Monday, August 20, 2007

Welcome to Lonnie's Coffee Shoppe Blog

Welcome to Lonnie's Coffee Shoppe blog !
Lonnies coffee shoppe was opened in the mid 1950's at 21 Mott St. in the heart of historic Chinatown.
Lonnie's was the only place of its kind in the midst of a hundred Chinese restaurants. Why you ask? because it was a burger joint, a hangout, a soda fountain, a meeting place, and not an egg roll nor a grain of rice in sight!
Lonnie's served hamburgers, lime rickeys, cherry cokes, and of course egg creams. Lonnie was my aunt, and she opened her coffee shoppe cum diner with her brother Shung, my father.
In the almost 30 years that Lonnie's was around many family members stood behind the counter flipping burgers and stirring egg creams.

I made this blog because I hope that out of the many dozens of Lee family members who remember Aunt Lonnie and her namesake coffee shoppe, an indisputable institution in Chinatown, and the many Italian, Jewish, Irish and American Born Chinese patrons who frequented it would add their comments here, and post photos of Lonnie's.


  1. Hi Jan,

    It’s heartwarming to know that we are preserving a part of our Chinatown heritage! I grew up at 47 Mott St and remember Lonnie’s well. It was a great treat to hang out at Lonnie’s after school at PS23. It was the only place in Chinatown that serve grilled burgers, sodas made fresh and where you would feel “at home” as a kid. Back then that steep street abutting Lonnie’s was called Park St (now Mosco St).

    The hamburger aromas, that long counter facing the griddle, soda machines, and the booths in the back gave us a sense of what being a “jook sing” was all about.

    I had my 1st cheeseburger, 1st BLT (thanks, Pat/Virginia!), 1st cherry lime ricky there. Most memorable and unique were the *cube shaped* ice creams that were served on a unique cone. Lonnie very carefully peeled the paper wrapper off the ice cream and deposited this 2.5 inch cube of ice cream perfectly onto this cone. No scrapes, no dents, just surgical precision! It’s heaven and I’ve never seen anything like it again.

    The hamburgers were grilled to perfection and that slice of cheese was a bonus as it melted over the burger on the grill and browned a bit on the edges! BLT with an extra dab of mayo was just the ticket. I enjoyed the counter as much as the booths.

    I would say that the average person who ate there was a typical young Chinatown teen/preteen and rarely did we have our parents come by. It was “Our Space” and I only heard English spoken there. I occasionally took with me my small AM transistor radio and had WMCA or WABC playing as I enjoyed my snacks and sodas. No hassles and all fun!

    Lonnie was exceptionally warm and friendly. 50 years later I could still envision her smile, beautifully done short black hairdo, and meticulously applied makeup. I miss Lonnie’s!

    I only wish I had some photos...
    OK, gang, let's fill up this blog!

    Ctown Boy aka Richard Young

  2. Hi Jan,

    The 2 pictures are incredible! I think Lonnie's had a Chinese name as "Lon Ting" and that's what we called the joint in Cantonese. Those characters could be the aqua blue words in the window.


  3. Jan,

    Thanks for sharing part of Chinatown history, I passed by on 8/22 and was stunned to see this sign in the middle of Chinatown. I stood in front of the sign for a good 10-15 minutes wondering and admiring where did this sign come from. My first thought was how old is this? I was going back to take some pictures over the weekend and do some research, but today I get an email from a friend pointing me to your blog. I look forward to seeing the sign on display.

    Thanks again,

  4. Dear Jan,

    Thank you so much for bringing alive this great, fond memory from my childhood! I am "ctown boy's" little sister and also grew up at 47 Mott Street, just a half block up from Lonnie's.

    Seeing those photos of the interior and exterior of Lonnie's touched a brain cell of mine that conjures up the smell of splattering burgers on the griddle and climbing up on those counter stools as a little girl. What great color composition also, with the yellow sign outside and the orangey restaurant inside. (Am I correct--was the interior orange?) I remember the greasy burgers (real greasy!!!) that oozed with juice and fat, and the egg creams (which I did not develop a taste for yet).

    Nowadays, when I enjoy the occasional burger and egg cream, I'll know that I have Lonnie to thank for enhancing my joy of eating it!

    Thanks for the memory!

  5. I attended Transfiguration School and I remember drinking a cherry lime rickies while eating a burger and hanging out in the back booth with my schoolmates.

  6. Ah, those cubed shaped ice cream cones were the best! My three brothers- Baldwin, Robert and Allen, sister Pauline and I always looked forward to having those treats. We lived at 46 Mulberry Street. Coffee was my fav. The burgers weren't so bad either. Lonnie, Ginny and those 'cherry lime rickeys' will always have a place in my long term memory. When in New York, I still pass by and think "Lonnie's" and wonder where everyone went.

    Thank you so much Jan for creating this blog.

  7. jan, what a treat from the past. i developed my love for egg cream sodas here and it has never left. your aunt lonnie and her life partner cheung kow where very close friends of my father, william t. wu. their 'gang' met every monday night at pacific restaurant "tai ping yerng".
    i have many memories of lonnie and her endearing crooked smile.

    (mary) lonnie wu

  8. ........ Pat reminded me today .... remember the "orange freeze" ?.....

  9. Thanks for the memories. I lived on Bayard Street and frequented Lonnies.
    I remember, perhaps it was a little earlier a place near Pell Street on Mott that also had cherry cokes and egg creams, but it was tiny. I use to trade in my old comic books there. I think it was called Schaffers.
    Best, Ping Chong

  10. wow , what a site , love it . i often wondered why there couldn't have been another "lonnies" in an or around C' town, but things change, an so have i . i remember hanging out side w/ my mohair sweater on and just being there to watch the "parade" an on the week ends all the new faces and the girls, everyone knew to meet at lonnies. no one in the world could ever top the bacon tunafish or bacon burger of lonnies. in the color photo, May lone's was next door the first hip mordern store in Ctown . i ate so many times in Hip sing that the waiters call me' lo barn' ( boss)

  11. I think it's great that they're keeping the sign up. Small family run businesses like Lonnie's are a huge part of what make up Chinatown and its history.

    Although I have not personally been to Lonnie's, my father has told me stories about it from the "Chinatown of his day". I will have to ask him again to tell me these stories so I can post it on this blog.

  12. I was back in NYC in 2005 was surprise that Lonnies was gone...My sister, Nancy, used to baby sit for Lonnie. I do remember that outside the front door during the week/weekend night guys were singing "Do Wop". Sorry, couldn't remember too much about NYC (war wounds)but do remember Lonnies and their square ice cream & cherry coke, egg cream...The wait for them was worth the time it would take to get them......Hoorah...All the Way!.

  13. I went to Transfiguration School and Lonnie's was a big part of our social life. We all enjoyed the food and company.

  14. Thanks so much for sharing the memories of Chinatown, especially Lonnies. Chinatown was much more romantic then and I would venture to say "innocent" compared to the present. I used to love rolling side to side on the stools, kind of neat.

    I will try to find my pics of Columbus park and post them to you.

    Thanks again,


  15. How wonderful, we are each on Memory Lane together.

    Love the pics. Wasn't life so much simpler then?

    I was part of the Kung Wah club at Trahsfiguration. After meetings we all hung out at Lonnie's. My favorite was a Cherry Coke. And I loved it because everyone spoke English and I didn't speak Chinese.


  16. Great site Jan. I can recall some of the regular characters that used to "hang" at Lonnie's. The other soda fountain was called "Shea's" and it was next to the old barber shop where Sal, Ceasar & another barber worked.
    An egg cream and pack of baseball cards.

    Lonnie's was a place where us "kids" felt like adults when went in there and ordered. After Sunday morning Mass at Transfiguration we would head over for breakfast. In those days we had to fast from midnight.

    Now a lot of other spots are coming back : remember the Canal St drugstore and soda fountain? how about Carmine's (he always had one of those Italian stinkers in his mouth?)grocery on mulberry off Bayard. How about Susie's drug store on Bayard? Lot's of memories...

    Richie Doo Wop

  17. I spent many hours in Lonnie's.
    I went to Transfiguration School.
    I remember having lunch in Lonnie's and going back after school to snack and hang around.
    Many of my friends and schoolmates also frequented the coffee shop.
    It was a nice place.

  18. What great memories, I remember the burgers, malteds and the english muffins. We talk about Lonnies often.Such simpler times.Remember Shays too, the best eggcream I ever had. Fran C.

  19. i amazing! what a interesting picture!Lonnie's was a place where us "kids" felt like adults when went in there and ordered.I will try to find my pics of Columbus park and post them to you.

  20. Thanks for your efforts in preserving a part of Chinatown history before it's forgotten!

  21. Wow, this brought back a flood of my "formative" years. I lived at 11 Mott Street, attended PS 23 and JHS 65. Left Chinatown in 71 and moved out of state. Lonnies was a regular meeting place of Boy Scout Troop 150 which met at True Light Lutheran Church. Our troop members spent a lot of time at Lonnies enjoying the egg creams and hamburgers. My personal favorite was the toasted corn muffins she used to butter and toast on the grill.

    Unfortunately I don't have any pictures to post.

  22. Thanks for the memories. It would be nice to have a real traditional "Jook Sing" café diner in Chinatown instead of those Hong Kong Phooey coffee shoppes. There are not too many Lo Wah Kue places left and Dai Hop Shing is crowded as hell in the morning.

    I remember Lonnie’s when I attended PS23 from 68-70. Yea, I was one of the PS 23 boyz who used to kick it with the Tranies catholic boyz in the Columbus Park House during lunch time and Mrs. Brown at PS 23 would give us hell afterward. I was a Cub/Boy Scout at Troop 150 at True Light, and I was also messing with T-229 at the time.

    All my Toy Shan Jook Sing cousins would call me “Kai Doy”. Yeah, those were the days.

    I had my first egg cream at Lonnie’s, but Moshe was not too shabby.

    I freaked out when I saw the Lonnie’s sign was still there when the scabs removed the Sun Hop Shing sign off the side of the building. Damn Shame! Look what they did to Port Arthur? Look what they did to my PS 23? What a POS on the inside.

    At least I still have a nice view of Columbus Park, but those tai-chi practitioners in the morning gotta stop playing those Chinese commie music. Drives me nuts!

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