A few weeks ago I was driving past Cedar Center. The whole north side is closed now, for a new development that is probably being postponed due to the economy. It looked very sad and desolate. At the end of the center was a now-closed China Gate and seeing that brought back a lot of memories.
I remember going there as a kid with my family. We didn't eat out much, and it was always a treat to go there. I especially remember the serving pieces - stainless steel pieces with a dome lid. All the food would arrive with lidded platters and the waiter would remove the lids with a flourish. And that was exciting. The anticipation of the wonderful flavors that we would soon be tasting - subgum chow mein, fried rice, tiny spare ribs, eggrolls...
As you entered the restaurant, you were greeted by a sign that said "Good Lunch! Wonderful Dinner!" Which made me smile. And the same smiling oriental man would greet you each time you came. Thinking back now - well I think he was a man who didn't age cause I went there for a span of 40 years!
As I grew up and got my own place, I would continue to go to China Gate with friends. By this time, there were newer, more trendy chinese restaurants around, and China Gate was starting to get a reputation as being dirty. But I loved it. The food was consistently good and I didn't see any dirt. It was like home - things didn't change much and the food was consistent.
I remember one night when I was living on my own and several of us were getting together to go to China Gate. Everyone was at my place and we were ready to leave. The phone rang, and it was my old boyfriend Larry. Larry and I were together for about 4 years, in Toronto. I moved back to Cleveland, and we continued to drive to each other's places for weekend visits. I think both of us knew this was not a relationship that was destined for marriage, but - well kind of like China Gate - it was old and comfortable. One day Larry called me and asked if I would move to Calgary with him. He was working for Arthur Andersen and he was being transferred there, and I said no. I was not ready to make that big step. But I figured we'd continue to be involved, even though we were seeing each other less and less. So that night, as we were on our way out the door to go to China Gate, I took the call and told the others to go ahead without me and I would meet them there. They left, and I sat down for a conversation with Larry. I asked what he was up to, and he told me he was married. Married! This was totally unexpected! So we talked for a little bit and said goodbye and I sat there with this big lump in my throat. All I really wanted to do was go to bed and let myself be depressed. But I had friends waiting for me at China Gate! So I forced myself out the door, and someone asked how Larry was and I had to tell them he was married.
I can laugh about it now; it wasn't so funny then. I think that may have been my last trip to China Gate. Occasionally my parents would have us over for dinner and they would pick up food from China Gate, but then we started getting food from other chinese restaurants.
But when I drive by and see the empty green restaurant, it will always be full of memories for me.