Monday, November 19, 2007

Bamboo House (& Cat)

The Bamboo House Chinese restaurant on 2nd Ave and 6th St is closed. I took these pictures back in August when I saw the For Rent sign. That day, when I ordered what was to be my final lunch of cashew chicken and egg roll, I asked the owner if he was closing. He adamantly told me, "No, no, no. That sign is for another place." But Bamboo House had all the markings of a vanishing business.

The place was empty. The snake plants on the windowsills, the EXOTIC neon sign, the paper lanterns, everything was covered with a gray fur of dust. The workers sat, as they often did, at a booth and noisily slurped noodle soup, their paper hats tilted back on their heads. A rabbit-eared television played cartoons for a child whose mother busily peeled peas.

I used to like to go there with dates and soak up the melancholy Edward Hopper feeling. This morning, in the rain, I went by to see if the flickr tip I got last night was correct. It was. Bamboo House is a shambles, tables upturned, plates stacked on the floor, the paper lanterns and neon sign ripped out. Apparently, they also tossed out a cat, who was luckily rescued, according to this craigslist post. We live in a disposable city.

Today's photos. Could they be renovating?


Anonymous said...

If memory serves, it was this humble eatery which provided sustenance, nutritional and moral, on a bizarre day fifteen years ago.

May 1992. Meeting friends in the Village, on a Friday night. Go down MacDougal at 7:00 P.M. to discover every shopkeeper closing his gates. The reason? L.A. is burning with the Rodney King riots, and now word is passing that a match is about to be struck in NYC, in the form of a rampaging black mob descending from midtown. (Which explains the mass exodus I saw hours early at Penn Station.)

A young white couple in a car asks us how to get to the Queens/Midtwn Tunnel, the girl hysterical at the racial onslaught to be unleashed at any moment. The streets are emptying; there is now nowhere visible to eat in enlightened Greenwich Village. We go back to our friend's apartment to wait out the holocaust to come. Hours go by--gee, nothing, go figure.

I venture out around 11:00, and have to go all the way to Second Avenue, where the Bamboo House, or its predecessor, is doing land rush business by virtue of being the sole place open. I return to my friends, and we gratefully eat our grub, like dog-faced GIs enjoying our C-rations after storming Anzio. The "mob" passes under the window later, on Eighth Street: about 40 people, with a zillion cops gingerly riding shotgun. The sole casualty appears to be a plate glass window, either a bank or the BBQ at University. The Rodney King squall had passed.

R.I.P. Bamboo House.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

This place has always been so mysterious to me. It's been there forever, but it never seemed to have many customers. I ate there mostly out of support for local businesses.

The food was never that great, but it was in such a prime spot for people-watching and the interior atmosphere was so...I can't quite find the word that describes the bizarre greenish glow, the booths that looked like they were left over from a diner and the quiet, almost opressive cloud of despair that hung in the air.

I always felt there was something secret going on...that I couldn't talk to the waitresses too much or the manager would come over and ask if everything was okay.

Now, its closing is just as mysterious. There was no warning and there are no signs or work permits anywhere indicating what the future holds.

Jeremiah Moss said...

two great stories, king and goggla--love it!

Anonymous said...

i hate the my first date with my ex-husband there on the coldest day of 1982. we were married 22 really good years.

sucelt was also a favorite of ours.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

I walked by the other night and there was a sign up indicating this will be a 'Spice' restaurant.

Anonymous said...

Bamboo House had some good years. In the late 70s it was a scary, dark, roach-ridden place, but seemed to get new owners in the early 80s and the quality and hygiene picked up. I probably ate there once a week and it was the go-to place for Chinese in the EV with a big group of friends. Went there out of nostalgia about a year ago and it was just too dirty for comfort.

They had an appetizer called "wontons in hot oil" that I've never found anywhere else and is one of my best food memories. Anybody know where else they can be found? They're not wontons in hot sesame oil or spicy wonton. More like fried wontons in a brown sauce with lots of scallions.

Anonymous said...

going to nyu right around the corner, bamboo house was our late night chinese place. they had the best scallion pancakes ive ever had and i miss them terribly. i heard somewhere that the owners opened another restaurant somewhere in midtown? anyone else hear something like this?

Anonymous said...

holy shit! i just called and bamboo house is back open!

Jeremiah Moss said...

what? where? spice is supposed to be moving in there...another location?