When Meiwah flicks off the red, neon letters facing New Hampshire Avenue NW for the last time next month, run-of-the-mill diners and former U.S. presidents will be left to mourn the closing of one of D.C.’s most popular Chinese restaurants.
Eater has confirmed that Meiwah will conclude a 20-year run in the West End with a final day of business on Tuesday, May 14. The source for Cantonese cooking will continue to run its location in Chevy Chase, Maryland, owner Larry La tells Eater. Washingtonian first reported news of the impending closure this morning.
La, a Vietnamese refugee of Chinese descent, says his restaurant is being priced out of the building at 1200 New Hampshire Avenue NW because the owners want to expand the space and raise the rent.
“We can’t afford to keep raising prices for the customers,” he says.
Meiwah built a following with Americanized dishes that appealed to a broad base of diners: General Tso’s chicken, sesame beef, dumplings, and Peking duck.
Exceedingly friendly and a fervent follower of politics, La has befriended talking heads, members of congress, and cabinet members. His customer base grew through word of mouth as more and more photos of La standing next to celebrity guests were placed on the wall. La says all people love getting recognized, and he has a sharp eye for faces.
“It’s more true to politicians,” he adds.
Bill Clinton became a big customer. La says his delivery team will still drive out orders to feed the former president’s plane on charter flights out of town.
Alisa La, Larry La’s daughter, says her father’s restaurant has become part of the cultural fabric of George Washington University, where she went to college, and on Capitol Hill, where she works now. She got her start with the state department, worked under Hillary Clinton, and now serves as an aide to another prominent Democrat.
She says that on both sides of the aisle, late-night delivery orders from Meiwah have become a comfort during election nights and other intense times during campaigns.
“This is the food that fuels a lot of the brainpower in Washington,” she says.
La’s daughter says CNN’s Dana Bash is one of several reporters who calls her dad directly on his cell phone. She says the news network placed an order to feed “like a 100 people” the night Attorney General William Barr was set to release his summary of the Robert Mueller report investigating whether President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.
Even though she’s moved to Arlington, La still splurges on Uber Eats and Postmates to get her Meiwah fix.
Meanwhile, Larry La says he may look for another D.C. location down the road, but for now he’s content to focus on the Meiwah in Chevy Chase. Running restaurants is a tough business, he says, but he loves the friendships he’s developed with customers and staff. He’s 60 now, but he doesn’t see himself retiring anytime soon.
“Nowadays you look at the people who run for president, you think that 70 is the new 50,” he says.