Calgary

More than a restaurant: Golden Inn customers share what makes it special

The Golden Inn restaurant has been a popular spot for family dining by day and at night — the go-to spot that a younger generation in the city could count on to be open late. They close later this month.

After 45 years, Chinatown dining mainstay to close

The restaurant's menu hasn't changed since it opened in 1977, and it stays open late on weekdays and even later on weekends. (Submitted by Raymond Lau)

Otis Chan pauses while trying to sum up what the Golden Inn restaurant in Calgary's Chinatown represents to him.

"It used to be like a lighthouse," said the longtime Calgarian.

"[The owners] have done a lot for me ... above and beyond."

During a turbulent childhood and young adulthood, it was a place he could go where he knew he would be looked after by the staff, no matter how much money he had in his pockets, he says.

The site of the Golden Inn building before the restaurant moved in. (Submitted by Raymond Lau)

Many of Chan's memories growing up in the city involve spending time at the restaurant, eating, drinking ginger ale and just hanging out.

"They would actually cook me food, like, no charge. Sometimes they even sent me away with 20, 30 bucks, even with the full belly, to make sure that I had a next meal."

For 45 years, the Golden Inn has been a popular spot for family dining 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 nearly every day of the year, the family-run restaurant — with its iconic yellow-and-red sign and long list of regulars — is a community institution.

After 45 years of serving up late-night Chinese food, The Golden Inn Restaurant in Chinatown is closing. John and Kim Lau started the restaurant in 1977. We're joined by two of their sons. Ray Lau is a co-owner of the Golden Inn, and Kelvin Lau, his younger brother, is the Head Chef at Annabelle's Kitchen in Marda Loop.

That's why when the family announced online last month that they would be ceasing operations by the end of August, community feedback poured in.

"It's overwhelming. It's almost shocking. We receive hundreds of comments, messages. I've actually sat there and read through every single one of them … and brought a few tears to my eyes," Raymond Lau, co-owner of the Golden Inn, said on the Calgary Eyeopener.

Raymond is the oldest son of the founders of the Golden Inn, John Lau, who is still the chef, and Kim Lau, who runs the front of the house.

From left to right, Kelvin, Raymond, John and Vincent Lau at the Golden Inn. (Submitted by Raymond Lau)

Now that his parents are in retirement age, he says they've decided to shutter the business to spend more time with family. The decision wasn't an easy one as the eatery is still beloved by many.

Hailey Malicdem, a Calgary nurse who blogs about local food, made a TikTok video on what she loves about the Golden Inn. It included the news of it closing.

"I was very surprised with how much it blew up … there's 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 how to use chopsticks, where she and her friends were guaranteed tasty food after a late night clubbing. It's now a regular family dining spot for her.

"I'm going to definitely miss the staff," she said.

Since the closure announcement, the owners said there have been lineups out the door from open till close.

"[My parents] are working late, cleaning up late — but it's worth it," said Raymond. "They love it. This was what they did for the last 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 basically nothing but a shirt on his back and kind of built this iconic little family restaurant that Calgary just embraced," said Raymond.

The couple have three sons: Raymond, Kelvin and Vincent, who grew up helping their parents with setting tables, bussing and dishwashing.

Kelvin, who is now the head chef at Annabelle's Kitchen in Calgary, got his start cooking 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 being out at night as young adults and overhearing patrons leaving bars and clubs in the early morning deciding they wanted to visit the Golden Inn.

The restaurant has been busy since last month when it announced it would close, with people lining up to be seated. (Submitted by Raymond Lau)

Though the decision to close was much-debated, the brothers are looking forward to spending more time with family.

"[My parents} are super tired, but they're happy," said Kelvin. "Seeing all the love from everyone that's been going in there."

Both Chan and Malicdem plan on visiting the restaurant a few more times this month before it closes for good. Chan wants to indulge in the lobster and cream sauce and steamed fish, and Malicdem is looking forward to the deep fried chicken in oyster sauce (an off-menu favourite).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Dorozio

Reporter & Associate Producer

Jennifer Dorozio is a local journalist from Calgary, Alta. She ran a pop-up CBC news bureau in Lethbridge in winter 2022 covering news in southern Alberta.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now