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May 3, 2006 12:26 AM

Richmond - Golden Star Café - $6.45 three-course dinner with beverage

  • r

Soup: Bowl of house-made minestrone with Keebler saltine cracker packets

Entrée: Two large, thin, fried pork chops, house-made Parker House rolls, rice with gravy, succotash

Dessert: Black walnut ice cream

Beverage: Fresh brewed ice tea with fresh lemon wedge

If I had ordered the liver and onions, three courses would have been $5.55. The big ticket items were the halibut at $7.25 or the sirloin steak at $8.95. Most dinners were in the $6 range.

I posted earlier about this Chinese-American restaurant that serves soul food. It seems this Chinese restaurant has always served soul food to cater to the neighborhood tastes. New owners bought the place and are working with the owner who is retiring. They plan on keeping the Chinese food while adding to the soul food menu.

Right now the soul food items are limited to the daily specials like oxtails, baked turkey wings, and short ribs. By mid-July the new owners are planning to add corn bread, black-eyed-peas, gumbo, etc.

The restaurant I was told is busiest for breakfast and lunch. By the time I stopped by for dinner, the specials were sold out, as were the mashed potatoes. I got the last roll.

The food was coffee shop quality. It may or may not be Chowhound food. It is hard to tell since the popular dishes sold out. However, it certainly was a good value for the price and the food, if not fancy, was bright and fresh.

The soup was a little light in the broth but was chock full of fresh celery, carrots, onions, and tasty tiny white beans with a few pieces of beef and tomato. I would think of it more as vegetable soup than minestrone, but it was good.

The tea was fresh brewed and good. The roll was very good. The rice topped with light gravy was also fresh and the gravy tasty. Only the succotash was of the forgettable canned variety.

I liked that there were other flavors of ice cream available in addition to vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Besides the black walnut, there was banana nut ice cream too. Yhere was the option of jello with whipped cream.

Soup changes daily. Friday is clam chowder. There is an option of salad instead of soup.

This restaurant has been in business for 30 years and I can see the appeal of good value for the price. Not a lot has been done for the décor. There’s a long lunch counter, orange booths, and a second room with tables.

The vibes I was getting was that when the new owners take over this could either be very, good or take a big dive. It is unlikely to remain as is. The Chinese owner is still there and a really nice guy who always has his eye on what is going on. He was very enthusiastic when he mentioned the oxtails and the short ribs. He said they were the most popular items.

The place had a steady stream of people for take-out of Chinese food. The lunch specials, hours and address are in the previous post linked below.

I might not go out of my way, but if in the immediate area it is a good choice for a reasonable meal and there could possibly be some winners on the specials menu. I certainly will be checking back in July.


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  1. m
    Melanie Wong

    When I saw your first post on Golden Star, the menu looked not so much like soul food, but rather the typical American dishes (pork chops, short ribs, oxtails, wings, meatloaf, pot roast) offered by day of the week that were the bread and butter of Chinese-American cafes. Most of the ones in SF Chinatown are gone now with Uncle's and Capital being notable exceptions. We had many of them, such as Rodeo now called Sang's Cafe, in the hinterlands of Salinas even. Gosh, I miss those yeasty Parker House rolls.


    21 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      You know, that's probably going on with this place.

      The commonality of some items like the fried chicken, liver and onions, and oxtails, given the local populationm. was interpreted as soul food.

      It is funny but so much of what you said in your post was just right on target with this place.

      The soup was in a big bowl and not a cup. The menu identifies the steaks (NY & Sirloin) as USDA choice. And that business about the rice was probably true. I was thinking that it was quite excellent white rice and I didn't miss the potatoes.

      What probably keeps this place in business is that the neighborhood remains "seasonal laborers and blue collar workers".

      And the pattern the same with the specials being snapped up by the lunch crowd. For an extra fifty cents you can get both soup and salad.

      And like you said of the prime rib the food was "Not the best I've ever had, but quite satisfactory."

      It reminded me of the little coffee shops and diners in New England that catered to the factory workers where the food was similar. This will mean nothing to anyone but me, but I had many similar meals at a place called Lincoln Lunch in my home town.

      I was also thinking that ironically the reason they probably could keep the prices so low was cooking from scratch. No Sysco truck ever stopped here. That iced tea that started from a tea bag is probably less expenive to make than the mixes or premade types.

      I think it would be an interesting place to visit when it is busy. Maybe I can fit in the short ribs / clam chowder on Friday.

      And while it did not use organic ingrediants or fancy meat, that soup reminded me of something similar that I tried at Soop in Epicurious Garden ... except that the price of that soup was the price of the whole dinner at Golden Star.

      The black walnut ice cream was pleasant too.

      1. re: rworange
        Melanie Wong

        We're on the same wavelength. I meant to say something about cooking from scratch but forgot it. These aren't fancy meals, but they're fresh and made from real, unprocessed ingredients.

        The black walnut ice cream sounds like a nice touch. I'm more used to vanilla or orange sherbet or sometimes their own apple pie, like at B&W Cafe in Vallejo.

        My theory about the attention to the beef quality is that these Chinese cooks and their style of cooking harkens back to life on the cattle range and cooking around the campfire. One of my late uncle's father was a cook on a rancho on the Central Coast. As a child I imagined that his life was not unlike that shown on the TV show, "Bonanza".

        If you have a chance to return and find the Chinese owner there, you might ask him if he knows how to make "cowboy coffee". Maybe he'll brew you some.


        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Well, now you've made going back to Golden Star irresistable to me.

          Your link to Cowboy coffee no longer works. I was looking around on the web and it seems the method of adding eggshells and eggwhites had its origins in Turkey.

          My grandmother made coffee with eggshells and in my searching I found references to Polish coffee. The one and only thing I liked about Old Krakow was that the coffee tasted like my grandmother's. I wonder if they use the eggshells.

          Anyway I thought you might be amused by this article about Cowboy coffee today. At the end it says

          "One of the cowboys handed us Styrofoam cups, plastic spoons, and a small jar of instant Folgers, then pointed at a pot of water simmering on the camp stove. When we hesitated, the cowboy took a noisy slurp from his own Styrofoam cup, squinted at us through the steam, and said, in a voice that sounded as if it had been dragged all night behind a horse, "Now that, mister, is a damned good cup of coffee."

          Here's another link about cowboy coffee


          1. re: rworange
            Melanie Wong

            The similarity to Turkish coffee probably refers to the step of boiling the grounds. Judging from the amount of sludge that winds up in a cup of Turkish coffee, it doesn't seem like egg whites or eggshells are used to clear the brew.


      2. re: Melanie Wong

        Is Sun Wah Kue not there anymore? I usually went there for pies, but it did have such a C/A cafe. Remember Jackson Cafe?

        1. re: chocolatetartguy
          Cindy in Novato

          My grandmother used to work as cashier for Sun Wah Kue (sp?) I remember their custard and apple pies very fondly.

          1. re: Cindy in Novato
            Melanie Wong

            If your grandmother knows the secret of Sun Wah Kue's orange pie, please share it. There have been several requests here over the years looking for it.


            1. re: Melanie Wong
              Cindy in Novato

              Unfortunately, my grandma is no longer with us. I don't remember those orange pies; I'll have to ask my mom if she does.

              Reading yimster's post, I'd forgotten about those sugar donuts, as well as the waffles. Wow, that takes me back.

              1. re: Cindy in Novato

                They were a nickle each. Being a cute kid (yes I was once small and cute) I would get six for a quarter. I would always ask for the donuts by saying Uncle and Auntie as a greeting.

                I had forgotten about the waffles with butter and sugar instead of syrup. Also the "dry" and "wet" bread.

                Wish we could have it now.

                1. re: yimster

                  Darn you people, darn you. Now I'm curious about the waffles at Golden Star. They are only $3.75.

                  What was dry and wet bread?

                  1. re: rworange

                    As a little kid my DAd took me to Sun Wah Kue for both breakfast and lunch.
                    Early in the day the waiter would ask if the bread you want was "dry" (biscuits) or "wet" (dinner roll). I should have order more biscuits but the freshly bake dinner roll was wonderful.

                    1. re: rworange

                      Brings back fantastic, fond memories of the good old days growing up in S. F. Chinatown! I remember the dry and wet biscuits ("Denver biscuits"?). I preferred the wet. I also remember the waffles with granulated sugar and butter w/o syrup, the marble cake, the cup cakes, apple pie, pineapple pie besides my favorite orange pie, the peanut cake and the delicate, light strawberry and banana shortcakes. I hated the custard pie in the old days. The apple pie was fifty cents and the strawberry shortcake was an expensive one dollar and fifty cents. The parents of my old classmate (Robert Wong) at Commodore Stockton Elementary School (Now Eugene Lau School) were the owners of Sun Wah Kue. Robert's mother was the cashier; she was a very nice lady and a real beauty! The American lunches were good and cheap. The prime rib was delicious (1.75) as was the fried chicken and hamburger steak and oxtail stew (lunch even included a choice of pie for dessert!).

                      1. re: CYL

                        Read all the posts, but too excited to glean the addr of Sun Wah Kue if it still exists... where is it? And is the oxtail stew still around? Anywhere else for such a stew?

                        1. re: Sarah

                          It has been gone for years. The food they served are just things we dream about. Unless you can make yourself.

                          1. re: yimster

                            But, but... the restaurant that started this post still serves this food. Oxtail stew was on the special list today, but didn't get to go over there and try it. I'm saving my self for the short ribs and clam chowder on Friday.

                            1. re: rworange

                              I am trying to find the recipe for this famous orange pie. I have been to many bakeries and can not find this pie anywhere.

                              I would love to make this pie for my father in-law for father's day..
                              He always raves about it and how many memories it brings back...
                              Can anyone help?

                              Thanks in advance,


                  2. re: Cindy in Novato

                    As long as we're going down memory lane, is there anywhere else that has pie crust like Sun Wah Kue? I remember it being sort of dry and mealy (in a very good way - like the dry biscuits?) and not at all flaky. The apples were highly sweetened (but not too sweet) and barely cooked. My grandmother used to have this apple pie and another more traditionally American one waiting for us when we went to visit on the weekends.

                    I don't recall ever having any pie quite like SWK's anywhere else. It seems like not that long ago that I bought a pie there after the "gourmet" revolution, but it might have been five years ago.

                    1. re: chocolatetartguy

                      I don't remember the pie crust as well as you but by your description it sounds similar to the crust for the egg custard tarts that I just tried from Honolulu Cafe & Bakery on 888 Stockton Street.... the shell was very rich, sandy in texture - as vs. flaky like at GGBakery


                  3. re: Melanie Wong

                    I am too young to know old Chinatown, but my grandmah always use to make this weird tasting orange pie which I didn't like growing up. Anyhow, not sure if the Orange Pie people are referring to is this recipe below.

                    1 can mandarin oranges (large can)
                    1 package orange jello
                    1 can evaporated milk (fridged)
                    1 pie crust
                    1 medium navel orange, sliced
                    Whipped cream
                    Food coloring (red and orange), optional

                    Drain mandarin orange liquid into a measuring cup. Add enough water to equal 1 cup, save the oranges segments. Bring the mandarin oranges liquid to a boil. Stir in orange jello mix until dissolved. Let the mix cool or until it becomes syrupy.

                    Add evaporated milk and beat on high speed until nearly doubled. Fold in mandarin oranges. Pour into crust and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until set.

                    Garnish with orange slices and whipped cream.

                    I have a feeling instead of mandarin oranges liquid, the bakers in Chinatown probably just used a simple syrup.

                2. re: chocolatetartguy
                  Melanie Wong

                  Sun Wah Kue is gone. My reference to Chinese coffee in my reply further down in the thread links back to a discussion about Jackson Cafe.

              2. Are the specials served at lunch, or only dinner?

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sarah

                  Lunch through dinner until they run out. On the day I went they ran out early, so you might call if you are interested going for dinner.

                2. This thread might be too old and may not get anymore activity, but I was googling "Orange pie Chinatown" in hopes of finding the recipe for the orange pie I remember as a child too! I must've eaten them before Sun Wah Que closed, because I am a child of the 80's.

                  But after sifting through all these threads about orange pie, with no solid recipe, I found several recipes with an agar agar base that are simply agar agar, sugar, and fresh orange juice, which yields a very similar look to the SWQ pie filling. I'm going to try it to be sure, but thought I'd post it here for anyone else who may wax nostalgic about the pie! I'm going to try it with a shortening based pie crust (I bet they used shortening or lard for those pie crusts!) and see how it turns out. Here's one of the recipes I found for the orange agar agar jelly:

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Pearliegirlie

                    Please do let us know how it turns out for you. Thanks for sharing.