The Nankin Cafe

  • September 23, 2014

The Nankin Cafe was a downtown Minneapolis landmark for over 80 years. Founder Walter James opened the Chinese restaurant at 14 South Seventh Street in 1919. The restaurant’s popularity soared — customers would come from all over the upper midwest to eat at the Nankin. In the 1950s, the Nankin moved into a larger space across the street and then relocated to City Center in the 1980s. The 1990s were troublesome for the restaurant — a labor strike and a drug raid where 19 customers and staff were arrested damaged the Nankin’s reputation. Customers that once flocked to the best Chinese restaurant in the Midwest began avoiding the Nankin. The restaurant was forced to close in 1999.

This postcard shows what the first and second level dining rooms looked like in the mid-1920s. A copy of the Nankin’s menu from 1926 can be found at the Hennepin County Library Special Collections page on Tumblr. Yum!

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