Rangoon, which brought Burmese cuisine to Philadelphia in 1993, says it will close, but there are plans to sell
Several potential suitors have emerged with interest to buy the Chinatown institution, one owner says.
Phone and online orders are pouring into Rangoon since management announced on social media that Chinatown’s lone Burmese restaurant would close at the end of the year after a 28-year run on Ninth Street.
But the thousand-layer bread and spring ginger salads may not go away for good.
While Christine Gyaw and her business partners field an uptick in orders from nostalgic customers, they have also heard from several restaurateurs who are interested in either keeping Rangoon in business or opening it as a different Burmese restaurant at 112 N. Ninth St. The restaurant opened in 1993 at 145 N. Ninth St. and moved down the block to a larger storefront in 1996.
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One potential suitor owns several non-Asian restaurants in Philadelphia, Gyaw said, and his children love the food. If she can strike a deal with him, she said, she would stay on as a partner and would teach Rangoon’s recipes to a new chef. Regardless of the new management, Gyaw said, the place needs remodeling, a common necessity at an older restaurant. Rangoon had offered beer and wine in the dining room, but new management could offer more profitable cocktails and a tightening of the menu.
Gyaw, 64, who fled Myanmar in 1990 with her daughter, Mya, said the rigors of the business have caught up with her and partners Jenny Louie and Chiu Sin Mee. They decided to announce the closing Oct. 26 to allow customers time to process the news.
Gyaw said the pandemic has been particularly hard on them as they schlep sacks of potatoes and other heavy ingredients from storage into the kitchen.
Their chef, as Gyaw explained, is 77 years old. The restaurant has also shed staff since reopening in May 2020 after a two-month shutdown early in the pandemic — to the point that they cannot staff the formal dining room for in-person service. Rangoon did not offer delivery before the pandemic, and the owners were forced to transition their kitchen to the world of third-party platforms.
Customers showing up for pickups have been emotional, Gyaw said. “One said, ‘I almost cried when I heard about this.’ When I saw him, I wanted to cry, too.”