Why Aren't There Any Hong Kong-Style Cafes in Orange County?

Categories: Really?!?!?
Flickr User Roland

The question came from a reader on my personal blog who simply asked: "During my stay in the OC I have not been able to locate any Hong Kong cafes or restaurants. Do you perhaps know of any?"

Which made realize, no I don't. It got me thinking that the last Hong Kong-style cafe to grace our dining scene was O'Shine in Irvine, which then became Red Onion, a similarly styled restaurant that itself soon folded shortly after. Eventually the space became the popular Korean BBQ Shik Do Rak. Since then, no one's ever looked back because, aside from being the only Hong Kong-style cafes in OC, neither O'Shine or Red Onion were very noteworthy.

But this still leaves the question: why hasn't any new ones come around to fill the Hong Kong-style cafe (cha chaan teng) void? Why are there no restaurants here like Monterey Park's JJ Hong Kong Cafe where you can get a steak with mashed potato, a hot bowl of jook, beef chowfun, pork cutlet with tomato sauce, chili chese fries or a sandwich in the same sitting? Also key to the cha chaan teng formula is that everything is priced cheaply, and they are generally open late. Imagine Denny's merged with a Chinese restaurant (but better).

The only establishment that fulfills some of these requirements in OC would have to be Guppy Tea House in Irvine, which dabbles in mixing some Western food to nibble along with the flavored teas, but it's more a Taiwanese snack joint. Four Seasons Cafe in Artesia, the closest Hong Kong-style cafe to the OC border (if you don't count Rowland Heights), closed nearly two years ago.

Or am I wrong in saying OC has none? Chime in if you've spotted a Hong Kong-style cafe around these parts. Both that reader and I will thank you.

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HK Girl in OC
HK Girl in OC

I was born in HK and there until I was 10, before moving to Toronto with my family for over 20 years.  When I first moved to Southern California in 1999 from Toronto, I noticed the ratio of Mandarin speakers (v. Cantonese speakers) is higher than that in Toronto.  Toronto received an exodus of Hong Kong Chinese emigrating to east coast Canada in the early to mid 80’s and the modern Hong Kong Cantonese culture flourished there.  Most of the Cantonese culture in the Southern California area is more heavily influenced by Chinese immigrants from China (Guangdong province) and Vietnam and that may explain the lack of good HK cafes here (esp. beyond Los Angeles County).  Even the HK cafes in the Los Angeles/Monterey Park area pale in comparison to the ones in Toronto.

HK Girl in OC
HK Girl in OC

I thought of the same restaurant - Tasty Garden is a Hong Kong cafe chain but the one in Westminster is less HK and more Vietnamese.


I remember a long time ago when there was a Four Seasons Cafe in Irvine (next to Tapioca Express on Walnut/Jeffrey), I had my first Baked Pork Chop with rice there and fell in love. Unfortunately I only found out about Red Onion Cafe right as they closed down!

I really wish there would be an HK styled cafe in OC so I can stop driving out to Rowland Heights for it! Or having to make my own Baked Pork Chop with rice, which takes a very long time to cook/prep.


Does Tasty Garden in Westminster count?

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