[SF Chinatown] Chinatown Food Memories

You got it! Didn’t know it was a mystery but I wasn’t logged in yesterday

Here’s another one also courtesy of Frank Jang. Any favorite plate combos?

Incidentally, Sam Wo was spelled “Sam Woh” in the 60’s. I thought my memory was faulty, but City directories confirm this. I don’t know when it became “Sam Wo”

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Wow, I could happily eat my way through 75% of that menu. In those days, spending almost $2 for a meal just was not done. Yummmm… baked lamb shanks, breaded veal cutlet w/brown gravy, fried beef liver, grilled lamb chops, and JELLO!! One could only dream. :slight_smile:

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I found a couple of images online of the Chinese menu from Sun Tai Sam Yuen, one of my favorites from the early 60s. It was just down the street from Jackson Cafe at 622 Jackson, where Hunan Homes is now. Like Jackson Cafe, it had two menus, a multi-course Western set menu like the dinner set at the Jackson I described for you, and a separate Chinese menu. (IIRC the western dinner set menu was just a half sheet jellygraphed by a waiter during off times.)

I ate a lot of Chinese food at Sun Tai Sam Yuen as well as American food, usually chow mein or wonton soup when I dined alone at the counter. I believe it was my go-to place for Tomato Beef Chow Mein. The menu is from 1963, a year I spent a LOT of time there.

Found a bit of trivia for the Jackson Cafe where I enjoyed many western set dinners (as I described to you) as well as Chinese food: according to this article "BRUCE LEE’S TOUGHEST FIGHT, " his opponent on that fateful day in 1964, Wong Man Jack, was a waiter at the Jackson Cafe. I wish I could say I remembered Wong, but I imagine very few people knew that about him at the time.

The Jackson Cafe was at 640 Jackson, where Bund Shanghai is now.

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Do you remember what was at 655 Jackson (Sam Lok, Z&Y) in the 60s? That was the second Chinese restaurant I remember eating at in SF Chinatown, in 1964, on my second trip ever to SF. I remember it was so crowded so we had to sit at the table right in the front window, a bit traumatic for my unassuming family.

According to my notes, it was Kum Hon before it was Sam Lok.

Thanks for solving a decades old mystery!

More Bruce Lee trivia: in 1959 he worked at Kum Hon – for a week.

And in 1974 things were not dull around there, either.

“I was eating dinner with some of the guys at the Kum Hon Restaurant, next door to the Great Eastern. Somebody observed a green car pull up in front of one of our cars outside. A couple of us went out there. It was some Joe Boys. I recognized Melvin Yu and saw someone else in the back seat. Melvin yelled at me in Chinese, ‘What the fuck are you looking at?’ I then observed a gun in Melvin’s hand. It appeared to be an automatic and was covered with a cloth. He pointed it in my direction. He was three car lengths away from me. I heard a shot, and then I started running. I ran up the alley. After awhile, I came back. The Joe Boys were gone, and one of our cars was, too.”

Interesting stuff. I often wonder what those 70s gangsters are doing today.

Definitely King Tin. Plus, they and Golden Dragon next door were the only places where I could pick up decent duck wings. (You’d think roast duck would be harder, but fewer places mess it up while numerous places make bland duck wings.)


At Portsmouth Square playing pai gow.

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Thanks, it looks like a brief spotlight on some long-standing Chinatown classics is up now, http://www.spotlightchinatown.com/, with brief bios of the owners and some common dish suggestions.
I’ve never noticed Lucky Creation or Little Paris before, and will have to take not next time I’m wandering Chinatown.


Hope you can check out the exhibit! it’s called Eat Chinatown and highlights photos and stories from some of these classic SF Chinatown restaurants operating 40+ years. Thanks to everyone who shared their own stories. The show might be a trip down memory lane for some.

Opening: Friday 1/20, 5-9pm
Exhibition dates: 1/20 - 4/9/17
Location: 41 Ross, 41 Ross Alley, San Francisco


thanks for posting all this info, in the early 60s we always ate at Jackson cafe and ordered the same sweet and sour pork, chow mein and wonton soup only because my dad wasnt very adventurous, started eating the roast pork with cabbage, oxtail stew and lamb curry. wow I wonder where I can find that in the east bay. enjoyed all your post gary