Former Richard Yee’s site at 2617 Avenue U
The owners of Cherry Hill Gourmet Market are working to open up a new Glatt Kosher market in the former site of the legendary Richard Yee’s Restaurant at 2617 Avenue U.
Neighbors began noticing construction in late summer, with the black paneling ripped out and windows papered up. The inside is being gutted as of last week, and a manager of Cherry Hill market, Sam Nitka, told Sheepshead Bites it’s all in preparation for a gourmet kosher market to open next year.
“[Cherry Hill] will financially support it, and we believe there’s a demand for it in the neighborhood,” said Nitka.
The store will sell kosher certified meats, packaged groceries, organic vegetables and more, and will be Sabbath observant. It’s expected to open in June or July 2015, Nitka said, with a name to be decided.
The new market will also take over the former site of Shulman’s Picture Framing on the corner, and will likely utilize the small parking lot behind the property.
Richard Yee’s closed in 2008, though the property remains in the family’s name. The restaurant was among the first place to hawk Chinese fare outside of Manhattan’s Chinatown, having opened in 1967 (following an earlier creation by Richard’s father, Joe, in Flatbush). When it closed, it was the oldest surviving Chinese restaurant in the borough.
After its closing, the venerable food columnist Robert Sietsema reflected on its legacy:
Yee’s represented a new type of restaurant when it opened in 1952: Emphatically located nowhere near any Chinatown, it offered a nightclub ambiance with the Polynesian flourishes that were expected of upscale Chinese restaurants at the time, including flaming cocktails, tiki-hut décor, a separate cocktail lounge, and an evolved Cantonese cuisine perfectly suited to the young families that were flooding the neighborhood in the postwar era. Classic dishes included sliced roast pork with garlic and sherry, steak kew, lobster in scallion sauce, and some of the city’s first “sizzling platters.”
A more in-depth account of Yee’s history can be found in the book “Gastropolis.” It was apparently a favorite of local Jews (and Sandy Koufax), so it becoming a kosher market is not altogether removed from history (and better than the fast food chain Sietsema predicted). Yee invented or inspired many dishes that are now ubiquitous in American Chinese shops, and one of the most famous was his crab balls.
A member of the Yee tribe appears to have set up a blog to remember the restaurant’s legacy.
The location has sat empty since Yee’s closed, so we’re glad to see it being put to use by a local business. We’ll keep you posted as the opening nears.