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By Elena Kadvany

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About this blog: I am a perpetually hungry twenty-something journalist, born and raised in Menlo Park and currently working at the Palo Alto Weekly as education and youth staff writer. I graduated from USC with a major in Spanish and a minor in jo...  (More)

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Su Hong Palo Alto to close in 2019

Uploaded: Oct 8, 2018
Come next year, the local legacy of Chinese restaurant Su Hong will cease to exist.

Owner David King plans to close his Palo Alto restaurant next year and retire after decades of running Su Hong in various locations in Palo Alto and Menlo Park.

King, who is in his late 70s, has sold the property at 4256 El Camino Real. A proposal to replace the restaurant with a five-story hotel is currently making its way through the city approval process.


David King plans to retire in 2019 after four decades of running Su Hong in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Photo by Elena Kadvany.

"I've devoted all my life, pretty much, (to) Su Hong," King said on a recent morning before the restaurant opened, sitting in the large, traditional dining room. "I think it's about time for me to step back and step out and enjoy the rest of my life."

King left his native Taiwan for Palo Alto to attend business school at Santa Clara University in 1972. The first Su Hong opened in Menlo Park in 1977. Then came the first Palo Alto location at 4101 El Camino Way in 1987 and a takeout restaurant in Menlo Park in 1991.

About 10 years ago, King purchased the El Camino Real site, which was then a Denny's. He remodeled and opened the new Su Hong in 2010.
King's ex-wife, Bee King, sold both Menlo Park Su Hong locations in 2015. (While the new owner changed the name of the take-out restaurant, he kept the Su Hong menu — to the relief of many fervent customers, including yours truly.)


A developer plans to demolish Su Hong and build a hotel at 4256 El Camino Real. Photo by Elena Kadvany.

King has served generations of local families and Chinese immigrants who have moved to Palo Alto. Iris Chen, for example, belongs to a four-generation family of Su Hong diners: her husband, his mother (70 years old), his grandmother (93 years old) and their daughter (8 years old).

King said his retirement plan was expedited by familiar restaurant pressures: the decreasing availability of quality staff and increasing labor and food costs.

"These days it's harder and harder to get help — I won't even say good help," he said. "The profit margin is getting smaller and smaller and smaller."

King, who lives behind the restaurant, is looking forward to the end of 15-hour work days. He plans to travel, golf, garden and generally relax in retirement, which he's hoping will happen a year from now.

"I'm counting down," King said. "It's time to say goodbye."

Comments

 +   12 people like this
Posted by Bill Wall, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley,
on Oct 8, 2018 at 10:05 am

Always loved Su Hong.
Sounds like he'll get a much needed retirement.
Glad the takeout still keeps the same menu.
Thanks for the great food and memories.
All best


 +   11 people like this
Posted by Theresa Carey, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 8, 2018 at 12:24 pm

The extended Carey family will miss Su Hong greatly. Though I haven't been able to eat much of the food since learning of some food allergies I have earlier this decade, family members eat Su Hong food at least twice a month and maybe more often.

Su Hong catered one of our family weddings. We had my father-in-law's retirement party at Su Hong in the early 90s. Our kids grew up in the Menlo Park restaurant.

Thank you, Mr. King, for feeding us all so well for so many years. Here's to a much-deserved retirement. Stay healthy!


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 8, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Su Hong's will be missed by our family. We have so many memories that are being taken away from us and this is now another.

We will be in need of a good family style restaurant that we can jump in the car and go without having to worry about reservations or spending more than we intend.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Oct 9, 2018 at 11:46 pm

Thank you Mr.King for all the great memories our family had at Su Hong.
15 hour work days for 41 years, here's to a well deserved retirement! Enjoy quality time with your family and enjoy life. Thank you again!


 +   12 people like this
Posted by III, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 10, 2018 at 8:07 am

I almost never went to Su Hong. But loved that so many
enjoyed the meals there. Just the pattern of Palo Alto.
All the Mom and Pop shops closing. Land being bought as well,
all to make way for large sun blocking buildings, Hotels,
and fast food or commercial food companies.
I built a 8ft high fence, improved my grilling and smoking of foods
area. Remodled the kitchen, and improved my TV entertainment system.
Palo Alto is not worth venturing out into anymore.
Don't get me started on the speeding and angry car drivers.
Getting old and losing the Palo Alto of past times.
III


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 10, 2018 at 9:46 am

Posted by III, a resident of Midtown,

>> Don't get me started on the speeding and angry car drivers. Getting old and losing the Palo Alto of past times.

I know the feeling. To me, the traffic is just noise pollution. But, some politicians apparently sense it as "vibrancy".


 +   7 people like this
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Oct 10, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Denny's and the nearby Lyon's were I think the last 24-hr restaurants in the area. All I have left is Happy Donuts. Yeah, ancient history as with so much of the old days here. All the new 50-foot walls at sidewalk's edge will soon blot out the remaining sunlight. The old Cabana may be twice as tall, but it has a 370-foot setback from El Camino.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Open all night, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 10, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Musical" L&L Hawaiian bbq in Palo Alto ( a couple of doers down from happy donuts) is also open 24 hours


 +   3 people like this
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Oct 10, 2018 at 4:41 pm

^ Yes, I've been in L&L once in the wee hours. Subway downtown was also 24-hr for awhile. The options have waned. Midnight snacks beyond the vending machine are not available at my workplace (not familiar with Google or Facebook or Palantir cafeteria hours) and sometimes I merely need to escape the lab for fresh air while streets are blissfully traffic-free and parking is abundant. Don't want to exceed the parameters of a Foodist blog perhaps focused on finer dining -- the Su Hong location just reminded me of more youthful times, and as the article alludes, when help was easier to find.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Open all night, a resident of another community,
on Oct 10, 2018 at 5:35 pm

Musical - the San Antonio road Safeway is open 24/7. I think the Menlo Park Safeway May also be open 24/7. Naturally the mini mart on middlefield in Palo Alto that passes as a Safeway is also open 24/7, but choices are limited.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Night Owl, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 10, 2018 at 9:00 pm

You can always get a hot dog at 7/11. They're open 24/7.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 10, 2018 at 9:33 pm

It is as sad to see these beloved and famous Palo Alto restaurants closing one by one
throughout the years, but it is also sad to see the compromises they have had to make
in quality, service and to keep their doors open over the years as rents and costs have
gone up, as skills and professionalism have declined and so sad to know that most in
the city now and to come will never know how good food used to be in Palo Alto.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Oct 10, 2018 at 9:41 pm

Open all night - Every Safeway I know of was open all night until one night I was
in the Santa Clara area over by what used to to be Agnews Hospital. I don't know
if that was temporary or permanent, but I have never seen a Safeway closed except
that one at that time.

Not sure if the one in Mountain View on Shoreline is open all night, but the ones I
know are Mountain View, Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Mateo, Sunnyvale.

The Palo Alto Middlefield Safeway is a pretty good market despite people's constant
slams. You should have lived here a long time ago when there was no demand for
high quality food and very little supply from large chains like Safeway, Lucky, Albertson's.
etc. Things are much better today ... not perfect but not everything is factory processed
junk food like it used to be.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy, a resident of College Terrace,
on Oct 11, 2018 at 2:09 am

A great place. We will miss you.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Night Owl, a resident of Midtown,
on Oct 11, 2018 at 9:09 am

> but it is also sad to see the compromises they have had to make in quality, service and to keep their doors open over the years as rents and costs have gone up, as skills and professionalism have declined...


Sad to see Su Hong go as well. Have eaten at all three (including the take-out one in MP).

Speaking of skill, one thing has always perplexed me...Is sushi-making BS?
We have all heard these stories about how sushi chefs train for 7+ years in Japan and yet I see Mexicans & Koreans making sushi at various supermarkets. I suspect that most have not been trained in Japan. Is there some sort of sushi-making correspondence course? Someone once mentioned that there is one in LA (which would explain the proliferation of all these 'expert' sushi chefs).

One thing is for certain...if there is a certification course, most haven't taught these supermarket chefs how to properly season the rice. Always bland.

Getting back to Chinese restaurants in general...it's always better to go after 6:30 as some of the lunch stuff is often recycled (i.e. limp chicken salad). Leftover steamed rice is also recycled into fried rice as well. Not only at Su Hongs but at Tao Tao and others as well.








 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Teresa, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Oct 12, 2018 at 10:52 am

AAAAAAArgh!!!!!, There goes the best garlic eggplant with meat in the world(slight exaggeration?) , but it is for us. I have four different friends who agree, and I have been going with each of them to Su Hong, at least once a month for 40 years always being grateful to find they were just moving location not closing. I am so sad, but also wish him a long and happy, well earned retirement! Thank you for years of a guaranteed delicious meal.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 13, 2018 at 11:12 am

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,

>> It is as sad to see these beloved and famous Palo Alto restaurants closing one by one throughout the years, but it is also sad to see the compromises they have had to make in quality, service and to keep their doors open over the years as rents and costs have gone up

Everything from restaurants to dentists to veterinarians. Prices go up and service goes down as Palo Alto tries to become Wall Street West. Why?



 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Oct 13, 2018 at 12:02 pm

Too bad. But running a restaurant is a tough life. Enjoy your retirement!


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Simple Question, a resident of Charleston Meadows,
on Oct 13, 2018 at 1:30 pm

> Everything from restaurants to dentists to veterinarians. Prices go up and service goes down as Palo Alto tries to become Wall Street West. Why?

Simple answer...MONEY.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Bye Bye Su Hong, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 13, 2018 at 3:13 pm

I've always enjoyed going to Su Hongs. For entertainment, my friends and I used to burn one prior to arriving and after ordering, count the number of customers eating with chopsticks vs those eating with forks. Sometimes we made a wager based on guessed percentages and the loser(s) paid the tab.

The fork-eaters always looked like such doofuses and watching them shovel food down like human backhoes always seemed a bit out of place. After all, this is Chinese food!

About as bad as eating sushi with a fork.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Barron Park,
on Oct 13, 2018 at 10:09 pm

Cheers to well-deserved retirement. Thank you Su Hong for all the good memories.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by You Must Be Fun at Parties, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Oct 14, 2018 at 3:51 pm

@Bye Bye Su Hong: If that's what you do to feel superior to people, that is one sad commentary.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Local, a resident of Green Acres,
on Oct 14, 2018 at 7:27 pm

Thank you for the great meals over the years, great eat in, great take out. My family will genuinely miss you. We wish you a really relaxing and fun retirement. So sorry to see Su Hong close, though.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by bonny, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Oct 14, 2018 at 9:48 pm

Su Hong holds special memories, as it was one of the first restaurants I took my daughters after I adopted them from Kazakhstan in search of something closer to food they were used to eating. At ages 5 and 7, the girls didn't know how to behave in a restaurant at all -- and made a mess you wouldn't believe. Yet the staff were all so kind and seemed to get a laugh out of it all. We have tried many Chinese restaurants in the area since -- but none ever were as delicious and fun as Su Hong. We still drive to the Palo Alto location when I have the energy to retrace my commute, because we love it so much. Thank you for the great food and memories!! Best wishes in your retirement.



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