Cleveland's AsiaTown Neighborhood

AsiaTown in Cleveland
••• Tom Hart/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Cleveland's AsiaTown, roughly bounded by Superior, Payne, East 29th and East 39th Streets, is small but colorful. Located just east of downtown, the neighborhood features interesting architecture, delicious and varied restaurants, and unique Asian shopping.

Cleveland's AsiaTown continues to evolve as old families and new money move to the area, rehabbing old buildings and creating new businesses.

History

According to the 1890 census, Cleveland’s Chinese community consisted of just 38 residents and most of them lived in the Old Stone Church area downtown.

Gradually, after the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943 and as a result of the Communist takeover in Mainland China, the Chinese community in Cleveland moved to present-day AsiaTown during the 1950s and 1960s. In the 70s, the neighborhood welcomed Vietnamese immigrants and Koreans as well.

Community

Cleveland's AsiaTown community has always been tightly-knit. Organizations designed to assist new Chinese residents have traditionally been the backbone of the neighborhood. Additionally, there are social and cultural societies as well as Chinese language schools. One of the newer aid societies is the Gee How Oak Tin Association, a cooperative representing several of the neighborhoods most prominent—and successful—families.

Cleveland AsiaTown Restaurants

The tiny neighborhood abounds in excellent, and affordable, restaurants. Among the best are Bo Loong (39th and St. Clair), a large dining room known for its dim sum, fresh seafood, and late night karaoke; #1 Pho (31st and Superior), the quintessential Vietnamese noodle house, popular with students and downtown office workers; and Li Wah (29th Street and Payne), in the Asian Plaza shopping center, with 400 seats, dim sum, and a varied dinner menu.

Food Stores

AsiaTown is the place in Cleveland to shop for Asian ingredients and foodstuffs. The Asian Plaza, at Payne and East 29th Street, is an emporium of all things Chinese. This Asian mini-mall features a restaurant, several food stores, and a gift boutique. Tink Holl, just down the road on East 36th Street, stocks fresh and frozen meat and fish, Asian canned and packaged goods, condiments and spices, and beverages and teas.

The Future of Cleveland's AsiaTown

Cleveland’s AsiaTown is in the midst of a renaissance. Never "down and out," today, the neighborhood is filled with new construction and major renovation projects. Among these is the 34-unit apartment building at East 30th and Payne, designed to provide subsidized housing for elderly Chinese-American residents and the revitalization of Rockwell Avenue, sponsored by the Gee How Oak Tin Association. It will be exciting to see AsiaTown as it reinvents itself.