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Kester's Bamboo House, 724 Harden Street: 1970s   11 comments

Posted at 2:04 am in closing

Kester's Bamboo House occupied the spot on Harden Street now held by China Garden and Jungle Jim's. The first (rather unflattering) image comes from the 1963 Southern Bell directory and the second from the 1970 one. I'm not sure when the place closed, but I suspect it was sometime in the 1970s. I'm pretty sure I recall hearing about it as a child, but don't recall seeing it after I began to drive myself. A posting to a genealogy website says that the original Mr. Kester passed in 1966, but I don't know if the business stayed in the family after that or was sold at that point.

I also don't know if 724 Harden was split into two businesses at that point, or if Kester's occupied the whole space by itself, though the 1970 Yellow Pages ad claims banquet seating for 100, which seems larger than the current China Garden capacity. At any rate, I'm pretty sure the current China Garden building was at least part of Kester's and does date back to that era, and is somewhat responsible for the closing of The Parthenon.

As I remember it, the story in The State was that when the interminable Five Points road work of a few years ago reached The China Garden a snag developed. As the work crews went to replace the infrastructure under the building's foundation, they found that the building had no foundation! The front wall was basically supported only by the sidewalk, so before they could go under the building to work, they had to shore everything up and this took a lot longer than they expected -- and all the while they were there, access to The Parthenon was very difficult.

UPDATE 24 June 2019: Add tags and map icon.

Written by ted on April 10th, 2009

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11 Responses to 'Kester's Bamboo House, 724 Harden Street: 1970s'

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  1. I got a kick out the the first ad using the Alpine prefix for the phone number. That's something you don't see every day.


    10 Apr 09 at 3:53 am

  2. For a while I believe this was the only major chineese restaurant in the city.


    10 Apr 09 at 3:55 pm

  3. For a long time Jungle Jim's was Little O's, a place with an older, harder-drinking crowd than most of the Five Points draft beer joints full of USC students. In the 70s and 80s it was known as the last call place that stayed open later than anyone else.


    13 Apr 09 at 8:57 am

  4. Where is the Family now? Rose marie and others?

    Russell Whidden

    14 Jul 10 at 12:26 am

  5. I actually ate at Kesters Bamboo House as a child. This does bring back memories. My father took us there and he died in 1969 so it was mid-late 60s when we dined there. The food was amazing because it was so different from all the local fare offered. I ate there several times and went back there when it was China Garden, as well. It didn't really live up to Kesters Bamboo house but it was still a good experience. I love looking at the ads above....those were some genuinely wonderful people there.


    10 Feb 11 at 8:39 am

  6. Was there ever a Swiss Chalet rotisserie chicken restaurant in this location between the Kester's and China Garden incarnations? I could swear that I ate there once.


    10 Feb 11 at 1:57 pm

  7. My dad used to get take-out from Kester's when I was a little boy. I would often ride with him. There was a back alley into the parking lot from Greene Street and he would pull through there and park. We lived over on the East side of town, around 3 miles away.

    I remember Little Oscar's from my grad school days. It was definitely an older crowd. We would go in there to shoot pool and drink beer. The crowds didn't really mingle, but there was never any trouble.


    7 Jun 11 at 2:29 pm

  8. My dad would take us to Kester's for Sunday dinner when I was a kid. My highschool friends & I would go to the Opus across from USC and the Owls Club in Five Points. I thought the Opus was the greatest place. While I was attending USC in the early 70's, I worked at Kester's briefly after it became China Village. I was living on Green St at the time. I also remember Greenstreets, the Campus Club (worked there briefly), 221 Pickens (worked there too), the JA, Twilite Lounge, the Basil Pot, Andy's Deli, also a few other places can't remember the names of. I was sort of a hippie chick back then. Good times.


    9 Jul 12 at 11:16 am

  9. @Scarolingrl: You might get a kick out of the picture here


    9 Jul 12 at 11:42 am

  10. I actually worked at the Basil Pot for only a few days. Hired by a girl, then fired by a guy, might've been Basil, so he could hire a friend. I worked at a lot of Cola restaurants & bars, it was a very enjoyable occupation at the time, except for the Basil Pot.
    I did love the food & was looking forward to getting to eat there on a regular basis.


    18 Jul 12 at 9:37 pm

  11. As a kid in the late '60s I loved Kester's. It was our regular family night out. The aquariums were a wonder and if I recall, the waitresses dressed in beautiful gowns. The food was fantastic. We left Columbia in '72 and when we returned in '78 it was gone.

    Erwin Roman

    3 Aug 22 at 3:22 pm

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