Dear PoPville – China American Inn will be Missed

845 Upshur Street, NW

“Dear PoPville,

I was alerted via a post on Facebook that your blog covered the closing of China American Inn. While I appreciate the public notification of the establishment’s closing (I myself had discovered this a few weeks back when going to dine at another restaurant on the same block), I don’t think your coverage effectively conveyed they importance of China American Inn (also referred to as China A, China America, or the carry out) to the Petworth Community.

I was born and raised in the Petworth neighborhood. I have seen the neighborhood change and evolve from a lower/mid income mostly African American community to a gentrified neighborhood offering a farmer’s market and al fresco dining. Before there was Domku, or any other swanky bar, there was China A. Walking to the carry out and eating on your porch or at the rec with your friends was a rite of passage in the Petworth community. China provided affordable dining options for a lower income families like my own growing up; a 5 dollar chicken wing special would not only feed us for the night but provide sustenance for the next day.

Although Danny’s remains open, China American Inn was one of the last remnants of the “old” Petworth. It’s closure represents the full transition from the Petworth that raised me to the Petworth that is now unfamiliar. While some are anxiously awaiting the revelation of what new hip spot on will replace China American Inn, others who were essentially raised on China A are saddened. China A was more than a hole in the wall, it was part of what made Petworth a community that will be missed and I think it deserves more than a by-line on your blog.”

27 Comment

  • This is a great tribute, very moving to have the place put in context by someone who grew up nearby.

  • I never went to China A. But I grew up in a Petworth that had a “five and dime” store, a grocery store, three “corner stores”, a cleaners, and a drug store with a soda fountain just around the corner, and Phillip’s shoe repair just down the street. I remember and miss the “old” Petworth. I realize though, that change is inevitable, and that my loss is some people’s “progress”.

  • just to keep things real, i grew up in the suburbs (gaithersburg) and exactly none of the places that I remember from my childhood remain open either. Not the Highs where we would get slush puppies, not La Gondola italian, not Sir Walter Raleigh the fancy restaurant (the only one), not Roys Place the sandwich shop. So yeah change is totally inevitable no matter where you are.

    • and many welcome change!

      • Until that change changes into something you don’t want!

        • China Wonder is still by Howard U, they have been there for as long as I can remember, I met Puff Daddy there back when I was going to school at HU. China Wonder has been open through the worst times, with the same people, working every day. They are probably the MOST consistent restaurant I’ve ever known, though they are classified as a greasy spoon, they have never let me down and I consider that place a second mom.That’s the reason why I’ve never had to go or liked any other Chinese carryout in DC for over 20 years (although I have gotten Chinese in MD and VA).

    • I also have major nostalgia for “old” Silver Spring — but I’ll save that for another post. Ahhhh….Giffords!

      • Old Silver Spring…where City Place was the centerpiece. I kind of miss it too

        • Then there’s Really Old Silver Spring – when there was a Hecht’s — before it got turned into CityPlace. Jellef’s, Hahn’s…. Who’s up for a Silver Spring nostalgia thread?

  • For better or worse, cities change – that’s just the way it goes.

  • Interestingly, before Petworth was a middle class African American community, it was a working class streetcar suburb primarily populated by Jewish, Polish and Irish immigrants. It’s helpful to remember that the neighborhood of your youth was, and always will be, in a state of flux. Some people and businesses move in, while others move out. It would be unfair to expect the neighborhood to remain in a state of suspended animation from one particular decade, given the neighborhood’s long and vibrant history.

    • it was also very shooty

    • Yes, I’m aware of this. My family moved into Petworth just as “white flight” and support of integration made houses and schools in Petworth available to African Americans. The next wave of change came as drugs hit the neighborhood, and as the homeowners in my parent’s generation aged. I’m not expecting that change won’t occur. I am being nostalgic for the neighborhood of my childhood. And I’m delighted by a post that highlights “old” Petworth and allows me to bask in nostalgia for a bit.

  • I am the author of the letter and the purpose of the blog was not to admonish change but to give recognition to te establishment and voice an opinion from the perspective of someone who was raised in the community. Change is a natural process but just because something changes doesn’t mean that it’s memory won’t be missed.

    • The wording of your letter conveyed the idea that this particular carryout deserves some sort of expanded or in-depth coverage. Yet typically the blog covers closings and openings without much fanfare. If this carryout gets expanded coverage then why not B&J Carryout, Jerry Chan’s carryout, DC Fish carryout, AMPM Carryout or numerous others that have closed recently?

      • If persons who were fond of said establishments had written to PoP then maybe they would’ve received more coverage. I felt China A deserved to be written about so I wrote a letter (not intending for it to be published) and the owner of the blog chose to publish this. Maybe you should address questions about coverage of other local restaurants to him.

  • all dc hoods have changed my working class cop dad wwas redlined out of anacostia in 57!! and that hood will go euro soon,,,,such is dc life!!!

  • I thought China American Inn opened after Dannie’s.

  • hmm… we have an abundance of mediocre Chinese carry-out places in Brookland. can’t say I’d be heartbroken if some of them fell off or at least improved. some are just too much of an eye-sore to inspire confidence.

    my DC go-to for Chinese is Peking Garden on 18th. Best TVP ever and open and sanitary place with great owners. I still go there from Brookland when I can.

    Lived for 5 years in Petworth and never made it to China American Inn. oh well..

  • Thanks for the remembrance, OP Camille

  • Kudos to you Camille with the sensitivity to reflect back on life as it were…
    Nostalgia is a good thing… remembering when life was simple , the pace much slower and currency not plentiful… you mention how a $5.00 chicken wing dinner provided substance not only one day but for two… and everyone was HAPPY with just enough. I think it’s refreshing that you enjoyed the simplicity of what China American Inn provided. An eyesore is in the eyes of the onlookers… if you want to find beauty you have to find a beholder with beauty in their eyes.

    You, Camille, are an outstanding young lady who is not afraid to look back and remember from where you came…and hold reverence for things that were .

    I happen to know you… a Duke Univ and George Washington Alumi taught at a prestigious as well as underserved schools in the DC area; and taught abroad for 2years; and now about to study Law, (just a few of your many accomplishments)… you- not thinking yourself to big to remember that you are from Petworth taking the time to call to mind and reflect your sadness with the closing of China American Inn restaurant is commendable… Again Kudos to you.

    Don’t hate on her haters applaud her.

  • Despite the nostalgia and recognition of change… There should be some appreciation that a place that served completely unhealthy tax-base burdening food is no longer in business. That should be a sign of positive change.

  • My wife and I moved to Petworth 4 years ago and used to get the orange chicken, extra broccoli, every month or so from China American. We really enjoyed the food, but dang, it took forever. I enjoyed reading this post and appreciated its context. Here’s hoping other good carryout stay (and other good ones arrive).

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