The Stinking Rose restaurant in San Francisco, CA

The Stinking Rose restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood – “Warning, we put a little food in our garlic!”

by Lyn Edwin Cathey

There many reasons to love San Francisco and food is right at the top of the list.. plus, you may encounter a little unexpected entertainment along the way.

As you would expect, ethnic dining is fantastic and easy to find.. North Beach for Italian.. the Mission District for Mexican…Chinatown for Asian, etc.

During my twelve years as a San Francisco resident, my favorite dining memory (out of thousands) occurred at Sam Wo at 813 Washington in Chinatown… especially if Edsel Ford Fong was our waiter!

Opening in 1912, Sam Wo was famous for it’s plain, no frills food and being open until 3am every day. During the 1950’s it was a hangout for the Beat Generation.

From the mid-sixties to 1984, Sam Wo gained notoriety for hosting the “the world’s rudest, most insulting waiter”.. known for greeting patrons with “sit down and shut up!”

Mentioned many times by regular patron and columnist Herb Caen in the San Francisco Chronicle, Edsel Ford Fong rapidly became a San Francisco icon.

(Once, after staring at the menu for a few seconds too long, he barked at me “this not library… you order now!”)

Sadly, Edsel passed away in 1984 and Sam Wo has recently closed. The SF fire department says the building needs to be brought up to code. The present owners vow to reopen the legendary restaurant… either in it’s present location.. or a new one nearby.  Stay tuned here.

Go here for a complete history of Sam Wo.

Go here and here for some first hand tales of the antics of Edsel Ford Fong.

How to find a great neighborhood restaurant in San Francisco? Just start walking. There are literally hundreds of great one-of-a-kind, locally owned dining venues in districts like the Castro, the Mission, the Marina, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, South of Market.. even the Haight-Ashbury.

One caveat: eateries in certain heavily touristed areas – such as North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf – you might find gimmicky and over-priced, trying a bit too hard to recreate an “authentic San Francisco experience”.

Edsel Ford Fong - World's Rudest Waiter

Edsel Ford Fong – World’s Rudest Waiter

Sam Wo's in San Francisco's Chinatown

Sam Wo’s in San Francisco’s Chinatown – scene of Edsel Ford Fong’s tyrannical rein.

Go here to view the top rated 38 restaurants in San Francisco.

Go here from the 20 most underrated restaurants in San Francisco.

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