Last call: David Wong retires after 50 years of bartending

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Last call: David Wong retires after 50 years of bartending
David Wong has shaken his last cocktail; he retired from the Westborough House of Pizza in early June. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

WESTBOROUGH – David Wong thumbed his way through his phone.

Hundreds of photos – decades worth of family, friends and places.

After a few minutes, Wong found what he was seeking – a photo of himself as a young man, fresh from Hong Kong, starting his career as a bartender at the Honolulu on Turnpike Road.

“I started at the Honolulu in 1976,” he said.

His brother-in-law taught him bartending, enough for Wong to take over in Westborough while he went over to the Honolulu in Norwood.

“It took me six months to learn,” said Wong, adding that he was learning English at the same time.

For nearly three decades, a distinctive exotic tiki head beckoned travelers along Turnpike Road to dine at the Honolulu restaurant.

Originally the Eli Whitney Steakhouse, the site was sold to Hing Wah of Brookline in 1970. It was remodeled and renamed, and offered a menu of American, Chinese and Polynesian fare.

According to those who recalled the Honolulu, the restaurant became known for its cuisine and mai tais.

In addition to the sign, the tiki was featured on mugs and swizzle sticks.

When the Westborough Honolulu closed in October 2000, Wong went over to the Westborough House of Pizza.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, Wong found himself out of work.

“I stayed at home for two years,” he said.

When the pandemic eased, Wong said he wanted to go back to bartending.

“I hadn’t lost the skill,” he said. “I’m happy here … all my friends are here,” he said.

Now Wong is putting away his cocktail shaker after nearly 50 years. He retired on the first weekend in June.

The Westborough resident said he plans on traveling with his wife to see the grandchildren and play golf every day.

Wong is also breaking in a new bartender.

“I’ve known Mr. Wong since I was 5 years old,” said Sean Keaveney, who was born and raised in town. “No one can really replace Mr. Wong.”

Wong, who has lived in Westborough for 45 years, said the biggest changes have been taxes (“I paid only $800 a year in taxes when I first bought my house,” he said), the population growth and lots of new houses.

 “The people are still nice in Westborough,” he said.

What folks have to say

The Advocate sent an inquiry via Facebook about Wong’s retirement. Here are some of the responses:

Tim Horgan – “One of the nicest guys around. Spend some time with him and he seems to know almost everyone he sees, and they know and like him. He could be the Mayor of Westborough if we had one.”

Laurie Donahue Kuck – “Nobody makes a better mai tai than David! He would make them by the gallon for our yearly cookout.”

Sandra McCarthy Horne – “Master of the mai tai.”

Gary Kelley – “… David may make the finest mai tai in the world and has a heart of gold.”

Mike Thatcher – “We have known David for well over 50 years! To this day, he knows what we drink as soon as we come in!”

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