Faraway tastes, local flavors shine at Chinatown's Li Po

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerHawaii to San Francisco

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerHawaii to San Francisco

For a place that’s been around as long as the Golden Gate Bridge, nothing much besides the owner has changed in this Chinatown dive. Same Buddha shrine behind the bar. Same oversized lantern, frayed by the sands of time. Same murals of bonsai landscapes. A basement room is available to rent for private parties. On any given day, the bar attracts an early wave of tourists and an evening surge of neighborhood locals looking to catch a buzz. Regulars slam cups on the bar during games of liar’s dice. Guys drink sweet Chinese whiskey with ginger beer backs. Ladies sip the house original Chinese Mai Tai from fluorescent bendy straws. And lounge-vet-turned-bartender Daniel Choi won’t be caught in anything but a Hawaiian shirt.
BAR info: 916 Grant Ave. • (415) 982-0072 • lipolounge.com

#link_box { width: 150px; height: auto; margin: 0; padding: 0; margin: 10px 20px 10px 0px; padding: 10px; background-color: #fbfade; /* ecru – light yellow */ border: 1px solid #343a25; /* green – for summer arts */ float: left; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; } #link_box img, #link_box a { border 0px; border-style: none; outline: none; } #link_box h1 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #8A0808; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 15px; text-align: center; } #link_box h2 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #000; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; text-align: center; } #link_box ul { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; border: none; } #link_box li { margin: 0px padding: 0px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; } #link_box li a { display: block; padding: 5px 5px 5px 15px; /* Padding for bullet */ /* border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; */ color: #000; width: 100%; width: auto; /* height: auto; */ /* border: 1px solid blue; */ margin: 0px; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: 14px; text-decoration: none; } #link_box li a: before { /* background-position: top left; */ } #link_box li a:hover { background-color: #ddd; color: #000; }

What’s up with the 1980s Hawaiian shirt?

My wife goes to Hawaii for work and always brings me back some. I’ve got more than 50. Most of them are still brand new. If I’m gonna be serving mai tais, I ought to be wearing one.

How did you land this gig?

I used to drink at this bar in the ’80s. Now I’m the one serving the drinks.

What do you like about your job?

We’ve got regulars who have been coming here for 60 years and I meet a lot of new faces every day. I’ve bartended at other places, but I love it here. I don’t want to leave.

What kind of crowds do you tend to?

Before 4 p.m., we serve mostly tourists. After 4 p.m., businessmen from the Financial District come around. During the weekends we see a large crowd from the Marina.

How did you come up with the Chinese Mai Tai?

When I first started working here 18 years ago, I mixed all kinds of alcohol with the Chinese liquor that we have. One day, I put it in a mai tai and it worked.

What do your guests like most about this bar?

It’s the culture. The front door, the lantern out front and inside, the paintings on the wall, the Buddha shrine — they’re all original. The old people have told me that we used to have go-go dancers upstairs. People really enjoy our drinks because the atmosphere creates the experience.

entertainmentFeaturesFood & DrinkFood and WineSan Francisco

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs spoke to San Francisco’s new Guaranteed Income Advisory Group on April 16. (Courtesy SFGOV)
City launches task force to explore Universal Basic Income programs

San Francisco on Friday launched a guaranteed income task force that could… Continue reading

Muni’s K-Ingleside line will return six months earlier than previously announced. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
K-Ingleside train to return on May 15

Announcement comes on the heels of pressure from Supervisor Myrna Melgar

Demonstrators march from Mission High School towards the San Francisco Police station on Valencia Street. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Vigil, march honors those killed by police

Deaths of Daunte Wright, Roger Allen and others prompt renewed calls for defunding

A Recology employee stands at the comapany’s recycling facility on Pier 96 in 2016. (Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)
Nuru scandal: Feds charge second former Recology executive with bribery

A second former Recology executive is facing charges for allegedly bribing ex-Public… Continue reading

Skier Andy Padlo crosses a frozen Spicer Reservoir. (Courtesy photo)
Stormy weather tests skiers’ mettle on Dardanelle traverse

Overcoming challenges makes outings more rewarding

Most Read