Chin's Chop Suey

Bar & Restaurant
28205 Plymouth Rd
Livonia, Michigan, United States
Ph: (734) 525-CHIN
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Opened in 1955
Defunct tiki not included,
distances are as the crow flies.
Jade Tiki, Bloomfield Hills 18.0 mi
29.0 km
Mai Kai Lounge, Tecumseh 41.5 mi
66.8 km
Porco Lounge & Tiki Room, Cleveland 103.8 mi
167.0 km
Grass Skirt Tiki Room, Columbus 167.2 mi
269.0 km
Tiki Bowling Lanes, Lancaster 186.3 mi
299.8 km
Dining area at Chin's Chop Suey in Livonia
December 2007, photo by FreakyTiki
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Humuhumu’s description:
More of a Chinese restaurant than a Polynesian one, Chin's Chop Suey was opened in 1955 by Marvin Chin, who opened the very Polynesian Chin Tiki in Detroit 12 years later -- Chin Tiki closed in 1980.

Marvin's son Marlin nows owns and operates Chin's in Livonia, and some of the tiki decor from Chin Tiki has been relocated here.

There are 3 comments.
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March 1, 2011, 9:57 AM
Chin's breaks my heart ... because it COULD be so great. In decor, it is so authentic, so cool, so right on, so genuine, so untouched since the 1950s. In just about everything else, it seems so uninspired. The music -- 70s/80s pop. The food -- bland, typical Chinese restaurant fare. The staff -- a gaggle of young folks in ordinary, everyday clothes (not a Hawaiian shirt to be seen) who are nice enough, but seem to have no appreciation for the culture of the place. Given, I've only been there for lunch, since it's close to where I work, and not yet in the evening. Perhaps there's a change of mood when the sun goes down ... I can only hope, because with a little effort, this place could be an awesome tiki bar. I did notice last time I visited that there is a tropical drink menu complete with tiki mugs you can take home, but I wasn't brave enough to order one on a lunch break from the office ... so I can't comment on that. I realize being in a fairly dreary area of Livonia, Michigan probably doesn't help Chin's ... they probably focus on the Chinese restaurant angle to stay alive. If that's what it takes to keep this fab tiki relic open, then so be it. But I can't help wanting to uproot Chin's, plop it into a cooler area, like Ann Arbor, and amp up the tiki kitsch so we can have at least one great Polynesian escape in this frosty Midwestern state. I will continue to go to Chin's just to enjoy the decor and help keep it open, if only as a museum for the Chin Tiki artifacts that have found a home there. I encourage any other tikiphiles who live in the area to do the same!
TikiBill is a semi-regular at Chin's Chop Suey.

October 1, 2011, 2:00 PM
Dear TikiBill,
I agree that Chin's can be great. I believe it's like a sleeping volcano waiting to explode...once the time is right. Ploping it somewhere in the A2 college town would be amazing. However, that would cost a big investment in a slumping Michigan economy.
Thanks for being a tiki fan and supporting Chin's. We Appreciate all the business that you have given us for the years.

Grandson -=Stevie Lim=-
Da Azn Wun is a regular at Chin's Chop Suey.

March 31, 2013, 7:50 PM
I go to Chin's quite often, so I figured it was time I write a review. I'm a native Detroiter, but I've gone on several tiki pilgrimages to the point that I like to think I've seen a fair number of establishments in this genre (over half on the top 25 on this site).

TikiBill's description and the photos give you a good idea of what you're getting into. Much like Frankie's Tiki Room in Las Vegas, the outside is generally unassuming. The sign is a beautiful googie-style callback to a bygone era, and the tikis out front hint at what you'll find inside. Step inside and you go back in time. Bamboo matting, thatch, jade tiles, a rock wall, a few large tikis and a beautiful (and unused) bar tucked into a corner. To make life easy on the staff it seems, you are asked to sit on one particular side of the restaurant (jade tile and bamboo divider down the middle), and aside from the annual christmas tiki show, the far side seems to go unused.

Friends of mine who are less enamored with the tiki sub-culture don't like going there because the food is unremarkable. And for the most part, I can't disagree with them. It's not "bad"... but it's not "great" either... it's just generic, bland chinese fare with a few americana items for the less "adventurous".

You'll also notice the music falls in that same "bland" and non-themed category (generic top-40 radio)... you'll notice it because there will be no other noise... because there's usually only a smattering of folks. I'm usually there on a Friday or Saturday night, but it may as well be a Tuesday afternoon. 5-8 patrons tops usually. It's not exactly in a popular restaurant/shop area, so there's not any foot-traffic to be had, and not likely that you'd happen across it while you're out shopping, etc. They seem to do a decent carryout business though.

And it kills me that it's not more popular. Realistically... Chin's could be on that list in the top 25 with a few changes. It's got the history and ties to tiki's golden past (20 years older than Chef Shangri-La in Chicago)... and it's got the decor. It seems like what holds it back could be some conscious decisions. For example, turn the lights down a touch, swap out the top-40 radio music with exotica/hawaiian, swap over to the bar-side of the restaurant (where some of the more interesting decor is), and put the servers in aloha shirts. That is a 0-day, near-zero cost change that could have a huge impact on presentation/feel.

Beyond that you'd be looking at incorporating some new menu items (a la Grass Skirt Tiki Room in Columbus or the Omni Hut in Smyrna)... for some more traditional polynesian tastes. Or build out the bar a bit more to cater to that end of the spectrum. I'm not saying a "cook from scratch" type menu. But find a supplier with more polynesian offerings that can be prepared with the same effort.

Like TikiBill said though... the grand shot in the arm would be opening something up in Ann Arbor or Royal Oak where you have a higher concentration of people "out and about" who want somewhere to go or something to do. But that's opening up a new restaurant more than it is "just moving"... and at that point, you lose the "historical" part of the attraction to Chin's. Don't get me wrong... I'd love to see an A-Frame tiki-revival here in Michigan... but I'm not sure who has the money to do it.

... until then. We have Chin's, and that's something to be proud of.
Tiki Trev is a semi-regular at Chin's Chop Suey.

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