On Independence Day in July, sisters Wendy and Cindy Li reopened Chin’s Kitchen in the Hollywood district. The new owners bought the iconic Chinese cafe at 4126 N.E. Broadway in April and have completed a thorough renovation of both the space and the menu – with an emphasis on fresh, authentic, handmade dishes from the sisters’ native northeastern China.
One of the oldest continually operating restaurants in Hollywood, Chin’s Kitchen opened on May 20, 1949 and has been serving the neighborhood under a handful of owners for nearly 70 years. The original owners retired in 1982.
“I’m thrilled that this longtime neighborhood institution will have new caretakers,” said building owner Paul Clark of Township Properties. “I think they’ve done more with that space than anyone who’s come before them – and the work they’ve done is just beautiful. It’s like a brand new restaurant.”
The Li’s extended family and friends worked together to paint the space and install new flooring, furniture, adjustable lighting and a new display kitchen in the front of the shop.
“It took two and half months to remodel and decorate the restaurant,” said Wendy Li. “We kept the name Chin’s Kitchen because we wish to continue to tell that story in the neighborhood. It is a beautiful story. My sister is a good cook and is well known by people in the Chinese community for her fresh dumplings and noodles. Since she loves cooking so much, I decided to help her to open a restaurant. I think we will be good partners to run a business together. We want to bring good food to this neighborhood – the cuisine of our hometown.”
The sisters are originally from Harbin city in China’s northernmost Heilongjiang province. They came to the United States about 15 years ago. Wendy Li’s Chinese name is Changfeng and Cindy Li’s Chinese name is Change. Cindy Li will be the chef at the new Chin’s and Wendy Li will be the restaurant’s manager.
“We’ll keep a little American-Chinese food on the menu, like General Tso’s Chicken and Kung Pao Chicken,” said Wendi Li. “We think it will take some time for our neighbors to learn about our new menu and learn how good it tastes. My sister’s specialty is her handmade dumplings or Baozi, which are a steamed type of Potsticker. They taste very good and are very healthy for you. She also makes a special type of wide, clear noodle – and her Fried Sweet Sour Pork Slices is most delicious.”
The distinctive neon fronting the Chin’s building has seen better days and is one of the last remaining animated signs in town. Michael Mintz of Neon Gods PDX has started a GoFundMe campaign to renovate and revive the classic sign. Mintz has restored a number of the city’s historic neon signs, including the Alibi restaurant in Overlook and the marquees of the Aladdin and Laurelhurst theaters.
“With Chin’s new owners in place, we have an opportunity to restore, repaint, and reanimate the sign so that Mr. Chin can eat again,” said Mintz.
“Because we love neon and we love Chinese food, anyone who donates $100 or more to the fundraising campaign will receive a pair of tickets to your friendly neighborhood Hollywood Theatre,” said Alison Hallett, the theater’s director of marketing and community engagement.
“I really like the Hollywood Theatre,” said Wendy Li, of the neighborhood landmark just north of her restaurant. “The building is so beautiful and has such a long story. I am always obsessed with historical and cultural stories. I have an old picture of our restaurant. It was taken in 1949 at the grand opening night and we have it proudly displayed on our wall by our door. The story of Chin’s Kitchen is a long and proud story and we are excited to start a new chapter with our beautiful, new space and fresh menu.”
Chin’s Kitchen is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for lunch and from 4:30 to 9:00 p.m. for dinner. Take out orders are available and delivery options may be coming down the road. For more information, call 503-281-1203.