Wan-Q

A Yellow Pages ad

Wan-Q was a terrific Chinese restaurant located on Pico Boulevard, just east of Robertson, in the building that now houses another terrific Chinese restaurant called Fu’s Palace.  Unlike Wan-Q, Fu’s Palace is not a dark place full of tropical decor and little streams and waterfalls that run through the room.  I took some of my first dates to Wan-Q because it seemed to be that kind of place, but its main clientele was local Jewish families.

If you were Jewish in the sixties in Los Angeles, it seemed almost mandatory that your family have a favorite Chinese restaurant.  In that area, loyalties were divided between Wan-Q and a place a few blocks east on Pico named Kowloon, which is also now long gone.  There were other Chinese eateries along that stretch of Pico but somehow, even local newspaper reporters sensed the great Wan-Q/Kowloon rivalry and wrote of it.  We were Wan-Q people but once, just to be fair-minded, we dined at Kowloon and confirmed our hunch that it was inferior.

The waiters at Wan-Q were great and they really did fit the Great Chinese Waiter Stereotype of all looking alike…but you could tell them apart by the loud Hawaiian-style shirts they wore.  There was one who thought the funniest thing in the world was to ask, when a family ordered something with pork in it, “Are you Joosh?”  That was how he pronounced “Jewish.”

Wan-Q was the first place I ever had Chinese Food and to this day, my concept of the right way to prepare certain dishes is rooted in how they were prepared there.  As I said, I took dates there.  One time, I took a lady named Karen to Wan-Q on our way down to the Music Center downtown to see Art Carney star in a production of Prisoner of Second Avenue.  For some reason, we drastically over-ordered.  Karen and I stuffed ourselves to capacity and there was still enough food on our table to feed a family of four.  The waiter offered to box it all up but we decided it wouldn’t keep in the car ’til after the play.  We were sitting there, feeling it was a shame to toss out all that grub when I noticed my parents walking in with my Aunt Dot.

They were seated on the other side of the restaurant and didn’t see us, which was fine with me.  My folks and Aunt would thought it was “cute” to see me there with my date…and if you’re 18 and out on a date, the last thing you want is to be cute the way you’re cute to your parents.  So we figured out how we could get out of Wan-Q without being spotted but before we left, I told the waiter, “Box all this food up and after we’re gone, give it to the people at that table and ask them to take it home for Mark.”  When I got home that night, my mother laughed and said, “If you’re hungry, I could heat up some of your dinner for you!”

It was a sad day when Wan-Q went out of business, not only for my family and for the proprietors of the restaurant but also for whoever owned that building.  It proceeded to house a veritable United Nations of different failed restaurants (Mexican, Polynesian, Jamaican, etc.) before finally, after a decade or so, reverting to its birthright as a Chinese eatery.  I used to drive by and marvel at how each new tenant adapted some of the exterior decor of the previous resident.  The odd roof that’s there now and the split telephone poles nailed to the sides of the building are, I believe, leftovers from when it was a Caribbean-themed eatery called the Sugar Shack.  They didn’t make a lot of sense then, either.

37 Responses to Wan-Q

  • Dave Senit says:

    Loved Wan-Q’s – went there for many years. My girlfriend and now my wife use to order a Vicious Virgin drink. She actually fell out of the booth at Wan-Q’s.

  • Alan Singer says:

    My friend Sheldon and I when we are in high school went to WanQ for dinner regularly. It just goes to show that Jews know two things, suffering, and where to find great Chinese food.

  • Gretchen Saaduddin says:

    Still mourning the closure of that fabulous place. We met with our Jewish and Muslim professors and students there (UCLA). I assured them that the almond cookies contained lard (too good to be anything else) but as they say, ignorance is bliss. We had wonderful times there with much laughter, many intellectual discussions, great food, drinks and bonding. When they closed, we moved to Kelbos…good, but not the same.

  • Richard Bylund says:

    Been there many , many times . I am searching for another Wan Qs,
    Nothing now can compare. Oh well I have to keep looking anyway .

    Maybe if I move to China , what do you think ?

  • Frances Bylund says:

    My husband and I got engaged at Wan-Q’s. We have celebrated 56 years of marriage on August 6th. We went there quite frequently when we were dating and even after we got married. We also took our children there. The food was fantastic, even the roasted almond duck.

  • Jerry Mezerow says:

    My folks would take me to Wan-Q 2-3 times a month as a kid. Fantastic food with old Chinese vegetables you can’t find today. Mark- Think I know you from old San Diego Comic Con. Wonderful web site.

  • Jeff Silverman says:

    Grew up on Wooster for 15 years, 4 apartment building away from Wan-Q. Owner Benny Eng lived on our block and would chat with us daily on his way to work. Best after school snack was a half order of almond pressed duck for $2.15. Played a lot of neighborhood touch football games in their parking lot.

  • Phil Ehrens says:

    The T.V. series Tenspeed and Brownshoe featured Ben Vereen and Jeff Goldblum meeting the clients of their detective agency at Wan Q!

  • Al says:

    Fu’s Palace is a good Chinese restaurant but I can’t believe that it’s in the Wan-Q building. Their atmospheres are totally different.

  • Dragonanna says:

    What a wonderful surprise to read all the beautiful memories. My father was one of the chefs and he will be 91 yrs. old in Oct. this year. I never had the opportunity to visit this restaurant. Thank you for sharing.

  • Chuck Haynes says:

    We lived on Veteran Ave then 77th Ave in Westchester. Wan Q’s was a
    great adventure in dining for a young lad. I have found a few Chinese restaurants that serve Almond Pressed Duck, But none have reached level of “Duck perfection” that was to be yours at Wan Q’s. My folks would always order the BBQ pork noodles and for me it my beloved Almond Duck.

  • David Bland says:

    Wan Q defined Chinese food for me having grown up in the Pico-Robertson area in the 60s. The only thing we ever ordered was chop suey because that’s all my father would order in a Chinese restaurant. And we never ate in, we always ordered out and as a boy I picked up our dinner any times

  • Judy Landis says:

    My family in the late 50’s and 60’s loved wan q. My dad took us there all the time. Loved the people and I discovered chinese food. Wish there were more like that now.
    It is now August 2014, and have the fondest memories of the restaurant.

  • Sheila says:

    I also remember WanQ’s in the early 50’s as a small store front with about a dozen tables and nothing else. It was my introduction to Chinese food. When I was in China a few years ago, our tour guide said that he would love to visit the USA someday. I told him he would find the “best” Chinese restaurants in the Jewish neighborhoods. He looked at me with the strangest look. I still chuckle remembering his look.

  • Marla says:

    My family lived in Westchester but my grandparents lived near Hoi Ping. I loved the fancy raised silver dishes that they served the food in. Orange chicken and almond chicken, My two favorites as a little girl!

  • CARONDENISE says:

    My favorite aunt took me to Wan-Q for dinner after a wonderful day of riding roller coasters at P.O.P. aka Pacific Ocean Park. I was also wearing my white go-go boots that she bought me for my birthday. This day [simply put] was like a celebration of life. I will always have fond memories of the times we spent together and our wonderful dinner at Wan-Q. Thanks for taking me down memory lane.

  • Colleen says:

    As a little girl, my parents would take our family there. We lived in Hancock Park, so not too far away. When my father would walk in, Benny would come right over and fawn over us, take our order and would make sure everything was just so. I can’t really remember, but I think my grandfather owned the land that Wan Q sat on. There was some sort of business between my grandfather and Benny. The last time I was there was in the very early 70’s and I was alone with my parents. My dad asked me what I wanted to have as my major in college. I replied, ” Acting.” He got angry, looked at me like I was crazy and said, ” I’m not going to pay for a college education so you can end up on a casting couch!” Whaaaaat? I was so shocked. I literally had to ask him what he meant by that and he told me. I was like, ” Reeallllllyyyyy? They do that?” Needless to say, I became a teacher.

  • Joan Robin says:

    Lived on Wooster, about 1/2 block from Wan Q. Loved it!

  • Patty says:

    So glad to find this, it seems most people I ask never have heard of it. It was my families absoloutely favorite! We didn’t have much money growing up but my grandmother and/or great aunt would call up and say in their South Carolinan accent, come on , we’re going to the WanQ. I celebrated my first wedding anniversary there in 1965, it will always remain my favorite and I’ve never had anything that came close.
    Does anyone remember Iz’s Bakery? He & his family lived next door to me growing up in Mar Vista, he would bring us wonderful bread, I believe he was famous for his bagels.
    ps I’m still married and will celebrate 50 yrs. this year.

  • bobbi k says:

    Twin Dragon had special dishs with numbers. Its where I first experienced mooshu pork. The fairfax/la cienaga /pico area had wonderful restuarants & delis!!!!!!!!! Oh ==for the good old days!!!!

  • aron pieman kay says:

    my parents had the tailor shop at 8721 west pico blvd for 13 years…the store was kay’s alterations. meanwhile i would have food from wan-q whenever i would come by the store…
    so sad to see it gone

  • Lisa says:

    Yes, the pressed duck….thank you for mentioning…a memory from my childhood…it was our “Chinese place” loved the water fountains inside with multi colored lights.

  • Kathie says:

    We used to go to Wan-Q from Santa Monica when we wanted to go out for “good” or “dressy” occasions. Otherwise, our day-to-day Chinese was Hoi-Ping, further West on Pico. I, too kind of base my expectations of what Chinese SHOULD be on my childhood experiences at Wan-Q…

  • leslie says:

    OMG. My dad used to take my brother and I there on a weekly basis, usually on Sunday night, before he brought us back to our mom. I will never forget the Pineapple Chicken Sticks because we had to order them every, single time. It was super fun and kitschy, and you’re right: if you were a Jew living on the west side of Los Angeles, it was a mandatory go-to.

  • Larry Brown says:

    Wan Q’s “pressed duck babe … it was amazing!

  • Mark says:

    I also worked as a busboy at Monarc and lived doors down from Wan-Q.

  • Chop says:

    Wan Q’s was my place to go. I many time held dinner party’s there with my friends and family. Coming from New York I am very picky about my Chinese /American food. I miss that place and Andy the guy who was manager there. He was great, the staff was great, I can still see and smell the food cooking. Great memory’s .

  • Joel Grossman says:

    Wan-Q was 3 doors down from my fathers office. We would go for lunch there on many ocassions and get a big bowl of noodles. I always wanted to sit next to the big pond they had inside. Also a couple of doors up was the excellent French Restaurant Mon-Arc, that was there for many, many years. I was a busboy there. One night I met Ray Bradbury there.

  • ES says:

    Thanks for writing this! I live in the Pico-Robertson area, where there are still 3 Chinese restaurants, and Fu’s Palace (the former Wan-Q) is definitely the best. I have always wondered about the joint and the histories of the other Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood. Now I know!

  • Heidi says:

    Hi, does anyone remember a Chinese restaurant that had a huge wood wall carving?

  • Andy Powell says:

    My family and I loved Wan-Q. It was run by two brothers, Andy and Doug. My name is Andy and my brother’s middle name was Douglas, so we used to joke that they were our Chinese counterparts. The fried rice and the mooshu chicken were awesome, but I honestly can’t remember anything that wasn’t. And yes, the waterfalls, streams and lighting were mesmerizing and I looked forward to them as much as the food.

  • The ChocolateDoctor says:

    Wan-Q was a Saturday afternoon family tradition at our house when I was going up. It was a great fun place that started out as a single store-front and grew down the block store front-by-front until it was a nearly a half block long—a tropical paradise with little streams and waterfalls that ran through the rooms.

    Benny Eng, the owner, was a friend of my dads who always chased away the waiter and took our order which was the same every week—chicken chow mein (no onions), egg fu yung, sweet and sour pork and shrimp fried rice. We always got a plate of eggrolls and noodles “no charge.” It was as stated on the sign—Chicago Style and Authentic Cantonese Food. What ever that means. It was authentic to me as it was the first Chinese food I ever tasted and which I still measure other Chinese restaurants. Okay, I sometimes cheat and measure some dishes to the original Formosa in Hollywood and the Hawaiian ribs at Kelbo’s.

    Of course we always looked forward to the check arriving as the tray carried both fortune and almond cookies the later of which were made fresh in the restaurant everyday. My mother used to think that they were the best almond cookies she ever tasted and Benny would tell her the secret was in the pork fat (lard) that made them so great. My mother would ask him repeatedly for the recipe, but was told a magician never give away his secrets, but finally one day he there was an extra piece of paper on the check which was the recipe for the cookies—all written in Chinese of course. My tenacious mother wasn’t going to give up and had it translated into English and became one of the cookies my brother and I looked forward to.

  • Bob says:

    There was another great Cantonese place on Pico called Hoi Ping. Similar food to Kowloon and Wan-q but Wan-Q still had the best almond chicken! Twin Dragon is still on Pico as well!

  • Stewart Ruskin says:

    I lived with my family next door to Wan q , I loved the interior as a little kid , it was so foreign . The smells at night would waft through to my room and it wasn’t the most pleasant smell. I’m 53 now, living in Green Valley, Nevada, we have a Chinese restaurant in downtown Henderson which reminds me of a Los Angeles 1960’s era Chinese restaurant. It’s called the Lotus. WaN Q was one of a kind!

  • Craig Printup says:

    I loved Wan Q, the inside waterfall and stream reminded me of Clifton’s Cafeteria, the Polynesian one which has been gone for 50 years or so. Clifton’s was a surreal experience for a 6 year old…..8) Also, my dad used to go on business lunches at Wan Q in the early 60’s, and he would bring home little plastic jungle animals that they would hang on the edge of cocktail glasses as decoration and give them to us kids. Depending on how many animals he would bring home was directly proportional to the amount of trouble he got in from my mom.

  • Richard16378 says:

    Not a good name to use from a British POV.

  • Bruce Reznick says:

    Ours was a Wan-Q family. Most of their dishes had more sugar than was either healthy or authentic, but we loved them. Looking at the ad, it seems like they put in Polynesian elements of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic, which were popular among WW2 vets who had served in the Pacific. We went for the egg rolls, the spare ribs and the shrimp with lobster sauce.

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