When I was a kid, I remember driving down Route 1, heading to my Grandparents’ house in Ipswich, MA, and passing by a building that looked a lot like a fortress complete with a giant neon sign. I asked my Dad what it was, and he said, “Oh, that’s just Kowloon. It’s a Chinese restaurant.” I didn’t think of it again until I had moved back to the Boston area for college about a decade later. I was making plans with some friends, and they suggested that we head out to Kowloon as they had great Scorpion bowls. Of course, being a poor college student, I jumped at the opportunity for a cheap way to get drunk. So that began our semi-weekly tradition of heading up to Kowloon for Scorpion bowls, sushi, and pad thai.
Kowloon originally opened on August 22, 1950, as the Mandarin House Restaurant in Saugus, MA. Madeline and William Wong purchased it in 1958 and changed the name to Kowloon Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge. They began to expand on the original building, and by 2008, the restaurant could accommodate 1,200 people. The menu expanded with the construction, and they began to serve Polynesian, Szechuan, Thai, Japanese, and Sushi. A comedy club was added to the building. Many famous comedians have performed there, including; Jerry Seinfeld, Dane Cook, Tracy Morgan, Phyllis Diller, Jackie Mason, Robert Schimmel, and Kathy Griffin.
The restaurant is allegedly the highest-grossing Chinese restaurant in the United States, making over $8 million a year. The third generation of the Wong family currently runs the business. During COVID-19, the indoor dining room was closed, but they expanded their takeout business, added outdoor seating and a drive-in movie theater. However, in 2021 the Wong family announced that the next generation would not take over for them. Instead, they presented a redevelopment proposal to the Saugus Planning Board. The property would be redeveloped into multiple residential lots with room for a smaller version of the restaurant on the site. The Wongs expect Kowloon to close in the next 2-3 years to be replaced with this new series of buildings.
The closure announcement created howls of protests from across the greater Boston area.The story was covered in national publications like the Wall Street Journal.Those shrill naysayers cannot contradict the golden rule:Those with the gold make the rules!In this case the Wong family will be calling the shots.
UPDATE from Matt Lambros FEB 2024:
According to Boston.com, the Wong family is reducing its seating capacity to 350 seats, a significant decrease from its current 1,200 seats. The family intends to construct two new residential buildings on the premises. While construction is expected to commence in about two years and several permits are still pending, Kowloon will continue to operate. Eventually, the existing restaurant structure will be demolished to make room for a 20,000-square-foot space with apartments on the upper floors. They expect that the new restaurant will keep some of the same décor, but it will be updated in a more modern style.
In 2023, Kowloon experienced some controversial events. It temporarily closed for the first time to host a wedding, and an altercation during a drunken fight resulted in a stabbing the night before Thanksgiving.
Matt Lambros MA Saugus Sep 03, 2021 Food History Signs
Location: Saugus, Massachusetts
Matt Lambros Sep 03, 2021
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