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Restaurants & Bars 1

vi's of oakland chinatown

ed | May 10, 200401:36 PM

since i no longer live in the east bay, i can only occasionally go by this old favorite noodle house, which was closed for remodeling and vacation the past few times i looked in. so i was all the more excited to see the custom chopper parked right in front, heralding the presence of it's rider and creator, who is also the noodlemeister.

it wasn't eating time but i parked my bike next to his and walked in to say hi. after the usual chopper appreciation/biker guy chatter, he started telling me about life as a restauranteur. basically, he's getting tired of it. he's been doing it for over 20 years, and the endless worry and complexity exacerbated by diminishing business and rising rent are making him think of retiring back to vietnam.

i told him that would be a sad event for this and other chowhounds. he seemed glad to hear that his duck and beef stew noodles were widely regarded. but the sluggish economy in general and the loss of the chinatown parking lot in particular have him in the squeeze. he said he's seen his regulars drive around the block a few times, and then vanish. he said oakland is considering buying the old salvation army building to install a larger parking garage, but i guess that would be several years off if it happens at all. i had to confess that the only way i could visit him was via motorcycle, as the parking situation was indeed nutty.

and his rent has gone up to where it takes the entire revenue of nearly a thousand bowls of noodles just to cover it every month.

i wanted to selfishly ask him to stick it out, but really, would you? so i asked about his kids, if they could take the reins, but they are going into retail.

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