Hong Kong, 1960s-2005
HONG KONG
West End: 7400 Lakeshore Drive
1960s-2005

The Hong Kong is remembered more fondly by more people than any other extinct Chinese restaurant, and for the usual reason: atmospherically, it was unforgettable. Occupying the spot where Brisbi’s is now, its big dining room windows looked out onto the New Basin Canal, the inlet from the lake leading to the New Orleans marina. What could be nicer than a booth next to one of those windows, in a romantically dim dining room, with paper lanterns and dragons all around, and eating an exotic dinner while watching the boats sail by?

Well, I’ll tell you what. All that atmosphere plus good food would have been better. Much better.

The Hong Kong was one of the first New Orleans Chinese restaurants to open outside the French Quarter. That’s where the first efflorescence of Chinese food was, from the 1930s into the 1970s, with concentrations on Bourbon and Decatur Streets. When the Metairie suburbs began to develop in the 1950s, a few Chinese places followed–notably the new House of Lee and the relocated (from the CBD) Canton.

The Hong Kong had a French Quarter connection, but it wasn’t Chinese. The McConnell family owned it, along with the Embers Steak House and a touristy joint called Archie McConnell’s King of Corn. (As in on the cob. The only things missing were the clowns.)

First-generation Asian restaurateurs practice a particular thrift. They made sure that their customers won’t reject their food for reasons of being too bold. This was particularly true of the Metairie Chinese places, which served a style of Cantonese cooking that avoided high spice levels and unusual cuts of meat and poultry. Thus was born a bland, inoffensive style of cooking. Fried rice and egg rolls were the big favorites, and most customers didn’t go much farther than that.

Ad from 1974.

Ad from 1974.

This is what the Hong Kong was serving by the time I got there in 1974. Fortunately for me, by then I was familiar with Gin’s and Fun’s, two French Quarter places good enough to cut loose and create some excitement. The mild cooking of the Hong Kong never compared.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about here, go to any Chinese restaurant and order chop suey, egg drop soup, chow mein and egg foo yung. Tell them you don’t want anything spicy. What comes out will greatly resemble the Hong Kong dining experience, which didn’t change very much as the decades oozed past.

This opinion comes from a person who has his own mellow memories of the Hong Kong. My first serious girlfriend loved the Hong Kong, as well as the nearby Port Hole, which had approximately the same atmosphere. Every chance we had, we stuffed our hormone-heated bodies in a booth next to a window, ordered fruity rum drinks, and sucked face.

I bring up this unsavory scene because I’ve heard many similar stories from Hong Kong fans, many of whom went there for the first time on their prom nights. It was that kind of place. And it was very cheap. I remember entrees in the $3-5 range. (Catch: the steamed rice was extra, but only about a quarter.)

The Hong Kong was wiped out by Katrina, as the water rose fifteen feet and filled the place with floating debris. The place never came back, although in 2008 Michael Buckley–a coffee importer who was a regular caller on my radio show–told me that he was on the verge of buying the Hong Kong. He said it would reopen soon, but with better food. Unfortunately, Buckley died not long after he told me this. And the next thing that happened was demolition.

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  1. chad on August 7, 2014

    Is this the place that had the sweet n sour tuna steak? It’s been a few years (obviously) since I’ve been, but I remember a chinese restaurant on the water (on or near the lake) that resembles your description. I recall the food being very good, one item in particular being the aforementioned tuna.

  2. Dick Alexander on October 17, 2014

    I ate here with my parents in the 60’s at least twice a month for a 10 years. We loved the atmosphere, and I loved the little umbrellas in the drinks. We always had egg rolls, pork egg foo yung, chicken subgum chow mien, and shrimp with lobster sauce….. Every time….. My remembrance is that the egg rolls were excellent….full of goodies, not just mushy cabbage.

  3. Blake on January 27, 2015

    This was my favorite restaurant. I ate here for years in the late 70s/ eighties with my parents. We lived on West End, and were here at least once a month. It had the colored lanterns hanging from the ceiling and big booths to watch the boats in the harbor. Usually, we only saw one boat our entire dinner! We ordered the shrimp eggroles (the best), bbq ribs, moo goo gai pan, and fried rice. There was never really a big crowd, but in the 90s, their bar on the other side of the place was a real meeting place for singles at the Lakefront. Good times !

  4. Lucy on March 13, 2015

    The Honk Kong was my favorite restaurant. I would always choose to go there for my birthday dinner growing up. I am so sad they never reopened. I went inside of it after Katrina to see it and took pictures; it was a sad occasion. Let’s not forget their coconut ice cream!

  5. Brit baker on May 16, 2015

    I used to love to go to the Hong Kong and for the same reason, the atmosphere and the giant windows looking out to the marina. I brought my girlfriend there many times. I wound up working there as a waiter,and got to know Mr. Don and Michael Mc Connell very well. Very good people. And who could forget the greatest waiter that ever lived,even if he did look like Don Ho. ” And it’s like” I must be taking about Wushawn de Jesus. Aka. Bobby de Jesus. I will never forget that place, so sad to see it go. My last day of work was the Saturday before Katrina.

    • Ellen on October 8, 2015

      I say, I say, am I talking to the best waiter ever? If so this is 1 of the best bartenders. You were my biggest fan, with my Special Mai Tai, made especially for you.
      I deeply miss The Hong Kong! !!
      As far as Mr.Fiztmorris, well he’s clueless!
      The Food was good, which was a bonus to the Great Fun to be Had! !!
      It was the cheers of the lakefront with a twist of great tunes & Late nights.
      There will never be another like it, & I’m happy to have served the last drinks of a legend. Love & miss all. Ellen

    • Terri Schmalz on August 25, 2017

      I was told My mother worked there in 1965 Her name was Carolyn Ellette Schmalz.

  6. don on October 25, 2015

    I had the honor to know Mike Buckley very well. Great guy!

  7. Dick ALEXANDER on April 20, 2016

    We went here a lot when I was a kid….I had a Shirley Temple with a little bamboo umbrella in it. We had the same thing every week….egg rolls, chicken subgum chowmein, shrimp with lobster sauce, pork egg foo young, and tea…plus alcohol for my parents.

  8. Harry Ledbetter on October 5, 2017

    I was told by family that the original owners of the Hong Kong was Ada and George Gee they owned the Chinese Dragon on Bourbon. Which is now Sammy’s Seafood. Does anyone have any information on this?

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