Ming’s Dynasty Ended

From HAIF this morning comes the sad news that Ming’s has closed.

Yet another casualty of the diminshing classic Montrose restaurant scene, whose losses have most recently included Golden Room (closed until at least September, and which may or may not reopen as the same restaurant) and the beloved Felix Mexican Restaurant, the closing of Ming’s is one more notch in the belt for the developers and condo-builders who are busily skeletonizing the neighborhood to make way for further gentrification.

Some may not miss Ming’s, as it has been described as a “highly overrated dive” that serves “more mall food than restaurant food” along with a warning that “good service is not something you will find here.”  One reviewer described it succinctly: “If you enjoy difficult parking, eating cheap food in a small shack on styrofoam plates with plastic utensils, then this is definitely the place for you.”  People were definitely not impressed with their “hairy” chicken wings.

The point, however, is that it was a dive.  You didn’t go to Ming’s expecting ground-breaking cuisine or authentic Chinese food.  You went there with your friends on a lazy Saturday afternoon spent browsing the stacks at Half-Price Books or searching for junque at the resale shops down the road.  You met there for a cheap dinner before hitting up Proletariat (also gone now) or Numbers.  You revived yourself there on Sundays when the brunch crowds at La Strada or Baba Yega proved too noisy or self-absorbed.  You took in the weirdness, people-watched, enjoyed the ebb and flow of a cross-section of humanity coming in and out for egg rolls and Chinese eggplant.

Ming’s was Montrose.  Sure, it’s just one small restaurant on a little corner, but it’s representative of a larger issue, a growing sense of discomfort and sadness. 

You’d think that I’m opposed to progress; some kind of anti-development, real estate Luddite.  I’m not.  I just find myself looking around lately and realizing: this isn’t my city anymore.

See ya, Ming’s.  You had a good run.

13 thoughts on “Ming’s Dynasty Ended”

  1. well, crackers! I’m thinkin’ it’s a cost of real estate thang?? I have met the owner and am asking friends re: Three Dragons. For me, there are two “foods”, the “superb” and the “mom and pop” that i frequent, bearing in mind there’s the “horrid mom & pop”. I put ming’s in the latter of the frequentable.

  2. It was 1997 when I left Houston to start my exile in Denver. (Over a decade already. That depresses me.) I’ve been back to visit several times since then and every time I find more and more of what I loved about Montrose has been eroded away. I made my last trip two years ago and stayed at the Lovett Inn a few blocks from the Montrose/Westheimer intersection. Walking around the neighborhood was a shock.

    Montrose in the early 90’s was the most amazing place I’ve ever lived. It’s really sad to see it slowly killed like that.

    Anyway, sorry for rambling and thank you for your blog. It helps my homesickness.

  3. Just out of curiosity: When was the last time you were in Mings?

    Things come and things go, but the funniest news item of the past couple of years was the reaction to the closing of AstroWorld.

    Story after story from upset journalists, citizens, visitors, and (probably loudest of all) bloggers where thought that AstroWorld being torn down was an affront to all things good and decent.

    Then the question was asked: ‘When was the last time you went to AstroWorld?’

    Answer: “Oh, I haven’t been there in 10 years.”

    Nobody’s “killing” Montrose except for the consumer. The “hip” crowd has moved to Washington leaving Montrose open to be re-developed.

    C’est la vie.

  4. For fast-food Chinese, Ming’s had some very good dishes. I was a regular. I mourn its passing.

    Daniel – lower Montrose has changed, but it hasn’t been killed. Along with Washington Ave., it is one of the two hottest parts of Houston for fabulous restaurants, including Feast, Indika, Mark’s, Dolce Vita, Da Marco, Hugo’s. The area also includes some very good funky and inexpensive restaurants — including a new restaurant with a drag queen theme. I would argue that Montrose now is as exciting as it was during its mid-80s heyday, and even more exciting than it was when you left town in 97.

  5. @ anonymouseater: I can’t argue that it’s a hot scene… What I should have made clearer is that the “old school” restaurant scene is diminishing. I don’t want to see Montrose turned into some painfully trendy neighborhood where regular people can’t afford to eat. I like Hugo’s. I like Dolce Vita. I adore Indika. But are they affordable and down-to-earth; time-worn and ragged with love? I don’t think so.

    But that’s just one girl’s opinion. 🙂

  6. Fay always took great care of me and though it was definitely a shack/dive, I’ll miss it. Now let’s keep BB’s alive so it does not suffer the same fate.

  7. K wrote: “I just find myself looking around lately and realizing: this isn’t my city anymore.”

    I know what you mean. I started living in and around Montrose in 1966, you can imagine what change I have seen. Used to be you’d run into people you knew everywhere, but that has changed. I had the same feeling during my sabbatical in Austin from 1970 to 1985. I remember the feeling when you’d go to Liberty Lunch for a reggae show and not recognize anyone.

    I guess it is called progress coupled with growing old, but neighborhood changes are especially bad when you SEE them happen.

  8. When I was there we had the Street Festival twice a year, wacky shops like Dream Merchant and Timeless Taffeta not far away on Westheimer, a crazy homeless guy with dreds living in the Montrose median (I assume he’s gone, he wasn’t there the last couple times I visited), a fun little tribal arts store run by a chronically stoned hippie (like the old SNL skit “you put yer weeeeed in it” if anyone remembers that) right near the Montrose/Westheimer intersection, etc. It was a much more eclectic place then. That’s what I miss. All the new buildings and trendy people are strange to see. If that’s your thing then fine. It’s just that I’ve seen plenty of places like that. Montrose used to be something very unique.

    And I’m going to have to stick with saying it’s been killed. Obviously not the existence of the neighborhood itself, but the spirit of what it was. I remember the relentless, systematic way the Street Festival was attacked. It seems to me that the “gentrification” of Montrose has been the goal all along.

  9. I only ate at Ming’s once or twice, and I found the food forgettable, but I agree with everyone else about the changing of the spirit of Montrose. If Ming’s did fall victim to developers, I fear for Aladdin across the parking lot, which has become a favorite in recent years.

    And this is not in Montrose, but I’m also saddened by Little Hip’s on Washington closing. That one, I’m sure, is a developer/land value deal, but everyone at Little Hip’s was so friendly and those burgers were so good.

  10. Ming’s served THE BEST bubbly wrapper eggrolls. Those wafer thin spring roll type eggrolls that other places serve SUCK!

    Why Ming’s why?

    And you left us for Austin, of all places. Thank a helluva lot!

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