Sam Wo, the century-old institution on Washington Street, will close its doors forever after dinner service tonight, smashing the hearts of countless cheap Chinese food fans who like their BBQ pork noodle rolls, won ton soup, and preserved egg and pork jook served with a side of snide. Infamous for employing some of the worst waitstaff in town, Sam Wo was immortalized in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. After hearing the news, Maupin said, "It is indeed heartbreaking. This the restaurant where Norman Neal Williams took Mary Ann back in '76. Edsel Ford Fung, the famously rude waiter, made her wash her hands in the dining room sink."
And with that, we bid Sam Wo a bittersweet farewell with a gaggle of remembrances and stories about the soon-to-be shuttered greasy Chinese spoon.
• "This is Sam Wo. This is the restaurant that has been known for decades for having the rudest wait-staff in the city. That is part of why you go there, not something you complain about. Yes, the bathrooms probably haven't been painted since Ike was president. Hell, this restaurant has been in this building for 106 years. They don't just serve the best comfort food in Chinatown, they serve history. You hike up stairs that countless people have climbed in the century of Sam Wo, and sit at the same tables that have seen politicians, celebrities, mobsters, and multiple generations of families eat at them." — Robert H. / Yelp
• "What are all the late-night drinkers going to do? SFoodie was just talking to a friend who once set himself on fire during a flaming-Everclear incident up on the third floor." — Jonathan Kauffman / SF Weekly
• "They are not the friendliest of folks, either. They do not even greet. Just look at you straight in the eye and say, 'What you want or what you like order.' Ummmm, oooooook. Bottom line - this place sucks balls." — Richard D. / Yelp
• "When I was at [UC Berkeley] in the '80s, we used to bring pony kegs to Sam Wo." — Michele Mandell / Twitter
• "Though it’s reputed to have opened in the early 20th century, Sam Wo came to new glory in the ’50s, when it was a popular Beat hangout. In the following decades, its fame was furthered tenfold by Edsel Ford Fong, better known as 'the world’s rudest waiter.' " — Paolo Lucchesi / Inside Scoop
• "Dirt Cheap food and authentic, pretty good, but if I have to soak my cutlery in a cup of hot water, then wipe it down myself to disinfect before I dig in my meal, then I don't mind spending a little more elsewhere." — May R. / Yelp
• "One of the old original restaurants in Chinatown that Bruce Lee use to come on a daily basis (sitting on table #8 on the second floor). The place is indeed a hole-in-the-wall...you may also just call it a dump!! Though, that is what makes this little, narrow, 3-story restaurant an original." -- Patrick C. / Yelp
• "Ugh, like [being married to] a wife beater, I just come back for more. It's dirty, there was basically old congee left on my friend soup spoon, and I felt sick afterwards. But I'm probably going back anyway." — Ben H. / Yelp
• "The food was not good. The service was poor. I will not be coming back." — Laura D. / Yelp
Alas, after today draws to a close, Sam Wo won't be coming back, either.