A Good Appetite is a Blessing in Life: A conversation with Vikki Wong

Steven Kilgore, Digitization & Special Collections

Earlier this year I learned that my colleague Vikki Wong had a collection of menus she has been collecting since 1989, and wasn’t sure what to do with them. We encouraged Vikki to donate her menus to the menu collection. After several conversations and 300 menus collected over 30 years we have a unique addition to our menu collection from a veteran member of the Los Angeles Public Library. To get to know more about her thoughts on restaurants and the menus she donated I asked Vikki some questions to find out more about her background and the menus she collected. The following paragraphs are a result of these conversations.

Vikki Wong is an Administrative Clerk in the Catalog Department at Central Library where she assists in cataloging Chinese and juvenile books. Vikki, like her parents and two younger brothers, was born in the Philippines; her grandparents were from Guangdong, China. She speaks Tagalog, Mandarin, Cantonese, Toisanese, Fookienese, Taiwanese, and English. Vikki earned a Bachelor of Science in Commerce, majoring in Accounting at the Far Eastern University before immigrating to the United States. She was a bookkeeper in an accounting firm, an underwriter in an insurance company, a receptionist/secretary at a bank in Chinatown, and then an Administrative Clerk at the library. It was here she had the opportunity and freedom to continue learning while working in an atmosphere of like-minded knowledge enthusiasts.

Vikki has been collecting menus for over 30 years. This collection of menus spans a period of time starting in 1989 when Vikki started at Central Library in the Business and Economics Department, and started as a quick reference collection of local restaurants for staff. Keep in mind this was in a time before the Internet, when information about restaurants was more word-of-mouth. Vikki brought her menus with her when she transferred to the Catalog Department in 2000 and continued collecting menus, which became a hobby. This palette of menus highlights restaurants primarily in downtown Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, and reflects the ever-changing landscape of food trends. Vikki Wong is a food enthusiast who loves the adventure of a new restaurant and likes recommending her finds to friends and colleagues.

Her food philosophy is Chinese in nature and can be summed up in a Chinese saying: “Neng Chi Shi Fu” (能吃是福) that loosely translates as “a good appetite is a blessing in life.” As an omnivore she looks for ambience, food quality, and presentation that reflects the taste and service of a restaurant. These are the elements that draw her back to her favorite eateries. She looks for restaurants around Central Library that are fast and casual places, which cater to working people, who have limited time to enjoy a good, quick bite to eat.

Over the past 30 years, Vikki has observed the ever changing food trends that come with the diverse cultures of Los Angeles. These trends range from the Vietnamese restaurants that became popular in the 1980s and 90s to the food trucks that emerged as a result of the 2008 recession. These fusions and flavors bring people together, and highlight the palette of food at our fingertips. Vikki thinks Filipino food is really starting to trend in 2019, but in the nearly 300 menus Vikki has donated you will find everything from a McDonald’s delivery menu to a variety of Filipino, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, American, Italian, Mexican, French, Hawaiian, Indian, Greek, Indonesian, Malaysian, and even Singaporean cuisines.

Working at Central Library for 30 years, Vikki has seen restaurants come and go. As we had a conversation about her thoughts and philosophy on food and menus in general, she reminisced about Betty and Jack’s Sandwich Shop on the corner of 5th and Spring Streets. Vikki and a co-worker would buy breakfast there every day, and loved their wonderful grilled cheese and egg salad sandwiches. Reminiscing, Vikki would like to see a place like McCormick & Schmick’s and its happy hour return, a place many library staff were rumored to have spent time after work. Food trends and influences will forever change, but food is one of those universal axioms that will always bring people together, because like Vikki says: “A good appetite is indeed a blessing in life.”

1 / 13
Jack and Betty's Sandwich Shop (1989 Menu from Jack and Betty's Sandwich Shop--the place that had the best egg salad sandwich downtown Los Angeles.)
2 / 13
McDonald's Delivery Menu (1 of 2) (At one time McDonalds would deliver in downtown Los Angeles, for a mininum order of $5.00. Four convenient locations to serve you.)
3 / 13
McDonald's Delivery Menu (2 of 2) (At one time McDonalds would deliver in downtown Los Angeles, for a mininum order of $5.00. Four convenient locations to serve you.)
4 / 13
Thanh Vi Restaurant (1 of 3) (Thanh Vi Restuarant was a popular Vietnamese in Chinatown, with a loyal following and great yelp reviews, it closed in 2016.)
5 / 13
Thanh Vi Restaurant (2 of 3) (Thanh Vi Restuarant was a popular Vietnamese in Chinatown, with a loyal following and great yelp reviews, it closed in 2016.)
6 / 13
Thanh Vi Restaurant (3 of 3) (Thanh Vi Restuarant was a popular Vietnamese in Chinatown, with a loyal following and great yelp reviews, it closed in 2016.)
7 / 13
Terrace Cafe (The Terrace Cafe was very popular with library staff, this was one of the places where you could get a good bite to eat.)
8 / 13
Yorkshire Grill (1 of 3) (The Yorkshire Grill was an old school diner with a wrap around counter and booths that had great pastrami sandwichs, and tasty breakfast specials like the redline special. Unfortunately it closed in 2015.)
9 / 13
Yorkshire Grill (2 of 3) (The Yorkshire Grill was an old school diner with a wrap around counter and booths that had great pastrami sandwichs, and tasty breakfast specials like the redline special. Unfortunately it closed in 2015.)
10 / 13
Yorkshire Grill (3 of 3) (The Yorkshire Grill was an old school diner with a wrap around counter and booths that had great pastrami sandwichs, and tasty breakfast specials like the redline special. Unfortunately it closed in 2015.)
11 / 13
The Fisherman's Outlet (1 of 3) (The Fisherman's Outlet is an an old school seafood hangout, that has been in business for 58 years and counting. Better know what you want to order when you go here.)
12 / 13
The Fisherman's Outlet (2 of 3) (The Fisherman's Outlet is an an old school seafood hangout, that has been in business for 58 years and counting. Better know what you want to order when you go here.)
13 / 13
The Fisherman's Outlet (3 of 3) (The Fisherman's Outlet is an an old school seafood hangout, that has been in business for 58 years and counting. Better know what you want to order when you go here.)