Charred restaurant relocates

Peking House Chinese Restaurant, formerly of Westchester Square, has relocated to E. Tremont Avenue, a block east of Castle Hill Avenue. Jackie Huang’s Westchester Square restaurant burned on April 9. Huang with his daughter and wife. Photo by Daniel Beekman

Peking House is back. Jackie Huang’s restaurant reopened on Thursday, April 9 at E. Tremont Avenue and Lyvere Street, a block east of Castle Hill Avenue. Less than a month ago, the original Peking House was destroyed in a three-alarm fire on Westchester Square. A flower shop, a coffee shop, a nail salon and a bar also burned. Miami Lounge was under construction.

“We’re open again,” Huang said. “We’re going to be okay. But we miss the Square.”

Huang leased the new Peking House from an unsuccessful Chinese restaurant owner two days after the fire. He found the property in a Chinese language newspaper. Huang remodeled the property fast – new door, new awning. He took down the restaurant’s Plexiglas counterpane.

“The old owner didn’t cook good food,” Huang said. “People around here complained.”

Huang’s business will suffer. Peking House was a favorite among Lehman High School students, straphangers and bus drivers. E. Tremont Avenue is no Westchester Square.

“The kids, the drivers knew me,” said Huang, who spent eight years on the Square. “They liked my food, especially my fried boneless chicken. Not many people walk past the restaurant here. It’s quiet.”

To relocate, Huang dipped into his savings and borrowed money from a friend. He met with lenders at meeting organized by the Merchants and Professionals of Westchester Square, but decided not to take out a loan.

“The other merchants were great,” Huang said. “But I didn’t want to take out a loan. The rates were too high.”

On the morning of the fire, a Sunday, Huang was at home in Pelham Bay. A friend stopped by to deliver the bad news. The blaze spread via a shared crawl space.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Huang said. “I went to the Square. There was nothing left. I cried. I’m sure the fire started in the bar. I told them not to put in new wires.”

Huang is from the Chinese city of Fuzhou. He moved to the Bronx from Chinatown in 1999. Huang and his wife are business partners. Their two children attend P.S. 71.

On Wednesday, April 15, insurance broker Steve Kaplan stopped by Peking House for lunch. He works across the street.

“It’s my first time here under the new management,” Kaplan said. “There are so few choices around here.”

Kaplan tried Huang’s fried rice and offered a positive review. According to Huang, Peking House is known for General’s Chicken and Beef with Garlic Sauce.

“I spoke with my old landlord,” Huang said. “He wants to rebuild. I want to move back to the Square.”

Huang kept the old Peking House number – (718) 597-2828.

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