Friday, June 5, 2009

Eggrolls and Egg Foo Young

For this week's Postcard Friendship Friday I am recycling something I wrote about last summer. I hope you newcomers enjoy reading about a favorite restaurant and those who have read it before, I hope you will forgive me for not offering something new.


If polled, I think my siblings and cousins would vote just like me on at least one issue...which restaurant would you consider your family's favorite while growing up. I imagine we would all answer at once without a second thought. Joy Young's, we would smile and shout in unison.

As a child I remember going there for many Sunday dinners. Once, the whole family celebrated granddaddy's birthday there, maybe his seventieth. It seems like we always ordered Chop Suey Chow Mein or Egg Foo Young. Thinking about that food has the power to make my mouth water still. Their eggrolls were the best I have ever eaten. One or two local restaurants have come close since, but no one has ever made them better.

Joy Young Restaurant was a downtown Birmingham institution beginning in 1919 and remaining there until it moved to another location sometime after 1973. I actually found a website dedicated to this culinary favorite. The site states the move happened sometime in the 60s, but I know for sure this is not true. How do I know? Because the downtown location was the site of my engagement and that was in 1973. We sat in a booth on the mezzanine. It was behind those brown curtains that he proposed to me. You can see the booths on the postcards. Look for the brown box looking things.

As I typed my memory of that engagement night, suddenly I pictured another family meal there. This one was on an Easter in 1978. Somewhere there is a picture of me and the boys at the table. I also remember taking my oldest son there when he was small enough to sit in a highchair. He probably wasn't much older than 1 yr. We gave him rice to feed himself. He made such a huge mess on the floor that we left the waiter a huge tip.

My boys, Easter 1978

Speaking of waiters, they had all been there for years and years. They wore red suits with big lapels (think bell hop in a luxury hotel) and their right arms draped with a white linen towel. The waiters were black men, no women, no Chinese, but the woman who sat in the box between the in and out doors at the front and took your money was Chinese. I remember she always wore her hair in a bun.

See the box thing by the window, the Chinese cashier
with a bun sat there and surveyed her domain.

Funny, the more I think about the restaurant the tinier the details I remember.

My ex husband had NEVER eaten Chinese food until I took him there when we were dating. He was so deprived. I felt it was my duty to introduce him to the good things in life.

When the restaurant moved, after 1978 it seems, we followed it. When I had my last son in 1984, my husband picked up egg rolls and brought them up to the hospital room. ( the new location was nearby) We continued to dine here with the family until it made it's final move.

So sad that good things don't stay the same forever. All that is left are the good memories and a few postcards.

The caption on the back of this 1930s circa postcard reads "Ole China wiseyman say: No can stand one foot on top two boat. Me, Joe and Loo sabe wiseyman wely good. Allo time take care me business lestland. No tly take notha man business. LOOK out good behind, take care, buy numba one good wegabel, meat any kind, take care cook, waita, dishwashy, no can foolem customa sasify, get plenty good flen." (the owner's American last name was Joe)

My, my, how times have changed.


  1. Fun post, Stevie! Joy Young's has quite a history!! My family loves Chinese, too, and we enjoyed many Sunday after church dinners at our favorite place.

  2. My husband and I had a Chinese restaurant that we went to all the time before we were married, The China Pearl. We spent many a Saturday night there!
    As a family we got take out almost every Friday night from a local restraunt, The Mai Tai. We ordered the same thing almost every time.
    You have made me remember some very happy times.

  3. A happy, memorable spot for my family too! We had many a family gathering there and just as many Sunday lunches.

    I love the postcards!

  4. I really enjoyed this post! Thank you! When I was 19ish and working at Michigan Bell near downtown Detroit (Right across the street from Motown!) my co-workers and I frequently lunched at a Chinese restaurant. Like yours, it had been there forever, and the food was wonderful. The owner, a very pretty Chinese lady, would not give us our bills until our plates were empty or very close to it. Couldn't get away from Mom even at lunch! We sat there and pushed our food around on our plates to make them look as empty as possible.

  5. When my wife and I first got married, I informed her that I didn't like Chinese food. She asked me if I had ever ate it, and I said, "" We went out shortly after that for Chinese and I have loved it every since. What is great about Chinese is that you can eat it until you need wheel chair service from over eating, then, a couple of hours later, you're hungry again! Nice post!

  6. Stevie, stop by my blog for a minute. I have a Blog in Bloom award just for you! Love your posts!

  7. Willow, Sunday Chinese is a tradition for everyone isn't it?

    Denise, I really like both of the names of your restaurants. There is one here named The Black Pearl.

    Modgirl, which location do you remember eating at? I am still puzzling over the date the downtown location closed...hmmm, it was when the Tutweiler was remodeled...must look that up. Glad to know others loved it too.

    Museswings, I am on my way over to your place. Thanks for the compliment. That makes my day! BTW, Your Chinese lady reminds me of another restaurant here where we affectionately call the cashier, the Chinese food Nazi. She is very bossy!!!

    Strider, you sound like my ex. He was sure he would hate it. Proved you both wrong huh?

  8. I love this post! What great memories. Your boys were adorable. I'm glad you have such good memories. The food must have been yummy to still make your mouth water. It looked like a very fancy restaurant to me. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful place!

  9. I had Chinese take out food last night! It was my Mom's 86 birthday and although we had a big family party for her a week ago I wanted to have her over for the real day, and Chinese is her favorite treat food. When we were growing up all we ever had was wonton soup, shrimp chow mien and white rice!

    Thank goodness things have changed in many ways.

    Stevie are you anywhere near Meridian, Miss? You should look at the blog "A Picture is Worth a 1,000 Words" on my blogroll. Diane is a retired elementary teacher, and a lot of fun, and her post today is about a really nice art museum there that I think you'd like.

  10. sigh. Yes, as we passed a place last weekend, where we used to go all the time and discoverd that it is now gone. Times do change. kinda sad to me. Course I know they can't stay the same, but still. Looks like it was a wonderful place, and I'm glad you have such fond memories.

  11. Oh yum! It's 7:40 am and you have me drooling for Chinese food. There are so many large chains of various Chinese restaurants around today, and most are pretty good, but none seem to have that flavour of the 60's/70's that seemed to accompany a small, independent establishment. I miss that. Fun post, Steviewren!

  12. I'm glad you found the Bhamwiki article helpful. "New Joy Young's" did open in the 1960s, but the original seems to have survived until the 1980s (though I still haven't found any references to when that was). I've tried to amend the confusion:

    Bhamwiki:Joy Young Restaurant

  13. Thanks for stopping by Rock Candy.
    Enjoyed reading the history of JY and happy family memories.


  14. What a wonderful post, enjoyed it alot. Happy PFF!

  15. Nice post and postcards. Caption is great too. I loved picking up free postcards from restaurants when I was young. I have bought some from older restaurants I remember too.

  16. Fabulous memories ... now I am craving Chinese food! Seriously. I am impressed with the American Chinese Restaurant sign .. an honest sign. Here every Chinese restaurant poses as true Chinese food .. not so, I know someone whose parents owned one of those and she told me NONE of the restaurants here in NYC serve truly true Chinese food ... she said Americans wouldnt eat true Chinese dishes ..

    Ah I see you are a Burn Notice fan, so is Husband!

  17. A fascinating post! I love Chinese food, but we've never stayed in one place long enough for me to start up a relationship with one restaurant. :)

  18. Ahhh! He proposed to you in the restaurant and brought you egg rolls after the birth of your bambino! What a guy... well.. except that he's you're ex and a big stinker. Why can't men stay nice! I could eat Chinese food everyday! My best friend in high school had to work at her parents Chinese restaurant Friday nights and over the weekend sooo the only way we could see each other and hang out was if I worked there too! I have the fondest memories of learning how to cook in the back with her father... I learned a bit of Mandarin too and felt like part of the family:) Happy PFF my dear!

  19. Wonderful postcards. Wow! The coloring in them is just beautiful. Happy PFF!

  20. What a great post with such good memories. Thanks for sharing these with us. Happy PFF.

  21. Stevie, this was a wonderful deja vu post! Now I want Chinese food for supper instrad of the roast chicken I am

  22. Awesome memories evoked...
    Thanks so much.

  23. What a great story. A very great story. :) Thanks for sharing it.

  24. I loved this the first time and this time. So cute. BTW, my daughter and I love Burn Notice. Did you watch Royal Pain right after it? We loved it too. Very clever.

  25. Thanks for bringing me here again! The food's great and a nice romantic history

  26. what a delightful story!! you are blessed to have such memories of your family.

  27. what a fun chinese place to eat! and the writing on the back of that vintage postcard is hilarious!

  28. Well thanks for that trip down Memory Lane. I always ordered the child's fried chicken at Joy Young's ! I swear!!! We were big on Britlings. I always got the meat patty with the pickle on top and custard pie. I'm hungry!!

  29. Wonderful story, fabulous postcards!!! Woohoo! Happy PFF!

  30. I love Joy Young...I have found the closest thing to it in Birmingham is Chop Suey Inn...It's located in Homewood....813 Greensprings Hwy.

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