Sunday, November 29, 2015

Restaurant notes: A spin through Hop Sing Laundromat

An air of intrigue surrounds a lounge looking to open next month in Chinatown.

Restaurant notes: A spin through Hop Sing Laundromat

The exterior of Hop Sing Laundromat. The main entrance will be through the stone archway at right.
The exterior of Hop Sing Laundromat. The main entrance will be through the stone archway at right.

Hop Sing, the cook for the Cartwright family on the classic TV series Bonanza, made it a habit of threatening to quit and open a Laundromat.

And that random bit of mid-20th-century pop culture is the source of the name "Hop Sing Laundromat," attached to a most intriguing lounge coming to 1029 Race St., in the Chinatown storefront that used to be Indonesia restaurant.

It’s been in development for about a year. Details have been scarce, at the insistence of management.

Until now.

Hop Sing Laundromat's creator is a dapper, media-shy gent named Lêe, who absorbed lounge ideas during an epic cocktail field trip two years ago. (He put 33,000 miles on a car over 70 days and 48 states. It is said that he only sipped along the way.)

Some bullet points:

• It will have an air of old-fashioned mystery but won't be a "speakeasy" or "Prohibition"-type of bar, despite the anonymous, nondescript facade.

• The building was gutted and then redone in much the same industrial fashion to look as it was when new 80 years ago. Floors are polished concrete. Comfy sofas will be the seating. Candlelight will provide atmosphere.

• The bar will be stocked with a liquor company representative’s dream of about 1,000 bottles – mostly spirits. Some wine (maybe 20 varieties). Some bottled beer.

• In a back room, staff will create 10 to 12 kinds of ice.

• There will be a stand-up piano in case a patron wants to tickle the ivories.

• Pass the Kiwi: The front door leads directly into a small, regulation shoe-shine shop. From 5 to 8 p.m. on business days, comp shines will be offered to patrons. The space will be a waiting room later in the evening. The shop floor will be covered in pennies, all heads-down except for one. Find it in 30 seconds and you get a complimentary cocktail (courtesy of President Lincoln).

• And perhaps the most curious feature: Menu will be 25 items -- the five best dishes offered by what will be determined as the five top restaurants in the neighborhood. Hop Sing staff will pick up the food and deliver it to the tables in Chinese wedding banquet boxes. (What a concept: No kitchen staff to hire.)

Hop Sing Laundromat attorney Bill Morrin says it should be open in mid-April.
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About this blog
Michael Klein, the editor/producer of, writes about the local restaurant scene in his Inquirer column "Table Talk." Have a question? Email it! See his Inquirer work here.

Michael Klein
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