“I’m overwhelmed,” says owner Lien Yu of the massive outpouring of love that’s met the impending closure of King Wha Restaurant in Burien after 46 years. Since the announcement that he and his wife, Lin Yu, will be retiring, King Wha has been packed with well-wishers flocking for their last lunches or suppers, some bringing bouquets. “You know how busy Christmas Eve is for a Chinese restaurant, right?” Yu says. “It’s crazy! A to-go order is like a 90-minute wait … Now we’re doing that every day.

“My customers won’t let me get off easy!” Yu continues. “If I keep this up, I’ll be dead by the time Oct. 3 [comes]!” He laughs.

His daughters, Yu notes, are not taking over the restaurant “because restaurant business is too hard. I rather they work 40 hours a week — have a normal life — rather than 70 hours a week.” With the recent crush of business, Yu says one of them joked, “Dad, I quit!” (The apple falls not far from the tree, clearly.) Yu replied, “You can give me two weeks’ notice on Monday” — exactly in time for the restaurant’s last day.

Oct. 3 will be the last day of service for King Wha, beloved for generations in Burien for its Sichuan, Mandarin and Korean cuisine. Yu’s parents were Chinese and he was born in Korea; his family, he says, faced discrimination and couldn’t own property there. When they came to the United States in 1978, his father began working as a chef at King Wha, which had then been open for two years. The family was able to buy the restaurant in 1980.

The rest is soon to be Burien history, with fans, meanwhile, paying tribute in droves both in person and online. Yu offered up the red, azure and gold-toned ceiling tiles depicting dragons and the phoenix as keepsakes for $10 each; all 120 of them sold in two days, to be collected after the closure. On Facebook, hundreds have professed immense gratitude for meals both everyday and on special occasions through the decades, and even for catering for celebrations of loved ones lost. Diners are thanking the Yus not just for all the food but all the conversations, for being a part of the Burien community, and for the joy of seeing the Yu daughters, Jessica and Jane, grow up over the years. Some who’ve moved away say that they’ve continued patronizing King Wha all that they can, whether that means driving from Lake Stevens or visiting from all across the country, from Arizona to South Dakota, sometimes coming directly from the airport.


A sampling of the online outpouring:

“I would be very surprised if my family hasn’t eaten at King Wha at least a hundred times …”

“From age 4 to 34, I’ve had nothing but THE best Sichuan Chinese food here …”

“Our family has enjoyed so many memorable meals at King Wha — and most of this was because of your lovely family. Nothing compares with your A3 dinner and I have no idea what we’ll do now!”

“I’ve been eating the A3 since my first time to King Wha in 1980!”

“Thanks for always showing us hospitality even when we were high school kids giving you headaches [grinning face emoji].”

“So sad for me, happy for you. I have eaten there for 45 years. Always great food. Times were hard in the late ’70s. The $3.95 lunch, with hot-and-sour soup and tea, was a comfort meal, and cheaper [than] McDonald’s.”


“Four generations in our family have been enjoying your cuisine. There is no replacement.”

As for the requests from customers hungry for him to put out a King Wha cookbook: “Every time I read, I fall asleep,” Yu says. “You want me to write something?” He laughs.

Joking aside, Yu himself is as full of gratitude as the legions of King Wha fans. “We appreciate all the support … I appreciate every bit of it,” he says, urging that his appreciation be included here.

“But you know, I’ve been here 40-some years. Got to quit some time, right?”

King Wha Restaurant

605 S.W. 152nd St., Burien; 206-243-0323; kingwha.com