Sam Wo — 50 Years of Surly Service

It’s a Chinese noodle restaurant on Washington Street in San Francisco. You walk in through the kitchen and go up the stairs to sit in a poorly-lit room that hasn’t changed a bit since the ’60s. The place is about 10 feet wide and has 3 floors above with tables. Food comes up on a dumbwaiter hand-pulled with a rope. Back then the waiter was Edsel and he was famously rude. When someone new would come in, he’d shout, “No egg foo yung, no sweet and sour…” I just looked it up on the web (, and here’s an excerpt from a fat guy who went there for the first time: “I had the bad idea of asking for sweet and sour pork and a coke. “You Retarded? No coke!! Tea Only!! No sweet and sour!! You see on menu?!! You get house special chow fun…No fork, chopstick only…What you want, fat man?” answered Edsel…”

Well Edsel died, I heard, and I hadn’t been there in decades, but I started going again when I wanted to eat late at night. They stay open until 3:30 AM. Edsel isn’t there, but his spirit still is. The waitress doesn’t yell at you, but she mutters and manages to impart the feeling you’re doing something wrong. Don’t ask her any stinking questions. Europeans have found out about the place and I’ve heard French and other languages being spoken late at night. I wouldn’t order any of the typical Chinese food (greasy), but the combination won-ton soup, for five bucks, is superb, delicately flavored, meaty, a meal in itself. I just love the city.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

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