Montana Is Home To The Oldest Chinese Restaurant in America
In the late 19th century, the gold rush brought Chinese immigrants to Butte, Montana. After being forced out of the mining industry, immigrants began opening businesses in a Chinatown neighborhood known as "China Alley."
According to Wikipedia, the Pekin Noodle Parlor, built in 1909, was opened on West Mercury Street in Butte. It is listed as the oldest continuously-operating Chinese restaurant in America. In 1911, it moved to the second floor of a brick building on South Main Street near the corner of West Galena. Pekin Noodle Parlor was founded in its current location in 1911 by Hum Yow and Tam Kwong Yee. The restaurant installed their first sign in 1916.
Archivists note that when the restaurant first opened, it catered to a diverse clientele of miners, theater-goers, and wealthy citizens. Then, as now, the menu featured Chinese American classics like chow mein, chop suey, and egg foo young.
When you enter the building, you walk up a narrow flight of stairs to the second floor. You enter the restaurant through a door on the left. The door opens into a hallway with partitions separating 17 eating rooms and booths with privacy curtains for each room. The dining tables and chairs in each room date back to 1916.
The Pekin Noodle Parlor in Butte was open during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, and remains open 102 years later as our nation battles another deadly pandemic. Before Pekin Noodle Parlor opened, the building housed a brothel and opium den.
The Pekin Cafe (formerly Pekin Noodle Parlor) is located 117 S. Main Street in Butte. They are open Wed-Sun 5:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday.