hartford and Tung Ham of New Britain. The new owners would formally take possession as soon as their cook arrived. Why was that? The article stated, “In Chinese restaurants the cook is of more importance than the proprietor, for when the cook leaves the doors close. Do Yan Low lost his cook and gave up as he was unable to get another.” The new owners had hired a cook from New York, who had previously worked in San Francisco. The new spot would be called the Wah Hop Café, though Tung Ham had wanted the place named after him. They owners decided that Ham might have been confusing to Americans and didn't sound Chinese enough.

Days later, there was a fire near the new restaurant. The Hartford Courant, October 3, 1898, reported about a large fire on State Street, that fortunately didn't spread much to the Wah Hop Cafe. The article noted the restaurant had a sign made out of peacock feathers and paper flowers, and that sign was considerably scorched.

Another Chinese restaurant, the King Far Low, was briefly mentioned in the Hartford Courant, September 21, 1901. Later newspapers would indicate this restaurant was located at 21 Central Row. The Hartford Courant, March 3, 1903, mentioned that 60 of the most prominent of Chinese residents of Hartford met at King Far Low, owned by Lee Foo. They organized a branch of the Chinese Empire Reform Association. In the Hartford Courant, November 14, 1906, there was a mention that the restaurant's head cook was Mr. Lee.

A number of other Chinese restaurants appeared in Hartford over the next several years, though few details were provided. The Hartford Courant, June 2, 1908, mentioned two restaurants, a chop-suey house on Central Row (which could have been King Far Low) and a Chinese restaurant at 60 Temple Street, owned by Frank Sing.

The article also discussed Mrs. Charley Fong, who was probably the first Chinese woman, direct from China, to have visited Hartford. She arrived the prior week with her husband from New York. She had a local connection to Hartford as her maiden name was Miss Sing and she was a cousin to the above-mentioned Frank Sing.

The Hartford Courant, June 22, 1909, mentioned a Chinese restaurant at 40 Temple Street, owned by Wing Lee. This appeared to be the second Chinese restaurant on this street.

Wing Lee apparently owned a store as well. The Hartford Courant, November 6, 1909, noted Wing Lee had a Chinese Goods & Tea Store at 60 Temple Street.

The Hartford Courant, May 16, 1910, stated that Wing Lee, of 60 Temple Street, who was also the head of the Four Brothers, a powerful Chinese organization, told the police that High Binders, killers from the On Leong Tong, were in Hartford, seeking to slay members of the Four Brothers. Four strange Chinese were seen on State Street, and they might have been the killers. Wing noted that his people would defend themselves against the High Binders.

A closing. The Hartford Courant, July 14, 1910, reported a serious fire at 22 Central Row, noting that the second floor had been occupied by a Chinese restaurant, owned by K. Farlow, but he had moved away 2 weeks ago and closed the restaurant. This appears to be a mistake, that the restaurant's name was King Far Low, and that wasn't the actual owner's name.

Tong issues! The Hartford Courant, January 23, 1911, reported that three Chinese were arrested at the grocery store of Wing Lee, at 60 Tremont Street. Local Chinese alleged these three were blackmailers and "bad men" from New York, members of the On Leong Tong. When the police tried to arrest them, one pulled a gun but to no avail. Nothing ever resulted from the tong scare of May 1910, but now fear was there again, worries that the On Leong would send more men as these three had been apprehended.

Federal raids. The Hartford Courant, January 12, 1912, reported on three raids by the federal authorities on Chinese locations in Hartford. The local police were unaware of the raids until after the first one occurred. Wing Lee, the owner of a Chinese store at 60 Tremont Street was arrested as they found two pounds of opium in his building. This location was also the headquarters of the Four Brothers. Wing claimed he kept the opium to smoke himself. Under federal law, opium could only be sold for medicinal purposes, and selling it just for smoking could lead to a heavy fine. Wing was actually the only person arrested from these raids.

There was another raid at 118 State Street, which was owned by Chung Hong Hang. This building had a Chinese general store on the first floor and the rear of this room was a place where Chinese frequented. On the second floor, Chinese gambling equipment was found. On another room on this floor, they found some empty opium boxes and several weapons, from a couple revolvers to a knife. On the third floor was a Chinese temple, a joss house. The top floor had a number of bunks. The third raid was at the Shanghai restaurant at 163 State Street. No opium was found there and no one was arrested.

The Chinese claimed that they had been framed by a rival, the On Leong Tong. Others claimed that the information behind the raids was provided by the On Leong.

More Chinese restaurants. The Hartford Courant, March 11, 1913, noted a Chinese restaurant at 163 State Street. Later, the Hartford Courant, January 20, 1914, referenced a Chinese restaurant on Morgan Street, and near the end of that year, the Hartford Courant, December 20, 1914, stated the Morgan Street restaurant was named the Hong Kong Chinese restaurant.

Another opium raid. The Hartford Courant, December 9, 1914, reported that a raid had been conducted at the Shanghai restaurant at 163 State Street. A raid had been conducted about three years prior, though it hadn't led to seizing any opium and there hadn't been any arrests. This time was different. The owner, Wong Lin, also known as Lin Kee, was arrested for manufacturing opium for smoking, a federal crime where the penalty was a minimum of five years in state or federal prison.

The article stated, "The raid disclosed conditions which indicate that Hartford has been for a period of at least three years the center of a system of vice and crime, the extent of which had not even been dreamed of." Besides the opium, lots of gambling equipment was found, and the building was also considered to be absolutely filthy and unsanitary. Police heard rumors that opium addicted Chinese were coming to Hartford, and mostly to the State Street area, so they put the area under surveillance.

It was alleged that Wong Lin made over $20 a day selling opium, which he probably purchased in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where the state laws were more lax. The drug usually sold for $9-$18 a pound, which could be turned into smoking opium, which sold for $75 a pound. Quite a nice profit. Wong, who was 54 years old, was born in China and has lived in Hartford for about 14 years.

In follow-up, the Hartford Courant, December 10, 1914, it was claimed that Wong had contacted the Hip Sing Tong about his arrest, though he denied any such connection. It was also alleged that a white woman, Ruth Flanagan, found at the building when the authorities raided it, may have been buying the opium for Wong. Ruth frequently travelled to Boston and New York, frequenting Chinese joints. The evidence seemed to indicate her potential involvement in supplying the opium for manufacture into a smoking form.

And the restaurants continued opening. The Hartford Courant, August 12, 1915, mentioned that "a first-class Chinese restaurant" was soon to be located at 257 Asylum Street and would be known as the Canton Restaurant. It would be operated by Charles B. Quong, Wu Fung, Wu Soon, and Wu Tong (all cousins), who had experience in the restaurant business and operated another restaurant in Springfield, Massachusetts. The new restaurant was expected to open around August 24.

The Hartford Courant, August 22, 1915, published an ad for The Canton Restaurant, and there was also an accompanying article noting that the manager was Charles Quong, who was American born. The restaurant would offer both American and Chinese cuisine, and had a capacity of 125 persons. It was also noted in the Hartford Courant, October 2, 1915, that this Canton restaurant was a branch of the Springfield, Massachusetts, Canton restaurant.

The feds make another opium raid. The Daily Advocate, August 7, 1916, reported that a Chinese restaurant was raided, though the brief article failed to mention its name or address. The federal authorities seized thousands of dollars worth of opium, arrested two Chinese men, and also two women, Helen Hoffman, age 22, of Philadelphia, and Frances Harris, age 22, of New York. The two women were fined $7 each, and the two Chinese were also fined. No action against the restaurant was mentioned.

Another new Chinese spot. The Hartford Courant, March 21, 1917, stated that the former National Exchange Bank, at 76 State Street, had been leased, for fifteen years, to the Thomas E. Lee & Co. of New York, They planned to establish a Chinese restaurant, hoping to open by June 1. The  company already controlled 2 restaurants in New York and 1 in New Haven. They had also, until recently, owned one in Fall River but they sold it.

The Hartford Courant, April 29, 1917, noted the Grand Opening of the Nankin Restaurant, located at 293 Asylum Street. The restaurant would open from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m., and serve breakfast in the mornings.

Another opening. The Hartford Courant, August 18, 1917, published an ad for The Oriental, located at 730 Main Street, and offering American and Chinese cuisine.


And one more opening. The Hartford Courant, October 24, 1917, posted this ad for The Far East Garden, at 76 State Street, which stated it was "A Dining Place Unusual"

One more! The Hartford Courant, April 7, 1918, mentioned that a new Chinese restaurant, the Ningpo Restaurant, would open in several day at 739 Main Street. The resturant was owned by Wong H. Hop. The Chinese Students Monthly, November 1920-June 1921, also had an ad for The Ningpo Restaurant, which offered Chinese and American food, including Mandarin Style Dinners. They were open from 11am to Midnight, and had orchestral music. Wong Hop was listed as the managing director.

Chinatown in Hartford? The Hartford Courant, December 14, 1919, published an intriguing article, titled, Hartford's Chinatown, a Place of Mystery, With Trick Stumbling Step and Queer Altar. It was also subtitled, "There Isn't Much of it but it has Plenty of Oriental Atmosphere, Where Good-Natured Members of Two Secret Chinese Organizations Dream of Mountains of Laundry Checks and Oceans of Chop Suey--Closed Doors and Eastern Reticence Add to the Charm of Gazing Through Windows at the Gathering-Place of the Clans." The article began by discussing the headquarters of the two secret societies in Hartford, both on State Street, the Quong Kong and the On Lung Tong. It was also noted that, "These two secret organizations are practically all that Hartford has to call Chinatown..."

The headquarters of the Quong Kong, the Four Brothers, usually had an open door, but one of the stairs had a defect, which created a kind of alarm to notify the Chinese of a potential intruder. The Quong Kong was said to be similar to the Free Masons. The Quong Kong and Tongs have had violent clashes in the past, in other cities, though they have been more friendly in recent years, and in Hartford, they co-existed peacefully. The Quong Kong headquarters had been in Hartford for about seven years. The On Lung headquarters was formerly a restaurant, and the article didn't mention how long the Tong had been based at the building.

The Chinese Students Monthly, November 1920-June 1921, also had an ad for the Oriental Restaurant, noting "All kinds of Chinese dishes put in boxes to take home."

The Hartford Courant, May 15, 1922, reported that Wing Lee, who owned a store at 124 State Street, was arrested for a liquor violation, when Federal agents raided his store and found 16 bottles of Chinese liquor.

Murder in Schenectady. According to the Hartford Courant, October 13, 1924, two Chinese residents of Hartford, Joe Samee and Fung Chung, were arrested in Schenectady for murder. There were worries that this was related to a Tong war and it was feared that members of the Hip Sing would go to Hartford, seeking revenge for this murder. In Hartford, the four adjacent Chinese businesses and residences, from 110 to 128 State Street, tried to bunker down.

The businesses included an importing store, the Yung Sing Co., located on the first floor of 128 State Street. On the second floor of 124 State Street was the tea shop of the Wing Lee Company. 118 State Street was the Chinese Free Society Mission and the second floor of 110 State Street was the Chinese curiosity shop of Hong Kee Co.

The police believed that there had been peace between the Tongs since 1913, but recent murders in Philadelphia and New York seemed to indicate war was ongoing. One alleged reason for this outbreak of violence was that twelve members of the On Leong had been found guilty of stealing $40,000 from the tong. They were ousted and the Hip Sing promised they would not provide aid to them. However, when those members got in trouble in Ohio, the Hip Sing bailed them out.

Violence came to Hartford. The Hartford Courant, November 27, 1924, reported that two Chinese, Sam Lee (also known as Lung Foo) and another man thought to be Yung To Wing (Sam's nephew), were shot and killed at their laundry at 43 Park Street. On the night in question, three shots were fired in the laundry and the gunmen fled, though Yung To Wing tried to follow then, receiving a bullet to the chest. Sam and Yung were members of the On Leong Tong. J. K. Ping, of 38 Church Street, New Britain, was the President of the Hartford branch of the On Leong.

Three weeks prior, Sam had received a threatening letter, demanding he join the Hip Sing. These two murders were thought to be retaliation for the recent murder of a Chinese merchant, a member of the Hip Sing, in Schenectady. The killers of Sam and Yung hadn't been caught yet.

The Hartford Courant, August 26, 1925, noted new worries about a possible Tong War. There was an increased police presence in the area of State Street. The local On Leong headquarters had been moved from 54 Market Street to 142 State Street.

Unfortunately, once again, most of the newspapers during this period didn't provide sufficient information about these early Chinese restaurants in Hartford, only some tantalizing and brief references. Maybe I'll find more information in my future research.

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Bridgeport

The first Chinese restaurant in Bridgeport may have been established in 1902, though it is possible it was founded a little earlier. The first reference I found was in The Morning Journal-Courier, July 28, 1902, which briefly mentioned the existence of a Chinese restaurant on State Street. The Morning Journal-Courier, July 4, 1907, also briefly mentioned this restaurant.

The Bridgeport Times & Evening Farmer, April 6, 1909, noted that Charles Hung ran a Chinese restaurant on State Street. Is this the same restaurant which had been around since 1902? Possibly so. The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, November 26, 1909, also mentioned that Chu Lem, aka Charles Lee, was also one of the owners of this Chinese restaurant, located at 31 State Street.

Another Chinese restaurant was mentioned at being on Bank Street in the Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 9, 1909. Then we return to the State Street restaurant. The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 13, 1909, mentioned the existence of Hong Quong’s Chinese restaurant on State Street, and that the owner's wife was waitress. Was this a different restaurant, also on State Street? Or had it been sold? Too many questions without answers.

More tidbits. The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 2, 1910, noted that Quong Que was a waiter at a Chinese restaurant at State & Water Streets. There were then two brief mentions of a Chinese restaurant on State Street in the Bridgeport Evening Farmer, March 4, 1912 and March 10, 1914.

Another State Street restaurant. The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, April 10, 1915, reported that the Low Ben Fung Chinese restaurant, located at 67 State Street, underwent a sanitary inspection and the inspectors found “appalling conditions,” awarding it their lowest mark. The inspector found 16 people in sleeping bunks adjacent to the kitchen, and that the two toilets were “found communicating with the same food supply room."

Then, the Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 5, 1918, mentioned an altercation at a Chinese restaurant at 65 State Street. Long Tow, a waiter, fought with John Gonsalves, a customer, and both were in the hospital with severe bruises and lacerations. Gonsalves claimed there was a roach in his food and refused to pay while Tow demanded the money. When Gonsalves tried to leave without paying, it's alleged Tow rushed him with a club and hit him in the head. Gonsazles then hit Long in the head with a dish. A chaotic fight then resulted. As a follow-up, the Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 6, 1918, noted that Long Tow had a fractured skull and was in critical condition. A second assailant was identified, Mike Mora, and Gonsalves and he were both held on $1500 bond.

Opium for sale? The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, January 26, 1911, reported on the arrest of Charles Hong, who owned a Chinese restaurant and grocery store at State and Water Streets. The police allege that someone bought two small jars of opium there. Although, Hong tried to deny the sale, a police officer identified him as the seller. Hong was charged with violating the pure food law, however such a violation may not have occurred. First, the opium was found to be pure and the bottles had no label, so they weren't mislabeled. It was also noted that Hong doesn’t use opium as he is going blind. I couldn't find a resolution to this matter, though it seems that Hong may have been able to defeat the charge.

A poisoned special policeman. The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 18, 1911, stated that Charles Sessler, a New Haven special policeman who had worked as a day watchman at the new Taft hotel for 2 months, was potential poisoned by opium. Sessler, who was married and lived at 24 Olive Street in New Haven, came to Bridgeport on a Saturday. During his time in Bridgeport, he visited The Orient Chinese restaurant, located on Water Street, and ordered a steak. Before his food arrived, he fell to the floor in a stupor, and died. Though some of his relatives thought he might have died due to an asthmatic attack, the autopsy revealed he died of narcotic poisoning. It was unknown when and where he obtained the opium.

As a follow-up, the Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 19, 1911, reported that the Coroner determined Sessler was a heroin user, and likely died of an overdose. The Coroner found the druggist who had supplied Sessler on multiple occasions. The article stated, "Heroin is a mild form of opium in powder, and is generally taken as a snuff. Its sale is not prohibited."

Another opium arrest. The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, March 22, 1916 and the New Britain Herald, March 22, 1916, both reported that there was a raid at the Chinese restaurant owned by Leon Gim. A quantity of opium was found in a safe and a warrant was issued for Gim for unlawful opium possession. Gim was already being held for trial for violating the liquor statues, and he was going to be turned over to federal authorities. ;

A couple other brief restaurant mentions. The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, November 8, 1916, stated there was a Chinese restaurant at Fairfield Avenue, near Main Street. The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, November 17, 1917, noted The Canton, a Chinese restaurant at 91 State Street.

Another opium raid. The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, February 6, 1919, detailed another opium raid at a Chinese restaurant, located at State and Water streets, which was owned by Hong Yuen & Co. and managed by Hein Wang. 15 Chinese were found there but no opium was found,. The police did find enough paraphernalia to ensure though that opium was sold and used there.

The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, May 29, 1919, mentioned that Grand Opening of an American and Chinese Restaurant, located at 989 Broad Street, opposite City Hall. It was noted that they make their own pastry.

Tong violence? The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 3, 1919, reported that Leong Kim, a cook at a Chinese restaurant, was arrested for “uttering threats” against Leong Hing, the owner of another restaurant. The police alleged that Kim was the chosen agent of a local Chinese Tong which wanted to kill Hing. Hing supposedly had informed to the federal authorities about opium smuggling and other Chinese crimes. The Tong had several men draw lots and Kim won the opportunity to kill Hing.

As a follow-up, the Norwich Morning Bulletin, July 4, 1919, reported that Kim had admitted he was going to kill Hing, and that if he didn’t, someone else would have done so. Then, the Hartford Courant, July 4, 1919, mentioned the police were investigating possible Tong involvement in the city.

The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, November 15, 1919, noted that James Lewis, the owner of the Far East Chinese restaurant had filed for bankruptcy.

In The Chinese Students Monthly, November 1920-June 1921, there was an ad for The Republic Restaurant, located at 147 Fairfield Avenue. It served American and Chinese cooking, had dancing and music, and its manager was Leong Shew.

Also check out:
Part 1: NewHaven 
Part 3: New Britain, New London, Stamford, and Waterbury

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The First Chinese Restaurants in Connecticut (Part 1)

Where were the first Chinese restaurants located? When did they first open? Did they have difficulties in the cities and towns where they were situated? What are their stories?

I've previously written an extensive five-part series, The First Restaurants In Boston's Chinatown, and a seven-part series, The First Chinese Restaurants Outside Boston. The second series expanded my coverage from Boston to a number of other cities and towns in Massachusetts, from Cambridge to North Adams, Malden to Quincy. I'm now expanding my coverage outside of Massachusetts, to cover various city and towns in Connecticut.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Connecticut lacked a "Chinatown" though there were Chinese living in numerous cities and towns, such as New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, New London, and more. There have been Chinese in Connecticut at least since 1818 and the state may have had the first Chinese graduate of an American college. The first Chinese restaurant in Connecticut appeared in the late 19th century and during the first two decades of the 20th century, several cities and towns in Connecticut also saw the appearance of their first Chinese restaurants.

We begin our examination of Connecticut's history back in the last few months of 1816, when the Foreign Mission School was established in Cornwall, Connecticut. This school opened in May 1817, and its objective was to bring Christianity and basic education to youths from all across the world, from Hawaii to India. During its second year of operation, their class included two Chinese youths. The school lasted until 1826, and it taught a total of five Chinese youths.

Backtracking for a moment, I previously noted in another article that in 1847, three Chinese boys,  named Yung Wing, Wong Shing, and Wong Fun, were brought to Massachusetts, to the Springfield region, to attend school. Yung Wing then attended Yale College, and the Boston Investigator, May 19, 1852 mentioned that “At the annual exhibition of the junior class at Yale College last month, the highest prize for English composition was awarded to Yung Wing, a native Chinese.” It was obvious that Yung was doing very well at Yale, especially for someone who wasn't a native English speaker. Then, the Springfield Republican, September 30, 1854, noted that Yung had just graduated from Yale college with the highest honors. He was probably the first Chinese student to graduate from an American college and excellent in his studies.

Yung eventually returned to China, but made plans to return to America, and when he did, he brough a number of other Chinese students with him. The Congregationalist, November 16, 1871, reported that China was willing to send 120 students, over the course of several years, to America for education. A number of those Chinese students attended school in various spots within Connecticut.

Yung's own ties to Connecticut grew. The Springfield Republican, February 26, 1875, provided the good news that Yung had gotten married to Mary L. Kellogg, a white woman, in Connecticut, and they settled in Hartford. Unfortunately, eleven years later, tragedy struck. The Boston Herald, May 30, 1886, reported that Mary, who was only 35 years old, died of consumption at their home in Hartford. They had two sons, who now Yung had to raise on his own.

As some point, Yung returned to China for a time, although he came back to live once again in Hartford. The Boston Herald, February 28, 1909, mentioned that Yung visited Yale to celebrate the 55th anniversary of his graduating class, of which only 25 people were still alive. A few years later, the Springfield Republican, April 22, 1912, sadly reported that Yung Wing, at age 84, had died at his home in Hartford.

Yale University (known as Yale College until 1887) and its Library, was "the first academic institution in the United States to collect Chinese books." Back in 1849, the library acquired, "Six titles of traditional stitch-bound Chinese texts." The Library's website also indicates, "The early acquisitions of Chinese books were mainly arranged for the Yale Library by missionary printer, scholar, and diplomat Samuel Wells Williams (1812-1884), who was Yale’s inaugural professor of Chinese language and literature." In addition, the previously mentioned Yung Wing "gave his personal library to his alma mater." Plus, Yung's "major donations in 1878 and 1911 laid the foundation of the Chinese collection."

In 1901, the Yale-China Association was established, whose mission was to bridge "American and Chinese cultures by creating lasting, transformative partnerships and experiences in education, health, and the arts." It also seeks to promote "understanding between Chinese and American people through programs in the arts, education, health, and public service." Very positive benefits for the Chinese community.

So now, let's begin a more city-specific examination of the early Chinese restaurants in Connecticut, starting with New Haven.

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NEW HAVEN

At least during the 1880s, it seems that a small population of Chinese lived in New Haven, though their origins extended back to the 1870s. In 1873, Unite L. Frank opened a tea company on Congress Avenue in New Haven. The Morning Journal & Courier, August 6, 1887, noted that Unite married Leona L. Wilburn of Alexandria, Virginia. At that point in time, there was a small community of Chinese in the area.

The Morning Journal-Courier, November 19, 1888, reported that 19 Chinese had been arrested in a police raid at a “little one story shanty at 49 Crown street, next to Joe Elley’s.” There had been a Chinese laundry once at that address, owned by Up Foon, who had decided to turn the location into a gambling hall. Sunday was their busiest night, and when the police arrived, they found gambling occurring in both rooms of the building, Chinese playing a dominos game. Two Chinese were able to escape, and the rest were bonded out, at $25 each, by Charles Toon, a tea merchant located at Congress Avenue.

However, there was some clarification on Charles Toon in the Morning Journal & Courier, April 8, 1891. Charles Bon Toon, had been arrested for “making change with a $50 bank note of the Yale Business college,” though he claimed it had been part of a joke. The article then mentioned that  Toon had once clerked for U.S. Frank, a tea dealer on Congress Avenue, but hadn't worked there for some time. Obviously the article referred to Unite Frank.

There was then a brief legal notice in the Morning Journal & Courier, April 5, 1895, noting that the firm of Frank and Moy Tea Company had been dissolved. Frank would continue the business though, which was located at 26 Congress Street. This was the first mention of "Moy Tea" that I found, and it appears they might have been more of a silent partner. Frank would continue the business at least into 1904. The Morning Journal & Courier, May 13, 1904, noted that the Unite L. Frank Tea company, which sold tea, coffee, and spices, had moved to 38 Congress Avenue, a few doors above the old stand.

Another gambling raid! The Morning Journal-Courier, October 28, 1895, stated that the Chinese Joss house at 76 Fair Street had been raided by the police. The Joss house had a huge door, fastened by six massive locks, and it took the police several minutes to break down the door. Inside, they found Chinese playing fan tan, and they arrested 31. Most of the locals who were arrested ran laundries, while others arrested came from New York and other Connecticut cities and towns. It was also noted that a prior raid, on March 25, 1895, had resulted in $266 in fines.

The first Chinese restaurant in New Haven, and likely the first one in all of Connecticut, opened in 1897. The New Haven Register, October 28, 1897, noted that this restaurant would be established, and managed, by Sing Lee, a protégé of Coroner Mix, on Crown Street in a few days. Curiously, the New Haven Register, November 19, 1897, mentioned that this new Chinese restaurant wasn't catering to the Irish trade. Why was this the case? Was this a larger issue affecting other New Haven restaurant too? Unfortunately, very little information was provided so the answers remain elusive for now.

The Morning Journal-Courier, January 21, 1898, noted that Chung Foo and John Lee were the owners of the Crown street restaurant. They held a special banquet for some locals, and its intriguing menu included shark fin soup, chop suey, Chinese omelet, egg & lobster, bird nest soup, oyster sauce, bean sauce, pickled ginger, boneless Chinese chicken & bamboo & mushroom, Chinese pineapple, Chinese young ho, Chinese cake, Chinese melon, Chinese nuts, Chinese roots, Chinese figs, Chinese tea, Chinese oranges, rice wine, and white rice wine.

However, only about three months after opening, the restaurant chose to close. The Morning Journal-Courier, February 2, 1898, reported that the Chinese restaurant had just closed. Even though the food and service had been good, the owners decided there hadn't been enough customers to justify remaining open. Three months certainly wasn't a long time to properly assess whether a restaurant would survive or not, but the closing might have been spurred on by other plans. The Connecticut Western News, February 10, 1898, reported that the Hong, Chum, Low & Co., which owned the Crown Street restaurant had plans to move their restaurant to Hartford.

Chinese New Year. The New Haven Register, February 11, 1899, mentioned how the Chinese commonly celebrated their New Year, but that, “In New Haven the celebration of New Year’s is rather tame, being confined almost exclusively to exchanging calls and eating good things.” This is likely because there were so few Chinese in Hartford, so they didn't have a sufficient amount for a more lavish celebration.

A second Chinese restaurant opened in 1900. The New Haven Register, September 21, 1900, published an ad for a Chinese restaurant, located at 136 Orange Street, serving all types of Chinese and American cooking. The ad also noted, "Best tea is served." Curiously, an almost exact advertisement was published in the New Haven Register, December 15, 1900, but it had a different address, now using 104 Crown Street, a couple blocks away from the previous address. No reason is given for the move, or any indication that the original address might have been an error.

Additional Chinese restaurants would open during the next several years, though most of the references failed to actually provide the name of the restaurants. The Morning Journal-Courier, July 28, 1902, stated that Chin Lee, the restaurant keeper of 156 Meadow Street, was arraigned for serving liquor on Sunday. During the previous year, the restaurant had been the subject of many complaints about liquor being served there at all hours. The Morning Journal-Courier (CT), August 6, 1902, then noted Chin was fined $10 plus costs for the offense. Apparently, this restaurant had been open since at least 1901.

The Morning Journal-Courier, June 12, 1903, briefly mentioned another Chinese restaurant, at 189 George Street. A year later, the Morning Journal-Courier, June 29, 1904, stated that Charles Wah of the Chinese restaurant on George Street was fined $5 and $10 costs for striking a customer named Noll.

Another restaurant. The Morning Journal-Courier, August 25, 1905, reported that Chin Sam, an importer and the owner of a Chinese restaurant on South Main Street, became a father. His Chinese wife gave birth to a daughter, and it was thought to be the first child born to Chinese parents in Connecticut.

Then, the Morning Journal-Courier, April 16, 1906, briefly noted that Chun Hung Lou was the owner of a Chinese restaurant at 18 Gregson Street. Later that same year, the Morning Journal-Courier, December 14, 1906, mentioned that Lee Dunn and Lee Thung were the owners of a Chinese restaurant at the corner of Meadow and Church Streets. However, the Morning Journal-Courier, March 27, 1908, then stated this the new owner of this restaurant was Low Wong.

In The Chinese Students Monthly, January 1909, there was an ad for the Low Wong Oriental Restaurant, at the corner of Congress Avenue and Meadow Street.

There was also a fight at this restaurant. The Morning Journal-Courier, September 25, 1908, reported that the owner was married to a white woman, who worked as a waitress at the restaurant. A couple were loudly singing and shouting during dinner, and refused to stop when requested. The owner's wife then refused to wait on them, and the couple was made to leave. A crowd, consisting of many students, was outside the restaurant and a bit of a melee began. Someone threw a chair and struck the owner in the head, who then grabbed an axe and tried to strike someone. Despite all this, the incident didn't attract much attention and no one was arrested.

There was another brief mention in the Morning Journal-Courier, July 22, 1907, that Chin Lee owned a restaurant on Crown Street. Was this the same Chin Lee who owned the restaurant at 156 Meadow Street? Was this the restaurant located at 104 Crown Street? Lots of questions without answers.

In The Chinese Students Monthly, November 1919, there was an ad for for The Far East, an American and Chinese restaurant located in New Haven, though no street address was provided. They offered a Noon Lunch, from 11am-2pm, for 45 cents. They also offered a Strong Orchestra on Sundays and evenings. There was also an ad for the Tien Tsin, a Chinese restaurant at 793 Chapel Street, and the ad stated, "Old Form But Odd Music."

The Connecticut Labor News, September 23, 1921, also printed a brief ad for The Far East, an American and Chinese restaurant located at 67 Church Street. They offered a luncheon for 45 cents and a Special Dinner for $1.00. This restaurant remained in existence at least until July 1923.

Unfortunately, most of the New Haven newspapers during this period didn't provide sufficient information about these early Chinese restaurants, only some tantalizing and brief references. Maybe I'll find more information in my future research.

Also check out:
Part 2: Hartford & Bridgeport
Part 3: New Britain, New London, Stamford, and Waterbury

To Be Continued...