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Butte chop suey restaurant keeps family tradition going for more than 100 years

Posted at 11:24 AM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 13:24:06-04

When customers first walk into the Pekin Noodle Parlor in Butte they may wonder, “What’s with all the orange paint?”

“My dad read in Bon Appetit Magazine that this particular color literally whets people’s appetite, so he called his painters the next day and it went from lime green to carnival orange,” said Jerry Tam, the Pekin owner’s son.

At 110 years old, the Pekin is the oldest family-owned Chinese restaurant in the country. Started by Danny Wong’s great-grandfather at the turn of the century, he started serving hungry miners an exotic dish called chop suey.

“They would take the bits and scraps of onion, beansprouts and celery and just put it in its own gravy, serve it with chopped up chicken, leftover pork, leftover beef and then serve it to the miners, 24/7, and we’re still serving it still to this day,” said Tam.

Not much has changed since the old days.

“We still manage to bring up our supplies through our rope and pulley system. Still to this day, for over 100 years, we’ve been pulling up our inventory,” said Tam.

From the kitchen equipment to the décor, the restaurant on South Main Street is almost like a museum.

“We have one of the most iconic chop suey signs in America, so just having that neon sign flashing in Butte, Montana, in America, just really means a lot to our culture and to our family here at Pekin,” said Tam.

One thing that makes the Pekin really interesting is it’s famous booths, there’s 17 of them, you can enjoy a meal in here with your friends and family in an intimate environment, but what makes this place special is its authenticity.

“I just met a person who’s fifth-generation, his great-grandfather, who came in and ate, and he was here last night with this great-grandson, he’s 97, made it up the stairs, and so that’s five generations, so having the generations come in year in and year out they never forget this is a place where they had shared their memories,” said Tam.