BY CLARISSA-JAN LIM | Allen Ginsberg’s favorite noodle store is returning to the East Village. The Beat legend loved Mee Noodle Shop and Grill, a simple, no-frills eatery on First Ave. between 13th and 14th Sts.
But Mee was forced to leave the location in 2007 due to infrastructure issues, or a “crack epidemic,” as real estate broker Conrad Bradford put it. There were serious cracks in the wall and the building was starting to collapse.
Joyce Chi, an employee whose 10 years at the restaurant have seen her work at both its current Midtown location on 49th and at the former East Village spot, said Mee Noodle had been looking for a new place back in the area ever since it was shut down because “it’s a good location.”
Bradford sent out a notice of the deal last month, prior to which there had been no news of Mee’s return to First Ave. Until then, the reopening was expected to be a low-key event that only some customers know about. But the ensuing media coverage helped change that. For those former customers already in the know, Chi said, she thinks “they are happy” that the East Village will soon once again have a Mee Noodle Shop and Grill to call its own.
Bradford, the real estate agent behind the deal, said he was approached by the restaurant’s management after his company, Miron Properties, put the space on the market.
Bradford struck a favorable deal with the landlord that allowed the restaurant to set up the space without having to pay rent for the duration of construction.
Mee Noodle’s determination to snatch up the space was evident. According to Bradford, the deal was made in just five days — a record time, by real estate standards.
“We had three offers within 14 days,” said Bradford. “They [Mee Noodle] came from behind… . But when they came onboard, they acted as quickly as possible.”
According to Chi, the restaurant will be reopening in about five months, at 223 First Ave., a mere two doors away from where it used to be.
Part of the place’s fame is due to Ginsberg’s frequent visits to the former East Village branch for his fix of Chinese food. His 1997 obituary in The New York Times quoted a waitress at Mee Noodle Shop and Grill saying, “When he came in, we knew what he wanted,” referring to the particular dish that Ginsberg favored, steamed flounder in ginger sauce.