Victor Lim's - Detroit MI

Address: 48 W Adams Ave
City: Detroit
State: MI
Zip: 48226
County: Wayne
Number of visits to this page: 1232

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General Information:

When I saw the postcard for Victor Lim's I thought this would be a basic post about a long-gone Detroit Restaurant like so many others. Well, I was wrong. Lim was the unofficial "Mayor of Chinatown" in Detroit. He had quite a life as is documented here and elsewhere. There is a Lim's as of 2023 in Sterling Heights that has no relation to Victor Lim's in Detroit as far as I know.

From D Tour 313:

It was on this date, Nov. 16, 1950, proprietor, Victor Lim (1902-1970) first opened the doors to his legendary namesake restaurant located at 48 W. Adams, facing Grand Circus Park. It had taken years of hardship to achieve this level of success in his beloved Detroit, but his resiliency, heart-felt charm to please his guests and love for the Chinese food and exotic cocktails he served, made it inevitable.

His life read like a dramatic novel. Born in his native China in 1902, he would arrive in the U.S. in 1916, settling in Detroit’s old Chinatown district (west of downtown, south of Michigan Ave. centered along Third St.). In 1924 he would return to China where he would marry his childhood sweetheart, Mae Jean. In early 1926 Victor would leave for Detroit to prepare a home for his new family. By the time he arrived he received word that he would become a father, strengthening his resolve all the more.

Time went by and after years of furiously working he had almost enough money for both a restaurant and to send for his wife and his young son (Buck Yick Lim), when the Depression hit. Though financially hurt and heart-broken, he was determined and kept working, hoping one day to bring his family home to Detroit. As he would run his restaurants (“Cafe Orient” on Cass Ave. by the Leland Hotel and later the “Oriental Quarters Restaurant” on Third St. in Chinatown) he and Mae Jean would continue to write to each other. Through the Japanese invasion of China in 1936 to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Then the letters from his wife stopped. In 1942 he would discover she had been killed at the hands of the Japanese Army during their occupation, while his son managed to escape by joining the Chinese Navy. Buck Yick would serve the remainder of WWII, getting married and starting a family of his own. Victor Lim somehow managed to press on, later remarrying in 1951 to Katie Lim, a widow and Detroit resident who had the distinction of being the first Chinese woman to graduate from Wayne State University’s pharmacy program.

After countless agonizing years, it would be through the efforts of senators, judges, city officials as well as his wife, Katie (who would fly to Hong Kong to finalize the details) to allow passage for the son, daughter-in-law and grand children Victor had never met. On May 25, 1955, at Willow Run Airport, after 29 years of waiting, a joyful Victor Lim finally had his family back.

During it’s heyday, Victor Lim’s 48 W. Adams restaurant would see enormous success. Being a mainstay for luncheons for the nearby business community as well as the after-movie crowd for drinks and dinner from the neighboring theaters (Adams, Fox, Palms and Broadway Capital). It was a prime, walk-able spot offering unique Asian cuisine like no other downtown, and Victor knew it. His son, Buck Yick (1926-2020), would formally change his name to his father’s to Victor Lim, Jr. and run the restaurant as assistant manager until later taking over as his father’s successor in later years.

In 1984, after a lengthy decline in business, Victor Lim’s would close it’s doors for good. Many decades have passed and although all that remains is the exterior facade of the Fine Arts Building where the restaurant was once housed, Victor Lim’s spirit lives on in the people who remember the endearing man, his family and their iconic restaurant.

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Victor Lims - Historical Photo From Don Thorson Via D Tour 313 Facebook
Historical Photo From Don Thorson Via D Tour 313 Facebook
Victor Lims - Vintage Postcard
Vintage Postcard
Victor Lims - Vintage Postcard
Vintage Postcard
Victor Lims - From D Tour 313 Facebook
From D Tour 313 Facebook
Victor Lims - From D Tour 313 Facebook
From D Tour 313 Facebook
Victor Lims - From D Tour 313 Facebook
From D Tour 313 Facebook
Victor Lims - Vintage Postcard
Vintage Postcard
Victor Lims - Menu
Victor Lims - Menu
Victor Lims - Menu
Victor Lims - Matchbook
Victor Lims - Matchbook
Victor Lims - March 12 1970 Victor Lim Obituary
March 12 1970 Victor Lim Obituary
Victor Lims - April 1947 Article
April 1947 Article
Victor Lims - Apr 3 1960 Article
Apr 3 1960 Article
Victor Lims - Aug 1950 Article
Aug 1950 Article
Victor Lims - Aug 1951 Article
Aug 1951 Article
Victor Lims - Dec 1941 Ad
Dec 1941 Ad
Victor Lims - Dec 1948 Article
Dec 1948 Article
Victor Lims - Dec 1950 Ad
Dec 1950 Ad
Victor Lims - Dec 1950 Article
Dec 1950 Article
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Dec 1952 Article
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Feb 1936 Ad
Victor Lims - Feb 1951 Ad
Feb 1951 Ad
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Jan 1952 Article
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June 1991 Article
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Nov 1951 Article
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