Kuo Wah Restaurant

San Francisco, California, United States

Chin Mon Wah (Young family patriarch) and his childhood friend, Chin Kwok Yen, purchased the building in the late 30s. Prior to placing a restaurant in this location it had at the ground floor a photo studio at 942 and stores at 946-950 Grant Avenue with the remaining two floors above being the Gum Mon Hotel.

At this time they remodeled the building to house the Kuo Wah Cafe at 942 Grant Ave which served American Style food and 946-950 to serve Chinese food. The Lions Den Nightclub was in the basement and its entrance was at 942. This is where the bar was located at that time. The Lions Den had shows featuring Chinese performers that would sing, dance and tell jokes just like all the mainstream nightclubs of the era. The Gum Mon Hotel still remained. Sometime after WW II, in the mid to late 1950s, the Lions Den Nightclub ceased to exist due to the changing times and became a dining room. Its bar was relocated from the basement to the main floor location of the Cafe which served American food. Many politicians, heads of state and other dignitaries were hosted.

In the early 60s, Chin Mon Wah's son, Andy Young, had by that time became general manager, and again undertook major construction. The Lions Den basement, main floor Kuo Wah Cafe and second floor hotel rooms were remodeled into a single restaurant called the Kuo Wah Restaurant instead of "cafe". A new bar was built in the basement, the kitchen was relocated from the main floor to the basement. A second remodel of the existing bar took place and the 2nd floor hotel rooms were cleared to make way for a 300+ person dining room. An outdoor courtyard was created at the front entrance of the building so that diners could sit out on nice days to eat or have cocktails.

Upstairs, they had a burlesque dance review based on a number out of the hit play (1958) and film (1961), Flower Drum Song. In the film, “Fan Tan Fannie” was performed by the strip-teasing female comic lead, Linda Low, played in the film by sex symbol Nancy Kwan. Their postcards advertised the dancing girls doing 3 shows a night along with "togetherness dancing" whatever that meant...

Between 65' and 68' there was a nightclub in the basement called The Drag'on A' Go-Go, which featured local bands. This is when they started to offer free tiki mugs with any of their exotic Polynesian cocktails. These mugs were exclusively from Otagiri Manufacturing Co. This continued until 1975 at which time they sold the restaurant to investors who rebuilt once again to make a Hong Kong style dim sum eatery. At this time the restaurant was still called Kuo Wah.

Since then the restaurant changed hands at least two more times. Its name for 20 years or so was Grand Palace.

Then, in 2021, owners with a love of history decided to bring back a version of The Lion's Den Club as the new Lion's Den Lounge and Bar. The address for this newer club is 57 Wentworth Pl, San Francisco, CA 94108, but it occupies the same footprint as the old club and honors its style and memory.

Bar & Restaurant
San Francisco, California, United States
Permanently Closed?


No one has visited this tiki bar.

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Date Created
14 Sep 2021
Date Updated
17 May 2023
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