100-Year-Old Far East Cafe in SF's Chinatown is saved

Photo: Ivan H./Yelp
By Jay Barmann - Published on March 03, 2021.

One of the last vestiges of a long-gone era in San Francisco's Chinatown, the worn-in Far East Cafe (631 Grant Ave.), is remaining open after all, following an announcement in December that it might have to close.

Far East Cafe owner Bill Lee told Chinatown's Wind newspaper three months ago that he was reaching a breaking point. "I love Far East Cafe. I don’t want to give up," he said. "But I have no choice. We can’t afford to keep the restaurant up for running without any revenues from the business and resources from the City."

Fast-forward a couple of months, and the SF Board of Supervisors passed a $1.9 million Chinatown relief measure, and Far East Cafe was put to work preparing meals for elderly residents and SROs in the neighborhood.

As the Chronicle reports via Sing Tao Daily, Lee has decided to keep the place open — and this is also thanks to getting 50% off his rent and six months free rent last year from the landlord. 

Far East Cafe will now open along with many other restaurants around the city for indoor dining at 25% capacity — which began Wednesday after SF entered the "Red" tier for reopening on Tuesday. 

Also this means that the 100-year-old restaurant's large banquet space is also saved. Community members had said that most of the affordable banquet halls in the neighborhood had closed in recent years, and this would be a major blow if Far East Cafe also closed, leaving one less venue for Lunar New Year banquets, affordable wedding receptions, and other celebrations.

First opened in 1920, Far East Cafe is a high-ceilinged space hung with antique Chinese lanterns, and surrounded by crown molding. The restaurant features private dining booths — that are especially COVID-friendly now — with high wood partitions and curtains separating tables from the rest of the dining room.


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