A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 11, 2015
Chow Mein Street (Broadway)

Chinese restaurants serving chow mein used to crowd Broadway around Times Square. “Chow-Mein Street” (a street where Chinese people live) was cited in the New York City humor magazine Life in 1921 and in the New York City humor magazine The Judge in 1924. “The wiseacres now call Broadway ‘Chow Mein Street’” ws cited in print in 1928.

Chow mein lost its popularity as a Chinese-American dish, many of Broadway’s Chinese restaurants closed, and the name “Chow Mein Street” became rare by 1940.

A Broadway nickname similar to “Chow Mein Street” is “Chow Mein Stem” (cited in print since at least 1928).


Google Books
29 December 1921, Life magazine, pg. 10, col. 1:
Anyone suggesting two things that China can do will receive a complimentary copy of the best-selling novel in China to-day: “Chow-Mein Street.”

Google Books
The Judge
Volume 87, Issue 2227
1924
Pg. 11:
BRIGHT SAYINGS OF PARENTS
“Where do Chinamen live, father?” inquired little Willie of Mr. Richard Brownell, aged forty.

“On Chow Mein street,” replied Mr. Brownell, with a readiness that did not belie his reputation among the stenographers in the office, downtown, of being “so funny.”

9 March 1928, New Orleans (LA) States, “In New York” by Gilbert Swan, pg. 10, col. 6:
Speaking of Chinese restaurants reminds me that the wiseacres now call Broadway “Chow Mein Street.”

2 November 1930, Sunday Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, TX), “In New York with Swan” by Gilbert Swan, pg. 20, col. 3:
NEW YORK, Nov. 1—A couple of years ago, when Chinese restaurants began to overun Broadway, I facetiously christened that thoroughfare “Chow Mein Street.”
(...)
This chow-meinery, appearing under the familiar name of Chin and Lee, turn it out by the ton.

4 May 1931, State-Times (Baton Rouge, LA), “In New York” by Gilbert Swan, pg. 6, col. 3:
At the moment Broadway threatens to lose its subtitle of “chow mein street.”

Those gilded and glittering Chinese restaurants that came pellmelling into the great white way are threatening to thin out a bit. For a time every third door along the bright lights boulevard appeared to be a chop suey resort.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityStreets • Friday, September 11, 2015 • Permalink