Sing High Chop Suey House Closes After 90 Years Of Operation

Published: Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 4:59pm
Updated: Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 5:08pm
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Bridget Dowd/ KJZZ
One of the oldest restaurants in downtown Phoenix closed its doors for the last time Sunday. The Sing High Chop Suey House had been serving its customers for 90 years.

One of the oldest restaurants in downtown Phoenix closed its doors for the last time Sunday. The Sing High Chop Suey House had been serving its customers for 90 years.

Loyal customers of Sing High stood outside for as long as two hours. They wanted to eat their favorite dishes and say their goodbyes to what was a family tradition for some.

Vivian Romero has been coming to the restaurant with her family for at least 20 years. She said when she heard it was closing; she had to make sure her family had lunch there one last time.

“See, I’m gonna cry,” Romero said. “I look at my mom. This is a family tradition to come here and eat, and it’s family for us. It’s sad that they’re closing, because this is a good meet-up spot since we all have our own homes, our lives and we can come here and enjoy it.”

Romero said they tried to eat at Sing High on Saturday, but the restaurant ran out of food before they got there. So, she sent her sister to wait in line early Sunday morning.

“She was our scout. She came in [Sunday] morning at ten o’clock, stayed in line, she was the fourth customer and then we came in a little bit later. I brought my mother and then my younger sister came in after that and we were very fortunate to be the fourth ones seated.”

Third-generation owner Harlan Lee said his grandfather, Fred, opened the restaurant at a different location in 1928. Fred came to Arizona from China and hired a sign painter who was also an immigrant.

“He originally wanted the restaurant to be named The Shanghai, but since neither of them really knew how to spell that, they just phonetically spelled it out and it turned into Sing High,” Lee said. “It wasn’t until a couple years later that somebody said that’s not the way you spell Shanghai.”

Lee said when people heard the restaurant was closing a few weeks ago, they started writing memories and well wishes on the walls.

“One person without any permission just simply wrote something on there, and the next thing you know, it’s in every dining room now,” Lee said. “One of the humorous ones that I read was, it said, ‘I found out I was pregnant here.’”

One of the restaurant’s dining rooms was gated off on Sunday. It was filled with memorabilia from Sing High’s many years of operation in Phoenix.

“You see pictures of [former Governor] Rose Mofford and her family here and we’d been friends until her passing for decades,” Lee said. “And a lot of these are family pictures; you know my grandfather and obviously some pictures at the old Sing High.”

Lee started washing dishes in the restaurant when he was about 6 years old. He’s been officially running the joint for 43 years.

“I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done,” Lee said. “The people of Phoenix are great, and if there’s any regret, it’s that I won’t be able to serve the people.”

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