Only a few days after diners said their final goodbyes to Sam Wo, the owners have vowed to reopen and city representatives seem willing to help.
Local officials have agreed to work with Sam Wo owner David Ho to remedy a laundry list of health code violations like improper food temperatures, rats and rat feces in the kitchen, and other worker safety violations.
Regardless of the grime, San Franciscans love Sam Wo. Proof was in the lines out the door on Friday, literally minutes after the announced closure, and in the outpour of support that has ensued since then.
At Sam Wo’s health department hearing yesterday, supporters spoke up during the public comment session.
“I have been a customer of Sam Wo for 60 years and I never got sick from eating it,” said one man – a sentiment shared by others in the room.
Julie Ho, owner David Ho’s daughter, told the Ex:
“After seeing the support of our customers, I just don’t want to let them down. It was really emotional. The restaurant staying open is beyond just our family. It’s for Chinatown and it’s for San Francisco.”
Eileen Shields, a spokeswoman for the health department, said the restaurant could be facing significant work to come into compliance, although it seems to be a place “worth saving:”
“We’re going to do everything to help them do that.”
The department wants Sam Wo to purchase a proper refrigerator, set up designated washing and food prep sinks in the kitchen, and to get rid of the rats and rat feces, among other short-term and long-term fixes.
Julie Ho said it could take months and plenty of money, but they’re going to try to reopen:
“It won’t be days and it won’t be years — a month or two, probably. We’re going to be asking for a lot of help. We’re just really relieved right now. We feel really lucky we were able to have this chance.”
Legendary Sam Wo waiter Edsel Ford Fung sometimes demanded that customers write down their orders and be “precise and concise, with no B.S. and no jive.” He died in 1984, and was commonly known as the “world’s rudest, worst, most insulting waiter.”
The Sing Tao Daily, a local Chinese-language newspaper, explains that the name Sam Wo means “three harmonies,” and comes from the fact that the restaurant was opened by three families: the Fung, the Lee, and the Ho family.