Remembering Jun Anabo, Slain Co-Owner of Lucky Three Seven
There was a line outside Lucky Three Seven in Oakland this weekend, though not for the spicy-sweet “G-Fire Wings” or shatteringly crisp, fried-to-order lumpia that put the Filipino restaurant on the map after it opened in 2013. Instead, friends and family gathered to leave offerings of flowers, candles and twisted bicho-bicho doughnuts on a memorial for co-owner Artger “Jun” Anabo, who was shot outside the restaurant on May 18.
The business has been closed since the shooting, and the only things to eat in the kitchen were foil-topped casseroles donated by neighbors. At the prep table, co-owner Mark Legaspi and a half-dozen friends picked at lasagna and shared memories of Anabo, who built not only a restaurant but a community hub on this quiet stretch of Fruitvale. The restaurant will reopen as soon as Wednesday, Legaspi said.
Anabo grew up in Oakland not far from where he would later open his restaurant; his aunt and uncle owned the property and previously ran it as a deli. After they retired, he offered to take over and recruited his cousin Legaspi, a veteran strip club owner, as a business partner. The name they chose, Lucky Three Seven, refers both to the slot machine payline and to a cousin nicknamed “Pito-Pito,” Tagalog for “Seven-Seven,” who was shot and killed in 2012.
“He really showed up for the town,” said Dustin Perfetto, the Filipino American rapper and cannabis entrepreneur known as Nump, as he poured palliative sips of Hennessy for the mourning friends in the kitchen. “This sh-- really educated Oakland and the community about real Filipino foods, not just lumpia.”
He gestured to the empty steam table that once held specials like caldereta, a stew that owes its lusciousness to liver spread, and oxtail estofado in rich mushroom gravy. All were crafted by Anabo and Legaspi’s aunt Cielito Buenaventura (known to most as “Auntie”), a skilled home cook who dreamed of running a restaurant before her nephews invited her to join the business.
But Lucky Three Seven’s story goes beyond the food. Perfetto is just one of the local rappers who made the restaurant a second home. A sound engineer by trade, Anabo continued to work in the industry part time while running the restaurant, setting up concerts and other events around the Bay Area. Through his work, he befriended many of the hip-hop artists who live in Oakland or pass through on tours. “You name it, man. E-40, Too Short, the Jabbawockeez; they all come here,” Perfetto said.
Some of these artists, including P-Lo and Mistah F.A.B., performed at the block parties Anabo and Legaspi held annually beginning in 2014. Anabo also supported graffiti artists, another tenet of hip-hop culture. Local pieces adorn the patio barriers, and Amend of the legendary crew TDK painted the slot machine mural on the front of the building.
Every year on December 23, the restaurant gives out free rice plates to anyone who stops by until the steam trays run dry. Some years, Anabo and Legaspi asked people to donate school supplies in return for the meal, which they gave to local schools like Lazear Charter Academy and Achieve Academy.
“What they’ve done for Oakland and the community and Filipino culture at large is something to commend,” said Evan Kidera, founder and CEO of the Filipino fusion chain Señor Sisig, who mentored Anabo and Legaspi and considers them “like brothers.” Kidera lives a short bike ride from the restaurant and saw the impact it had on his neighborhood.
“Doesn’t matter what color you are, background, economical level; they wanted to create a space that felt like home,” he said. “It definitely feels like everything I’ve experienced as a non-Filipino going into Filipino homes.”
Since Lucky Three Seven opened nine years ago, a handful of other ambitious Filipino restaurants have cropped up in Oakland, most notably FOB Kitchen in Temescal. FOB Kitchen’s lead server, Anthony Reed, met Anabo in high school through the organization Filipinos for Affirmative Action (now Filipino Advocates for Justice) and said he was one of the first people he knew who dedicated himself to promoting Filipino culture.
“It was really great when he decided to open up Lucky Three Seven, right in the Fruitvale area where a bunch of our Filipino friends all grew up,” Reed said. “Seeing him and what they do for the community and what they do for our heritage, it’s a lot like what we try to do, and it’s what brought me into wanting to work over at FOB in the first place.”
Next Wednesday, June 1, would have been Anabo’s 40th birthday. Legaspi said he’ll still hold some version of the bacchanalian party he had planned, a dual celebration of the birthday and Anabo’s son Kiah’s middle school graduation. “All I know is, he’s going to want the loudest music ever, people dancing,” he said. “I got to rock it still.”
A version of this story appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.Add a comment