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The old Hi-Ho Chinese restaurant in the Inwood section of Manhattan left fond memories in many people’s mind, and forged relationship that lasted a lifetime. Life in New York was much different back in those days. Your neighborhood was your life. Your friends your family, and people in your neighborhood were like family.
I first learned of the Hi-Ho Chinese restaurant from my girlfriend, Mee Wen Dee. We all know my love of Chinese food, so it was only natural that one day we would talk about our earliest memories of growing up and the first Chinese restaurants that we ate at with family. When she told me about how her family had struck a deep friendship with the owners of the Hi-Ho, WELL, I just had to know more. Her recollections were from early childhood, so they weren’t crystal clear. But, from her Father and Aunt, I had a vast history that I could glean tap in to. It just took me a while to turn on the faucet.
The Hi-Ho Chinese Restaurant was located at 177 Dyckman Street, New York, NY 10040. It’s no longer there. But, the memories live on.
In the interim, I did some online research online to find out whatever I could find. I finally found a golden nugget, a website to growing up in Inwood, called “My Inwood“, which was created by Cole Thomson. Stealing a few lines from their homepage, “Buried beneath layers of time and development lies another Inwood…an Inwood inhabited by Indians, Dutchmen, Hessians, captains of industry and hardscrabble Irish immigrants”. Theirs is a site dedicated to Inwood’s historic secrets and treasures.
But the only secrets I was interested in were about the Hi-Ho Chinese restaurant. I found Cole Thomson on Facebook and reached out to him to see if he had any only pictures of the Hi-Ho Chinese restaurant. They weren’t on the website, so I was hoping he had some stored personally. He did. The pictures on this website were from his collection, and two others from the website. I gleaned from his website the quotes that you will find at the bottom of this article.
But first, let’s get up close and personal with one families memories of the Hi-Ho Chinese restaurant. The time period was late 1960’s to early 1970’s.
From Peter Cribbin (Mee Wen Dee’s father):
The owners name of the Hi-Ho were Peter and Rose.
Of Mee Wen Dee’s paternal grandparents, whose names were Pete and Marie (really Mary, but that’s a story for a different blog… or the next paragraph! Perhaps a few more down than that).
They became such good friends with Peter and Rose (perhaps forged by the commonality of first names?) that Peter and Rose frequently invited Pete and Marie to their summer home in the Catskills. Often the entire Cribbin clan came). There they had a cabin on their grounds where the Cribbin’s stayed. There was no toilet in the cabin so they had to use the outhouse. They did, however, have a swimming pool.
One of the most vivid memories that Peter Cribbin (Mee Wen Dee’s father, not to be confused with her Grandfather OR the owner of the Hi-Ho Chinese restaurant! Got it? I hope I got it right!) were that the family fed the raccoons on the property after dinner. And in the fall they ATE the raccoons!)
On Mee Wen Dee’s maternal side, her grandparents were Joe and Mary (As you can see it was too confusing having two Grandmother’s called Mary, so Mee Wen Dee’s paternal Grandmother was called “Marie” to avoid confusion).
Mary was hospitalized for Gall Bladder issues, and every time after Joe visited the Hi-Ho Chinese restaurant. Their menu (see below) featured American dishes as well as Chinese food. Many years later, Joe confessed, saying “Don’t tell your mother, but the Yankee Pot Roast at the Hi-Ho is better than she ever made!”.
From Noreen Cribbin Hamilton (Mee Wen Dee’s aunt, and Peter Cribbin’s sister):
Tons of memories of the Hi-Ho Chinese Restaurant. Pete was the owner. His wife was in China. He didn’t drive a car. Dad and Mom (Pete and Marie) would drive them when they needed to go somewhere. Pete had a vacation home in the Catskills. Mom and Dad would vacation with them.
This is from Noreen’s brother Mike:
This pretty much sums up what I was going to say, Pete used to love making Stingers for my father and Richie. His wife finally came to the United States and she didn’t speak a word of English. Pete also made us some funky meals off the menu. I didn’t know what I was eating half of the time!!
From Mee Wen Dee:
What sticks out most on my mind, was a weekend we all spent at their house in the Catskills. We all came inside after swimming, and there on the table was this huge fish that they had just cooked (I’m not sure if they caught it themselves or not). I remember seeing it’s eyes! OMG that grossed me out. And what really grossed me out is that they would fight over who would get to eat the eyes!!
Quotes found on myinwood.net:
Hi-Ho Chinese Restaurant was very large on the north side of Dyckman Street near the corner of Vermilyea Street. The place we went to was closer to Broadway called Min Ju. It was smaller. We used to joke that we were going to eat at the Jewish Chinese place. The School Special when we went to P.S. 52 was 50 cents for soup, entree, rice, ice cream and a pot of tea. It was right near the subway entrance and the newsstand.
I’ve heard others discuss the Hi-Ho. It must have been a popular spot. I wonder if anyone out there has any photos or even an old menu from the place. -Cole (MM: Apparently they did! Thank you Cole for forwarding two to me)
This discussion of old-time Chinese restaurants on Dyckman Street brings to my mind the place I used to haunt in the late early 1980’s, La Gran Via. It was Cuban-Chinese and may have occupied the premises of Hi-Ho or Min-Ju. It was on the north side of the street and maybe 3 or 4 buildings to the east of Broadway. I recall that there was a Carvel just to the west. I can’t recall when they closed up shop. (MM: A Carvel RIGHT there?!! How could a place like this EVER fail? What more could any diner want??)
Is the Hi-Ho Chinese restaurant on Dyckman Street still open? It had the most delicious Chow Mein in all of the Tristate area.
>>> I don’t believe so, though I’ve heard old-timers rave about the place.
Decades before Starbucks, frozen yogurt and sushi arrived in Inwood, another generation of business owners serviced the district.
The other ice cream parlor was right next to the Loews movie theater. We used to hang out there. Nash’s bakery was next to Woolworth’s on Dykman Street. There was a Chinese restaurant named Hi Ho that was there for ever. Jacks pants shop was actually up from Regina’s Bakery not next to the Alpine movie. Next to the Alpine movie theatre was a Jewish Deli. The other Jewish deli was call Loprrians (sp?) and that was next to the Loews theater. Bickford’s (Coffee House) was on the corner of Dykman and Broadway.
You must mean the Hi Ho Chinese restaurant on Dyckman Street, just east of Broadway across from the Alpine Theater. The best Chinese food anywhere in the City. Ate there regularly in the early 50’s to ’57 when I left for the Service. Our waiter was Kenny Young. Grew up on Payson Ave from 1940 to 1957. Stepmother still lived there until just 5 years ago.
Inwood, where growing up in the ’30s and 40’s with memories that time hasn’t diminished. The posts have covered just about everything we all experienced and enjoyed.
The Dyckman ferry (see video below of the Ferry from the 1930’s)………the Charlotte Russe’s ….. The Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park………..the 5 cent ‘MelloRolls……….. the Hi-Ho where 25 cents bought a huge plate of chow mein………. a 25 cent haircut which caused ‘Bill, the Barber’ to groan whenever he saw me enter his shop. (hair, like the Beatles, years before they came here.
We lived for a time, at 449 W 206th St. overlooking The Miramar where I spent many a water logged day during summer vacation and hearing the songs of the day from the enclosed snack area……… songs, like Maria Elena……….Yours……….’Oh Daddy’……….and on and on. So many great memories of Inwood!
The following advertisements, from the defunct Heights-Inwood Newspaper, are about the Chinese restaurant that replaced the Hi-Ho.
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at a Chinese restaurant? Corned Beef and Cabbage on the menu?! FREE Irish Coffee??!! Apparently, the Cribbin influence ran deep!!
Check out this video, “Inwood: West 207th Street in 1926”. Keep an eye out for a few scenes showing the “Chop Suey West Garden” Chinese Restaurant. Was THIS the precursor of the Hi-Ho Chinese Restaurant?
All good things come to an end 🙁
What’s there now:
Oh the times they have changed. But, they can’t take the memories away from us. Ever!
Do you remember the Hi-Ho Chinese Restaurant? What are the memories you had of eating Chinese food when you were young? I shared my earliest memories of going out for Chinese food with my family. To read that article, click here.
What were YOUR memories?
Please post your comments below, and please share this article with your friends and family and on your Facebook wall.
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)