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Sam Wo closing... help!!!! Where... [San Francisco]

mayndo Apr 19, 2012 11:45 AM

According to http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

A little help please? Where will my honey get his shrimp covered in pork grease over rice cooked in pork grease at 2 am after band practice/gigs? Any ideas?

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  1. m
    ML8000 RE: mayndo Apr 19, 2012 12:01 PM

    If you want some old school abuse a la Edsel Fong, go to House of Nanking and ask for a menu. :)

    1. f
      FoodSearcher1 RE: mayndo Apr 19, 2012 12:08 PM

      OH NO!! We had only 20 days left before we intended to fly across the country & visit Sam Wo. The last time I ate at Sam Wo was during the 1960s. I waited all this time to revisit and savor the nostalgia. Now, it's too late.

      1. c
        chocolatetartguy RE: mayndo Apr 19, 2012 12:22 PM

        I was just there Saturday and something was up. At mid afternoon, there was no gim fon because the owner had not been there yet and according to the ladies there, he is the only one who makes it.

        As luck would have it I will be off tomorrow and in the City. I guess I can park in the garage on Kearney and hike up for my last taste of his gim fon.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chocolatetartguy
          dordogne RE: chocolatetartguy Apr 19, 2012 09:20 PM

          R.I.P. Anywhere else to get cold rice noodle rolls with lots of cilantro?

          1. re: dordogne
            abigailhamilton RE: dordogne Apr 23, 2012 09:53 AM

            I have the same question. They have been a must for me every time I am in Chinatown for, oh, 20 years now. I have never seen them made anywhere else.

        2. Chandavkl RE: mayndo Apr 19, 2012 01:28 PM

          Actually it was only recently that I realized they were still open. Even at the time of my last visit there in 1980 I didn't think it was very good. Unfortunately, Sam Wo is an anachronism and I don't think you'll find a replacement. And probably for good reason.

          1. Melanie Wong RE: mayndo Apr 19, 2012 11:05 PM

            After dinner elsewhere tonight, I swung by about an hour ago to see Sam Wo lit up at night. I didn't eat there, just wanted to pay my last respects. The folks in line were sharing their memories of the place. At this hour, most looked to be younger than 35 y o, meaning they were too young to have been waited on by Edsel. Bittersweet.

            A couple photos:


            15 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong
              The Dairy Queen RE: Melanie Wong Apr 20, 2012 12:37 AM

              Great pics, thank you. Sam Wo is one of those places that is supposed to be there forever.

              I guess this sums it all up: "“Too old. Everything’s too old,” says the 56-year-old [David] Ho. “The building is too old. It’s very sad.”

              He adds that the three-story restaurant has been having problems with the fire department and the kitchen is too old, too. He says that he won’t reopen, at 813 Washington or elsewhere."

              And now I feel too old!

              He's smart for not trying to re-open elsewhere. Of course, it wouldn't be the same and there would be no point.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                Melanie Wong RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 20, 2012 07:27 PM

                Made me feel old too thinking back on my 40-year old memories of the place. One problem, I'm told, is that the building is basically a lean-to resting on the side walls of the two neighboring structures. Essentially an alley that was roofed over.

                During the short time that I was on the sidewalk, I overheard several people say that they were San Franciscans but had never been there before, first hearing about it because of the hoopla over it closing. Hard to believe, but true, I guess.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  ML8000 RE: Melanie Wong Apr 20, 2012 07:54 PM

                  My family has been in SF and the BA since 1849, i.e., real 49ers. I came to NorCal in the 80s to go to school and stayed. I lived in SF for 17 years. I knew of Sam Wo's but never ate there because there was no reason...the reports were the food wasn't that good and wasn't into the whole insult waiter thing.

                  I've written it before, I think some people really enjoy the insults from Edsel Fong (or the guy at House of Nanking) because of the S/M element of someone you'd usually never associate with ripping you a new one. It makes some people feel better about racial divides, inequity and racism and such.

                  If the food was good, I might have tried it.

                  1. re: ML8000
                    Melanie Wong RE: ML8000 Apr 20, 2012 08:11 PM

                    Edsel passed away in 1984, so he was probably out of the picture by the time you arrived. I was never harassed by him. When I was a kid, Sam Wo was the only place that made yao tiu regularly, actually known by the older name as deep-fried devils at the time. Not very good ones by today's standards, but the only ones and we'd buy a bag to take home.

                    As you can see by the posts in this thread, really only one good dish at Sam Wo. Maybe two, if you count the fish salad. But at least you'd heard of the place even if you chose not to eat there. Seems unbelievable that anyone who lived in San Francisco and had been anywhere close to Chinatown would be unfamiliar with the restaurant and only learn of its history for the first time yesterday. I mean, when I'm in SF Chinatown, I invariably hear somebody on the street pointing tourists toward Sam Wo. But apparently so for some of the people in line last night said the news accounts were the first they knew of Sam Wo's existence.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      ML8000 RE: Melanie Wong Apr 20, 2012 08:34 PM

                      Mr. Fong was alive when I got here and I knew of him, both from general word of mouth and my relatives. The usual response was "why do you want to go there?" Some relatives thought he was funny (his schtick) but others thought he made Asians look sad and dopey.

                    2. re: ML8000
                      The Dairy Queen RE: ML8000 Apr 21, 2012 12:02 AM

                      Eh, I was a girl from the suburbs what did I know about good food? We used to come into the City on Friday and Saturday nights to go dancing, then trek over Sam Wo's afterwards.

                      It was all bright, welcoming, and unpretentious. Maybe it's a place for tourists, but I was a tourist of sorts. We always ordered fried rice and the noodle rolls and brought in our own Bailey's (! seems like a bad choice in hindsight) to pour into our tea. We thought we were clever but, of course, they just pretended not to notice.

                      We were waited on by Edsel at least once or twice but it would have been very close to when he died. He just seemed like a silly old man to us. And, of course, we thought he was flirting and not insulting. Silly, flirty old men come in all ethnicities.

                      I count these visits to Sam Wo's as formative experiences for me Chow-wise. Maybe it wasn't the best food, but it's the sort of thing that made me curious about what else might be out there.


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                        ML8000 RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 21, 2012 04:23 PM

                        You're likely right about silly flirty old men. Any way, to be fair about Sam Wo's and being insulted, well you could have just as easily been insult in another Chinese restaurant and in fact I've witnessed it. Use to go to Silver Restaurant on Washington since it was open until 3 a.m. (later?). Use to be good but some weird insulting stuff happened with a Japanese friend (left over tension between Chinese and Japanese due to WWII).

                        1. re: ML8000
                          hill food RE: ML8000 Apr 21, 2012 06:35 PM

                          ML - Silver was actually good once? hard to believe. I only went because there wasn't anything else open at that time of the night in easy walking distance (Stockton Tunnel - over, not in)

                          1. re: hill food
                            gordon wing RE: hill food Apr 21, 2012 07:19 PM

                            when I was living in North Beach/Chinatown back in the 60's and 70's ...... many restaurants were open until 2am or later. Jackson Street Cafe was our favorite but it was only one of many choices. The Golden Dragon incident ( shooting ) changed all that to a large degree.

                        2. re: The Dairy Queen
                          chaddict RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 21, 2012 05:48 PM

                          Ah, Edsel! He nearly killed me by waltzing me almost over the top of the stairs and made a group of Chinese business men serenade me with "Mona Lisa." Good times... To be in college again. I think his insults were really a schtick. He was a sweetheart (apart from near homicide-by-dancing).

                        3. re: ML8000
                          sugartoof RE: ML8000 Apr 23, 2012 10:19 AM

                          I don't recall Edsel being insulting, so much as putting on a crazy schtick that validated some of the Hollywood stereotypes at that point, and from what I can tell, he did it as a form of crowd control, and entertainment.

                          I can't say if the food was ever good, or our standards changed, but you're right there's been no reason to visit beyond ambience. I'd rather visit Chef Jia instead.

                          1. re: sugartoof
                            wolfe RE: sugartoof Apr 23, 2012 11:34 AM

                            Once he told me "How you have such a pretty girl? She can do much better than you." Should I have been insulted? That was right before he gave her the paper and pencil to write the order he was "Too busy to take" and poked her lightly in the shoulder with a chopstick. The full Edsel. But I believe I heard him late one night tell that this schtick allowed him to put kids through college.

                        4. re: Melanie Wong
                          The Dairy Queen RE: Melanie Wong Apr 21, 2012 12:06 AM

                          Huh, we have a diner --Al's Breakfast-- in Minneapolis like that. It's just a space between buildings that was roofed over. But, there aren't earthquakes in Minneapolis! I suppose they do need to bring things to code in order to continue on. It's interesting that this hoopla around the closing has caused them to reconsider a renovation plan.


                        5. re: The Dairy Queen
                          abigailhamilton RE: The Dairy Queen Apr 23, 2012 09:56 AM

                          Much as I love the storied space, I disagree; the noodle rolls they make are not found anywhere else and they are amazing. I think there's a loyalty to the family and the food as well as the building. Of course, best case is $$ coming out of the woodwork and making reopening there possible.

                        6. re: Melanie Wong
                          Chandavkl RE: Melanie Wong Apr 20, 2012 08:54 AM

                          What a crowd. As they say sometimes you don't know what you lost until it's gone.

                        7. i
                          indigirl RE: mayndo Apr 19, 2012 11:38 PM

                          Oh wow! I can't believe it! I remember many a plate of chow fun there in the late 80s when I was working on a video project in Chinatown. We would lug our equipment up those stairs after we finished shooting -- big heavy cases in those days, we were shooting VHS :)


                          1. p
                            PayOrPlay RE: mayndo Apr 20, 2012 11:16 AM

                            This news makes me feel sad, and very old. I used to eat there 30-some years ago when I was in school, and even had dinner there one night while taking the bar exam. To the best of my recollection, I sat on Eddie's floor only once--preferred the perfectly civil service you'd get if you went up one more floor. The last time I was in SF with my family, a couple of years ago, we walked by and I thought about taking them up for the experience, but we ended up elsewhere. Dang.

                            1. b
                              Beachdude RE: mayndo Apr 20, 2012 04:15 PM

                              Sam Wo was a great place and has a fond place in my heart but needing help to locate anyone other place in San Francisco that makes a similar version of their , Rice Pork Noodle Roll served with Hot Mustard ,
                              I will miss Sam Wo , BUT , where the heck can I find a Rice Pork Noodle Roll , all I tend to see in the avenues are limp rolls with dried shrimp.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: Beachdude
                                wolfe RE: Beachdude Apr 20, 2012 04:21 PM

                                Legendary Palace , Oakland?

                                1. re: wolfe
                                  Melanie Wong RE: wolfe Apr 20, 2012 07:23 PM

                                  No, not the same thing. The ones on dim sum menus are served hot and topped with a seasoned soy sauce.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                                    wolfe RE: Melanie Wong Apr 21, 2012 03:38 AM

                                    Thank you, note question mark.

                                    1. re: wolfe
                                      Melanie Wong RE: wolfe Apr 21, 2012 04:40 PM

                                      Here's a public photo that Wilfred Wong, cellarmaster extraordinaire, posted on his FB page just a few days ago.

                                      And more about making guen fun at home,

                                2. re: Beachdude
                                  drewskiSF RE: Beachdude Apr 20, 2012 06:07 PM

                                  yank sing

                                  1. re: drewskiSF
                                    Beachdude RE: drewskiSF Apr 20, 2012 10:45 PM

                                    Are these also served chilled and with a mustard sauce , unlike the ones in the dim sum , these are using a thick noodle and are pretty dry ,
                                    thinking they are an adaptation to the US , but dang the Sam Wo specialty dish just rocks !

                                    1. re: Beachdude
                                      drewskiSF RE: Beachdude Apr 21, 2012 07:55 AM

                                      the ones I've had a Y-S were more like Melanie described above for Legendary Palace. served warm w/ seasoned soy. hot mustard is available on the side, but not a standard part of the dish.

                                3. Tripeler RE: mayndo Apr 20, 2012 05:39 PM

                                  Was Edsel the waiter insulting in any other languages besides English?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Tripeler
                                    arktect RE: Tripeler Apr 20, 2012 06:53 PM

                                    He spoke and cursed in cantonese.
                                    I was there over 30 years ago to just to experience Edsel's reputation.
                                    We entered on the ground floor and walked up the narrow creaky stair to the upper floor. Edsel sitting on a stool washing a pile of dirty chop sticks in a muddy 5 gallon plastic bucket of water. (eck) A lady across from asked for hot sauce and he looked up and growl and then went back to washing the chopsticks and then swishing a dirty rice bowl in the nasty water. A minute or two he got up and picked up a bottle of hot sauce and slammed it on the lady's table. We all giggled including the lady. I think we all knew it became part of his act.
                                    As you can see, the health department back then was a bit more lenient.

                                    1. re: arktect
                                      gordon wing RE: arktect Apr 20, 2012 08:35 PM

                                      with all the tourists that came to Sam Wo, I'm pretty sure I remember that Edsel knew a few phrases in several languages other than English and Cantonese. ??

                                    2. re: Tripeler
                                      shanghaikid RE: Tripeler Apr 20, 2012 07:51 PM

                                      i seldom encountered edsel's abuse at me or others. animated? yes. sometimes, he just told me
                                      "no room, go upstairs" my fav after trial and error was the duck chow fun.

                                      maybe he didn't hassle young people. no point. at that time, young people had associates: joe fong, joe boys, etc.

                                    3. Melanie Wong RE: mayndo Apr 20, 2012 07:22 PM

                                      Reported 20 minutes ago, a glimmer of hope for Sam Wo. A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday for Sam Wo's owners to present a renovation plan to the City.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                        lakay166 RE: Melanie Wong Apr 20, 2012 08:05 PM

                                        Tried to get in for a meal this afternoon but the line was just too long. I hope the Tuesday meeting can resolve some the issues.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                          Chandavkl RE: Melanie Wong Apr 20, 2012 08:28 PM

                                          Hope it can be saved since it's such a cultural icon. Very few 100 year old Chinese restaurants in the US. Sam Wo's closing was even on the news down here in Los Angeles.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                            mayndo RE: Melanie Wong Apr 21, 2012 05:49 PM

                                            Crossing fingers! As per Chandavkl's post, not having side walls does seem a bit of a challenge for any real renovations. Then again, not sure we'd want "real renovations"! Walking in through the kitchen, the dumb waiter... all these are part of the charm.

                                          2. s
                                            Sharuf RE: mayndo Apr 21, 2012 12:16 AM

                                            Being rude or insulting was not Edsel's only schtick. If you were a young attractive female you got another type of attention.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Sharuf
                                              Chandavkl RE: Sharuf Apr 21, 2012 08:48 AM

                                              One of the wire service stories about Sam Wo's closing mentions that point. The most interesting tidbit in all of the press coverage is that the Sam Wo building has no walls of its own (obviously, except for the front) but is rather supported by its neighboring structures. Seems like that might be a tough issue to deal with.

                                              1. re: Sharuf
                                                chaddict RE: Sharuf Apr 21, 2012 05:55 PM

                                                Ha ha ha! See my above post (I posted before reading yours). I wouldn't say I was attractive but he was a big flirt and I was young. Schtick is EXACTLY what I would call it. He was never mean to me, only my dates. However, I DO remember one time he had me help wait and bus tables whilst my date moped.

                                                1. re: chaddict
                                                  Sarah RE: chaddict Apr 21, 2012 06:19 PM

                                                  Hilarious! Now I remember waiting on a few tables myself. He wanted to thank me with a kiss -- can you imagine?! Gak!

                                                  1. re: chaddict
                                                    JH Jill RE: chaddict Apr 21, 2012 07:08 PM

                                                    Wow. I live in NYC now, but I just happened to see this post. I remember going there with a jealous Persian boyfriend during Chinese New Year around 1977. I wasn't aware of Edsel's reputation (being on a visit from San Diego), but I could see that he was kissing all the women. I didn't want to have trouble with Reza later, so when Edsel came toward me as we were leaving I put my hands together and gave a little bow as I said my best 'gung hai fat choi' and I got away without the kiss - and any Persian outrage. I can't say that I remember the food there, just the narrow space, rickety stairs, and Edsel. (Though I must say that the space in the original Hunnan was weirder with all the little rooms you could barely stand up in than the narrow three stories of Sam Wo's.)

                                                    1. re: JH Jill
                                                      hill food RE: JH Jill Apr 22, 2012 01:38 AM

                                                      doesn't get any more "Tales of The City" / Mary Ann Singleton than that.

                                                2. Melanie Wong RE: mayndo Sep 19, 2013 12:22 PM

                                                  The latest on Sam Wo . . . it's looking for a new location.

                                                  It's now a year after the fundraisers to help pay for renovating the old place.

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