Montana August 02, 2016
The Oldest Restaurant In Montana Has A Truly Incredible History
What kind of food do you think the oldest restaurant in Montana might serve? Your answer is probably not Chinese, but the Pekin Noodle Parlor in Butte happens to hold the title of the longest-running family restaurant in the state. There is some debate about when it actually opened—most say 1909, but some say it originally opened around 1880. It’s still going strong today.
Butte was actually home to one of the largest Chinese populations in the West during the mining boom of the late 1800s. Unfortunately they weren’t always welcomed warmly, so they built tunnels under much of the town to sneak from business to business. Rumor has it that the tunnels were used for some nefarious purposes as well, like drug-running and kidnapping (most claim those rumors are untrue). That being said, the people of Butte were more welcoming to the Chinese than those in other parts of the West.
When the Pekin Noodle Parlor opened, noodle parlors were very common in urban Chinese communities. Since it was in such close proximity to Butte’s old red light district, there were rumors about illicit activity there. In fact, some online reviews still label it a former brothel because of its 17 curtained booths. But those booths were a common fixture in Asian restaurants across the West to offer diners privacy. A casino did operate in the basement of the Pekin Noodle parlor from the 1910s to the 1950s, but it was never a brothel.
Hum Yow and his wife Bessie Wong, both California-born first generation Chinese, raised three children in the building’s family living quarters. They sometimes hosted immigrant lodgers as well. The current owner is Danny Wong, who has worked at the Pekin since he came to the United States in 1947 at the age of 13. He is the great nephew of Hum Yow, the original owner. So the Pekin has been family owned and operated for over 100 years.
Famous Butte local Evel Knievel loved the Pekin Noodle Parlor. He used to bring his family in for meals on a regular basis, and he even took Danny Wong to his place in Las Vegas. When Evel Knievel died in 2007, family and friends gathered at the Pekin to celebrate his life.
In a town like Butte where not much changes, it’s wonderful to see the Pekin Noodle Parlor still standing. It’s one of the last relics of a bygone era, and it sounds like the owners plan to keep it running as long as possible.
The Pekin Noodle Parlor is Montana’s original “Mom & Pop” restaurant. Here are some
other Montana restaurants that serve some delicious home-cooking.