Friday, March 20, 2009

Howard Cosell, Hoe Kow and me

Sunday night dinner for my family wasn't a Norman Rockwell scene, with everyone gathered around the gingham-clothed table, waiting patiently for the patriarch to carve the perfectly juicy roast. We didn't ogle the big bowl of whipped potatoes, and vegetables fresh from the garden, arranged perfectly on the good china. Sunday night dinner for us was a night out at Hoe Kow. A Cantonese restaurant on Lake Street in downtown Chicago, Hoe Kow was where Jewish families went on Sunday nights to kibbutz, be seen, and eat some exotic fare, which Chinese food was back then. When I told my husband about the Hoe Kow experience, he admitted that he thought it was pronounced "Hoe-y Cow", as if Harry Caray was doing an impression of a Chinese guy, Jerry Lewis-style. 

Hoe Kow's menu was a "greatest hits" of Cantonese specialties. But we always ended up ordering the same thing: beef, pea pods, and water chestnuts, egg rolls, fried wonton, and shrimp with lobster sauce. Presently, we all have cholesterol issues, and I think I know why. In the winter, the smell of fried wonton would linger in our coats for days, which I didn't mind a bit. 

One Sunday,  as my father mixed the hot mustard and duck sauces for the fried items (we let him do the mixing of most everything at restaurants since he seemed to be the expert at such matters), my brother says very matter-of-factly, "There's Howard Cosell." Howard Cosell. He was with Irv Kupcinet, and both their wives. "Kup" was a local columnist, and......who cares? It's Howard Cosell! Of Monday Night Football and The Wide World of Sports! The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat! There was a Jewish celebrity at our Jewish Chinese restaurant, and I wanted his autograph.  

I convinced my brother to go with me to their table. "Mr. Cosell, can we have your autograph?" He was gracious and lovely, and signed our napkin. Then he handed the napkin to Kup. Why is he doing that? I thought. I don't want that guy's autograph on my genuine Howard Cosell memorabilia. But it was too late.  Irv Kupcinet, "Kup."   And of course, it was perfectly legible. Howard Cosell's signature was a scribble. It could have said anything. We thanked them, and went back to our table. 

I glanced at the napkin all night long. "Kup," "Kup," "Kup." I kept seeing the word "Kup" and then a scribbly line underneath that said, "Howard Cosell." I swear, it did.  Not many people believed me at school the next day as I showed it around. So I started touting Kup. "You don't know who Kup is? Oh, yeah, he's a big deal sports guy at the Sun Times. Big. Bigger than Cosell." 

Hoe Kow is long gone, but they really did have the best egg rolls in town, especially if you were a nice Jewish girl looking for some good Chinese food and maybe, just maybe, a famous sports guy's autograph.  


  1. I thought the same thing about Hoe-y Kow. I thought there was a Harry Caray restaurant nearby, or maybe it was a Harry Caray honorary street name, or something like that...the coincidence was too much to ignore. - Bill

  2. My siblings and I are sitting at out parents' kitchen table, and they are reminiscing about egg rolls that our dad used to get at Hoe Kow. I was too little to remember this, but my older sibs say the egg rolls were to die for. They've been craving them for years, ever since the place burned down, and are trying to find the recipe. We can't find the former owners online, but I thought maybe, you being a chef, might know what became of them or might know the recipe, or might be able to remember something about them that made them so good.
    I'd appreciate it if you shot me an email. Love the blog!

  3. Hoe Kow was a favorite of our when we lived in Chicago in the late 60s and early 70s. We're returning next week for our first visit in a long time and are disappointed Hoe Kow is gone. Wonder what's like that in the loop today.


  4. My favorite restaurant of ALL time - from Ohio St to Lake St - my dad and George Moy used to shoot together at the Lincoln Park Gun Club and I averaged at least three meals a week, possibly more especially when I was the press agent for the Chcago and other B&K Theatres. Even had them often send food in a cab to my near north digs. Write me at -

  5. Working on article about the Chicago Jewish connection with Hoe Kow's Chinese Restaurant in the 1960s. Please contact me if you have recollections. Article will be finished by August, 2011. You can write to me - Mimi Rosenbush - at

  6. A word about the egg rolls to N.M. Hanson. Couldn't find your email, but I will tell you this: the absence of Hoe Kow egg rolls has left a void. But I recently had an egg roll from Joy Yee in Evanston. I wasn't expecting much, but to my surprise, it captured the essence of Hoe Kow in all its cabbage-y fried-in-peanut-oil goodness.

  7. Hoe Kow had the best fried rice. I tend not to order it any more since none have come close. We lived in the suburbs but Hoe Kow was always a treat. One year, after we were too old to have kids' birthday parties, the family celebrated our birthday (twin brother and I)there. A boy from our class was there with his parents. We still say that Mark was at our birthday party at Hoe Kow.

    1. My parents, my sister and I used to eat at Hoe Kow's when we were growing up. It's interesting that you should mention the Jewish connection because I can remember my parents commenting on the fact that it must be a good restaurant because Jewish people were leaving as we were going in. They were so right! We loved eating at Hoe Kow!

  8. Alas, I went by the building today and it's gone. Thanks for the memories!

  9. For those of you who want to remember what the restaurant looked like, I found a picture of it on ebay.

    This was my Grandfather and Great Grandfathers restaurant. I have many memories there as well.

  10. Is it possible for me to post a picture?