Oroville Getaway Artist Outdoor Adventurer

Why I Love Oroville

Restau­ra­teur and own­er of Tong Fong Low, the pop­u­lar Oroville Chi­nese restau­rant that has been in oper­a­tion since 1912, Bri­an Wong has deep roots in the city.

How did you find your­self in Oroville? What made you stay?

I found myself in Oroville as a teenag­er in the late 1980s when my par­ents were the proud new oper­a­tors of Tong Fong Low Restau­rant. I was going to high school in San Fran­cis­co and spent many week­ends and sum­mers peel­ing shrimp, mak­ing noo­dles, bussing tables, and wash­ing dish­es to help with the fam­i­ly busi­ness. The fam­i­ly was very hap­py to see me each week­end, when I deliv­ered Chi­nese veg­eta­bles and oth­er sup­plies from the city. We had a fam­i­ly friend named Chet Ramesy, who we adopt­ed as a grand­pa. He would take me out fish­ing, gath­er­ing wild berries and figs (he called it graz­ing”), and dri­ving on some of the most beau­ti­ful scenic trails that I had ever seen. Dur­ing our dri­ves, Chet would know every fea­ture of the ter­rain. He would point out all the wild ani­mals and birds that we would encounter. Chet would also rem­i­nisce about the movie stars that he met here in Oroville, like Roy Rogers who almost brought a ranch on the side of Table Moun­tain, as well as Elize­beth Tay­lor, Philip Bur­ton, Lee Mar­vin, Clint East­wood, and etc. These out­ings with Chet left deep impres­sions in my mind about the beau­ty and mag­nif­i­cence of Oroville. 

In the late 1990s, I had already grad­u­at­ed from UC Davis as a mechan­i­cal engi­neer, con­tin­u­ing fur­ther edu­ca­tion in San­ta Clara Uni­ver­si­ty for an MBA. I had been work­ing for 4 years for FMC Cor­po­ra­tion in San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia. As I was dri­ving to work one day, traf­fic was hor­ri­ble as usu­al. I start­ed cal­cu­lat­ing the amount of time that I would loose in my life­time to traf­fic. With cer­tain assump­tions made, the result was over 7 years sit­ting inside my car going nowhere fast. Ques­tions also arose on where I would start my fam­i­ly with my long term girl­friend, now wife, Louisa. After some con­tem­pla­tion, I was ready to come home to Oroville and learn about the fam­i­ly business. 

Describe Oroville to some­one who has nev­er been here.

Oroville is a beau­ti­ful his­toric small city that sits on the banks of the Feath­er Riv­er, sur­round­ed by four bod­ies of water (Lake Oroville, Diver­sion Pool, Ther­mal­i­to Fore­bay, and Ther­mal­i­to After­bay). It is also the gate­way to the beau­ti­ful Plumas Nation­al For­est with­in the Sier­ra Neva­da Moun­tain Range to the east. The pris­tine North Table Moun­tain Eco­log­i­cal Reserve with its vibrant col­or­ful wild­flow­ers is to the north. Rice fields with col­ors that change with the sea­sons to the west. Fruit and nut orchards, grow­ing in rich loam soil, abound to the south. 

The peo­ple here in Oroville are warm and friend­ly. We fre­quent­ly shout out a friend­ly hel­lo” to each oth­er whether we know them or not. We have a habit of let­ting cars into traf­fic in front of us. There’s no rush to get any­where. We are already here. 

What is the best-kept secret in Oroville? Why? 

For me, the best kept secret about Oroville is our diver­si­ty. We have many Native Amer­i­can friends. Oth­er friends that are fifth gen­er­a­tion in Oroville that trace their fam­i­ly back to Eng­land, Scot­land, Ire­land. Oth­ers are from Italy, Greece, Den­mark, Ger­many, and oth­er Euro­pean Coun­tries. My Chi­nese cul­ture has had a pres­ence here going back to the min­ing days. We also have many friends from our large African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty as well as His­pan­ic com­mu­ni­ties. Most recent­ly, the Hmong Peo­ple have joined this com­mu­ni­ty and are friends and co-work­ers as well. There are friends from India, the Mid­dle East, Argenti­na, and oth­er coun­tries. We all came look­ing for gold or oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties. How­ev­er, each eth­nic­i­ty has brought its own art, food, and cul­ture that is a part of Oroville and the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties now. In the grad­u­at­ing class of 2019 in Oroville High School, the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny was giv­en both in Eng­lish and Hmong. It brought tears to my eyes in see­ing the hard work that the first gen­er­a­tion Hmong Peo­ple had put in to get the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion through high school and into col­lege, a sto­ry sim­i­lar to my own and many others.

What is your favorite sea­son in Oroville? Why?

My favorite sea­son in Oroville is def­i­nite­ly the fall. I enjoy watch­ing sun­sets, in awe of the beau­ty that nature gives us each day. Some fall sun­sets are bright gold­en streaks where the sun slides away between the coast range and the gloomy clouds. Anoth­er day, the sun will slip away unno­ticed until that last few min­utes where it casts a glow­ing rus­tic bur­gundy up on the clouds in the sky. It’s like what For­rest Gump’s mom said about that box of choco­late, You nev­er know what you’re gonna get.” It’s beau­ti­ful each day.

What are your favorite places in Oroville to show out-of-town visitors?

I like to dri­ve friends through down­town and tell them about the his­to­ry behind the beau­ti­ful his­toric build­ings. I take friends to the Chi­nese Tem­ple and show them an impres­sive col­lec­tions of Chi­nese art and his­to­ry that is part of Oroville. For friends that like to hike and med­i­tate, Big Bald Rock is a must-do. For my car and motor­cy­cle friends, I take them through the Feath­er Riv­er Canyon. For city friends, I like to take them graz­ing on wild berries and fruit near the base of Table Moun­tain. For friends that like to eat, I take them back to our 107 year old restau­rant and play with food.

If some­one only had one day to spend in Oroville, what would you rec­om­mend they do?

In the morn­ing, I would rec­om­mend that they start the day off with an adven­ture. This could be pan­ning for gold on the riv­er (Yes! There’s still gold in there!), kayak­ing, fish­ing on the many bod­ies of water, moun­tain bik­ing along the many trails along the riv­er, hik­ing on Table Moun­tain, boat­ing in the lake, vis­it­ing the muse­ums, or just a scenic dri­ve along the beau­ti­ful coun­try roads and snap­ping pic­tures of hors­es, cows, goats, turkeys, deer, eagles, and oth­er inter­est­ing ani­mals. For lunch, I would sug­gest that they get back to town and check out the locals’ favorite restau­rants and water­ing holes. After lunch, vis­it the his­toric down­town that house many inter­est­ing gift or cloth­ing stores. Vis­it the jew­el­ry stores and antique shops have many pieces full of local his­to­ry and unique to our area. Treat your­self to a mas­sage from one of the many well­ness providers in the area. Before sun­set, dri­ve up to the dam or find a good view­ing spot for sun­set. Get back to town for din­ner while enjoy­ing local musi­cians, or vis­it two of the best casi­nos for din­ner and entertainment.