Why Everyone Films At The Same Damn New York Chinese Restaurant

So the other day, I finally saw Men In Black III, and there was one location that stood out:


Located in Chinatown, Wu’s is THE Chinese restaurant all directors beg us to find.


From the paper lanterns and intricate woodwork…


…to the numerous fish tanks and detailed wallpaper.


Throw in the hanging ducks in the window, and you’ve got every director’s ideal Chinese restaurant filming location.


And of course, I immediately knew that Wu’s was fake, built from scratch on a soundstage.

Why? Because this location does not exist in Manhattan.


Literally every time I get asked to find a Chinese restaurant, it’s the same description. “I want a place with really over-the-top Chinese decor,” our director will say. “Remember that one in Seinfeld? That’d be great.”


“The key is red wallpaper,” our director will tell us. “We need a place with red wallpaper. With designs on the wallpaper too, maybe in gold.”


“But red is key. Oh, and some woodwork. You know, like in Glengarry Glen Ross? That’d be perfect.”


“Hey, and be on the lookout for dragons. Golden dragons would be awesome. Remember the movie The Fisher King?”


“But really, just go for that classic over-the-top look. You’ve probably never seen Mickey Blue Eyes, but wasn’t there something in that like what I’m describing? You know what I mean?”


I know exactly what he means. There’s only one problem: this is what your average Chinatown restaurant looks like.


Here’s another:


And another. White walls, a few bits of ornamentation on a wall or two, some chandeliers…and that’s it. Seriously, this is the norm.


But try and convince a director of this, and they will look at you like you just moved to the city last week. “Are you SERIOUSLY telling me,” they will ask incredulously, “that there isn’t a single Chinese restaurant in all of Manhattan with red wallpaper and crazy ornamentation???”

Yes. That is what I’m telling you. And if you don’t believe me, you’d probably have a heart attack if I told you a good number of New York Chinese restaurants look like this:


This is a major problem you run into while scouting in New York – people assume NYC has EVERYTHING, and when you tell them it doesn’t, they think you’re 1) wrong, and 2) not doing your job.


That isn’t to say that New York doesn’t have some really neat Chinese restaurants. Some of the epic dim sum places sort of have the right decor we’re being asked for – but they’re ridiculously massive in size and very pricey to film in, if they’d even consider it.


So that’s a definite no. Having shown the reality of most Chinese restaurants, you move on to options that, while not entirely meeting their description, still have some really fantastic character. I love this restaurant, especially the enormous tree in the back.


Ditto this place, which has a lot of great character without descending into the orientalism-on-steroids restaurant I’m being asked to find.


Or hey, what about this one up by Columbia? Sure it’s simple, but it at least has that intricate wallpaper (though not red). Maybe throw a few golden dragon statues in and we’re good?


Directors will not like any of this. “Why is there a tree in that first place? And why don’t any of them have red wallpaper? Keep looking!!!”


But we will inevitably come up short. As a last ditch effort, directors will occasionally suggest we scout the Nom Wah Tea Parlor, confident that a place in business since 1927 MUST have the character we’re looking for (and proof we don’t know what we’re talking about). Alas, while I love Nom Wah, the interior looks more like a diner than a Chinese restaurant.


Directors will usually be very frustrated at this point. “But it has to be out there! That classic over-the-top Chinese restaurant you used to go to on the highway as a kid!!”

And therein lies the problem. We’re not on a highway; we’re in New York.


I don’t know anything about the history of Chinese restaurant decor in America, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, early on, part of the draw was in presenting patrons with an EPCOT-like level of intense orientalism. Not only are you dining, you’re also going on an exotic vacation.

Here’s a 1906 picture of a Chinatown restaurant called Chinese Tuxedo, which is EXACTLY what our director is looking for.


Ephemeral New York dug up a great quote from a 1920 restaurant review guide which describes this kind of establishment:

“Few homegrown Chinese take nourishment in these places, because they feel kind of out of place and they hate to break in on the nice white people from uptown and Brooklyn. But the waiters are all Chinese, for the same reason that the walls have Chinese dragon tapestry. The lights are shrouded in fantastic shades, and the place is redolent with the perfume of fire cracker punk, which exhales a not unpleasant odor.”

Another perfect option for our director is this defunct New York classic – Port Arthur, in business through 1959:


But those days are gone. Chinese restaurants don’t need crazy decor anymore to convince New Yorkers that the cuisine is worthwhile. And while I really wish just one holdover from the 1940s or 1950s had survived into the modern age as a historical relic, they’re kaput, and no amount of scouting will bring them back.

It’s usually about this time that the director finally accepts the truth, and the decision is made to either go with one of the options we’ve scouted (with some added set dressing), or build it on a stage.


I don’t blame directors for hating the plainer options I’ve shown above – white walls and minimal decor look absolutely terrible on film, and you’d never film in such a place.

But I really wish they’d realize that the reason they think New York is filled with MIB-style Chinese restaurants is not because of reality, but because of what they’ve seen in the movies and on TV. For a city that has nearly everything, there’s a LOT of alternatives to choose from, and I really hate having to fake the few things it doesn’t have just to do the same cliche over and over and over and over…

But you know what? My fortune cookie portends a future where this search will come up again and again. I guess I should forget it. It’s Chinatown.

Love to hear any memories you have bygone NY Chinese restaurants!


PS – Oh, and as a sidenote, I’ve never eaten in a NYC Chinese restaurant with a guy like this.


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  1. What’s the name of the restaurant with the big tree? I went there 6 years ago and have trying to find out the name.

    • I also want to know the name of that one. The heck with movies, I want to eat there. Is the food good?

      • Appalling that mainstream American media has not caught up with the times and continues to find it acceptable to perpetuate ignorant,exotic, one dimensional, Chinese/East Asian racial stereotypes. They may think twice when it comes to offending Latinos/Hispanics, Blacks, Italians, Jews, but it’s not acceptable to continue to think it’s okay to depict inaccurate and offensive images of Asians.

        It’s one thing for directors to romanticize the old school, cliche, red wall papered Chinese restaurant settings of bygone days with scenes of eating Chinese takeout, chopsticks, sipping hot tea.( Btw, there is a reason why these type restaurants are practically extinct now, it’s called progress.) It crosses the line with racist casting of the subservient oriental side kicks, exotic little flower Chinese ladies, and the socially inept Asian braniac. Get with the times, Hollywood.

        • You didn’t answer wombatarama’s question at all. Actually, reading your comment, it seems you never even saw he asked a question.

          Did you actually think your comment was helpful, or do you not understand how replies work?

        • Oh poor LL, boo hoo.

          Don’t worry. I still love you long time.

        • Good grief, LL.

        • Wow, what a pissy, misplaced rant.

          And then there’s this:
          “romanticize the old school, cliche, red wall papered Chinese restaurant settings of bygone days with scenes of eating Chinese takeout, chopsticks, sipping hot tea.( Btw, there is a reason why these type restaurants are practically extinct now, it’s called progress.”

          Really, you consider the institutional feel of plain white sheetrock walls and acoustic tile drop ceilings “progress” over colorful, atmospheric old-school restaurants? Well, I’m glad so many restaurants in Houston’s Chinatown have not “progressed.”

    • I think it might be Jaya? Delicious Malaysian place on Baxter? Not sure though, it’s been a while

    • Isn’t it Congee Village on Allen St.?

    • oh yeah, I guess it is congee; I’ve never eaten in that part, man that place is cavernous

    • I think you are referring to Penang, a Malaysian restaurant that used to be in the East Village on 11th Street and 3rd Avenue as I recall. I used to go there when I was an NYU student years ago, but I just checked and it looks like that location isn’t in operation anymore. Food was good.

    • The one with the tree is New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe on Bayard Street. I live across from it!

      • Sorry Ty, that’s definitely congee village. I lived above it for 6 years.

        • You are sort of right Chris, this is not Congee Village on Allen but Congee Bowery. Same company, different location. The interior of Congee Village is more natural log rustic. The Bowery location has plantation house refined vibe going on, imho

    • It’s Congee Village located at 100 Allen St

  2. I remember going to a Chinese restaurant that came close to fitting the bill right off Journal Square in Jersey City. It was very old, decor from the 40s, do not recall the name. In fact, it had achieved some fame for films & TV shows shot in the dining room there. Ate there before seeing a screening of West Side Story at Loews Jersey City theater maybe back in… 2000? The restaurant was on the 2nd floor of what may have been an office building (?) which may have been torn down since then. Did not see an image of it on Google maps. That’s all I got.

    • The Canton. It had red lacqor walls. The food was not that great but the decor was over the top and worth the cost of a meal. They filmed “To Wong Foo, thanks for everything! Julie Newmar” there. Ate there myself several times with friends. Unfortunately it was one of those places you had to know about, or you would never find it. Last I heard, the space was torn appart and turned into a gym.

      I’m not sure if it exists anymore, but the Hong Kong pavilion from the NYC Worlds Fair was re-assembled at the El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico and functioned as a chinese resaurant for decades.

      Have you looked around at possible locations in Flushing?

      • Yes – the Canton.

        In fact, it was redesigned…

        It was always this type – Exotic Orientalism for White People – but not originally quite as over the top as it was in To Wong Foo. (I lived in the area through the 80s and 90s…) The food tasted good, as long as you had no expectation of authenticity, you got a drink with a parasol, and this transplanted New Yorker used to eat there and be amused…

        In the early 90s it had a roof leak, with a lot of water damage, and closed for a while. The owners weren’t sure if they would be able to afford the repairs. Then they were contacted by the To Wong Foo people (one of whom lived in the area – I knew him.) They offered to pay for the repairs if they could film there – *and* if the rebuild was to their design. I had always said it looked like something in a Hollywood B movie – and they went with that as a design concept. Everything it had been and more. But it really was just a slight exaggeration of what had already been there.

        It got the restaurant another good ten years or so, but it’s gone, now. I no longer live there, so I’m not sure when or why it closed.

  3. Perhaps it’s time that Hollywood puts some money into an exisiting one and renovates it to their specifics. The old Ollie’s in Times Square (when it used to be on 44th Street) would have been a perfect choice for a retro-fit.

  4. oh man, i love this post. as a asian food blogger that’s been eating in chinatown for years, i know this is the truth.

    makes me wonder why a chinese restaurant doesn’t invest in that kind of decor to reign in potential extra income from being used as a set every now and then.

    • Running a restaurant is a tough and back-breaking business…at least in Houston. Plus, those decor typically costs more money…lots and lots of up-front money. You can’t be sure that your business venture will succeed…so it makes sense to go back to the essential…focus on the food itself… making the food taste awesome… use the decor money to hire awesome chef.. screw the decor.

  5. The cliched red & dragon themed restaurants do exist, they’re just not for white tourists or homogenized Asians, so they remain a secret for the most part. The menus are Chinese and English is not spoken in these places, and it’s cash only.

    • cash only because 1) they want to evade paying tax to uncle Sam as much as possible. 2) they worry their waiters would skim credit cards since the turn over rate is just too high to value the integrity of their waiters

      • About 5% of a restaurant’s sales go to credit card fees. In a bad economy, going to cash-only is an easy way to maintain profit. Plenty of restaurants in New York do this, regardless of who owns them, and the IRS pays particular attention to cash-only restaurants.

      • Names and addresses on the red&dragon themed sites, or I call 無用

  6. Do you ever scout in Flushing? There are a couple of places off Main Street or Kissena that kind of fit the bill you are looking for.

    And Danny, as a frequent visitor to Chinatown, I get into a friendly argument with Nathan about Chinatown and movies all the time. Parking sucks there at the best of times, and seeing those colored notices from the film crews on the parking meters down there makes most of us regular visitors seethe. You usually wind up parking blocks from where you want to go on a normal day, so the payments the film makes to the places on the street where they are actually filming does not cover the spill over inconvenience to the rest of the area. It got so bad that for a while the merchants got the city to put a moratorium on filming down there.

    Not that Flushing parking is much better, but I’d love to see the pain spread a little more. Nathan argues with me that the streets in Flushing are much wider and cleaner (and less smelly, but that doesn’t show up onscreen) so it doesn’t look the same. True that. But if these directors are willing to put up with a borderline racist travesty like the MIB restaurant, then versimilitude is not what they are going for, is it? No one outside the NY metro area would notice the difference anyway, and there area a few side streets with all-Chinese signage in Flushing that actually do mimic the narrow streets off Canal.

    Scout, if you want the names of the Flusing restaurants I am thinking of, email me, and I’ll send some pictures from the next time I’m down there in a week or so.

  7. If you're interested...

    Those light fixtures from the MIB set are (were?) for sale at Film Biz Recycling. But be warned: they’re huge.

  8. Best over the top Chinese was on Wilshire in LA. Always shot there for NY. But now… sadly… its an International House of Pancakes… wtf?

  9. There used to be one around the corner from Sparks on 2nd Ave that would fit the bill of over the top oriental decor. There would be a fire there every few years and they would redecorate. I don’t see a listing anymore for it.

  10. The Congee Village on Allen St has a little bit of that look here and there


  11. Well ACTUALLY… Chinatown Brasserie in NoHo looks kind of like what you’re looking for.

  12. I grew up in north Jersey, so the only over the top places I know of are there – the one that comes to mind is Lee’s Hawaiian Islander in North Arlington. There used to be at least a few more like that but I’m not sure if any have survived. I know Lee’s is still around because I went to it recently for dinner and it’s still the same. As the name suggests, it’s a bit more ‘islander’ oriented with little bamboo huts for booths, but it definitely fits the ‘over the top’ decor bill. There used to be another, similar place in Clifton and another right off Rt. 3 somewhere but I don’t know if either are still there.

    • Pretty sure Lee’s is the last man standing of these Polynesian themed restaurants. Growing up in the Seventies it was always a thrill to go to one of these amazing theme restaurants. Very little of the food was memorable but the whole experience, from drinks in Pineapples and coconuts or festooned with fruits or flowers and umbrellas, to the flaming pu pu platter and beyond left us kids in awe. My families place of choice was the Jade Fountain, any of the three locations but Lee’s was always fun and There used to be a place up by Spring Valley that had a huge outrigger canoe.

  13. The Fung Lum in SoCal is long-since gone, but it fits the bill for over-the-top and occasional movies are shot in the closed building: http://www.thestudiotour.com/ush/attractions/food_funglum.shtml

  14. What about Ruby Foo’s, in Times Square? A tourist trap, for sure, but it would photograph beautifully.

  15. I second Congee Village. There are red curtains, tons of wood, plants everywhere, a stream of sorts, it’s like Vegas does Chinese, but lower key. I bet it could work for some things.

  16. To everyone suggesting Congee Village, you guys do realise it’s the first photo with the tree in the “imo it’s great, but not what they want” section, right?

  17. It has been a few years that I was here (and I hope nothing has changed since) but you might want to try King Yum in Hillcrest / Fresh Meadows(Queens) on Union Turnpike. It is a blend of Polynesian / Chinese / fantasy / whatever. (and the food is good too and say Hi to Helen if she is there)

  18. I love this quote from the 1920 restaurant review: “Few homegrown Chinese take nourishment in these places, because they feel kind of out of place and they hate to break in on the nice white people from uptown and Brooklyn.” No, it’s not cause they feel “out of place”. It’s cause they know they’re not serving real Chinese food there!

  19. You also might want to check out Brooklyn Chinatown on 8th Avenue.

  20. When I think of Chinese restaurant in NYC, I think of Sam Wo and Nam Wah. Sam Wo is the one that I think of most, since it is the one we went to when I was a child in the 1960s-70s. It was small and you had to go through the kitchen to get to the single stall bathroom. All of the cooks would wave and point at the bathroom door when you arrived in the kitchen. Nam Wah was my go to place when I was older and lived a couple of blocks away.

  21. Fifi: I believe you are thinking of the Sam Wo in San Francisco’s Chinatown, which, sadly, is now closed. That place was legendary.

  22. Oops, my apologies- I just discovered there was one on Mott Street. How odd that both places had kitchens you had to walk through?!?

  23. It’s pretty awful, as a restaurant, as a place on earth, but Red Egg on Centre Street (https://foursquare.com/v/red-egg/48636f02f964a520e3501fe3) offers a sort of modernized, stomped on version of the aesthetic your directors are after.

  24. Gotta love the “enlightened” film directors who would not dare to portray other racist stereotypes go full Charlie Chan orientalism when it comes to East Asians. If they’re berating ScoutingNY for not finding their ideal “Chinese” restaurant, I can only imagine the poor casting people are given orders to basically find the usual “oriental” minstrel troupe.

    Thanks Nick for demonstrating the ridiculousness of it all.

    BTW, your fortune cookies were invented in California.

    • I agree with tm’s sentiments and the ridiculousness of it all.

      Appalling that mainstream American media has not caught up with the times and continues to find it acceptable to perpetuate ignorant,exotic, one dimensional, Chinese/East Asian racial stereotypes. They may think twice when it comes to offending Latinos/Hispanics, Blacks, Italians, Jews, but it’s not acceptable to continue to think it’s okay to depict inaccurate and offensive images of Asians.

      It’s one thing for directors to romanticize the old school, cliche, red wall papered Chinese restaurant settings of bygone days with scenes of eating Chinese takeout, chopsticks, sipping hot tea.( Btw, there is a reason why these type restaurants are practically extinct now, it’s called progress.) It crosses the line with racist casting of the subservient oriental side kicks, exotic little flower Chinese ladies, and the socially inept Asian braniac. Get with the times, Hollywood.

  25. Cloister Cafe’s garden in the East Village looks a bit like the treed restaurants you showed, if you ever need another location like that. Not sure it would do for a Chinese restaurant…

  26. Part of the big expansion over at Steiner is supposed to be a backlot with all the quintessential, iconic New York locations that are difficult/expensive/impossible to actually get in New York; i.e., NYC subway station, NYC bus, anything in Chinatown without a bribe. I heard they were thinking of building a whole section of Little Italy without a single Vietnamese restaurant. We should do a poll of NYC film crews for other top requests. My top three:

    1. A back alley that is not Cortlandt Alley. Last time I was down there there was a feature shooting, two TV crews scouting and a Japanese fashion shoot. Steiner is empty by comparison.

    2. A clock tower that isn’t a total pain in the ass (DUMBO) or impossibly small (346 Broadway).

    3. A Christopher Nolan lot where he could just blow anything up he wants.

  27. I agree with your analysis of the current inventory of Chinese Restaurants in the New York Area. While Flushing has some interesting alternatives; the majority of them are true authentic Chinese Restaurants or Hot Pot Houses, where you cook your own meal. I’ll never forget several years ago going to a place in Flushing that was huge and had like four dining rooms on different levels. There were flat screen televisions everywhere. We were seated in a room where a wedding reception was going on. At one point the bride and groom came over and had us do shots of HAN with them. The food sucked but we had a lot of laughs.

  28. @walker: Ironically, there’s a Chinese restaurant in Millburn NJ that resides in a former IHOP, complete with blue peaked roof, in classic ‘notfoolinganybody’ fashion (formerly a site chronicling recognizable franchise buildings under new ownership)

    @Jim: I only ever found Lee’s once. Another one in Bergen county that I never got around to trying is Chan’s Dragon Inn on Broad Avenue in Ridgefield, but looking at the pics on Yelp, I see I need to make a visit there.

    My favorite current throwback place is Jade Isle in Scotch Plains. Food’s good, and they have actual Chinese menus, as well as classic. Though the decor has been quite toned down, you can see by the architecture that it was exactly the sort of place Don Draper would have taken Betty Draper, if it was up in West Chester. They even have a coat check behind the front counter, as well as a concrete canopy over the front door, for driving up. Presumably they had valet parking in their heyday.

    I suppose this is the sort of thing that will wind up being like that one diner in LA that exists primarily to be ‘the diner’ in movies.

    I haven’t watched Law & Order for a while, but I imagine whenever they go to a Chinese restaurant, it’s either to the kitchen, or the business office.

  29. Have the same problem scouting for them in LAm always comes down to the same one … is that all there is.

    well done expose.


  30. There’s an over-the-top Chinese restaurant in Denville, NJ called Hunan Taste. It’s about an hour or so from the city, so maybe out of your range, but it’s like some art director’s idea of a Chinese restaurant:


  31. Such a true and funny post. Makes this China girl almost nostalgic for Orientalism–now that it’s “vintage.”

    Check out Talde in Park Slope:


    Now if it only had the red walls!

  32. You should come to Stockholm, Sweden. All chinese restaurants look like that. Red walls with painted dragons and over the top porcelain figures of old emperors.

  33. Your list of neat Chinese restaurant should include dim sum bar, complete with sculptures of the Chinese Zodiac and checkerboard walls: http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/2c/c7/c5/shun-lee-west.jpg

    To the commenter poo-poo-ing Red Egg’s food: they make the best peking Duck I’ve had in NYC, what are you talking about…

  34. So since you’ve scouted all these locations, who has the best hot and sour soup in NYC?

  35. What about Shun Lee? It seems to fit a lot of these needs.

  36. The Chinese restaurant on Seinfeld was actually based on a real place on Fifth Avenue across form the Empire State Building that has since been torn down and redeveloped.

    • However, nothing in the whole 2nd season of Seinfeld was taped in NY. It was all taped in Studio City in LA. (There are some Chinese places in LA that are slightly better, but none are ideal. In San Francisco old chinatown, there are some spots that’d work perfectly…)

      • Could you share these San Francisco restaurants? I am a native and I hardly explore Chinatown (the crowd, the smells), but I am curious to see which restaurant still has this type of decor. Ironically enough I am Chinese myself… I just find better Chinese food outside of Chinatown and I get it at home too.

        • Christine: Check out the Empress of China on Grant Ave between Washington and Clay. The restaurant looks to have been last renovated during the Mad Men era, and so it’s an interesting mix of Mid-Century Modern and over-the-top Chinese. And before you take the elevator from the entrance at street level to the restaurant and bar on the upper floors, have a look at the glass display cases filled with 8×10 glossies of the proprietor posing with just about every celebrity you can think of from the 1960s and 70s. It’s very cool!


  37. Another reason directors might want the over-the-top Chinoiserie described is that there are TONS of these restaurant as theme park ride all over Hollywood and west LA. My favorite used to be Winter Garden on Wilshire. It’s a very campy idea of a Chinese restaurant, and one that still exists, with a largely Anglo clientele, in the City of Angels.

  38. speaking of la hop lui in chinatown is like that. the restaurant in chinatown were they filmed rush hour is not.

  39. I was going to suggest the Times Sq Ruby Foos, as well…

  40. Also, the Grand Sichuan on Amst and 74 is kind of in that vein. They have red walls, anyway.

  41. I second the admonitions to get out to Queens. King Yum is more tiki-bar-on-steroids than ornate chinoiserie, but definitely something to see.

    Following your thesis, you might also consider scouting Chinese restaurants in primarily white neighborhoods (try Queens and Nassau county). I go to Flushing to get good food, but there are still pockets of white people further east who like semicrappy Chinese food in an over-the-top setting.

    And I’m sure Philadelphia is too far, but there are a couple of places in Philly’s Chinatown that are still catering to ignorant tourists with red walls and woodwork.

  42. Oddly enough, there are still a few LA Chinese restaurants that look like this. The Formosa Cafe is still very much in operation, and that’s a total time capsule. It got its most visible exposure in the movie LA Confidential. There are also the Chinese restaurants in “New” Chinatown…there’s even one in a pagoda (!) that was in the first Rush Hour movie. The old Chop Suey House in Little Tokyo was restored and is serving food again…it’s like something out of Blade Runner. Here’s a picture I took of it: http://www.flickr.com/photos/msgeek/5317371348/ . Seriously, if you want these kind of places, you don’t even have to leave the Thirty-Mile Zone to find locations. Why go all the way to NYC?

  43. Tse Yang on 51st behind the NY Palace Hotel has red wall paper with Chinese characters, fish tanks and wooden lattices all over the place. Plus an over-sized Buddha and some caricature staff. You can’t go wrong.

  44. Su Xing House in Philadelphia’s got the woodwork (go to photo #8) and that’s half the battle right?http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/su-xing-house-philadelphia?select=Dql4mKf0uG7vsdffMfbgrA#Dql4mKf0uG7vsdffMfbgrA

  45. Los Angelese directors might assume you have something like the Good Luck Bar: https://www.google.com/search?num=10&hl=en&safe=off&site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1100&bih=1037&q=good+luck+bar&oq=good+luck+bar&gs_l=img.3..0i24l10.969.2567.0.2799.…0.0…1ac.1.yGPKsWEH7LI

  46. Even in China they don’t look like that the one in MIB.

  47. You really need to check out Philly’s Chinatown. Here’s Joy Tsin Lau, and you’d probably find others as well.


  48. DP, Sam Wo in San Francisco may still reopen if they can raise enough money to bring the place up to code.


  49. Check out SEA in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. For the Chinese New Year, they have a giant dragon kite thing they hang over their indoor pond. It’s a big space with a lot of room for cameras and equipment.

  50. You could make a short film (or dare I say a skit similar to something in Porlandia) about trying to find the perfect Chinese Restaurant.

  51. There are a few on the east side of Bowery, south of Houston, that might fit the bill. A lot more garish that the Chinese restaurants more tucked into Chinatown.

  52. Hey, I went to Port Arthur on Mott Street in the 1970s for lunch once. On an upper floor, almost empty and not good at all. It did look pretty much like in the post card picture. So it must have lasted longer than 1959.

  53. Scout–Hunan Taste Chinese Restaurant in Denville NJ is the over-the-top Chinese place. It’s only about 35 minutes outside Manhattan. Koi ponds, fishtanks, gold embellishment, red and black lacquer, a large framed ink brush painting of wild horses running. Its all drama and glitz–lots of fun. And the food is good, too.


  54. They had to rebuild one of a corner booths in Canton for To Wong Foo, turning it 45 degrees from everything else in the u-shaped tiers restaurant to get the shot, abd the booth remained that way. A whole floor upstairs in a 1920s commercial bldg, the place had a bar and large open space in the center front used waay back for dancing, whatever. There was a large group of drag queens assembled as extras but they were all cut – none of them are in short close up scene. [Close friend went].

    • The locals that first brought me there used to refer to the place as the Canton Casino. Local legend was that it started out as a speakeasy and evolved into a night club during early incarnations after prohibition. It had strange signage at street level that was reminiscent of a theatre marque. Nothing that would give you any indication of the gem you would find upstairs.

  55. 76 comments, and no one ID’ed the Columbia-area restaurant as Columbia Cottage?!?

  56. Check out Hunan Taste in Denville, NJ. I think it comes close to what all those directors are looking for: http://m.yelp.com/biz/hunan-taste-chinese-restaurant-denville

  57. Speak the truth, Scout! Thanks for pointing out how that Red-Walled Chinese restaurant lives on in our collective imaginations.

  58. You would have loved Flower Drum. Second, between 45-46th. Clearly inspired by the musical. Red and gold everything. Huge red pillars with gold dragons in relief. But somehow tasteful in its excess. Touristy? I guess, but in midtown everyone knew it wasn’t authentic… wasn’t trying to be. It was really good, though.. If you were a tourist, you wouldn’t go there for Chinese, you’d go to Mott Street. Long gone.

  59. JustAnotherNewYorker

    Chinese Tuxedo was perfect, both in and out, except for the proximity to the old elevated trains. Alas, all that’s left is some brickwork arches on the old building.

  60. just eat the fucking cookie

  61. FYI, fortune cookies were not invented in California, or in China for that matter. They come from a village in Japan where they are still made today:


  62. I can assure you there’s a Chinese restaurant in Alicante, Spain, EXACTLY like the ones in the movies, including big Chinaman reading Chinese newspaper having tea and red decor, dragons, the lot.
    Mind you, the food is rubbish, as the patrons “un-eat” right there outside the door !

  63. There’s a place in the Bronx that might work for you: http://www.hawaiiseanyc.com/index.html They definitely have the red wallpaper.

  64. Sesli Sohbetin Tek adresi….

  65. Jess from Hong Kong

    I’m so sorry. I can’t resist. But looking at this picture all I can hear in my head is

  66. There are a lot of Indian restaurants that are more in line with this sort of design and could probably be changed around a little.

  67. There used to be one in Topeka, KS, of all places, that had lush decor. Alas, have not been there since we abandoned living in Lawrence for the ‘lights’ (and better jobs) of Kansas City, MO.

    I live in midtown, close to downtown. Alas, all of our Chinese, Thai and etc. restaurants are pretty plebian and/or modern in decor. There are also a couple that are on the edge of nasty, so we quit eating there for fear of getting ill (spotted mice in one, running free on the floor. Killed a couple roaches in the other. both before ordering and we left).

  68. Further to a previous comment regarding the “over the top” Chinese restaurant in Denville, NJ — it’s actually the real deal, from many points of view. Their building is a Chinese Buddhist temple that was disassembled in Taipai, Taiwan, shipped in coded pieces, and then reassembled in New Jersey. The food quality is off-the-charts and they have several unique dishes. Their edamame dumplings are to die for! They have two Chinese lamb dishes, great whole fish dishes, etc. A college professor visiting from Mainland China once told me that their Peking Duck was the most authentic he had tasted in the States — something to do with imported Chinese vinegar, I believe. Their wine list is extensive (in a Chinese restaurant, mind you) and Steve the bartender is the best at his trade. So if I were to pick a Chinese restaurant in the NYC area, this “over the top” one would do it. And by the way, I’m not in any way associated with the restaurant — just a big fan.

  69. hi!
    i remember we used to eat at this place when i was growing up.
    it’s in queens, but has a pretty good atmosphere, if a bit on the tiki side…


  70. It’s not in New York City, but:
    Emerald City
    4905 Washtenaw Ave.
    Ann Arbor, MI

    I’ll admit that I frequent this place more for the atmosphere than the food. Which is New York style Chinese. Unfortunately, last time I was there I noticed that they were slowly “updating” the decor. I actually talked to one of the managers about this In an attempt to convince them to keep the beautiful over-the-top “retro-vintage” decor of waterfalls, red & hilt wallpaper, Chinese lanterns, Golden dragon statues, wall sized fishtanks etc..

  71. Check out Ruby Foo’s on Times Square. Red walls? Check. Crazy dragons? Check. Dark atmosphere? Check. Lanterns? Check. It doesn’t get better than that.

  72. Kowloon is a bit north of Boston. Its Luau Room has the right look, deliberately campy. (http://kowloonrestaurant.com/) Apparently, Jerry Seinfeld played there.

    There used to be a Chinese restaurant decorations district in the 20s near Madison Square. (It was hard by the old Christmas decorations district.) You’d see shops with red lacquer screens, oversized gold Buddhas, “exotic” wall hangings, Chinese lanterns and so on. I always thought it would be a gas to decorate one’s apartment with stuff from there. Sadly, it has vanished, along with the Christmas district which sold fake trees, ornaments and the like – to the trade – year round.

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  76. There is a really over the top one in the town I live in, Haugesund, Norway of all places, if you’d beleive that. Red/golden wallpaper check, carpets, check, old 80s pictures of Hong kong and Beijing, check. a small pond with carps in it, inside the restaurant too. It’s completely over the top, to the point of having golden buddha statues by the entrances. XD

  77. Any one know the name of the chinese restaurant in season 2 episode 2 of mad men ?

  78. Could be a Japanese Restaurant as there is a Japanese song playing in the background.

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  83. Folks have already the Canton here in Jersey City. In addition to “To Wang Foo . . .” they also filmed “Mickey Blue Eyes” there.
    The Canton closed in the early 2000s after the patriarch of the family passed away and no one wanted to keep it going. It was a very unique venue indeed. I once attended a friend’s wedding reception there. They kept a small section of tables open for regular customers. Guests included some high profile politicos of the time which just added to the experience.

  84. FYI “Glengary Glen Ross” was the China Bowl on 44th just as it closed (which is now Virgil’s BBQ)….And FYI, I “found” the Canton on “Quiz Show” period restaurant search (got a ticket waiting for it to open) and told “Too Wong Fu” on day one of scouting that they would end up filming there after an exhaustive scout. Also used the “Flower Drum” on “Tracey Ullman Takes NY” but that is gone too….Fun read 🙂

  85. i am working on a restaurant project in denver and was wondering if you knew where the Chinese restaurant scene from the fisher king was shot…. i am gong to be in ny 12/6 and would really appreciate your help….

  86. Next time you have a director who really needs a place like this, send him to Houston. The Chinatown in Houston is littered with kitschy over-the-top Chinese restaurants, and probably just as many Vietnamese restaurants that could totally pass. Probably way cheaper than NYC to film in, too, and with lots of onsite parking. And if you ever need a classic NYC Jewish delicatessen to film in, Houston has that too, in Kenny &Ziggy’s. Plus sections of Houston’s downtown could pretty easily stand in for New York.

  87. So, interesting though, if someone now made a very stereotypical restaurant, would they constantly be a film location?