Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Dan Wayne Lee, Designer and Restauranteur

Daniel “Dan” Wayne Lee was born on July 22, 1921, in Stockton, California, according to his Words War II draft card. 

In the 1930 United States Census, Lee was the sixth of ten children born to Sheung and Chin Shee. Lee’s father was a farmer. The family were Stockton residents at 147 South Commerce. 

Lee attended Stockton High School. The Salinas Morning Post, August 2, 1938, said “... Daniel Wayne Lee, art student at the Stockton high school, is here on a visit with his relatives, Mr. and Mrs. Mar Toy.”

Lee graduated in 1940. 

1939 Blue and White yearbook

1940 Blue and White yearbook

The 1940 census counted the “Theung” family in Stockton at 401 South Hunter. 

On February 16, 1942, Lee signed his World War II draft card. He lived in San Francisco at 702 Grant Avenue and employed by the U.S. Navy. Lee’s description was five feet ten inches, 145 pounds, black eyes and hair. He named his parents as next of kin. 

Lee met his wife, June H. Eng, at Gump’s. They married on September 24, 1949 in San Francisco, according to the California Marriage Index at

The 1950 census said the newlyweds lived in San Francisco at 1222 Leavenworth. Lee was a self-employed commercial artist. June was a stock recorder at a retail shoe store. 

The San Francisco restaurant, Kan’s, opened in 1953. Lee designed the menu. 

Lee went into the restaurant business. The Tall Tree, May 2011, said
Ming’s restaurant, located at 1700 Embarcadero, originally opened July 26, 1956 by owner Dan Lee at 4100 El Camino Real. …and for the next 13 years was considered the premier restaurant in Barron Park’s “Restaurant Row,” which then was Santa Clara County’s leading restaurant district. Ming’s featured Peking Duck, Shark’s Fin Soup and other delicacies that completely outclassed the Chop Suey and Chow Mein being served in the area’s other Chinese restaurants. The owners of Ming’s through the years have changed the menu, but believed that they were always ahead of the competition. …

In 1968, Ming’s relocated to the Embarcadero site just off 101 because planned widening of El Camino Real was going to take much of their Barron Park property. The new location featured an award-winning design with two large dining rooms, several smaller ones and three kitchens, including one for Dim Sum only. In the 1980s, KGO Radio voted Ming’s Dim Sum “the best in the Bay Area”.

After 30 years of ownership, Dan Lee sold Ming’s to Felicity Tse for $4.2 million in 1986. 
… Ming’s of Palo Alto, founded by a partnership in 1956 on El Camino Real, was an immediate hit. Loyal clientele followed when Ming’s moved to Embarcadero Road into a new building designed by Phillip Choy, architect and historian. Owner Dan Lee designed the menu, created the ambiance, and made it an award-winning gourmet restaurant. For three decades, Ming’s was the place for Stanford varsity teams, executive gatherings, and family celebrations.

Additional images herePlease note: The 1956 date of 
the menu is questionable. The menu could have been 
printed in the 1960s with the 1956 copyright date.

Lee’s father passed away on May 16, 1960. The Stockton Evening and Sunday Record, May 17, 1960, published an obituary. 
Early Stockton Chinese Leader Succumbs in S.F.
Sheung Lee of 401 S. Hunter, a leader in the Stockton Chinese community, died yesterday in San Francisco. Mr. Lee, a retired farmer and merchant, had lived here since 1912. Surviving are two sons, Ban and Dan W. Lee, six daughters, Frances Mar, Mrs. Frank Chong, Dr. Etta Lee, Nellie Lee, Mrs. Milton Loy, and Doris Lee, 13 grandchildren. and five great-grandchildren. Funeral services will be held at 3 pm, Sunday in the Confucius Hall. 
The San Francisco Chronicle, June 22, 1966, reported the Chinatown Chevron service station.
A unique service station in the form of a Chinese temple will open in August at the intersection of Jackson and Kearny streets and Columbus avenue. The $600,000 “Chinatown Chevron Service” facility was designed by architect Philip R. Choy. Owners of the station are Dan Wayne Lee and James Wong, with James Wong as general manager and operator.
The California Divorce Index, at, said Lee divorced in June 1972. 

Further Reading and Viewing
1700 Embarcadero Historic Resource Evaluation (PDF)
Sunset, 21 Classic Sunset Recipes, Chinese chicken salad (Sunset, November 1970, published Ming’s recipe on page 206) 
Mercury-News, December 28, 2014, Iconic Ming's restaurant closes, ending an era

SIDEBAR: Terry and the Pirates, Herb and Dan
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said the adventure comic strip, “Terry and the Pirate”, was created by Milton Caniff and debuted on October 22, 1934. His last strip appeared on December 29, 1946. Caniff left the strip to create “Steve Canyon”. On December 30, 1946, “Terry and the Pirates” was continued by George Wunder. The series ended on February 25, 1973. 

The San Francisco Chronicle, August 16, 1948, published Herb Caen’s column, “It’s News to Me”, that said
... Being a naive type, I’m always impressed when artist George Wunder has some of his “Terry and the Pirates” characters conversing in Chinese. Always looks so authentic. But Dan Wayne Lee of our town just set me straight. Apparently, he says, Wunder gets all his Chinese symbols off a chop suey jernt menu, because all they add up to is stuff like “economical meals,” “available for banquets,” etc.! Disillusioned?

July 15, 1948

August 8, 1948

SIDEBAR: Kan’s in Holiday Magazine
Holiday, October 1955, published “How to Get the Best Chinese Food” by Jade Snow Wong. She mentioned Kan’s

The Holiday restaurant and fine dining awards started with the July 1952 issue. Kan’s was selected twenty consecutive years. Holiday ceased publication in 1977. At some point, Kan’s menus included the award on the inside cover thus making it easy to date the menu. 


  1. Holiday, July 1957 
  2. Holiday, July 1958 
  3. Holiday, July 1959 
  4. Holiday, July 1960 
  5. Holiday, July 1961
  6. Holiday, July 1962 
  7. Holiday, July 1963 
  8. Holiday, July 1964 
  9. Holiday, July 1965 
10. Holiday, July 1966 
11. Holiday, July 1967 
12. Holiday, June 1968 
13. Holiday, July 1969 
14. Holiday, July-August 1970 
15. Holiday, July-August 1971 
16. Holiday, July-August 1972 
17. Holiday, July-August 1973 
18. Holiday, September-October 1974 
19. Holiday, June–August 1975 
20. Holiday, June–August 1976 

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(Next post on Wednesday: Flower Drum Song, January–May 1960)

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