The nearly forty-year-old establishment had recently undergone a change in both management and menu, a risk that usually marks the ending of a good thing. For those who have never had Suzie’s, it was fairly ordinary Americanized Chinese fair: General Tso’s what-may-be-chicken, MSG-infused and fried all over. But those that have part taken in a Suzie’s feast are saying so long to a comfort food that has followed them from orientation week to their graduation date.
With Suzie’s, an order of sweet and sour chicken has acted as a distinct marker in the memories of many NYU students. From that first bite of chicken and broccoli on the dirty carpeted floor of a Hayden dorm room to the ceremonial first meal in your first New York apartment, Suzie’s was there.
The guarantee that a good, old-fashioned Chinese food experience was there for us day-to-day like a good friend. The lengthy and involving menu PDF patiently sat on your desktop like your favorite novel on a book shelf. One of the restaurant’s three phone lines was saved in your phone under the contact “Suzie bb <3”, and you dialed that number for occasions both joyous and tragic. The woman on the other end was always all business, but it’s okay because so were you.
Suzie’s was there when you needed a fat-laden meal during your finals, and without a doubt a loyal delivery man would be waiting in the lobby of Bobst moments later. With every late-night Bobst excursion that waited for you at the end of the semester, there was also the promise of caving into your “diet” and making a pre-closing time order. In a blink of an eye, you could go from starving and miserable to wolfing down the most greasily satisfying egg foo young in the atrium, your eyes shifting nervously for Bobst security guards like prey in the wild.
From its no frills home on Bleecker, Suzie’s somehow had the magical ability of showing up at your location within ten minutes of placing your order. When you ordered from Suzie’s there was no down time for taking a shower, catching up on 30 Rock, or squeezing in another response paper, there was little time to coordinate before the buzz at your door. The deliverymen could materialize at your step on Avenue C in what seemed like moments, beckoning with white rice and prepared to perform a bizarrely antique ritual of rubbing a pastel across your receipt to get your credit card number.
To truly experience Suzie’s however, you had to have entered the sacred halls of the trademark spot. The space was an authentic Chinese restaurant experience, in vein of the classic Seinfeld episode “The Chinese Restaurant.” Mildly tacky, but relaxed. Comfortable, with a slight flair. Little umbrellas in the drinks, etc. As in many restaurants, photographs littered the walls as mementos of frequent dinners that included various film and music stars. But the range in the photos that spanned two generations illustrated the prevalence of the Village haunt, like the signed playbills from the original casts of The Fantasticks and American Buffalo. And in nearly every photo, posing with the likes of a mid-nineties Jackie Chan or the current prize Knicks player, was Suzie herself, almost ageless through the years, looking perfect in a patterned dress suit.
We salute you Suzie. Although the establishment is gone, we remember those nights of thick and addictive brown sauce and tenderly fired goodness well. We remember when Carrie and her gang toasted to “that fifth lady” of Manhattan, and you were watching that episode crouched over a mountain of empty food cartons, raising your last crispy egg roll in the air to another great lady. Suzie’s, thank you for being a friend.
[photo by Alex Bedder]