Family-owned restaurant in San Francisco's Japantown closes
SAN FRANCISCO - An iconic family-owned restaurant in San Francisco’s Japantown has officially closed after more than 40 years in business.
Café Mums, best known for Shabu Shabu, a Japanese version of hot pot has stood as a staple on Sutter Street. The restaurant served up its final breakfast Sunday before closing its doors.
"I’m so sad," longtime customer Linda Mihara said. "I had to come in and have my Japanese breakfast and say goodbye to the family."
The Tam family has considered the restaurant a labor of love that has spanned generations.
"A lot of our family members worked here, our friends, cousins, uncles," Winnie Tam said. "There’s just so much history, and we’ve been a part of so many lives."
She is one of four daughters to Isidore Tam who immigrated to San Francisco from Hong Kong in the early 1980s. He said he started at Mums washing dishes but eventually became the owner where he essentially raised his kids.
Tam, 73, said he’s ready to retire and was too emotional to say much after cleaning the final tables late Sunday morning.
"It’s been tough. There’s a lot of crying involved," Winnie Tam said. "There’s happy notes and there’s sad notes."
Longtime customers left written messages on the front counter near several bright yellow mum flowers.
The Tams say they can recite many of their routine orders. And several families showed up to fill up one last time on traditional Japanese food.
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"It’s something that has been important in our family for decades now," father Jeff Yasuda said. "I’ve been bringing these kids here since they were tiny."
"I just love it," his son Cole Yasuda said. "There’s no place I can find miso soup, bacon and eggs, and rice. It’s just my favorite. It’s sad to see it go."
It’s not the only legacy business in Japantown to close over the past year. Business owners including the Tams have cited the pandemic, rising rent and increasing food costs as key causes.
The Tams consider the closing bittersweet but say they’re thankful for the memories that will last a lifetime.
"It feels really good," Winnie Tam said. "It feels like we’ve touched a lot of people and we were part of their life growing up."
Brooks Jarosz is a reporter for KTVU. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU