April 17, 2020 | News | No Comments
GREENWICH VILLAGE, NY — A new Chinese restaurant opened by a white couple in Greenwich Village is marketing itself as a “clean” alternative to other Chinese restaurants — immediately sparking outrage and criticism that the eatery’s positioning is racist.
Lucky Lee’s, which opened Monday at 67 University Place between 10th and 11th Sts., was marketed as a “healthy” alternative to other Chinese restaurants.
One Instagram post, which Eater reported has since been deleted, read “We heard you’re obsessed with lo mein but rarely eat it. You said it makes you feel bloated and icky the next day? Well, wait until you slurp up our HIGH lo mein. Not too oily. Or salty.”
The restaurant’s owner, Arielle Haspel told Eater she is more mindful about the ingredients in her recipes — such as gluten-free recipes and staying away from MSG, despite the lack of scientific evidence MSG is associated with poor health. She developed gluten-, wheat-, refined sugar-, GMO- and additive-free versions of Chinese food recipes, Eater reported. She wants to “healthify” Chinese food.
“We’re excited to offer it to people who want this type of food, and it can make them feel good and they can workout after and they can feel focused after and it will add to their health,” Haspel told Eater.
“I love love love American Chinese food,” she said, adding that she “made some tweaks” so she and her friends were able to eat it.
During OPENING WEEK, we will be offering a special selection of Lucky Lee’s favorites, including this Baked Orange Cauliflower (gluten-free). Additional menu items will be added soon. Tomorrow we open the doors at 12pm for lunch only – who will be the lucky first customer?! We can’t wait to see you at 67 University Place between 10th/11th Street for good vibes and tons of yumminess. See you tomorrow! #newrestaurant #luckyleesnyc
A post shared by Lucky Lee’s (@luckyleesnyc) on Apr 7, 2019 at 8:26pm PDT
One Twitter user wrote, “I CANNOT with Lucky Lee’s, this new ‘clean Chinese restaurant’ that some white wellness blogger just opened in New York. … You want to open a gluten-free, dairy-free macrobiotic whatever Chinese restaurant, godspeed. Do it without dragging an entire, diverse cuisine representing billions of people.”
Another person commented on an Instagram post, “We’re not being *sensitive* when it comes to people generalizing our culture … [it is our] history, ancestry, way of life, language, and food. It’s wildly disrespectful to not even consider or realize what you are doing.”
In response to a post on March 31 with the hashtag “#feelgreatchinese,” one Instagrammer commented,”Rude and racist.”
The restaurant responded to the backlash Tuesday afternoon on Instagram.
“When we talk about our food, we are not talking about other restaurants, we are only talking about Lucky Lee’s. Chinese cuisine is incredibly diverse and comes in many different flavors (usually delicious in our opinion) and health benefits,” Lucky Lee’s wrote on Instagram. “Every restaurant has the right to tout the positives of its food. We plan to continue communicating that our food is made with high quality ingredients and techniques that are intended to make you feel great.”
Haspel told Eater she is celebrating Chinese culture with “Chinese elements” like “lucky bamboo” and “jade.”
In response to criticism on the restaurant’s name, the restaurant’s statement said her husband’s name is Lee. The couple are Jewish-American New Yorkers, the Instagram post said.
“Similar to many other Jewish New Yorkers’ diets, bagels, pastrami sandwiches and yes, American Chinese food, were big and very happy parts of their childhoods,” the post said.
Lucky Lee’s owner, Haspel, was not immediately available for comment.
The other day we received some negative comments on an Instagram post. Some of your reactions made it clear to us that there are cultural sensitivities related to our Lucky Lee’s concept. We promise you to always listen and reflect accordingly. A number of comments have stated that by saying our Chinese food is made with ‘clean’ cooking techniques and it makes you feel great that we are commenting negatively on all Chinese food. When we talk about our food, we are not talking about other restaurants, we are only talking about Lucky Lee’s. Chinese cuisine is incredibly diverse and comes in many different flavors (usually delicious in our opinion) and health benefits. Every restaurant has the right to tout the positives of its food. We plan to continue communicating that our food is made with high quality ingredients and techniques that are intended to make you feel great. Chef/owner, Arielle’s husband’s name is Lee and his life-long love of Chinese food was inspiration for the restaurant. The name Lucky Lee’s reflects the story of how the recipes were conceived. We also received negative comments related to being owners of a Chinese restaurant but not being Chinese. Owners Arielle and Lee are both Jewish-American New Yorkers, born and raised. Similar to many other Jewish New Yorkers’ diets, bagels, pastrami sandwiches and yes, American Chinese food, were big and very happy parts of their childhoods. New York is the ultimate melting pot and Lucky Lee’s is another example of two cultures coming together. To us, this is a good thing. We love American Chinese food and at Lucky Lee’s it is our intention to celebrate it everyday and serve great food. #luckyleesnyc
A post shared by Lucky Lee’s (@luckyleesnyc) on Apr 9, 2019 at 8:44am PDT