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RIP: Wah's Golden Hen And 101 Coffee Shop

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The sign at Wah's Golden Hen on Virgil Ave. on Dec. 29, 2020. (Courtesy of Karen Tongson)
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Shrimp and fried rice at Wah's Golden Hen on Virgil Ave. (Elina Shatkin/LAist)

2020 couldn't bid farewell without another couple kicks in our collective teeth.

While the closing of the 101 Coffee Shop in Hollywood, a retro diner that stayed open late into the night, has seen many high-profile fans mourning its departure, the closure of Wah's Golden Hen in Virgil Village makes us just as sad.

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This utterly unfussy Chinese American restaurant, which opened in 1972, rarely ended up on "best of" lists, but its salt-and- pepper prawns and fried rice were hard to beat. After 48 years in business, it was still family-owned and still cash only.

In late December, owners Wai and Lena Louie posted a note on the window announcing Wah's would close after December 31. The note, which thanked patrons for their support over the decades, read, in part:

"Though it is bittersweet to say farewell to this labor of love, we are looking forward to our next chapter: to be able to enjoy a quiet retirement. We will spend our time gardening and cooking at home with our children and gradchildren."

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A sign in the window of Wah's Golden Hen on Virgil Ave. on Dec. 29, 2020, announcing its permanent closure. (Courtesy of Karen Tongson)
Located on Virgil Avenue just north of Melrose Avenue, Wah's stayed the same even as the neighborhood around it gentrified with wine shops, boutiques, condos and fancier restaurants (including Sqirl) replacing furniture stores, markets, panaderías and neighborhood bars (like the Smog Cutter). Up until Wah's closed on New Year's Eve, you could still go there and get classic Chinese American dishes such as egg foo yung and a whole fried fish.
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101 Coffee Shop in Hollywood. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Approximately three miles northwest, the 101 Coffee Shop on Franklin Avenue, decided to shut its doors for good. It's not clear when it happened, but owner Warner Ebbink told Eater LA, "Because of the ongoing pandemic, the temporary closure of the 101 Coffee Shop has become permanent."

Ebbink and chef Brandon Boudet opened the restaurant, located inside a Best Western at the base of the Hollywood Hills, in 2001. A little history, courtesy of Virginia Yapp:

"Before it became a Best Western, the hotel that houses the 101 Coffee Shop was called the Hollywood Franklin Hotel. It has been owned by the Adler family since the 1940s. In its earliest days, the hotel's ground-floor restaurant attracted clientele like James Dean and the Keystone Kops. By the 1990s, it needed a revamp. That's where Susan Fine Moore and her husband came in. After renaming it the Hollywood Hills Cafe, they spent $50,000 turning it into the kind of spot A-listers like Nic Cage and Brad Pitt might want to visit. The place got a jolt of fame from Jon Favreau's 1996 movie, Swingers, although the screenplay may actually have been written with a certain diner on Beverly in mind."

When Ebbink and Brandon Boudet, both of whom had worked at Swingers on Beverly Boulevard, took over, they updated the space to its current retro-meets-modern perfection. The menu featured comfort food staples such as burgers, milkshakes (the Purple Haze was a favorite), buttermilk waffles and mac and cheese.

Ebbink and Boudet went on to launch Little Dom's in Los Feliz and this summer opened LD Seafood in Carpinteria. But apparently, the pandemic was too much for the 101.

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There's a GoFundMe campaign to help out former 101 employees.