Another Tease From The Mysterious Lee and Hop Sing Laundromat

There has been a lot of speculation about the new operation going into the 1029 Race Street space formerly occupied by Indonesia Restaurant (and Singapore Chinese Vegetarian Restaurant before that, and various other things before that). As a matter of fact, it seems that one of the favorite guessing games being played of late among Philly’s starving restaurant-watchers involves postulating on what will (or won’t) be involved in the final design, how service will (or won’t) operate and, of course, just when Lee–the semi-mysterious and singularly-named man behind Hop Sing Laundromat–will deem the place fit to open to the public.

Rumors have been rife. Hard facts are being collected with the obsessive attention to detail generally reserved for forensic investigations. We know a few things for sure: that it is named after the cook on Bonanza who was always threatening to leave the Cartwright homestead to open a laundromat, that there will be complimentary shoeshines and that its bar will stock over 1000 bottles of liquor. But really, Lee has been playing things extraordinarily close to the vest for months now.

But when I called him this afternoon for an update, I did get three very important new details.

First, that long awaited opening? It’s coming. And (maybe) soon.

“We’re pretty close to it,” Lee told me, saying that he’s had guys in there every single day, working to make everything perfect. It’s been nine months now, but the space isn’t quite ready. “We like to do things right,” he said, very matter-of-factly, and nothing is going to make him rush.

Second, he said that one of the reasons it’s been taking so long is that he’s “trying to bring the space back to it’s original…space.” And while that might not really be giving anything away, the “original space” he’s talking about goes back about 80 years to when the building was a printing shop. Without giving away (any) specifics, he told me about stripping 1029 Race down to its bones and how they’d found some amazing things–tucked away in back rooms and in the walls. It was the only time during our conversation when Lee sounded excited, which leads us to thing three…

“You really should come down,” he told me. “See what we have. I can’t really explain to you what we are doing. It would be better for you to see it because people don’t believe me when I tell them what we are doing, but then they see it and they believe.”

Of course, I jumped at the chance (the old “Look what I found hidden in the wall” trick works every time), so will be headed down next week to take a look at how things are shaping up at Hop Sing. I can’t wait.

And of course, as soon as I know something, you’ll know something. So be watching this space for updates.