Nostalgic and Historic v. Present Moment, my thoughts on the closing of another San Francisco classic…

Legendary Sam Wo Restaurant

Legendary Sam Wo Restaurant (Photo credit: jrodmanjr)

I read in our local paper, The Chronicle (okay, I actually read it online, but I like calling it the local paper :) ) today and it said that another San Francisco “classic” is closing. So obviously, I clicked on the link to see what’s closing. You can read the article by Paolo Lucchesi HERE.

What is closing is Sam Wo (not to be confused with the chain Sam Woo), a dingy, cramped, dirty, but no doubt for some, also a nostalgic and historical restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown where some locals and curious tourists go to eat Chinese food made famous by luminaries like Herb Caen, Armistead Maupin, etc.

And the article also mentions a rude waiter named, Edsel Ford Fong, whom I have never met because he passed away in 1984 and I didn’t learn about this place until just a few years ago. From what I read about him, he’s quite a character.

Not sure if I actually would want to have someone like him to be my waiter, but I guess I will definitely remember the place and maybe that’s what made it so unforgettable and nostalgic for some. Also, having a restaurant that closes later than bars would also make it a popular spot I imagine.

Sam Wo

Sam Wo (Photo credit: mastermaq)

The reason why I am posting about this is that while I love local history, I also embrace progress and living in the present moment.

From what I read in the article, one of the reasons why the restaurant is closing is because the building is really old and the owner will need to spend a lot of money updating everything to bring it up to code and modernize some areas like the kitchen.

Obviously, it will be hard to modernize and keep the “old” feel at the same time. So even if the owner of this place has the time and money to do such, the place isn’t the same anymore after such remodel.

For some, this place holds a lot of memories for them. Either that or it holds a spot for them to chow down at 3 a.m. For me, the only memory of this place is being brought here by my friend to try their chow fun and see the dumbwaiter (the contraption, not the waiter ;)).

And mostly, I am thankful that she also introduced me to this place’s history and in some way, that’s the most enjoyable part. To hear about the people that have been there before and perhaps that they ate the same things we have eaten and probably experienced the same feeling while walking up those narrow steps. I guess those things matter to me. It’s rather funny though since I have never even heard of this place before she took me there and I went to school in Chinatown when I was a kid. Sigh.

I am a bit sad to see any “classics” go, but I am also embracing the present moment in that we are making changes — and hopefully for the better.

Have a great Friday everyone.

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10 responses to “Nostalgic and Historic v. Present Moment, my thoughts on the closing of another San Francisco classic…

    • Yeah, the place is literally a 100 years old and I think it’s going to take the owner or new owner a lot of money and work to make it modern. As much as I love relics and buildings, it’s sometimes good to just let go. Besides, they have been riding on the “rude waiter” wave for a while and the guy’s been dead for 28 years…

  1. While living in Montreal, I experienced this with several restaurants and bars, especially the ones located in the old city. It’s sad to see them go, however after they refurbish the building and some trendy restaurant or bar replaces them, we end up loving it. It’s all about progress! :)

    • Yes, I have been to Montreal and seen some of that. I do like Montreal/Quebec a lot and planning on visiting again in the future. Back to refurb buildings. We have some really good examples of incorporating old with new in the city, but it tends to be big projects because the expense is big when you have to preserve a lot of things. The post I did a few days ago in regards to the Emporium dome is one of the successes. The dome did sit idle for a while when Emporium closed and no one came forward to open any business of that grand scale until the Australian retail giant came along and rescue it (so to speak), it was looking rather hopeless until then… Will see what happens to other projects. Thanks for coming by and hope you have a great friday and weekend!

  2. Loving your post and sometimes the classics have to let go unfortunately. There are a few places here that have experienced a decline, but remain to hold on. I have stopped eating there just not a pleasant experience. Have a Great Weekend:)

    • To be honest, I was not really into the food but I did appreciate my friend’s effort and the experience. There are a few places here that are closing lately and a lot of locals and regulars are all up in arms about it because they feel that history needed to be perserved, but I think in some cases, things really need to be going forward. Thanks for your thoughts Renee! I hope you have a great weekend also! :)

  3. In sydney city my dad used to tell me about all kinds of old restaurant chains and such – while it is a shame to let the go progress is wonderful too :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    • Yes, definitely…while it’s a shame, progress is wonderful. Even if the restaurants reminds in place, they would have to improve. :)

  4. well, i’ll have to disagree with all of you and say that demolishment of history is a true tragedy — perhaps a disease that’s infiltrating our society. it’s for reasons like this that today’s and future generations have very minimal (if any) consideration of the past and no appreciation of history … why? because the visual reminders of pasts are being destroyed before our very own eyes as we sit idly on our growing butts doing absolutely nothing! i say stop the craziness and preserve at least SOME visual historical memoirs. what’s wrong with old and classic? and by the way; change, progress and moving forward does not have mean modernization! i say out with the new and long live the old!!

    • Hey there, thanks for finally visiting my site and then giving me your contrarian view. Much appreciated. :) Let me address this in several parts. One, it is a tragedy when a society demolishes history so that future generations have minimal (if any) consideration of the past and no appreciation of histoy, etc. Which is why I think paying respect to history by valuing what we have today and having a dialouge on these subjects are important. Two, some visual reminders of yesteryears are being destroyed but it’s not true that everyone is sitting idly by on our growing (err) derriere. Just by the fact that that this post generates some views and having you comment on it and not to mention the original article getting views and comments which generated a citywide response of people going over to the restaurant to pay respects is fact that no one is sitting by…whether they agree or disagree on this subject. Three, there’s nothing wrong with old and classic. In this case, it has to do with safety and upgrades. Fourth, I do agree and disagree with you that change, progress and moving forward doesn’t have to mean modernization. I get the gest of what you are saying though but modernization comes in all forms. In the case of food safety, I would have to disagree with your view of keeping with yesterday’s practices. I hope you visit again and have a great weekend! :)

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