Friday, February 23, 2007

Jong Mea Restaurant

Lani's parents are Chinese. I'm fascinated by her Chinese heritage. I love to look through photo albums with her, and listen to stories about her family. Her family is beautiful. Here's a story from her Blog:







Jong Mea Restaurant
During lunch, while in discussion about the history of Chinese food in the United States, it led to a conversation about my family's restaurant, Jong Mea. My parents tell me the translation of Jong Mea means "China & America". But I've been told it can also be translated as "Midwest". Regardless, both translations fit to a tee, and knowing my grandfather (the founder), this was intentional. Jong Mea opened in 1951, one of the first Chinese restaurants in Columbus.

We had locations in Mansfield and Columbus, OH (my birthplace), and Indianapolis, IN. There was another location in Houston, TX that I knew very little about, probably because it was sold off in the mid 60's. My parents managed the Columbus location in the mid 70's to mid 80's. My aunt and uncle then took over the Columbus location until it closed in the mid 90's. My parents opened a 2nd Columbus location for a short time, then
took over the Indianapolis location until it closed in 1998. My great uncle's family managed the Mansfield location until it closed, which I think was in the late 80's.

At the height of business in the 60's and early 70's, the Columbus location had on weekends, 7 waiters, 3 bus boys and 3 assistant managers (answered phones, seated customers, processed take out). We opened from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. Lines used to snake around the corner with a 30 to 60 minute wait. We had celebrities such as James Shigeta and Gordon MacRae as patrons.

I worked as a cashier on weekends during my last 2 years in high school in the late 70's. Although I hated the work, it gave me invaluable experience that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Because my parents worked long hours, I learned to become self-sufficient at home. By the age of 10, I already knew how to do laundry and cook a simple meal.

When I wasn't working, we did have wonderful parties. Thanksgiving, Christmas, dinners with my grandparents and their friends. My dad often prepared the meals for these occasions. I found this to be a bit surprising because he didn't cook much at home until my siblings and I were teenagers.

At some point, I'll have to devote time to rummage in the storage room to find pictures, have Pete
scan them and post them on a future blog. Then you'll know how OLD I really am.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have so many wonderful memories of your families fine food. I was a student at the Columbus College of Art & Design from 1964-1967. I lived in Columbus until 1974 and ate at Jong Mea's many many times. My favorite dish (pardon my spelling) was War Su Gai that was a beautiful breast of chicken w/wonderful sauce and veggies. They had the very best egg rolls I have ever eaten. They kept really late hours back then. Many times after the bars closed that was the place to go and be seen. I actually lived right around the corner at 26 Parsons Ave in a beautiful old building called "The Cumberland" Next door to my apartment was "The Wuitenberg" it was said to have been dsigned by Frank LLoyd Wright. And the infamous "Dell Restaurant" was just down the street! Oh such Memories...Thanks