SF Landmark Sam Wo To Close April 20th

Sam Wo, a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown is set to close its doors on Friday, April 20, 2012. The iconic restaurant has been around for over 100 years and was famous by Edsel Ford Fong, considered the “world’s rudest, worst, most insulting waiter.” Wikipedia’s description of Fong in action:

As head waiter, Fong greeted visitors with an admonition to “sit down and shut up.” He was known for calling patrons “retarded” and “fat”, criticizing people’s menu choices before telling them what they should order, slamming food on the table, complaining about receiving only 15% tips, and groping female patrons. An imposing man with a crew cut hair style, he also was notorious for seating people with strangers, forgetting orders, cursing, spilling soup on customers, hazing newcomers, refusing to provide forks or English menu translations, and busing tables before diners were finished.

Fong passed away in 1984. Sam Wo continued on, and more recently, in 2007 the restaurant was featured by Conan O’Brien on his late night show.

I first discovered the Sam Wo restaurant after reading Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. At the time I wasn’t at all familiar with San Francisco, and certainly hadn’t heard about Edsel Ford Fong. But after doing research on book series, I found out that the restaurant that Norman Neal Williams takes Mary Ann Singleton to was based on the real Sam Wo, I had to visit the restaurant, and so I did on my next trip up to San Francisco. That was back in the early nineties, so I didn’t get to see Fong in action, but I remember taking an instant liking to the restaurant, and often frequented it again on my trips up to the city.

I’ll miss being able to stop by Sam Wo when I’m in Chinatown the next time around.

[h/t: John]

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About Tim

I'm a Chinese/Taiwanese-American, born in Taiwan, raised on Long Island, went to college in Philadelphia, tried Wall Street and then moved to the California Bay Area to work in high tech in 1990. I'm a recent dad and husband. Other adjectives that describe me include: son, brother, geek, DIYer, manager, teacher, tinkerer, amateur horologist, gay, and occasional couch potato. I write for about 5 different blogs including 8Asians. When not doing anything else, I like to challenge people's preconceived notions of who I should be.
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