A reader alerts me to another reader’s great dismay in this Holiday Season, as the news of the closure of an Ottawa institution is spreading amongst his circle – and as friends go on suicide-watch:
I just learned some truly crushing news which has effectively ruined the holidays for me (particularly our family new year’s tradition).
I see no reason your holidays should be spared ….
After 64 years — the last egg roll
My stomach doesn’t know why I live in this town any more.
There you have it, dear Wafflers. Cathay is no longer, having closed yesterday after 64 years of pleasing generations of palates.
Opened in 1946, the Year of the Dog, this Canadian-Chinese restaurant was always busy for lunch, especially upstairs, where the all-you-can-eat buffet was attracting blue and white collar workers alike, politicians of all trades, children and seniors. Downstairs, where you ordered à-la-carte, the food was better, but the crowd thinner. In many ways.
I have got to admit that I never quite understood the fascination with this place originally known as The Cathay Chop Suey Palace – the food was simple, honest, but wasn’t the finest one could get. Over the years, I have been there on many work lunches with journalists and bureaucrats. I was once summoned there by a Chief of Staff. And, of course, numerous Goodbye Lunches to soon to be ex-colleagues – in fact, the last time I was at Cathay was to celebrate Alan’s departure in June.
No longer will we gather on this Albert street establishment.
Unless the new tenant, who will apparently open an Asian-fusion restaurant, can recreate the magic of Cathay.
For now, Goodbye Spareribs. Goodbye, General Tao. Goodbye, Chowmein. Goodbye, Dumplings. Goodbye, Chicken Wings. Goodbye, Eggrolls. Goodbye, Cathay.
Cathay was so instantly familiar. From the giant green and gold facade to the block printing signs directing you upstairs. Comforting. It could have been anywhere in Northern Ontario, downtown Toronto or Montreal. It was all convenience and no pretense (particulalry upstairs with its stackable metal frame chairs, the faux wood paneling, and the curious triangular exit sign in the north east corner (as well as the gold and red frilled “Merry Christmas” banner at the holidays). It was straight out of a time capsule.
The food wasn’t at all fancy or pretentious either, but it was what kept you coming back. Served in giant steamtrays under heat lamps, it had been the same way since the first time I ventured there in the mid ’90s and it was easy to imagine it had been the same way for decades (one could also imagine cabinet ministers, MPs and civil servants dining there when Prime Minsters were Diefenbaker, Pearson and Trudeau).
I am still crushed by this news. It all happened so fast. There was no warning at all. It’s difficult to put yourself in another’s shoes, but I presume this is what it feels like to become an orphan.
So long, Cathay.
No more white boy Chinese. Tania will be pleased.
The best dumplings in town.
Calinda how can you be so harsh on Christmas Eve?
Tania is indeed pleased…although concerned about how the white boy from the Sault will cope!