Above: Brandy Ho’s sweet and sour pork; photos courtesy of Brandy Ho’s website
The history of Brandy Ho’s Hunan Food is a true “American Dream” story. On October 18, 1980, three brothers—Brandy, Jack and Sedgewick—opened their family restaurant, serving traditional Hunan style food to the San Francisco community.
Being the eldest, Brandy manages the business. Sedgewick, the middle child, shows off his culinary skills in the kitchen. Jack, the youngest, runs the front-of-house show as lead server. In the brothers’ culture, elders are highly respected. Since Brandy is the eldest, he received the honor of the restaurant’s name.
The brothers’ origin story traces back to Hong Kong. Their uncle ran a restaurant in the city which exposed them to the restaurant business and inspired the brothers to one day establish their own restaurant. After immigrating to America, the brothers made sure their family business was brought with them.
Hunan food was chosen as the restaurant’s speciality because of the cuisine’s incredible taste, its focus on healthiness, and its roots in the brothers’ heritage. Hunan food is known for its use of chili peppers, shallots and garlic. The cuisine is always made spicy and common cooking techniques include stewing, frying, pot-roasting, braising and smoking.
Jack said his favorite part of the restaurant business is the people. “I enjoy people. I like talking to people, you learn a lot from them. I always say that people can either make your day, or ruin your day. It all depends on how you deal with them.” With this simple motto in mind, the brothers have kept their restaurant going for 40 years.
When asked how they’ve been able to run a restaurant for so long, Jack emphasized that no matter how hard the situation is, people will always need food. This industry is always going to have business. It just depends on how you run it, how good your food is, and how you treat people. Once you’re able to perfect those things, that’s what keeps customers coming back.
The location of the restaurant was another factor that helped the brothers stay in the game. While other cities have seasonal tourists, San Francisco is a city that keeps tourists coming all year round.
When the brothers started their restaurant, San Francisco’s Chinatown was a very popular landmark. And even though Brandy Ho’s sits along the edge of Chinatown, tourists always make their way over because of the restaurant’s popularity and its memorable variety of spicy food.
The dining experience at Brandy Ho’s is definitely a unique experience in large part because it’s a family-owned restaurant. The brothers are there every day, greeting customers, cooking, and serving specialty dishes.
Brandy Ho’s benefits the San Francisco community by offering amazing deals for residents close to the Financial District, especially during lunch. The brothers try to keep their prices as low as possible to be inclusive to all San Francisco residents and make it a home for everyone.
Even though COVID-19’s had a huge impact on the San Francisco restaurant industry, Brandy, Jack and Sedgewick make sure that their customers are able to eat and obtain food at reasonable prices. They’ve been open for takeout during the pandemic and plan on remaining open as long as the San Francisco community needs their service.
If you want authentic, Spicy Hunan style cuisine inspired from Hong Kong itself, be sure to give Brandy Ho’s a try and see these three brothers in action!