The influx of Chinese immigrants at the turn of the century caused many frowns from locals, which led to the creation of laws to stop them from coming. They found a loophole in the law by opening Chinese restaurants. But did you know that there is a restaurant that is still open to this day?
Pekin Noodle House is the oldest Chinese restaurant in the country. It has continuously opened its doors to customers for the last 110 years. The restaurant is located in Butte, Montana.
The Rise of Chinese Restaurants in the Country
In the early twentieth century, many Chinese immigrants fled to the country. Most of them traveled to find jobs and earn money for their families back in China. However, many Americans felt threatened by the immigrants. They thought that the Chinese would be taking their jobs. As a result, the government passed a law that Chinese immigrants could not become citizens.
The law stated that the only Chinese immigrants that can freely travel back and forth from China would be those who have businesses in the country, including restaurant owners. The law also stated that these people could hire Chinese to work for their businesses. This is where the Chinese found their loophole.
As restaurants were part of the list, many Chinese started opening restaurants in the country and hiring their relatives as workers in the restaurants so they could bring them to the US. The Chinese exploited this loophole, getting as many relatives and friends to the country as workers.
The law also stated that these Chinese businessmen should manage the restaurants and not engage in minimal tasks except running the restaurant. And after a few months, they would be granted citizenship. Once they do, someone from their family of workers would take their place as managers to allow the others to open new restaurants and do the same routine. This led to the opening of many Chinese restaurants in the country. By the 1930s, the number of restaurants opened quadrupled compared to the number in the 1910s. (Source: Fantastic Facts)
The Pekin Noodle Parlor
The Pekin Noodle Parlor first opened its doors in 1911 in Butte, Montana. It is located at its original spot on 117 S. Main Street, in a building built by attorney F.T. McBride in 1909. The area used to be the Chinatown of Butte, Montana, in the early 1900s. Its neon orange Chopsuey sign is its unique identifier. (Source: Culinary Lore)
The ground floor used to be a gambling hall and a herbal medicine shop. The parlor has been family-owned since it opened. It is owned by Danny Wong, an 82-year-old immigrant. Wong owns and has continuously operated the restaurant since the fifties after purchasing it from the original owner, his great uncle Hum Yow.
According to food critics, the menu has remained unchanged since the parlor opened. The parlor isn’t the first restaurant that opened, but it is the oldest one still operating to this day. Despite minor renovations, the parlor still contains its original furnishings, which include the chairs, tables, and even some dinnerware.
The restaurant has kept afloat all these years because of its Chinese-American menu, which offers familiar dishes that most people enjoy. The parlor offers comfort food and food that is familiar, according to Jerry Tam, Wong’s grandson. (Source: Mental Floss)