By Harold Fuller
Old Hon Ess, a Chinaman who came to Hawthorne in the early days, kept a restaurant in Chinatown (central area was between G & H and 7th and 8th Streets) which was probably the only one of its kind in this part of the state. His building was not very elegant, nor was his table visibly adorned with silverware and butter knives, but he seemed to satisfy his patrons, who were mostly Paiutes. Hon Ess gave the prosperous red man, or anyone else who wanted to give it a try, a belly filling meal for twenty five cents. This meal consisted of bread, meat and coffee.
Since most of the meal was tripe, which had formerly seen service as part of digestive apparatus of a bullock or similar cuts thereof, it would appear that his butcher bill would not be very large. Immediately after the arrival of each C&C train into town his place was crowded with hungry customers, who had just rode in on the top of the freight cars. They willingly paid two-bits each for the luxuries which Hon Ess spread before them. There was probably no eating-house keeper in the world who hears so little complaint about poor coffee, stale bread or tough meat, and none of his customers, with one exception, had ever made any disagreeable comments on the condition of his dishes.
This exception was Old Black Joe, who, once in a state of financial depression, incident to the checkered life of a mountain boot-black, was obliged to lay aside his dignity and dine with Hon Ess. Joe was not pleased with the table fare and had unpleasant suspicions regarding the meat but Hon Ess told Joe he was too high toned, and that no one else complained. After a rather heated discussion about the “fine art” of preparing tripe for human consumption it was agreed that Joe should leave. Thereafter, no matter his financial status, or how hungry he became, Old Black Joe would never darken the Hon Ess eating establishment again.
May 16, 1883 WLB #19