Chinatown Dining Week invites diners to try something tasty

Restaurant owners in Chinatown hope a volunteer-run dining week will lead to more customers after a slow year.

‘For the last year it’s been really slow in the downtown area,’ says noodle house owner

Diners eating at a restaurant in Edmonton's Chinatown. Chinatown Dining Week runs from Jan. 20-28. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Chinatown restaurant owners are hoping a volunteer-run dining week could lead to more customers and an end to a slow year.

Five restaurants in the area just east of downtown are participating in Chinatown Dining Week, offering $15 fixed menu specials from Jan. 20 to 28.

At Cui Hua Gui Lin Noodle House in the heart of Chinatown, Tony Young makes noodle dishes of Gui Lin style from southern China. He says his is the only restaurant in the city specializing in that style.

When he moved to Edmonton from Toronto three years ago and opened up in Chinatown, business was good.  But more recently he has noticed fewer people coming to dine at the area's restaurants.

"Before last year we were doing OK, but for the last year it's been really slow in the downtown area," said Young. "Hopefully for the coming year it will be much better."

Beef brisket soup from Cui Hua Gui Lin Noodle House. The restaurant's owner has noticed fewer diners coming to his restaurant over the past year. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Across the street at Taipan Café, a restaurant that has been cooking up Chinese classics for close to 30 years, the manager has noticed a similar trend.

"We used to be busy two or three years ago, like it was packed at night time," Gabriel Ho said. "We used to be open until 4 o'clock in the morning."

Viphalay Laos and Thai Restaurant might be an outlier as business is still pretty good. But owner Lily Mounma has noticed an increase in delivery and take-out orders.

"By the end of last year it was 30 per cent of our sales," Mounma said. "So you do notice a lot of people dining in less and taking out more. I guess you just have be accommodating to that."

Mounma hopes dining week will bring in more diners. People who eat in the area's restaurants are more likely to explore the bakeries and grocery stores, Mounma said.

"I think it's just a way to remind people what restaurants are here," she said. "To bring people into the community to realize that there's actually so much potential."

Alex Ngai manages Asian Hot Pot Express, one of five restaurants participating in Chinatown Dining Week. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Young and other restaurant owners who have seen fewer customers stop in for food think more Asian restaurants have been popping up in suburban neighbourhoods, allowing potential customers to stay closer to home instead of venturing to Chinatown.

But Young is hoping the dining week will remind customers to return to Chinatown, and encourage first-timers to give it a shot.

"Hopefully if my business keeps going, like getting better, I will stay here for the rest of my life," he said.

A taste of the restaurants

Chinatown Dining Week: Hot Pot


4 years ago
Asian Express Hot Pot offers diners plenty of foods to drop in hot soup broth. 0:34

Chinatown Dining Week : Gui Lin Style


4 years ago
Cui Hua Gui Lin Noodle House features regional dishes from southern China. 0:43

Chinatown Dining Week: Pho


4 years ago
King Noodle House Pho Hoang keeps the menu simple with pho. 0:37

Chinatown Dining Week: Thai


4 years ago
Viphalay Laos and Thai Restaurant cooks up dishes from the recipe books of the owner's mother. 0:33

Chinatown Dining Week: Chinese


4 years ago
After nearly three decades and multiple owners, the cooks at Taipan Cafe continue to make the same Chinese dishes. 0:35




Travis McEwan


Travis McEwan is an award-winning video journalist. Originally from Churchill, Man., he's spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca