Reeves, City Honor Hong Kong Founder
As a first-year living in Pennypacker Hall, Sonesh S. Chainani '99 went to the Hong Kong Restaurant at least once a week to feast on rice and soup.
"I totally love it," Chainani says. "It's the only place that's open past 2 a.m. where you can eat and drink every day of the week."
Last week, the Cambridge City Council honored the founder of the Hong Kong--affectionately known as "the Kong"--with a plaque across Mass. Ave. from the Chinese restaurant.
Sen Lee, who came to the United States from China and fought in World War II, died in 1994. He was 69 years old.
Lee opened the Kong in 1954, after operating a laundry service. Today, Lee's wife and children--Paul, William and Evelyn--run the restaurant, which also has a Faneuil Hall branch.
The Lee children grew up in the restaurant, where Paul Lee remembers working at the front desk from the age of eight.
"I could barely see over the counter," he recalls.
The three-story restaurant, which includes a nightclub and lounge, has become a "Cambridge destination" over the years, the plaque says. Today, Paul Lee says, the restaurant, which owns its own building, takes in between $700,000 and $1 million per year.
On the plaque, dedicated in an Oct. 12 ceremony by Cambridge City Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves '72, the city of Cambridge lauds Lee as a model American dreamer. About 100 Lee family members and friends attended the dedication, according to Paul Lee.
The plaque is located against the outer wall of Harvard Yard, surrounded by decorative shrubs and plants.
As a Harvard Square institution, the neon-lit Kong has inspired generations of Harvard students with its late-night Chinese fare and "scorpion bowls," an alcoholic punch drink.
Its clientele wavers between tourists, Cantabrigians and Harvard affiliates. The restaurant also does a thriving take-out business, with a slice of signature white bread in every bag.
Few students admit to visiting the Kong for the food; instead, most point to the late hours and the restaurant's colorful atmosphere.
"The Kong has the best ambiance in Harvard Square," says Chainani, who claims vegetable lo mein as his favorite Kong dish. "It's got my kind of kitch ambiance thing going on."