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The Port Arthur Restaurant, Mott Street, New York City

Posted: November 20th, 2012 | 12 Comments »



The Port Arthur Restaurant was established in 1897 and operated on New York’s Mott Street for more than 85 years. Chu Gam Fai, the original owner, selected the name obviously after what is now Lushun and would have been a much more familiar name back then. The restaurant was located on the second and third floors of 7-9 Mott Street. The entrance was an awning ornate pagoda-style and the Chinese pagoda-style balcony would eventually become a desirable location to watch the bustle of the Lower East Side from.

The Port Arthur was the first Chinese restaurant in NYC’s Chinatown to obtain a liquor license with the upper floor dining rooms reserved for private parties and banquets, – mostly used by local Chinese for weddings  and family ceremonial dinners. The lower floor was for smaller groups of customers or after hour slummers wanting a little Chinatown chic. The furnishings were inlaid pearl mahogany tables, teakwood chairs, ornate wood carved panels, windscreens, lanterns, chandeliers and a baby grand piano.



12 Comments on “The Port Arthur Restaurant, Mott Street, New York City”

  1. 1 Jenny said at 2:34 am on December 3rd, 2015:

    Thank you for posting this! Although I was not born around this time period & I’ve only immigrated to the US in mid 1969, I did grow up & lived in NY Chinatown for most of my teenage years. I can vaguely remember the Port Arthur Restaurant, although not the Eastern Importing Company. Here’s one picture when the Chinatown Fair replaced the Eastern Importing Co.(not sure if the image address will post up as an image on this blog)

  2. 2 Michael said at 1:17 am on March 30th, 2016:

    This was the first Chinese restaurant I ever went to in 1948 when I was 5 years old. My parents would take me here just about every week, for years and years – what a great place it was!

  3. 3 Edie Hintz said at 8:41 am on July 21st, 2018:

    I have a Postcard of the dinning area.
    Probably from the early 50’s.
    Would anyone be interested?

  4. 4 Edie Hintz said at 8:44 am on July 21st, 2018:

  5. 5 Bill Buchanan said at 6:56 am on February 1st, 2019:

    I was ther on our high school senior trip. I have a menu and matchbook from there.

  6. 6 Paul French said at 6:59 am on February 1st, 2019:

    I like a high school that encourages you to collect matches!

  7. 7 David Chin said at 12:39 am on May 8th, 2019:

    Thank you for the picture. The picture really brought back a lot of memories.

    My Grandmother, Florence Ho, was the last owner of this restaurant. During it’s heyday, the ground floor housed a gift shop and the restaurant on the 2nd floor was accessible via an escalator. The restaurant served Chinese gourmet food and the chef was from Hong Kong.

    The business closed after running afoul of changing NYC codes. After grandma spent a small fortune upgrading the bathrooms to meet the specifications of a new code, she was told that the code had been revised and that her bathrooms were no longer in compliance.

    It didn’t help that the escalator had broken down and that too many of the restaurant’s aging patrons were unable to walk up a flight of stairs. When the chef told my grandmother that he wanted to retire to Hong Kong, she threw in the proverbial towel and also retired.

    Since no one in the family wanted to take over the business, the restaurant closed. At the time of its closing (late 70’s), it had been NYC’s longest operating Chinese restaurant. Grandma Ho retired to Asbury Park, NJ. She passed away some 10 years later.

  8. 8 Bob Burns said at 6:43 pm on July 4th, 2020:

    As a child in the 1940s I ate at the Port Arthur many times as it was near my Fathers office. My favorites were Egg Drop Soup and Egg Foo Yong. I remember hearing that sometime in the late 1940s Madam Chiang Kai-shek spoke from the balcony of the Port Arthur to enlist support for the Chinese Nationalist government in Taiwan.

  9. 9 David Lightner said at 8:48 am on July 27th, 2021:

    My partner and I stumbled on this place in 1974-75 when we were living in New York City. We climbed the stairs and found ourselves transported back to China in the 1920s. The food wasn’t anything special, but the atmosphere was wonderfully atmospheric. We later brought friends there just to have drinks and enjoy the ambiance.

  10. 10 John Barone said at 8:33 am on November 1st, 2022:

    My father came to America from Sicily in 1920 and lived on Elizabeth. My girl, who became my wife lived in East Harlem. We were Italian kids and wanted to know where to eat in Chinatown. He said Port Arthur was the Place he used to go to. So a bunch of us went down there. It was a big charming place with good food. This was in the 70s. We couldn’t figure why it closed. But David Chin explained (Supra). Your Grandma ran a nice place David.

  11. 11 Caroline said at 10:43 am on January 23rd, 2023:

    My father told me stories of his grandfather, manager of the Hotel Sinton in midtown, bringing him to the Port Arthur as a boy in the 1940s and 50s. In grad school in the 60s, he brought his friends from Hong Kong to the Port Arthur, who remarked it was like an authentic Hong Kong tea house. Later on, Mrs. Ho, the last owner, became his client. I wish I could have dined at the Port Arthur myself, as if to touch history beyond my dad’s stories.

  12. 12 Bobby Chen said at 3:07 pm on February 24th, 2023:

    You can catch a glimpse of Mott Street plus the Port Arthur restaurant speeding by on the 3rd Avenue El “Elevated Subway” as it transits through the Chatham Square Station (obviously) in this high-wuality color film footage on YouTube: … the 3rd Ave El ran from the late-19th century until 1955, so these scenes were filmed NLT 1955… waaay before I was born, and growing up in Lower East Side of Manhattan, didn’t even know these “El” trains existed until now here in the 2020s

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