Contractor Joe Bauer cocked his arm and flung a brick through the Red Dragon’s window as owner Chester Chin looked on. With a crash of glass, a new era began. Located across the street from Slyman’s Restaurant, the building was bulldozed for a parking lot. Next to it, Chester rebuilt the Red Dragon.
Chester, a Chinese immigrant, came to Cleveland in 1940. His cousin Tong Chin was something of a Chinese food baron here, with ventures including the Red Dragon, a chow mein factory worth about $2 million in AsiaTown and the Golden Dragon and Victory Room on Euclid Avenue, according to Alan F. Dutka in AsiaTown Cleveland: From Tong Wars to Dim Sum.
Originally, Chester helped his cousin manage the empire built on cheap, delicious food. In 1959, customers at the Red Dragon could get a six-course Cantonese dinner for $1.75. Toss in another 45 cents, and the Chins would return the favor with three more courses. Chester eventually took over the Red Dragon at 3048 St. Clair Ave. in 1971.
At the 1977 opening of the new building, Mayor Ralph Perk cut the ribbon. Chester owned the spot until his death in 1995. The restaurant went through several iterations after that but none were successful.
Today the red facade sits empty, marred by the odd speckling of graffiti and a real estate agent’s sign.