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Ming's not closing yet; California Ave. thrift shop shutting

Ming's not closing yet

Palo Alto's oldest and largest Chinese restaurant, the venerable Ming's Restaurant, at 1700 Embarcadero Road, was supposed to serve its final meal on March 15, but now, nearly two weeks later, the restaurant is still open and its closing date is somewhat uncertain.

"We thought a particular group was coming through with financing for our project, but that fell through. We're currently looking at a new offer, and it looks like we may now close in June," Ming's owner Vicky Ching, said.

But the overall plan, which was announced by Ming's last year and called for the demolition of the 10,000-square-foot restaurant, remains intact for an extended-stay hotel, according to Ching.

Staybridge Suites, a part of the InterContinental Hotel Group, is still on board to build a four-story, 174-room hotel.

A substantially smaller Chinese restaurant -- with seating for about 150 diners, compared to the current 500 seats -- will also be built and will become the new Ming's. Ching is optimistic that the new financing plan and the subsequent demolition of Ming's will take place this summer.

In anticipation of that, Ching is planning to hold an auction in her restaurant to sell the furniture and memorabilia that she has acquired, including the restaurant's centerpiece -- a 45-foot, wraparound wooden bar that greets customers as they enter the front lobby.

"It's a vintage, one-of-a-kind piece that was imported from Hong Kong," Ching said.

The orange tiles from the roof of Ming's, which were imported from Japan in 1988, are already spoken for, according to Ching, who has agreed to donate them to a Buddhist temple in Ukiah.

"But almost everything else will be for sale," she said. The auction is tentatively scheduled for early June. "Following the teardown, we're estimating it will take two years to build the new hotel," Ching said.

In the meantime, she wants to honor her customers by offering special events each month until the restaurant closes. "In a way, I'm happy our final closing has been delayed. It will give me more time to organize these events," she said, which includes an old-fashioned Tea Dance.

"We'll have live entertainment and an extensive buffet. We'll bring out the dance floor and the band will play music from the '50s and '60s because that's the era when Ming's first started. We wanted to revive this old tradition. It will be a genteel, nostalgic kind of event," she said.

Also on tap is a Chinese Tea Ceremony, complete with a professional tea master, who will perform the elaborate ritual of preparation and presentation of a variety of exotic teas to sample.

Another event Ching is planning is a "Dim Sum and Jazz" brunch with a live band. "I'm doing all this because I want to thank my customers and give them a memorable final farewell," she said.

California Ave. thrift shop closing

It's the end of an era for the Bargain Box, the small resale shop at 341 S. California Ave., which is an arm of the Children's Health Council.

The store, which was run by volunteers and donated all of its proceeds to CHC, will close in late August. The building it occupies was recently sold and is expected to undergo a complete renovation.

"We're going to miss it. It's been a part of our history," said CHC marketing manager Micaelia Randolph. Although Randolph would not reveal what percentage of CHC's funding comes from the Bargain Box, she said: "We should be okay. The agency (CHC) is doing well. We'll be able to make up the difference with other internal events and activities."

But she acknowledged the sentimental value of the shop. "We've had amazing support throughout the years from our volunteers who run the store," she said.

Heard a rumor about your favorite store or business moving out, or in, down the block or across town? Daryl Savage will check it out. Email shoptalk@paweekly.com.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 30, 2014 at 9:36 am

Didn't even realize Mings was supposed to close march 15th. went there two times in the last week. Didn't notice a change.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Burn In Hell
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 30, 2014 at 10:44 am

Good riddance, Ming's.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bargain Box, love it
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 30, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Bargain Box is a pleasant, well-ordered store, with nice merchandise. I shop there whenever I'm near California Ave.
Sad, sad to see so many great institutions go the way of developer ambition for more money. There ought to be a law...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by UnwelcomeChange
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Oh how sad! We always liked Mings. The food and service were always consistently good. Most of all, we like the location. It is an ideal spot for meeting up with colleagues and friends. We often end up at Mings because its easy to find, has good parking, and is close to 101.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chinese food fan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 31, 2014 at 7:23 am

Love Chinese food, but Mings... NO! I've never eaten such uninspired food.... makes me miss Windy's all the more!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2014 at 9:53 am

We enjoyed Ming's dim sum, especially on weekend mornings when they had a good selection and the big tables were full of multi-generation families. Now days, all the Chinese restaurants in Palo Alto are shutting down. Demographics in this city are changing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Floyd
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 31, 2014 at 10:29 am

Ate at Ming's for many years when it was on El Camino in S Palo Alto.
Food and service were OK then.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2014 at 10:35 am

So glad Ming's isn't going anywhere - just a little hiatus.
I can't wait to attend some of these events Vicky has planned. Especially the Dim Sum Jazz!!
Best wishes in making your new Ming's & hotel, Vicky!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 35 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2014 at 10:45 am

For those of you looking for a Ming's replacement, I suggest you try Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant on El Camino just south of Page Mill road. Very authentic Cantonese food and consistently good. Unfortunately, no Dim Sum. One only needs to look in the window to know how good they are. Nearly all Chinese patrons. Speaks volumes. They were previously located at El Camino and San Antonio right behind the CVS store. New location is much nicer and roomier.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rosie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2014 at 10:46 am

So onward we go, money is king, everything is "upscaled". Cal. Ave. will sorely miss the Bargain Box and Cho's. We are far too fancy now for that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Erika Raphael
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 31, 2014 at 10:52 am

I'm going to miss The Bargain Box. I have donated lots of my things to it. I loved shopping there too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jeanie Smith
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 31, 2014 at 11:45 am

Say it ain't so, Bargain Box! I love that store, shop there often, and love that all the profits go to CHC. Great little thrift shop with designer clothes and good quality housewares-- phooey! Won't someone come forward with a comparable size shop at a reasonable rent, so it can relocate rather than close completely?
I will miss it a lot!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 31, 2014 at 11:59 am

Nora Charles is a registered user.

It's little spots like The Bargain Box that help give a town character. I'll miss it. Just please don't tell me Antonio's Nut House is closing!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2014 at 12:06 pm

So long, Bargain Box. Considering Palo Alto's rush for real estate commerce began in mid-1980's, Bargain Box certainly beat the odds. Good luck in your next phase.

As for Ming's, it is interesting how opinions range about their food and service? As a Ming's customer for decades and a frequent traveler to the Guangdong region of China, I must say that Ming's cuisine does have some similarity to a Hong Kong style for some dishes but hardly across the board. My primary gripe with Ming's is with its trademark unpredictability, as when I expect something tasty, a bland and mushy dish is served and just when I'm ready to give up on them, something nearly remarkable is offered! A smaller, more focused restaurant and menu should help them greatly. They do not compete with the best of the Bay Area but are convenient for locals and happily not in the downtown mess. Looking forward to the new Ming's someday.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dorothy black
a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Bargain Box I miss you. That's why I found a thrift shop where I could work when I moved away. Now you won't be there when I come to visit. Commeradie in the store was always at a high level. Our customers were good friends as well as out-of-town folks who checked us out. And over the years we could set our goals higher and higher thanks to all who shopped with us. Thanks for wonderful memories, loyal volunteers all for Esther Clark's dream realized, the Children's Health Council.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stretch
a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2014 at 4:13 pm

We, too, started eating at Ming's on El Camino at Los Robles, and continued eating there a LOT for many years, until it was sold, to Hong Kong people, we were told, and everything changed. The old Ming's had consistently good food and excellent service. There was a waiter who would sing "Happy Birthday" in a rich baritone. It was like family. No more.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2014 at 5:49 pm

There are plenty of banquet facilities in the area, but for freeway access, parking, thrift, service and food quality, Mings has had the best combination. Say you're setting up a weekday noon-time luncheon for 50 to 80 people drawn from a 15-mile radius. Where do you go?

Dinners/weekends are a different situation regarding traffic and parking, and Mings is still high on the list. Cubberley '73 had a nice reunion dinner for 170 there on a Saturday last October.

The new incarnation of Mings will no longer be large enough for such groups.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 31, 2014 at 8:04 pm

> Nearly all Chinese patrons. Speaks volumes.

[Portion removed.] Most places in Palo Alto these days are so overpriced I have to agree with that. Never cared much for overpriced Mings ... and never quite got it ... bad service and higher prices to make up for it???? I like Jing Jing, for the local places. Su Hongs is not bad. Hunan Garden is good too. Mandarin Gourmet is pretty good but expensive, and Tai Pei very expensive but just fair. Steam is good, expensive, noisy and crowded - love the 5 crops fried rice though. Hong Kong was the worst Chinese place I've been to. I got a Chow Fun there that was solid stuck together noodles with luke warm sauce poured on to and a few veggies ... and God-awful service, I never went back. Chef Chus is good, but suffers from inconsistency, but not as bad as Mings does or did. Anyone can recommend a good Chinese place always willing to try something new?


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