We busted outside the city boundaries on Saturday and found ourselves at Pho Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant in Lee that is located across the street from the popular watering hole Moe's. The small but comfortable restaurant wasn't busy this late afternoon, and the conversation with the staff turned to Asian eateries in the Pittsfield area.
An Allendale section of the city resident most of my life, the now closed Debbie Wong's on Dalton Avenue was always the popular landing spot for an Oriental meal or for takeout. In fact, it became somewhat of a tradition at the house to order from Debbie Wong's on Election Night, and work through a dozen egg rolls and some hot and sour soup while the future of our nation was being decided by astute voters.
Alas, Debbie Wong's is no more and neither is its neighbor, the Wonder Bread store, which supplied generations with Twinkies, Snowballs and fruit pies. For a teen with an appetite, the two establishments made for a perfect dinner and dessert.
While at Pho Saigon, I received a tutorial about the differences between Chinese and Vietnamese food. And while the fare was excellent and the prices reasonable, I am no expert on such subjects and never will be. Let's just say I left as a satisfied customer.
The conversation in Lee, however, did raise my curiosity level. A couple of phone calls taught me a few things I'd like to share. I buzzed the Luau Hale, which has been on Route 7/20 for 40 years. I'm pretty sure they opened the doors in 1974, and if not, then close to that.
The business, a staffer told me on the phone, was once a roadside diner that had a liquor license. I go back that far, but have no recall on the name or the visual of what it looked like. The restaurant woman said that when the building was bought, the current restaurant was expanded around the diner that was already in place.
The second restaurant I called was the Tahiti Takeout on Wahconah Street, a venerable establishment that has stood the test of time since the late 1980s. I was told that the original Tahiti Takeout began near the hospital at the end of North Street, and was located there about four years before moving to Wahconah Street.
Again, I don't recall that. But I do remember what I think may have been the city's first Chinese restaurant being in that same location during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I've mentioned it before, and I think the name was the China Clipper.
These days, I live about 60 seconds from the Amazing Pavilion restaurant at Dunham Mall. So on those lousy winter nights ... yeah, you get it. And I still get that hankering on Election Night.
When the Luau Hale worker told me that the restaurant had once been a diner with a liquor license I had to laugh. I've ordered breakfast, I told her, and I've ordered beer. But I don't think I've ever ordered eggs and beer at the same time.
She laughed along with me and said that she had done just that recently at Bob's Country Kitchen in Lanesborough. She said the restaurant had recently been granted a beer license, and that she and some friends had recently ordered a late breakfast with a beer.
And, she added, the Mobil Mart up the road on Route 7 also had a beer license now and was selling your favorite brew from its coolers. Our neighbors to the north need to take a bow.
One final thing. Can someone tell me why we have an empty Pizza Hut sitting in the middle of Coltsville? It seemed like it closed with little notice, and if that's the case I feel badly for the employees. I was never a fan -- I mean I'm a Tyler Street Pizza guy -- but I always thought pizza could do no wrong here.
Anyway, it's empty and looks ugly sitting there. What about a Pho Saigon in Pittsfield? Just a thought.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at