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Dining, Drinking, Dancing: At the Lion's Den
Chinese Food in the USA
Fall Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(3) page(s): 11, 12, 27, 28, and 29
Chinese-American Restaurant-Nightclubs were popular in the 1940''s in San Francisco. When the recent Flavor and Fortune story about the food habits of painter Martin Wong appeared Flavor and Fortune's Volume 8(2) on pages 17 and 18, a reader donated a very old menu from the 'Lion’s Den,' a California restaurant and nightclub. It was where Martin’s Aunt Nora, the subject of one of his paintings, had worked.
The menu makes a fine addition to my collection of more than seven thousand Chinese menus dating back to 1879. Like most old ones, it not only lists food and drink, but it is full of mystery. Tidbits from the four-page bill of fare beg unanswerable questions such as: What exactly is Fruit Won Ton With Pickle Sauce? Or: Why don’t today’s Chinese restaurants serve delicious-sounding dishes such as Pineapple Spareribs? In order to learn more about this particular Lion’s Den, I arranged for several telephone and e-mail interviews with Nora, who now lives happily married in Hawaii, and with her daughter, KK.
The 1940's Lion’s Den menu has a deep maroon cover with gold lettering. A few simple black and ivory pages list food and libations. There is only one illustration, a distinctly Western black-and-white pencil sketch of a wintry village scene, with brick bridges fording a river, houses, and steepled churches fading into the distance. Perhaps the illustration was chosen because its semi-circular bridges are reminiscent of the famous bridge over Xi Hu or West Lake, one of China’s most fabled natural settings, in the Zhejiang province.
Rather large, China’s Zhejiang province is just south of Shanghai municipality, and well known for its international port, diverse food, culture and dialects. Major cities include Hangzhou which is home to Xi hu, Ningpo which is famous for eel; Shiaoxiang well-known for its wine and opera, and the Zhoushan Archipelago, home of the Dinghai cuisine discussed in a previous article about a Ding Hai kitchen in Cancun, Mexico that was in Flavor and Fortune’s Volume 9(2) on page 26.
The Chinese know that gorgeous natural settings and fresh food go hand-in-hand and Xi Hu is no exception. Of many storied Zhejiang recipes, foremost among them must be Xihu Suyu, a sweet-and-sour West Lake fish. It is also known as 'The Delicacy Created by a Sister-in-Law for her Brother.' This special fish is only found in Xi Hu. Its soft white flesh is reminiscent of crab. Other West Lake specialties include Longjing tea, especially in the Springtime, and healthy Watershield Soup, made with a local purple-flowered and floating plant of the waterlily family. Watershield has a jelly-like substance coating the underside of its leaves. It can be found in larger Chinese markets in a soda-like bottle. It looks like it might belong in hot-and-sour soup but it is too delicate.
What watershield does is add color, a faint flavor somewhat akin to lily buds; and a gelatinous-texture reminiscent of wood ear mushrooms. Beggar’s Chicken is another phenomenal Chinese palatal delight with origins in the Zhejiang, and Jiangsu provinces. A colorful story of a starving thief sets the stage for this masterful presentation and the whole bird is wrapped in a lotus leaf, then thoroughly clad in mud, and finally slow-roasted until ultra-tender, creamy, and exceptionally fragrant. Beggar’s Chicken is traditionally served with a pot of rice wine from Shaoxing.
There are twenty-six other West Lakes throughout China, all trying to steal the reputation of the original. The West Lake I mean is an hour or two south of a wholly different China with its Pacific Coast seaport of Shanghai. Long China’s capital of internationalism, the city of Shanghai is building like crazy and is poised as a future hub of international commerce.
Once before, Shanghai was a world capital, and that was in the 1930's. Seemingly unaffected by the depression in the United States at that time, upper-class Shanghainese and visiting foreigners became legendary worldwide for their exorbitant nightlife. Meanwhile the bulk of Shanghai’s population struggled in ignominy. Celebs like Wallis Simpson, Noel Coward, Charlie Chaplin and Bernard Shaw went to Shanghai and lived luxuriously there sipping gin, eating imported Oxford marmalade, and listening to the world’s greatest jazz. Word spread far and wide. People the world over were enamored. As Americans sought their own taste of Asia, Chinese restaurants began to add live entertainers to their bills, at first it seems, on America’s own snazzy Pacific Coast seaport that is San Francisco.
Lion's Den, in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown, claimed to be 'America's Only Under-Ground Chinese Nite Club featuring an all Chinese Floor Show.' Reservations were made by phoning 'China 0946.' The menu featured one page of American Dishes, like 'Cream Tomato' and a handful of standard soups, steaks and chops. There were ten different sandwiches costing a buck or less. While the Denver, more commonly known on the East Coast as a Western, rings familiar, does anyone know what is in a Manhattan sandwich?
Perhaps a forerunner of the Club sandwich, the Club House consisted of barbecued pork on a bun. Lion's Den even sold an East-West creation, Chinese Roast Pork sandwiches. Other American dishes included Chicken A La King at $1.50, and half a fried Spring Chicken for $1.75. There were also omelets, salads, and desserts; these last items consisted of pie, cake and/or ice cream. The most expensive American offerings were New York Cut or Tenderloin Steak, the 'extra cut,' was $2.25 each.
The Lion's Den menu presents a larger Chinese Dishes section in English and has transliterations from the Chinese, with standards like Chow Mein, Chop Suey, Egg Foo Yung, and chicken and rice dishes. There is a most authentic sounding list of soups, including Yee Chee billed as shark's fin in concentrated chicken soup, Yeen Wo noted as bird's nest in concentrated chicken soup, Gai Choy or mustard green, and Don Far also called 'Egg Flower.' This last item is another mystery yet to be solved; is it simply a florid name for common Egg Drop soup? Bow Yee or abalone, Cho Goo Gung or grass mushrooms, and Moo Goo Gai Fan Gung meaning chicken, mushrooms, and rice. The most expensive Chinese offering is Chow Mein or Fried Noodles with White Mushroom and Chicken; these cost $2.80 for two.
Some Lion's Den entrees are not commonly listed on menus. These include Suey Mein meaning plain boiled noodles and Wor Mein or boiled noodles in soup. Also missing are Bo Lo Gai or a Chicken en Joint with Pineapple, squab or chicken steamed with rice--en casserole, for only $1.25, and Hoong Siew Bok Opp exlained as: 'soyo squab, deep fried.' Chinese desserts included imported preserved lichees at $1.50 per tin; Lichee, Ginger or Chinese Fruit Ice Cream, and only thirty-five cents for a plate of Chinese Baby Almond, Sesame, Fortune, Rice or Assorted Cookies
Surely, the most unusual item on the Lion's Den menu, American or Chinese column, is the aforementioned 'Fruit Won Ton' in soup with pickle sauce at $1.25 for one; $2.40 for two. Probably it was listed mistakenly in the soup category. Menu writers at a loss to categorize unusual offerings sometimes sneak them in at the end of any column. When asked about this pickled-fruit-noodle oddity, which appears on many menus from the period, Nora simply had no recollection. Did they use pickled Asian fruits like mango, Western ones like pickled watermelon rind, or a combination thereof? Did the dish have a sweet and sour taste? Did it taste akin to Russian Cherry Varnishkes which are a sweet dessert variation of the famous Kasha Varnishkes bowtie pasta entrée with the groats or buckwheat replaced by cherries? Did couples order it and share it romantically like a milkshake with two straws at the then soda shoppe? It could well be we will never know.
Another mysterious offering of the period is the Shanghai Gesture which was a salad. Perhaps it was named after the John Colton play of the same name that was adapted for the silver screen by Josef Von Sternberg; it starred Walter Huston and Gene Teirney. It contains a fine Victor Mature cameo, setting the decadent tone of 1930's Shanghai. Was that salad so named because a toss of tomatoes, egg, pineapple, cottage cheese, anchovy, peppers and celery was considered decadent? Nora did recall, she said, "That the club did not serve truly authentic Chinese dishes. Just regular chow mein and chop suey plus American food" she told me. So while there were indeed true Chinese foods like Lop Jeong, the Chinese sausage, it may be that these dishes were not frequently ordered. It is known that Chinese-American restaurants have long catered to Occidental tastes, preparing boneless white-meat chicken dishes, adding extra sugar, and making other accommodations.
During the 1940's heydays of Harlem's Cotton Club and Midtown's Stork Club, perhaps the hottest clubs on the East Coast, Charlie Low's Forbidden City in San Francisco, was the nation's premier all Chinese nightclub. It was on the second floor of 373 Sutter Street, a building that now houses a computer store renumbered as 369. This hotspot was advertised in magazines and newspapers, and had photographs and posters in the club’s glass storefront windows. A program from the era depicts a silk-stockinged temptress beckoning, "Come along with me please and I will show you how to have fun - in Chinatown." The come-ons came a plenty and Forbidden City earned national fame with feature stories in Life, Look, and other picture magazines.
In 1936, Charlie Low opened Chinese Village on Grant Avenue. The Americanized cocktail lounge, or as Nora called it, a "semi Chinese restaurant," was a stepping stone to his idea for a Chinese nightclub. Charlie played polo, gambled, and decided to remodel his restaurant into a swanky nightclub with a Chinese theme. It started with a regular building but Charlie Low was a real sportsman. He named his nightclub 'Forbidden City' after the famous Imperial Court of China, but his ominously sexy double entendre was lost on no one. There was nothing like it in San Francisco, or anywhere else for that matter. Charlie Low’s Forbidden City was something brand new. San Francisco, already fabled for its nightlife, also boasted one of the world’s largest Chinatowns. Mr. Low's Chinese nightclub, which opened there on December 22, 1939, made a lot of sense.
As might be expected, there is some argument over who actually had the first Chinese American nightclub. Mr. D.W. Low's Shanghai Low restaurant menu recounts an earlier history than Mr. Charlie Low's Forbidden City. With the strong belief that the culinary art of a nation is the indication of the stage of its civilization, Shanghai Low opened in 1913 and expanded several times until increased patronage necessitated the building in 1923 of the New Shanghai Café at 453 Grant Street. That new emporium had a hardwood dance floor and a high-class dance orchestra. Perhaps Shanghai Low holds the honor of being the first Chinese restaurant-cum-nightclub, while Charlie Low innovated the Chinese-American dinner floorshow. Regardless, Shanghai Low's successful combination of the age-old cuisine of China with the sanitary methods of the present progressive age made it the nightclub with far and away the most authentic Chinese food.
Shanghai Low showed marketing savvy, placing photographs of the International Exposition and fairgrounds on the back of their bilingual menu. It was among the first in the U.S.A. to offer a richer variety of authentic Chinese fare, something deeper and more intricate than what had become de rigeur: Chop Suey and Chow Mein. The menu included Soongs, those minced lettuce wraps, Kwa Loo Op or broiled duck and Layer Buns, Fowl-stuffed Winter Melon, Seen Leen Op Gong or duck in soup with diced bamboo shoots, lotus berries, mushrooms and ham, Fo Gwa Yuk which is bitter melon fried with meat, and Dai Op Sam Me, a whole duck or chicken cooked in three different styles, and Spareribs in the popular previously mentioned pickled sauce.
There were interesting sounding plates of chicken fritters, bean cakes fried with meat, even squid and tripe. But the most interesting of all were the steamed dishes, including Beef with Yam Sauce, Pork with Pungent Salt Fish - a working-class favorite with rice and greens, and a dish never before encountered anywhere, Sun Dried Duck.
Shanghai Low's American offerings were as standardized as other menus of the era. Unexpected to 21st century eyes, few offered cola, but most had sips like lemon and lime squashes and lemonade, sarsaparilla, and choices of Canada Dry or Belfast ginger ales, the imported quaffs around twenty-five percent pricier. Hot drinks included Longjing Green Tea and Suisen Water Fairy Tea, yet another mystery, in addition to the standard Oolong and Soohing (Jasmine) brews. Refreshing desserts included sliced pears or Sarli, star fruit listed as Youngto, sugar cane or Tem Jare, Kum Kwat known at the time as 'Golden Limes,' even Suit Go or ice cream that usually was home-made. Shanghai Low was the real McCoy and their advertising states: 'To visit our café is equal to a trip to China. Most of the principal Chinese dishes are given here but there are many varieties not named that could be supplied if asked for. A real pretentious spread may be had for a trifling expense.'
Naturally, lots of competitors sprang up. There was Shanghai Lil on Kearny near Pacific Avenue, which said: 'Just around the corner from International Settlement,' Indo-China, Zombie Village in Oakland and West Indies in Reno, Nevada. Fong Wan, a famous San Francisco Chinese herbalist, began New Shanghai Terrace Bowl, Nanking Café, and Club Shanghai, calling his shows 'the Chinese ‘Folies-Bergere’ of the Americas.' He boasted, 'Our entertainment costs more than $2,000 per week' and offered what had become a nearly standardized Chinese-American menu. Still, patrons could order 'other native dishes upon request.'
Charlie Low once accused Fong Wan of stealing acrobats and a feud began. The famous incidents are documented on the Museum of the City of San Francisco’s website: www.sfmuseum.org. It informs much of this article. Fong Wan once went so far as to buy an empty building just so he could erect a huge neon sign near the competing Forbidden City, re-directing patrons to his club around the corner on Grant Avenue.
Happily, the Chinese nightclub shows never seem to have played to racist or sexist stereotypers who held nonsensical beliefs such as Chinese people had no rhythm or no legs. There was no nudity, no off-color humor. Contrarily, the pleasing and spirited revues were full of good, clean fun. They received sensational reviews and drew crowds. The performers were creating their own new kind of Chinese American culture, incorporating lively entertainment styles from both sides of the Pacific. Everything was in English, and there was no pidgin talk. The acts made a lot of money and along the way helped popularize Chinese food in America. Asian stars were often compared to headlining Caucasians. There was a Chinese Sophie Tucker and a Chinese Sinatra, Larry Ching. Wing and Toy were another hot act on the circuit. Dorothy Toy was eventually blacklisted because of her part-Japanese ancestry. She is still teaching tap to girls today in Oakland, CA. Tony Wing maintained a studio on Balboa Street in San Francisco, but has since passed away.
The Chinese-American nightclub-restaurant was a new spin on vaudeville, an eye popping entertainment that All-American culture like the famous musical Flower Drum Song which opened in New York at the St. James on December 1, 1958 with numbers like Grant Avenue, Fan-tan Fanny, and Chop Suey. The real-life Asian entertainers of the 1940's had ventured far from the traditional Chinese forms of entertainment. They performed in more staid and formal surroundings, and in much less revealing costumes. But they led far-more-normal lives than those too-often perpetrated by Western myths of Eastern cultures.
The 1940's were a time when sophisticates read publications such as San Francisco Social Life Night and Day. In an article entitled: SF Nite Club Star, there is a photograph of our heroine in a Flamenca dress described as: 'Eleanor Wong, Song Stylist as 5’3½, 115 pounds, with large, lustrous brown eyes.' The in-depth feature notes she won repeated acclaim in high school music, and that she stirs listeners to the height of their emotional tempo with a voice rich in melodramatic tones. They go on to say she was the Firecracker Queen in Chinatown’s Rice Bowl party to benefit Chinese refugees and also a skilled equestrienne and ice-skater. Who could not love an entertainer who felt equally as well at home when singing swing songs at Lion’s Den as when presiding as queen in some gathering of the Chinese social éclat.
The child of a small-town Cantonese man and his Arizonan wife Eloisa, Nora was born in Phoenix, and is known alternately as Leonor, Eleanor, Nora, Elly or Ellie. She uses Wong as her last name, even though her father was Fie Wong (Chinese people say the family name first). Her brothers William and Ben, who contended with a good deal of racism in Arizona, also kept the wrong last name. When Nora was five, Eloisa died birthing a third son, Edward, who went back to China with an aunt. William and Ben were raised by Dad in Chinatown while Nora was raised by another aunt, Lola. She soon developed into a real character, a honey-coated ham. Nora loved to sing but often had to settle for dancing.
When Charlie Low decided to open his club, he had to look no further than his wait staff for dancer recruits. One of Nora’s friends, a waitress at Forbidden City invited her for a visit. In 1939, lured by the goings-on at the Golden Gate International Exposition on San Francisco’s Treasure Island, Nora made it to San Francisco. She saw the show when it was just sprouting, and afterwards was introduced to Charlie Low. She recalls, "He asked me if ever I’d like I could have a job." Her two older brothers wanted her to go to college but could not afford it so, stars in her eyes, Nora left home for good and headed for California in the early 40's, at the ripe old age of twenty.
San Francisco was a hopping spot and the Depression years were fast becoming ancient history. The 'exoticism of Asia' was a feature of the international exposition; to wit, a Bank of America traveler's check advertisement shows a snazzy Western couple having a great time being drawn to the exposition by a stereotypical Asian rickshaw driver. Several hundred thousand people attended the world's fair, drawn like moths to twin flames of foreign culture and new technology.
These world expo’s had all the same excitement that the World Wide Web offered when it first swept the globe. Like the Internet, flesh shows were largely responsible for some of the Fair in Forty’s largest draws. The wildly popular Gayway amusement zone on Treasure Island was jokingly renamed Pleasure Island. The Fair helped San Francisco begin to dwarf even mighty New York’s entertainment offerings. Patrons could photograph artist’s models in a booth sponsored by the television show called 'Candid Camera.' World famous Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch thrilled audiences with women entertaining in cowboy hats, garter belts, boots, and little else. Ms. Rand had been a nightclub cigarette girl when she joined a chorus line at the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress World’s Fair. Arrested for an 'obscene performance,' Ms. Rand and her Fan Dance were catapulted to fame, and six thousand dollars a week during the depression at her nightclub, The Music Box, at 859 O’Farrell Street in San Francisco’s Park Gulch district.
Nora led a much more modest life than the likes of Sally Rand. She started by dancing in the chorus line, but continued to pursue singing. Eventually she sang background music for the bubble dancer, and by the next year she had earned her the spotlight as the principal singer at Forbidden City. Nora reminisced to me: "Lion's Den was a cave-like nightclub, you went downstairs in the basement. Upstairs was the main Chinese restaurant, Kuh Wah. It is still at the same location today."
Indeed, 950 Grant Avenue, the same address as the subterranean Lion's Den, now houses Golden Palace, owned today by Nellie Young, the widow of the founder of Kuh Wah's son Andy Young. It is across the street from Imperial Palace restaurant, a place frequented by Hollywood stars, some swayed by slick advertising featuring the owners’ twin daughters in full Chinese get-up.
When pressed about the social life of a 'Lioness,' Nora relented and said: "Yes there was always 'Johnny on the doorstep' - you say 'no no no' or 'busy busy.' This Chinese fellow Arthur used to pass by the nightclub every day on his way to school and he would know us by the photos posted outside. He is in Hollywood, now, and he would see our pictures on the wall outside. He brought us together around our 50th anniversary."
The 'Arthur' Nora talks about is Oscar-nominated and Sundance Best Director filmmaker Arthur Dong, who made Forbidden City, U.S.A., a documentary about the performers at Charlie Low's club. It premiered at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts on November 15th, 1989, and Mr. Dong writes that: "There's a close up in the film that shows gravy pouring onto fried chicken, then Charlie Low and chorus girls munch away." The reunion and popular film created quite a buzz and can be previewed and purchased through www.deepfocusproductions.com.
Lion's Den was mostly a bar and stairs up with a dining room, Nora remembered. She went on: "There was a small dance floor, a pigeon floor with a pit for three or four fellas who could play music, a small orchestra. I emceed, sang, and danced. There were a few other acts. The patrons could dance on the pigeon floor if they cared. It was intimate, fun, everyone got into the act. There was a Hawaiian guy with knife and fire dance, a gal who did interpretive dances, a bubble dancer."
"As I was ignorant of bubble dancing, I inquired as to its nature and was told a girl was: Sorta naked with a big bubble, like the fan dance." As the MC, Nora announced the acts and sang songs to give time to change the sets. There were three dinner seatings and three shows per evening. Recalling more, she said: "It was a cute show, all in English. Oh, there were lots of people, mixed, a lot of tourists, a lot of Orientals, a mixed group. When asked how the shows compared with vaudeville she said: They were like that but smoother, more nightclubbish."
Through the 1940's and into the 1950's, Nora worked a large club circuit, singing, dancing and MC-ing everywhere from Forbidden City to Kubla Kahn, from Andy Wong's Sky Room to Lion's Den. The Sky Room was, she said: "Chinatown’s Smartest Supper Club, featuring Andy Wong's All Star Chinese Revue. They had special cocktails like Dragon’s Neck, Dragon's Tail, Dragon's Eye, and Dragon's Tooth, all 45 cents. The Sky Room's food offerings were almost exactly like Lion's Den, but they list a startlingly-named imported liqueur, called Angel's Tits."
"Forbidden City was the plushest. The biggest. It easily accommodated an eight- to ten-piece orchestra, performance space for a complete troupe of entertainers, and a large dance floor for the patrons. They offered iKwa Law Op (Pekin Duck) with one day’s notice required, and served sweet and sour spareribs with mixed pickles. The food shared the spotlight with singers, chorus lines, dance teams, even a husband and wife and their children from China, accomplished acrobats." They were, Nora said: "Very good--did the same things you see Chinese acrobats do today. There were no dangerous animals because there was no room, but there was plenty of wildness, some of it documented by photographers who snapped and sold pictures of celebrants at the clubs." One of the best is a 1942 beaut of actor and president-to-be Ronald Reagan, with stunning Jane Wyman at his side. Nora recalled more: "Shanghai Low is still there I think, off the ground floor, another real Chinese nightclub. I emceed and sang also in the mod Andy Wong’s Sky room. You had to take an elevator, ninth or tenth floor--same thing there."
She reported that: "There was no racism, no 'ching chong Charlie,' no gangs, nothing illegal," but I wonder if she is not putting up a brave front. The food was good but the entertainers were on their own for meals, and nothing was free. They had a contract and it was very, very businesslike. Like the others, Nora had to join the Actor's Guild and pay monthly dues, and she complained: "Of course they did not do anything for you, a big gyp, but you had to do it. The bosses were very strict but the pay was good. It had to be," she said, "They were the only ones doing it so it was a novelty."
Once she and some of the other performers were invited to appear at the China Doll, a similar restaurant/nightclub on Broadway in New York City. A group from San Francisco went but Nora opted out. Later on, Nora worked at Kubla Khan, which she described as: "A huge place on the gateway of Chinatown, still there, a two-story building. I was billed as a Latin-American-Chinese-Vocalist." As she's purely Chinese-American, we joked that they must have thought her birth in Arizona qualified as Latin. She did sing some songs in Spanish, like Besame Mucho. "It's still there and was beautiful," she whispered to me. As Nora puts it: "The Lion’s Den club featured mostly hard drinks and hors d’oeuvres." Drinking there must have been the bee's knees. There is more booze listed than any other item on the menu.
The most expensive cocktail was a French 75, at $1.05. Other highballs and lowballs carried hefty monikers like Millionaires, Pink Garter, Pink Lady, even a Ward Eight. Discerning drinkers of the time knew the difference between the terms cocktail and mixed drink. There was Chartreuse in Yellow and Green, Goldwasser with flecks of real gold floating in the bottle, Gilka Kummel, and lots of cognacs like Courvoisier, Hennessy, and Martell but no Remy Martin. There were two Chinese liqueurs listed, Mui Kwe Lu and Ng Gar Pai, a powerful drank made from pure herbs. Most expensive of the libations is imported Gordon Rouge champagne at sixteen dollars a bottle, while domestic Korbel Sec is only $6, almost the same price it is today at the liquor store. Suds lovers could choose amongst Local and Eastern Beers for forty cents and Basses Ale, and Guinness Stout for fifty cents. Pairing wines with food apparently was not part of the vocabulary of the day and the listing for the fruit of the vine simply states: 'All Import Wines 50 cents; All Domestic Wines 40 cents;' no further descriptions. There was only one vodka and one tequila but huge categories of Scotch, Rye, Bourbon, Irish Whiskies, and Rums.
The Lion's Den's most fanciful cocktails include the Ward Eight, French 76, and Picon Punch, a drink now nearly synonymous with San Francisco. There are detailed descriptions on a fine website: www.hotwired.lycos.com/cocktail so search this scholarly resource about the pleasures of imbibing. Descriptions there capture the import which was generally afforded mixologists during the heavy-drinking mid 20th century. It seems that great bartenders were able to recommend particular cocktails for particular worries with the same goals in mind as a Chinese chef cooking, as is customary, with the wellness of the diner foremost in mind.
Nora concluded our interview with: "The people who knew more about the Lion's Den have all passed. And I have no one to ask now for any help on these things." I wonder if she knows that the New York Times' dining section on January 23, 2002 featured a colorful story on club dining across The City, citing the popularity of boîtes like BB Kings and Joe's Pub. It could have mentioned Lucky Cheng’s, where transvestite servers present 'pan-Asian' food in purposely tacky settings. There is also a popular nightclub in New York today called Lion's Den, also below street level, but their only live entertainer is a disc jockey and they do not serve food. Sadly, there seems to be no current successor to the 1940's Chinese-American restaurant-nightclubs like Lion's Den.
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