UPPER EAST SIDE, NYC | A truly special occasion just occurred up here on the Upper East Side. In a neighborhood chock-full of any number and varieties of (pan)Asian takeout joints—like most NYC neighborhoods—Yorkville got to see the return of the decades-long favorite, Nancy Lee's Pig Heaven.
To us local nostalgists, Pig Heaven represented the last of a seemingly extinct iteration of Chinese restaurant, that of a time when "going out for Chinese" was a special occasion. People looked forward to it for a week, showing up formally-attired and sitting down at sturdy linen-covered tables, where likewise formally-attired waiters served family-favorite Chinese dishes in or on decoratively ornate porcelain vessels. Nary a plastic fork, paper plate, styrofoam container, or sauce packet in sight!
But happily in sight is the owner/proprietor herself, the agelessly beautiful Nancy Lee, who broke hearts last fall by informing loyal local customers that she had to give up her former space of 29 years. (Rent hikes—what's new?!) The bad news was short-lived, as she was diligently persevered and was able to find a space just a block away to offer the same quality food, service, and personality that defined an era in this area, if not the whole city. And she thankfully turned the business around so quickly she was able to celebrate the Chinese New Year with her reopening just last week.
The year and location might be new, but the vibe, and ambience are old, welcomed, warm reminders of many great experiences of a grateful generation of whole families of diners. And as I—this past Chinese New Year Day—enjoyed my General Tso's lunch special (with spring rolls and chicken velvet corn soup), I decided to congratulate Miss Nancy Lee, on the return of her fine traditions of Chinese food service, by spoiling myself with one of her all-time most popular menu items: the BBQ spareribs.
And I am proud to say that those spareribs alone—as deliciously sweet, smokey, meaty, tender, sticky, spicy, "porky", and sublime as ever—are reason enough to celebrate. As is the sight of neighborhood staple, Miss Nancy Lee and her restaurant of many fond memories. Welcome back, Miss Lee, and Happy Year of the Goat!
Bun Apple Tea!
NANCY LEE'S PIG HEAVEN | 1420 3rd Avenue | 212.744.4333 | pigheavennyc.com