Adventures written by the VAMONDE Team
After an earthquake shook San Francisco in 1906, the legendary Sam Wo Restaurant was built in Chinatown by three immigrants. The siblings ventured to the U.S. from their village of Taishan, China and wanted to share their favorite dishes with the bustling city. Soon they were known for their top-notch, inexpensive barbecue pork rice noodle rolls and porridge (jook) that they served siu yeh (Cantonese for late night) as was popular in South China.
An unfortunate turn of events occurred in 2012 when Sam Wo's health permit was suspended due to fire and building code violations. The cost to fix it was over $400,000, which the family could not afford, so they set out to find another location, ideally in Chinatown. After three long years of searching, they eventually found space in a great location across from Portsmouth Square, only a few blocks from its original home. Although its location changed, the food remains a local favorite.
Open every day except for Tuesday, Sam Wo's menu offers lunch, dinner, and late-night options, although similar items can be found in each. They serve their ever-popular BBQ pork noodle roll all day as well as an extensive list of their jook (rice porridge) including fish, pork, chicken, beef, duck, and plain variations.
The menu also includes chow mein, dry mixed noodle, chow fun, fried rice, and rice plate options served with meat or vegetarian style. Native or well-traveled diners can also experience a Chinese favorite, Sam Wo's hot or iced Hong Kong-style milk tea.
Cover image "Sam Wo restaurant, Chinatown, San Francisco, California" by Curtis Cronn is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0