San Diego

Popular Family Operated Peking Cafe Chop Suey in North Park Will Close

One of San Diego's oldest restaurant is closing.

Peking Cafe Chop Suey has become a fixture in North Park.

Numerous local residents, many of whom have been dining at the restaurant for decades, said they're sad to see it go.

In 1931, Chinese immigrant Leo Fong and two friends opened what would become the family-owned restaurant, with his wife Emily.

Nearly nine decades later, the Fong family is still cooking and serving Cantonese dishes to loyal customers.

"I'm 78 and I can remember as a small child coming here," said customer Gail Modert. "You feel welcomed. There's some places you walk in, you don't get that closeness."

But that familiarity will come to a close in March, when the Fong family shuts down the restaurant, which is now operated by the Fong's son Kenneth, and his wife, Maria.

"It's the beginning of my parents' retirement," explained Lesley Fong, the daughter of Kenneth and Emily Fong. "They've worked here over 40 years. It's time for them to enjoy the fruits of their labor, enjoy being grandparents."

Fong and her two sisters, Jen and Steph Fong, grew up working at the restaurant, and now have careers in other fields.

"We knew with so many people retiring that it was never going to be the same and we'd rather just go out and leave at the high quality it's been for the last 88 years," added Fong. "We're just ready to move on and lucky enough to make this change on our own terms."

The restaurant's closure will be deeply felt by customers, who come to the restaurant as much for the food, as for the Fong family

"I feel like I'm losing a relative or a very good friend that I've known for 70 years," said long-time customer Milt Keller. "It's just like home to me, knowing the Fongs, now the three daughters."

Eric Garcia, 26, has been eating at the restaurant for about 20 years with his family as a young child, and now with his wife, Jessica.

"We don't call it Chop Suey. We always call it Maria's, like we're going to see Maria," said Garcia. "We'll miss the place a lot."

The Fongs say they will also miss the many people they've bonded with over the years.

"We've been through everything with our customers. And they've been through everything with us: births, deaths, marriages, divorces, birthdays, graduations," said Fong. "People used to say to me, 'I remember you before you were born.' Now I have a 4-year-old daughter and she comes with me every once in a while and she sits in the same booth that I sat in when I was growing up."

The Fongs haven't set an exact date for the closure. They wanted to wait until after Chinese New Year celebrations in February to serve their final meals. 

The family plans to lease out the restaurant space to another business.

Contact Us