By Will Ahern | Contributor
After a year-and-a-half hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese Heritage Foundation Friends (CHFF) has reprised its Sunday Teas Series with a presentation on “The History of the Chinese Restaurant Business in Minnesota.”
CHFF members Pat Hui and Paul Kwok, local artists, offered to host the event at their gallery/studio located in the Traffic Art Center in downtown Minneapolis. Although guests were limited to only 20 people, participants also viewed it via Zoom.
The presentation began with the introduction of the board by Ida Lano, board president, who then introduced Greg Hugh, publisher of China Insight, as moderator. Hugh proceeded to introduce members of the David Fong family, (part the panel): Ed Fong, owner of , Bloomington; Cindy and Leo Le, owners of ; and David Fong Jr., owner of , Savage.
Hugh began the discussion by noting how China Insight regularly covered the David Fong clan over the years, chronicling the more than 60 years the family has been involved in the community. Eddie, eldest son of David and Helen, shared some interesting historical background about the evolution of the Fong family name and restaurants.
The journey to Minnesota began back in 1942 in Chicago where their family name was actually Moy and their great grandfather was actually in the laundry business, but that’s another story that would involve a discussion about the Chinese Exclusion Act and the rise of “paper sons” since his grandfather arrived in U.S. on paper as a Fong.
It was 1944 that the family learned of the opportunity to purchase a restaurant, the Moy Café in Minneapolis (no relation, contact was made through the Moy Family Association in Chicago), and that is how the family moved to Minnesota and got into the restaurant business. Grandfather eventually returned to China (in 1948) to bring his wife and family to Minnesota, which included David who turned 15 his second day in America.
According to Eddie, 1954 was a very important year for the family since that was when David met his future wife Helen on a visit to L.A., prior to him leaving for the Army. They married in 1957 and the next year decided that they wanted to open a small take-out restaurant. Although they were looking for a location in Richfield, they got lost and ended up in Bloomington when they came across a “for rent” sign at 98th and Lyndale. And that is how the Fong dynasty began.
Throughout his life, David Sr. has said that he has always been lucky, but Eddie says that his father, if he was “lucky,” earned it by being honest with the people he has met in his life and giving back to the people and community. Their success, Eddie stressed, is based on giving back and that is why the family continues with that tradition at all of their locations.
Obviously, the David Fong’s Chinese Restaurant located in Bloomington has to be doing something right to be one of the longest continuous operating restaurants in the Twin Cities. It has weathered all kinds of dining fads. The discussion was opened up for questions for the various members of the Fongs, including Leo, Cindy’s husband.
How to remain competitive? all panel members agreed they focus on providing good customer service at a reasonable price, and support the community. Naturally, the biggest problem is hiring enough people to provide a healthy and safe dining experience. Just as there are generations of family members pursuing a restaurant career, the Fong restaurants are blessed to have customers of multiple generations patronizing their restaurants, and even request their favorite dishes be shipped to them after they move away from Minnesota!
The presentation concluded with a cooking demonstration by Eddie. Despite the limitations of the kitchen facility, he was able to prepare one of his delicious signature dishes: New York Steak Chinatown for all who attended in person to sample.
(Photos by Paul Kwok)
Editor’s Notes: China Insight has featured about 15 articles about David Fong and his family over the years. If you’re interested in reading them, visit and search for” David Fong.”