Linashly, a hostess at U & Tea, answers a phone call behind the cash register on April 11. She has been working at the restaurant for six years, making milk tea and taking phone orders. (Xiaozhe Zhang/B&W Staff)

U & Tea brings together U & Me


It’s a Friday night and the streets of South Bethlehem are bustling with people. Next to a crowded bar on East Third Street sits the nondescript door to a small Chinese restaurant. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but beyond the entrance there isn’t an empty chair in sight.

Groups of Lehigh University students fill most of the room. Their tightly packed tables are adorned with authentic Chinese dishes. Peking duck, beef ho fun, pork dumplings. The cramped, scarcely decorated restaurant echoes with students’ laughter.

Amidst the chaos, one employee is flitting about the space, racing from the tables to the kitchen to the hostess stand and back again. Between answering the phone and balancing plates of food, she stops only to talk to the customers who call her over excitedly. Most of the time they aren’t looking to order or get the check, but instead to chat and catch up. 

All the while, there’s a smile on her face. She never seems stressed or rushed. This is what Alice Gatsch loves and what she’s good at.

“Everyday is a good day,” Gatsch says. “Nothing here is difficult, nothing that I cannot do.”

U & TEA is located at 119 E 3rd St. in South Bethlehem. U & TEA is a Chinese restaurant that mainly serves Cantonese and Szechuan food. (Xiaozhe Zhang/BW Staff)

U & Tea opened in 2015, but it wasn’t always the fast-paced, lively restaurant that it is today. Four years ago, Gatsch joined the restaurant’s staff and brought with her remarkable dedication, welcoming energy and her English skills.

Prior to 2018, none of U & Tea’s employees spoke English. As a result, the restaurant attracted primarily Lehigh’s Chinese international students and other Mandarin-speaking customers as it struggled to tap into other customer demographics. 

Gatsch changed that.

“After I came here, everybody knows me and we have all American customers,” Gatsch said. “The business has doubled.”

When Gatsch arrived at U & Tea after 15 years as the manager of a hibachi restaurant, she was also U & Tea’s only full-time waitress. Today, she remains the lone full-time employee aside from the kitchen staff.

Gatsch said she sees herself as not just a waitress, but a hostess, manager and everything in between. Yet, despite the understaffed environment, Gatsch doesn’t seem to mind.

“I’m used to it,” she said. “I’m fast.”

No matter how busy Gatsch is, she said her job is always fun — mostly because of her customers — many of whom she says are “like family.”

During Gatsch’s first year at U & Tea, she returned home to Malaysia to visit family. Not wanting to leave the restaurant without staff, she called her friend and former co-worker Sandy Stewart to fill in. 

Stewart said at first, she only took over for Gatsch for a month, but enjoyed it so much that she remains an employee today. 

The restaurant manager of U & TEA and a hostess work behind the desk taking orders and preparing milk tea for customers on April 11. U & TEA is a Chinese restaurant located in South Bethlehem. (Xiaozhe Zhang/B&W Staff)

Though she is a part-time employee, Stewart works at the restaurant as much as she can, helping Gatsch whenever possible. She, too, said she loves the working environment at U & Tea and has formed close relationships with customers.

“We like to serve (the students). They’re fun,”  Stewart said.

On the weekends, the restaurant is dominated by large groups of Lehigh students who come for dinner in the evening. Gatsch said she enjoys having these students, who now make up a large portion of U & Tea’s customers. 

“I told all our family customers ‘if you want to come on the weekend, come before 7:30,’” Gatsch said. “So the students have room to come in.”

Bridget Hall, ‘22, has been going to U & Tea regularly since the beginning of her junior year when there was little to do at Lehigh due to the pandemic. Now, even with more social opportunities at school, she keeps going back because of the relationships she’s formed with the employees.

Hall said she has become very close with Gatsch and Stewart over the past year and a half, and the servers and staff at the restaurant always make her feel like a part of their family. 

Hall said every time she comes to U & Tea, Gatsch runs to greet her with a hug. 

“She’s very loving and affectionate towards me,” Hall said. “She’s like a mom away from home.”

When it comes time to order, Hall said Gatsch already knows her usual, teriyaki chicken, without having to ask. 

Stewart said her favorite aspect of the U & Tea is the food. The restaurant emphasizes the authenticity of its menu, which is something Stewart appreciates.

Stewart said the food at U & Tea reminds her of dishes from “back home” in Indonesia. She said the restaurant’s menu items are unlike the cuisine she has seen on typical Chinese takeout menus in the U.S. 

Dishes like the Ma La dry hot pot and lamb casserole are a far cry from the Chinese-American food at restaurants in the area.

“This is an authentic Chinese restaurant,” Gatsch said. “Nobody around here makes the food that we’re making. You go to Hong Kong and these are the dishes you can get.”

U & TEA is located at 119 E 3rd St in South Bethlehem. U&TEA is a Chinese restaurant that mainly serves Cantonese and Szechuan food. (Xiaozhe Zhang/B&W Staff)

Chris Toh, ‘24, has been a regular at U & Tea for over a year now, going once every other week. He said he mostly goes for the genuine, high-quality food.

Toh said the way the restaurant prepares its food is similar to how his Chinese and Malaysian parents cook at home. He said he values that U & Tea’s food is not Americanized, as are so many Chinese restaurants in the U.S. 

Toh, too, has developed relationships with the staff members and often speaks Chinese with some of them.

“I went a couple nights ago near their closing time,” Toh said. “I actually stayed after (they closed) just to talk with the staff.”

Though the restaurant closes at 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, it’s not uncommon for Gatsch and Stewart to stay late at U & Tea on the weekends. They often keep the restaurant open a few minutes longer so students can have one last bite and share a couple of extra laughs.

“We know we can always go and hang out,” Hall said. “And there’s no pressure to get up and leave. It’s just a really reliable place.”

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.

Leave A Reply