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A wedding breakfast at Sam Wo

April 2, 2010

Two weeks ago, I arrived back in the States via San Francisco. Less than twenty four hours after arriving, I found myself in the County Clerks office with my new husband. A little unconventional perhaps but all forms of conventionality had to be discarded. I needed to get married to secure my residence status asap.

With the brief but thrilling ceremony over, a quick discussion with the marriage celebrant about camera gear, the wedded couple – moi et mon chรฉrie Joseph, sped along the streets of downtown San Francisco, sticking to the shaded areas only ending up in the shady areas of Tenderloin.

The seedy life had awoken for the day, loud and brash, but within this seediness was character. Tenderlion is a place I knew I had to return to one day, only with a secure escort.

Onwards we sped through the streets criss-crossing our way past landmarks I can’t recall now until we ended up outside a small restaurant Sam Wo.

“Ahhh our wedding breakfast venue”, I thought to myself.

My new husband knew me too well. He had chosen something I would enjoy, something which can easily fall under unconventionality

by Cate

Sam Wo is everything a low-key chinese cafe could be. Once you move past the small groups of young travellers holding their LP and Rough Guide books, you are in the kitchen. Here the chef and surly cashier usher you up the stairs which creak and most certainly sway under mass weight.

The dining area is as dark as it is dingy. Simple wooden tables with heavy marble tops that have worn with time; and the seating consists of stools. Sam Wo didn’t intend for people to stay long after their meals. Adding to the experience is the waitress poe-faced, efficient and probably underpaid. No other kind of waitress would suit this place. Friendliness is reserved for those special patrons.

by Cate

With the ordering done (10 seconds) and the jasmine tea set down, there wasn’t much to do but look into my husbands eyes and act romantically. There wasn’t much in the way of wall decor or music, only noise from the street below that could be spied on between the louvre windows. Windows so thick with street grime, they had taken on aย  contemporary frosted look, filtering the light and possibly the din from outside.

Portions and price must be the marketing ploy at Sam Wo’s. It’s easy to see why this place has a popular following regardless of its aesthetics. Even though the menu is short for a chinese restaurant, the selection is good. Again, simple food — noodles, broth, stir fry this, stir fry that and plenty of it.

Following the romantic theme of the day I fell in love with the BBQ pork rolls but wasn’t enrapt with the beef rice noodle dish.

by Cate

If you haven’t been to mainland China or Hong Kong, coming to Sam Wo will give you a first hand introduction to the style and manner of a local Chinese food joint. There is no red wallpaper and lanterns, erhu (chinese violin) music playing discreetly in the background, nor champagne to celebrate a special occasion. Some folks would label it a dive, but that depends on what you’re looking for good food, or good decor.

The unassuming nature of the place and simple meal encompassed everything I look for when I travel, my husband knew this. Without realising it I have introduced him to my world of travel.

Sam Wo is located in Nob Hill Chinatown, 813 Washington St (between Grant Ave & Waverly Pl) San Francisco.

As for the wedding? The official plan to remarry in New Zealand in a year or so, on top picturesque Mt Cook, with a small group of family and friends, and enjoy a breakfast at the Hermitage hotel. Conventional yes, but with a twist.

This post is part of photo friday (which I haven’t participated in months). Check out the other bloggers @ Delicious Baby

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. travelforaircraft permalink
    April 2, 2010 4:02 pm

    But I liked my sweet and sour chicken — which could have fed two people, and easily ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. April 2, 2010 4:40 pm

    I was a little unsure whether you were recommending this place or telling us to avoid it at all costs. Is it a case of having an affection for places we have visited at special times with special people? Perhaps there are places out there with good food, low prices and friendly service or is it not possible to have it all at once?

  3. April 3, 2010 2:35 am

    You are talking about Chinese food that I eat everyday.

    Yummy, especially those were cooked by my wife.

  4. April 3, 2010 9:45 am

    Joe – yes that sweet and sour pork was large and tasty ๐Ÿ™‚

    Heather – I’m still unsure whether it’s worth recommending or not. This place came highly recommended by a chef on TV, so we checked it out. While some of the food was good, some of the food wasn’t. The restaurant also had a certain kind of character to it, but I wouldn’t call it charm; and it looked like it was more of a local hub than a tourist hub. I don’t think I’ve ever had friendly service in any budget Chinese eatery that I’ve eaten in. The more expensive ones yes, service is good but in the cheap places, forget it.

    Rainfield – That sums it up, everyday food at any everyday restaurant! Nothing fancy no frills etc. I bet your wife can cook up some good food too.

  5. April 3, 2010 10:22 am

    Eeeeeeek!! I love weddings! Nevermind if they’re simple, it’s beautiful! Congratulations!

    And the Chinese food pictures looked YUMMY! I’m totally missing Chinese food. But today in our kitchen, roast lamb, can smell it as I’m typing this….

    Happy Easter!

  6. April 4, 2010 4:15 am

    hey Cate,
    Congratulations on the wedding… :).

    This place reminds me of several small budget joints we see in India (for south indian food, not chinese though)- food is great, but it is an eat-it-quick-and-dirty kind of experience. I like it, but am never sure if others will find the interest that i have!!!!

  7. travelforaircraft permalink
    April 4, 2010 9:30 am

    I liked the place for what it was … working folk taking a bit of time to eat and then getting back to the day. More like visiting a regular place than a packaged one, I suppose.

  8. April 4, 2010 5:43 pm

    Cheryl – THANKS!!! Oh and I envy you eating lamb, I miss lamb and I’ve only been out of NZ for a few weeks. Hope it went down well.

    Ms.N -Thank you for the wishes!! I know what you mean, you have found a good place with good food but do or should you recommend it, can be a dilemma.

    Joe – And thank you!!

  9. April 4, 2010 9:41 pm

    You conjure up a marvelous image with this post and photos, and congratulations! I would love to check this place out. And I think it’s great the first thing you did after getting married was return to the seedy Tenderloin (fascinating name too) w/ your new husband ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. April 5, 2010 9:26 am

    Sounds like all that a wedding breakfast should be: tasty, memorable and shared with the one you love. Congrats!

  11. April 5, 2010 11:21 am

    congratulations! and what a lovely lovely celebratory meal! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. April 5, 2010 3:21 pm

    Margo, Heather and Jessiev thanks so much for the wishes, it was a different type of breakfast and one to remember and talk about for years to come.


  13. April 6, 2010 8:33 pm

    I know I’m late to the party…but congrats! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. April 8, 2010 9:01 am

    Dominique – never too late for a congrats and thanks!

  15. April 13, 2010 10:22 am

    I can’t believe I missed this (think it was because I was on vacation). Congratulations to you! And I love the quirky story.

  16. April 13, 2010 5:17 pm

    Mara – it’s a little quirky, you should have heard my mother when I relayed the story back to her on our wedding, nothing but silence.

  17. April 18, 2010 10:59 am


    And a small wedding on top of Mt Cook sounds like a splendid remarrying plan. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. April 20, 2010 8:23 am

    Thank- you Erica!

  19. May 2, 2010 4:50 am

    I value the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great.

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