Joe Yee Cafe: The Best Chop Suey in Town

by Paula Bosse

joe-yee-cafe-extChop suey *and* famous chicken house…

by Paula Bosse

I came across the above image and was enthralled. I’ve never heard of the Joe Yee Cafe, but this (granted) idealized picture is wonderful. The postcards above and below were from the early 1950s, and if you are familiar with the generally run-down neighborhood around Columbia and Fitzhugh these days, you may well shed a tear that something this charming and picturesque has been gone for many, many years.

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I love the surprising color scheme of the restaurant’s interior — those fabulous purples and greens! (The colors are a bit unexpected because they so loudly clash with the bold tomato red of the exterior.)

I did a little research to see what I could find out about Joe Yee’s Chinese restaurant. Seems that Mr. Yee’s cafe was in business by the 1930s, downtown, on Main Street near Field. It advertised steadily over the years, and its ads proudly proclaimed that the restaurant served “the best Chinese food you ever tasted” and was “completely air-conditioned.” Several newspaper accounts (particularly the society columns) mentioned it as a popular place for young people to grab a bite before and after dances at nearby downtown hotels. Business must have been pretty good for the place to have lasted so long at such a primo location. The cafe moved to the Columbia Street location in 1950 where it remained in business until at least 1953.

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1953-joe-yee_dmn_0830531953

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Sources & Notes

Top two early-’50s postcards are from the great Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection on Flickr, here.

In old photos of downtown Dallas one often sees “Chop Suey” signs along the streets. I’d love to know more about these restaurants in general, and about Chinese and Chinese-Americans in Dallas in the first half of the 20th century, if anyone can point me to a good source.

If background on Chop Suey is needed, might I point you to to the Wikipedia entry here, or the Snopes entry here.

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Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.