Bye Bye Chinatown
Gone to the suburb of Rockville I bet
Washington DC once had a thriving Chinatown, not NYC’s mind you, but still respectable. It was a decent Chinablock with maybe five or six square blocks of very Chinese restaurants, stores, and activity centers, so Chinese the police even had a Asian outreach office there, complete with Chinese officers.
Then Abe Polin built the MCI Center in the midst of Chinatown and the end came swift. With hordes of suburbanites headed to the Center’s shows, DC’s Chinatown was over-run by folks expecting General Tao’s Chicken, something you’d never find in a real Chinese restaurant.
Soon Douglas Jamal started buying property and leasing it to the homogenized, chain dependent desires of the suburbanites, and the end was near. Starbucks is on one corner, and while that can kinda be excused, Fudruckers on the other corner cannot. Add in Legal Sea Foods, and horror of horrors! Hooters, and Chinatown was dying fast.
Oh, they tried to keep the spirit, by keeping the huge Chinese arch across H street and making all the signage in Chinese & English, but the crowds down there now are only token in their Asian-ness.
And there will be one less patron too, me, as I found out today that my favorite Chinese grocery, Da Hua Market, where I’ve bought my sushi rice and Asian sauces for the last four years is no longer. Mr. Jamal bought it too and is now remodeling it for the next Chinatown sensation. Hazard a guess what it might be? How ’bout a museum on what was.