China Backyard is Houston’s oldest Chinese language restaurant


Houston Rockets followers take pleasure in dinner earlier than the sport at China Backyard Restaurant in 2018.

Dave Rossman/Freelance

Within the age of DoorDashing and Favoring in meals, getting your palms on nice Chinese language meals has by no means been simpler. However with a view to get a diffusion from Houston’s oldest Chinese language restaurant, and arguably top-of-the-line within the metropolis, you may want to move to China Backyard downtown.
The family-owned restaurant dates again to 1969, when husband-and-wife workforce David and Marian Jue initially opened it as retailer known as Chinese language Meals Merchandise—a useful resource they thought can be helpful for the rising East Asian neighborhood in Houston. After solely a 12 months, they transitioned the enterprise right into a full-service restaurant named China Backyard.

China Garden is recognizable from its large red lettering.

China Backyard is recognizable from its massive crimson lettering.

Dave Rossman/Freelance

David had some earlier expertise in hospitality after opening two Chinese language eating places in Bossier Metropolis, La., between 1956 and 1962, and the Beachcomber nightclub in Shreveport in 1964. The couple hoped to seek out success doing the identical once they moved to Houston in 1968. China Backyard initially opened simply north of downtown, at 1119 Jackson Avenue, in a former paint retailer. It moved 10 years later to 1602 Leeland Avenue, the place it presently stands immediately.
An early point out within the Houston Chronicle in 1971 introduced China Backyard as a brand new restaurant making its debut serving Chinese language-American meals for lunch and dinner, seven days every week. A follow-up story revealed in January 1974, forward of the Chinese language New 12 months, prominently featured a recipe for beef and broccoli, with an accompanying photograph of David in chef’s garb slicing beef with a Chinese language cleaver. The identical story hinted at how the China Backyard workforce took satisfaction in creating dishes utilizing high quality components, noting that the “distinctive beef and asparagus was solely accessible throughout recent asparagus season.”

David Jue of China Garden features in a 1974 food feature in the Houston Chronicle.

David Jue of China Backyard options in a 1974 meals function within the Houston Chronicle.

Houston Chronicle archives

Within the following years, the restaurant grew to become a fixture amongst Houston’s quickly altering eating scene. Guests got here from close to and much to pattern conventional dishes like scorching and bitter soup, massive housemade crispy egg rolls, pork spareribs, fried wontons, Mongolian beef, and recent complete Mandarin fish. When the Toyota Heart was constructed downtown within the early 2000s, the restaurant’s shut proximity to the stadium made it a watering gap for recreation day patrons, concert-goers and out-of-towners.

The China Garden Restaurant has been on Leeland Street since 1979.

The China Backyard Restaurant has been on Leeland Avenue since 1979.

Dave Rossman/Freelance

For nearly 40 years, David and Marian operated their restaurant collectively. In 2007, David handed away at 73 years previous, and simply final 12 months, Marian, lovingly referred to by company as “Mama” Jue, died from problems brought on by COVD-19 on the age of 80. Now below the watchful eye of their youngsters, siblings Carol Jue Churchill and Richard Jue, China Backyard continues to function with the heat of household in thoughts.

China Garden is decorated with ornaments like the "lucky cat."

China Backyard is embellished with ornaments just like the “fortunate cat.”

Dave Rossman/Freelance

An orange tree that Marian planted years in the past in entrance of the restaurant was instantly chopped down by town mere months after her dying in 2021. The symbolism of its absence will not be misplaced on Jue Churchill, however she insists her mom is honored every day by way of the restaurant.

Copycat China Gardens could have popped up in Houston and past since, however the authentic stays at its everlasting house on Leeland Avenue. The recognizable constructing, merely labeled “China Backyard Restaurant” in eye-catching crimson letters, appears frozen in time. Its massive eating room, embellished with conventional Chinese language artwork, household pictures and classic menus, is commonly buzzing with exercise and energetic dialog, whereas nostalgic eats like these jumbo housemade egg rolls nonetheless impress diners.

China Backyard

Discover it: 1602 Leeland St, Houston, TX 77003; (713) 652-0745
Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday, 3-9 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 3-9 p.m.


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