Won Kow, oldest Chinatown restaurant, closes after 90 years

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Won Kow first opened on South Wentworth Avenue in 1928, but has closed after 90 years. (WLS)

Won Kow, the oldest restaurant in Chicago's Chinatown, has closed permanently.

On Tuesday, the tables were still set and the bar stocked, but the restaurant shuttered on Thursday after 90 years..

"I think our motivation is just that we've done it long enough and it's time to take a break," said David Hoy, the restaurant owner's nephew.

Won Kow first opened on South Wentworth Avenue in 1928. Hoy's family has owned the restaurant since 1991.

Hoy's 90-year old uncle, Peter Huey, who worked at the restaurant seven days a week, seeing to every detail.

"I think it's a lot more work and a lot more difficult than people see on the surface," he said.

Also difficult, Hoy said, was his uncle's decision to retire, knowing there was no one to take over for him.

"If it's a business or a marriage or whatever, the more time you put in, the more difficult it is to let it go," Hoy said.

The restaurant became instantly popular when it opened. Rumors that a notable gangster Al Capone used to frequent the restaurant were confirmed by a former patron.

"He said he used to wait on tables here in the 1930s and he said that Al Capone used to come and sat in the corner over there and his body guards would stand outside the door," Hoy said.

Won Kow's closing is disappointing to people in the community.

"They have definitely set their standard for Chinatown being the longest operating business and we are sad to see them go," said Simon Leung, of Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

"That is one of the harder things to let go of in the restaurant is all the loyal customers that we've built up over the years," Leung said.

Hoy said there's a possibility Won Kow could reopen under new management, but at this point, it will remain closed.
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