Angkor Borei, one of SF's only Cambodian restaurants, to close permanently after 30 years

Angkor Borei has served Cambodian food out of its Mission Street location since 1986. | Photo: Nikki Collister/Hoodline
By Nikki Collister - Published on June 08, 2020.

For years, Angkor Borei (3471 Mission St.) was the only Cambodian restaurant in San Francisco, serving curries and ahmohk in a cozy space on the border of the Mission District and Bernal Heights.

Featured on KQED’s restaurant review show "Check, Please!" in 2013, it's still one of just a handful of Cambodian restaurants in the Bay Area, which has made it both a destination for out-of-town visitors and a favorite for locals.

But with shelter-in-place orders keeping the majority of its customers at home, Angkor Borei has taken a hard hit. After struggling to stay afloat for several months, married owners Tom Prabpan and Chin Han Yat made the difficult decision last week to close their doors permanently.

Yat confirmed with Hoodline that Angkor Borei's last day of business will be June 15. The pair will continue offering takeout and delivery through that date; after the restaurant closes, they both plan to retire. 

Angkor Borei earned accolades from Zagat, SF Weekly, and SFGate, which are displayed on its window. | Photo: Andrew D./Yelp

Yat said that she and Prabpan experienced a significant drop in sales after shifting to takeout and delivery only. They were forced to reduce their staff to just three employees, but there was still not enough income to pay rent and keep operations going.

Although the business applied for both rounds of the SBA's Paycheck Protection Program, as well as local funding, it was unable to receive a small business loan.

"Our daughter helped us apply, but we never got anything back," Yat said. "We were told there was no money left."

Yat knew that the restaurant was in trouble as early as February, when she heard about businesses in China closing during lockdown. "I thought, 'As soon as that happens here, that's it for us.'" 

Interior of Angkor Borei. | Photo: Ed U./Yelp

Located on a busy corridor of Mission Street, near the western end of Cortland Avenue, Angkor Borei has been a well-known presence for over 30 years.

Yat started as a waitress at the restaurant soon after it opened — "1986 or 1987," as she recalls — before eventually taking over ownership, along with Prabpan, in in the early 2000s.

As chef, Prabpan constructed a menu that was reflective of both their cultures: Thai curries and Cambodian specialties like ahmohk (a mild fish curry steamed in a banana leaf) and banh chiao (savory egg crepes).

The restaurant is also known for its vegetarian-friendly dishes, including a popular appetizer of spinach leaves surrounded by various fillings, which guests use to assemble their own personalized finger foods.

A Cambodian specialty, ahmohk is a mild fish curry served in a banana leaf basket. | Photo: Christine S./Yelp

Along with Hillside Supper Club in Bernal Heights and Café du Soleil in the Lower Haight, Angkor Borei joins a growing list of permanent restaurant closures in the city since the start of shelter-in-place.

In a message posted on the restaurant's window, below a "For Rent" sign, Prabpan and Yat thanked customers for their years of support.

"We wanted to let you all know, how very grateful and blessed we have felt to serve you the past 30-plus years," they wrote.

Signs posted on Angkor Borei's windows. | Photo: Nikki Collister/Hoodline

Since posting the message, Yat has had many loyal customers come by to offer their support. Some have offered to set up fundraisers, but she has politely declined.

"Even if we opened again," she said, referring to the eventual reopening of dine-in service in San Francisco, "it would be too hard to keep going."

Under the state's health and safety guidelines for dine-in restaurants, which would be adapted by San Francisco's Department of Public Health, Angkor Borei would likely have to cut down service to just a handful of tables at a time, which would not bring in enough revenue to stay afloat.

"I've had lots of people come by and cry and say how much they'll miss us," she said. "I've cried, too. They love us and we love them." 

About 1 hour ago
San Francisco Castro

Custom fine jewelry workshop Nick Engel & Co. opens in Castro

A new custom fine jewelry workshop Nick Engel & Co., which has been downtown for about 12 years, has opened in the Castro at 4011 18th St., formerly Mini-Chic and Turkish Modern. Read More

About 19 hours ago
San Francisco Civic Center

SF Public Library Main Branch to Reopen May 3

The SFPL reopening will only involve the first floor and a “browse and bounce” program, but the access to computers will also be part of the limited library operations. Read More

About 23 hours ago
San Francisco Embarcadero

Anthony Strong's SuperStella Van, Red Bay Coffee and more new businesses arrive at the Ferry Building

A spate of high-profile closures at San Francisco's once-thriving Ferry Building is being followed by some more positive news, as four new businesses announce openings at the iconic shopping and dining complex. Read More

1 day ago
San Francisco Castro Duboce Triangle

Community provides feedback & criticism at Harvey Milk Plaza redesign town hall

Last week, the Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza (FHMP) held two virtual town halls seeking community feedback about its plans to redesign Harvey Milk Plaza, and the new design team offered multiple new conceptual approaches. Read More