The owner of Suzi's has quietly called it quits after three decades operating the popular North Austin Chinese restaurant.
Saturday was the last night Suzi Yi welcomed diners. While many had encouraged the restaurateur to have a splashy farewell, Yi didn't want to make a fuss, opting instead to tell her regulars face-to-face over the past week or so.
After the doors closed for the final time, Yi posted a heartfelt note outside the restaurant, at 7858 Shoal Creek Blvd., saying farewell to her customers — or, as she calls them, her friends.
"I want to retire," she said. "It's time."
But Yi admits the decision was a tough one.
"I love all my customers," she said. "My customers became my best friends. I'm going to miss them. It was very sad telling them. I was crying."
Suzi's opened in 1997. About five years ago, Yi renovated and expanded her building, creating room for two more tenants. Those spots are occupied today by Mattress Firm and Be More Pacific Filipino Kitchen and Bar.
The rental income from those spots, as well as District Kitchen, which will take over the Suzi's space, makes Yi's retirement possible.
Frank Seely first met Yi more than 30 years ago, when she was working at another Austin Chinese restaurant. He was so impressed — she was waiting half the tables in the place, Seely says — that he offered to help her build her own eatery. That's how Suzi's, known for popular dishes such as sesame chicken and orange chicken, was born.
All these years later, Seely says he and his wife Nina still visited Suzi's at least once a week.
"We're regulars," he said. "We're going to miss it a lot."
The Seelys and Yi will remain friends though, with Yi already planning to hold happy hours at District Kitchen when it opens. That should be sometime in summer 2019, according to owners Ali Hajimaleki and Amir Hajimaleki.
The brothers opened the first District Kitchen at 5900 W. Slaughter Lane in the Circle C area in Southwest Austin about five years ago. They also own Oasthouse Kitchen and Bar at 8300 N. RM 620 in the Four Points area in Northwest Austin.
Amir Hajimaleki said the duo is eager to open their newest restaurant.
"This area is great," he said. "We think we can do very well here."
The Suzi's space will be remodeled over the next few months.
"It'll be a very industrial-looking space," Amir Hajimaleki said. "Lots of reclaimed items. More color."
The menu specializes in locally sourced offerings. Dishes include prime steaks, seafood and pasta. There will also be a raw bar with oysters and other offerings, as well as a cocktail bar with a regular happy hour.
The North Austin District Kitchen will be open for lunch and dinner, as well as weekend brunch.