Alumna at Michelin Guide Restaurant Achieves the American Dream

by Sara Rinaldi, Office of Development

Karen Wong MBA ’06 is the daughter of two Chinese refugees who moved to San Francisco to pursue the American Dream. Wong’s parents co-founded the San Francisco institution: R&G Lounge, famous for its salt and pepper Dungeness crab. When an opening at the Embarcadero Center came along, they jumped at the opportunity to open their second dining establishment: Harborview Restaurant & Bar.

Harborview Restaurant & Bar is a contemporary Cantonese family-style restaurant serving dim sum and classic Cantonese fare. In the fall of 2023, the establishment was recognized in the Michelin Guide as well as Bib Gourmand in 2019.

MBA to Co-Founder

Wong and her brother, Frank, both went to USF. Her father, who did not have a formal education, worked with determination to start and succeed at his first business: wholesale dim sum. His children, the Wong siblings, went on to get an education and utilize their knowledge to work smarter.

“Back then, they didn’t know how to do anything else besides hard labor. Now we use marketing and technologies to advance our business. In 2018, we used pen and paper for reservations, but now we have upgraded to an online reservation system,” said Wong.  

Wong worked full-time while attending USF for her MBA. Her experience helped train her in her work ethic. To this day, she still applies leadership principles that she learned in her leadership class.

“Being a CEO of a company doesn’t mean you need to know all the nitty gritty technical bits. It’s about how to earn people’s respect and how you treat people,” she said. “My staff is basically my second family, and a lot of them are not college-educated. But it’s important that we make sure to provide for them so they can provide for their families.”

Connecting Through Food and Space

Harborview Restaurant & Bar provides many ways for the San Francisco community to connect to Cantonese culture.

The restaurant hosts Chinese New Year events, life milestone parties, and right now they are busy selling mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Wong knows the importance of having their business be a participant in the well-being of the community.

“We donated to Chinese hospitals during COVID, or seniors who couldn’t leave their homes. We do what we can to make it easier for people to have access to good foods, and space for celebration. We help people bring people together for special occasions,” she said.

Wong likes to get involved whenever she can — and this upcoming fall for CelebrateUSF, Harborview Restaurant & Bar will host a lunch for the Asia Pacific Alumni Network and USF community to reconnect and gather over dim sum.

“I think it’s a great way to network and share stories with each other. We both had a lot of fun at USF — my brother still attends Dons basketball games!”

CelebrateUSF is happening this Oct. 21-23. RSVP to save your spot at the festival and at Harborview.