Otis Chan pauses as he tries to sum up what the Golden Inn restaurant in Calgary’s Chinatown means to him.
“Before, it was like a beacon,” said the longtime Calgarian.
“[The owners] have done a lot for me…beyond expectations.”
During a turbulent childhood and young adulthood, it was a place he could go where he knew the staff would take care of him no matter how much money he had in his pocket, says- he.
Many memories of Chan growing up in the city involve spending time at restaurants, eating, drinking ginger ale, and just hanging out.
“They actually cooked food for me, like, at no cost. Sometimes they even sent me away with 20, 30 dollars, even with a full stomach, to make sure I had a next meal.
For 45 years, the Golden Inn has been a popular place for family meals and connecting to the community by day. At night, it was the go-to spot that a younger generation in the city could count on to be open late.
Open most days of the year, the family-run restaurant – with its iconic yellow and red sign and long list of regulars – is a community institution.
8:00 a.m.The Golden Inn restaurant closes after 45 years
That’s why when the family announced online last month that they would cease operations by the end of August, comments from the community poured in.
“It’s overwhelming. It’s almost shocking. We get hundreds of comments, messages. I actually sat there and read every single one of them…and I got a few tears in my eyes “, Raymond Lau, co-owner of the Golden Inn, said on the Calgary Eye Opener.
Raymond is the eldest son of Golden Inn founders John Lau, who is still the chef, and Kim Lau, who runs the house.
Now that his parents have reached retirement age, he says they have decided to close the business to spend more time with his family. The decision was not easy as the restaurant is still loved by many.
Hailey Malicdem, a Calgary nurse who blogs about local food, made a TikTok video about what she likes about Golden Inn. He understood the news of its closure.
“I was very surprised how much it exploded…there are so many people who also share family memories,” she said.
The Golden Inn is where Malicdem’s parents went on dates, where she first learned to use chopsticks, where she and her friends were guaranteed tasty food after a night out clubbing . It is now a regular family dining spot for her.
“I will definitely miss the staff,” she said.
Since the announcement of the closure, the owners have said that there have been lines at the door from opening to closing.
“[My parents] work late, clean late, but it’s worth it,” Raymond said. “They love it. That’s what they’ve been doing for the past 45 years.”
Hong Kong to Calgary
John Lau trained as a chef in Hong Kong before moving to Vancouver and then settling in Calgary, where he and his wife opened the restaurant in 1977.
“He moved here with practically nothing but a shirt on his back and kind of built this little iconic family restaurant that Calgary just embraced,” Raymond said.
The couple have three sons: Raymond, Kelvin and Vincent, who grew up helping their parents set tables, serve buses and wash dishes.
Kelvin, who is now the head chef at Annabelle’s Kitchen in Calgary, got his start in the kitchen there.
recipe for success
Raymond says there are two main reasons for the Golden Inn’s continued success in the community: the menu hasn’t changed since 1977 and they stay open late (2 a.m. on weekdays, 4 a.m. on weekends ).
Kelvin and Raymond say they remember going out at night as young adults and hearing patrons leaving bars and clubs early in the morning when they decided to visit the Golden Inn.
Although the decision to close was highly controversial, the brothers look forward to spending more time with their family.
Chan and Malicdem plan to visit the restaurant a few more times this month before it closes permanently. Chan wants to indulge in the lobster and cream sauce and steamed fish, and Malicdem looks forward to the fried chicken in oyster sauce (an off-menu favorite).