Ginger Beef Stir Fry - Key ©

End Of An Era: In Just About Every Way Possible

Here’s a sad story (sad in so many dimensions) about the end of an iconic restaurant. Silver Inn Restaurant in Calgary was the home of Asian-American Ginger Beef. It’s also the end of that original trademark menu item, and the eatery’s famous street sign…

Silver Inn Sign - © 2022 SIlver InnSilver Inn Restaurant sign: Little but nuisance value –
to any but the family, who created Ginger Beef…

It seems to me to be the lowest of the low a sneak thief could sink to. Someone in Calgary, Alberta, came around in mid-afternoon – broad daylight, in other words – and stole Silver Inn Resto’s landmark street front sign right off the front of the building. If that wasn’t bad enough, it was this past Monday, the last day the resto would be open before its owners retired.

“While today was supposed to be a celebratory day with our first official day of retirement, we are heartbroken to see that someone has STOLEN our Silver Inn Restaurant sign,” wrote the restaurant’s owners in a Facebook post. “This sign has been with our family since the restaurant opened in this location [in] 1975.”

Even worse, perhaps, was that Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving, chosen by the owners, I suspect, as a symbolic gesture of thanks to their faithful fans and regulars.

Ginger Beef truly iconic

Folks are still surprised – even shocked – to find that a staple of the classic Canadian-American Cantonese-style ‘Chinese’ menu was actually invented by the Silver Inn as late in the game as 1975. In fact, Canadian- and American-Chinese dishes were being created as early as the era of the great transcontinental railroads.

Two sisters, Louise Tsang and Lily Wong, arrived from Hong Kong in 1975 and wanted to open a restaurant. They had no trouble finding a site – a former café that was in pretty bad shape – except for a nearly-new sign, which they kept. For the next 47 years. They even moved the sign when they moved the eatery to larger premises in 1978.

Tsang and Wong always said their menu was Peking (Beijing) Style. And the sauce that made their Ginger Beef (see photo, top of page) to special was said to be classic ‘Beijing’.

Today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a North American ‘Chinese’ resto menu that doesn’t include Ginger Beef.

My take

It seems pointless to abduct something like the Silver Inn sign. It’s priceless as a historic object. But it’s worthless as scrap or recycle material. Is it art? Not really. Though it is distinctive as the symbol of a Calgary classic. The truth is, it’s worth the most, in nostalgia terms, to Tsang’s and Wong’s heirs. They are clearly upset in the extreme, calling the theft a, “horrendous act of vandalism” in their Facebook post.

I suggest to the thieves, it’s not too late to make things right, and return the sign. Think about it… It’s more than a souvenir. It’s the physical manifestation of a famous family legacy.

~ Maggie