Miss China closing after three decades in the Shores

The doors of Miss China restaurant in La Jolla Shores will close after 31 years in business.

The restaurant at 2240 Avenida De La Playa is owned by Danny and Kitty Tow. When the couple, originally from Hong Kong, opened the restaurant more than 30 years ago, it was a second career for both of them. Danny Tow had been a structural engineer with General Dynamics Space Systems Division and General Atomics Company. Kitty Tow has taught Chinese brush painting and oriental cooking for San Diego Community College District’s Adult Education Program and at La Jolla Rec Center.

The Tows met in junior high school in Hong Kong. They stayed in touch as pen pals after his family moved to the United States and then were married in 1966 and settled in Placerville in Northern California.

When they moved to San Diego in 1970, Danny Tow said the city ws quite different than it is today.

“San Diego was much smaller, population-wise,” he said. “Entire neighborhoods were still undeveloped. A decent-sized house at that time could be bought for under $20,000.”

Soon after arriving in San Diego, Kitty Tow received her teaching credentials and took a position as an instructor at San Diego Community College. Friends were so impressed by her home cooking, they urged her to consider making unique menus available in a restaurant environment.

Driving one day in La Jolla Shores, the couple noticed a restaurant property for lease across from La Jolla Shores Market. They considered other sites but settled for La Jolla Shores because they liked the strong sense of community they felt walking the neighborhood.

Eight months after their third child was born, Miss China Restaurant opened in November 1975.

The Tows appreciate what people have been telling them since they announced they’re retiring.

“They said, ‘We are very happy for you, but we are not happy for us, because we have no place to eat,’ ” said Danny Tow.

He admitted it’s going to be hard to finally close up shop. “We have mixed feelings. We hate to leave after 31 years.”

The Tows are thankful of La Jolla for the memories.

“We really appreciate the people who have come over here and made this so special and memorable,” Danny Tow said. “We’ve made many lifelong friends. We will continue to see them.

The couple will continue to live in University City.

Kitty Tow will miss the style and flair of doing business in La Jolla.

“The fashion, the character,” she said. “The scenery looks like Europe, Monte Carlo. The people are typically American, friendly, humble.”

The Tows have hosted many celebrities at their folksy neighborhood establishment. A big sports fan, Danny Tow is pleased to call Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer a friend. Clive Granger, 2003 Nobel Prize winner in economics from UCSD, is also a restaurant regular.

Legendary Dodgers General Manager Buzzie Bavasi and his wife, Evit, are longtime customers of Miss China. They are happy for the Tows but sad, too, about their departure.

“We’ve been going to Danny and Kitty’s every Friday for years,” said Buzzie Bavasi. “They made you feel at home, like you were in your own dining room. You knew the meal was going to be just what you wanted.”

Another big fan of Miss China is La Jolla Shores resident Mary Coakley.

“I’m going to starve when they go out of business,” Coakley said. “I’m thrilled for Kitty and Danny, but personally, I’m devastated. It was just like going to visit an old friend.”

Jan and Bill Finley have been customers at Miss China since the restaurant’s early days.

“We’re going to miss them, and we’ll miss going to their restaurant,” Jan Finley said. “Kitty didn’t cook exactly like all the other Chinese restaurants. Her vegetables were steamed, crisp, delicious.”

The couple won’t be sedentary in retirement. Kitty Tow will to continue to teach Chinese brush painting. The couple will start traveling more. Their first destination will be Hong Kong. Danny Tow also wants to brush up on his computer skills.

Kitty Tow, who is active in local art associations, has been interested in art and painting since a very young age. Many of her brush paintings have been exhibited in art shows around the county.

Kitty Tow said Chinese brush painting is very different from other artistic forms.

“With one stroke, you can do a lot of things,” she said, “from the fine line to the broad.”

The Tows hinted they have a prospective buyer for their restaurant, but wouldn’t divulge any details.

“We will wait and see,” said Danny Tow.

Danny Tow said he and his wife have always considered La Jollans to be family.

“They’re all our friends,” he said. “We will miss them, but we will be around. We’ll come back here to walk the beach, eat at the local restaurants, say hello to all our neighbors.”