Commerce, however, has begun to intrude on this simple pleasure.
At least one Chinese restaurant in Manhattan is sending out
delivery orders in cartons adorned not with the traditional
"Thank You, Enjoy," but with something a bit more jarring:
an advertisement for Cingular Wireless, a purveyor of cellular
From a distance, the boxes are indistinguishable from millions
of similar Chinese food containers, but closer inspection
reveals that one side reads "I H New York." Another bears
the message "Cingular Wireless: Swing by one of our retail
Devotees of Chinese takeout consulted for this article generally
agreed that they had not previously seen corporate advertising
on any of those ubiquitous white delivery cartons. So a call
was placed to The Chinese Restaurant News, a trade publication
based in Chinatown.
"Oh wow," said Grace Leung, a reporter. "I never heard of
Perhaps it was inevitable. Advertising has already made it
onto cardboard coffee cups and yellow cabs. The bare white
sides of the takeout carton must have seemed like tiny billboards
for a company with something to sell.
The cartons bearing Cingular's ads were traced to Grand Sichuan
International Midtown, a restaurant on Ninth Avenue and 50th
Street, where the menu includes poetic-sounding dishes like
Growing Grass in Spring Must Be Like Green and Green Parrot
With a Red Mouth.
"In all the ways that count," a New York Times review of
the restaurant published in September 2000 reads, "Grand Sichuan
Sunny Yan is a waiter there. He said the boxes were given
to Grand Sichuan two weeks ago by a man who asked the restaurant
to try them.
"It was free, no money," Mr. Yan recalled as he kept a watchful
eye on his customers. "They just want to promote their products."
Apparently, the man left neither a business card nor a telephone
number, and Mr. Yan said it was unclear whether he was working
for Cingular or, perhaps, for a Chinese food carton concern.
According to Ms. Leung, a handful of carton companies supply
the Chinese restaurants of New York.
Mr. Yan did manage to recall that the man was young, wore
glasses and was smartly dressed, and that the two boxes of
cartons he left behind caused quite a stir.
"It's the first time I had ever seen a box like this before,"
Mr. Yan said. "I never had that kind of experience. I was
A spokeswoman for Cingular did not return several messages
left at her office yesterday, and a curious reporter was left
to speculate on the connection between Chinese takeout and
Would customers given to placing delivery orders buy cellphones
to call a restaurant in advance — perhaps from the car, the
bus or the street?
"It's a good idea," Mr. Yan said with a smile and a nod.
Or would customers be put off by advertisements on the vessel
bearing their pork fried rice?
"I think it's cool," said a man named Brad, who was dining
alone in the restaurant and swapped his opinion for partial
anonymity. "Why should it bother me if someone sticks an ad
on the box?"