Nostalgia; SF’s Culinary History: Part 7 of 12

Tommy's Joynt

The historic Cliff House at Lands End, in Ocean Beach, has one of the city's most fascinating survival stories. The restaurant first opened in 1863, and was frequented by the era’s high society until the boisterous Barbary Coast crowd caught wind of its popularity. Business then fluctuated and ownership changed multiple times -- Adolf Sutro, the creator of the historic Sutro Baths located adjacent to the Cliff House, was among them.

The Cliff House also endured a series of catastrophic incidents; one explosion was caused by a ship colliding into the rocks beneath the restaurant, and there were also two other accidental fires. Even after being rebuilt three times, undergoing extended closures and face-lifts, the Cliff House remains alive and well under the protection of the National Park Service. The Cliff House that people see today is from the 2004 restoration, which borrows from the 1909 Cliff House's neo-classical architecture. Visitors to the Cliff House have two seafood restaurants to choose from, both with breathtaking panoramic ocean views. The Bistro offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a casual setting and Sutro's serves more upscale cuisine for lunch and dinner. 

Schroeder's German restaurant, on Front Street in the Financial District, has long lived up to its reputation for authentic Bavarian food. Schroeder's first opened on Market Street in 1893, but was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake. In 1911, the restaurant re-opened on Front Street, where it now remains. Aside from being the oldest and largest German restaurant on the West Coast, Schroeder's has a devout local following. These loyalists are especially partial to such dishes as the Sauerbraten & Potato Pancakes and the Wiener Schnitzel & Red Cabbage. 

The Original Tommy's Joynt, on Van Ness at Geary, has been keeping a steady heartbeat since it opened in 1947. This "Joynt" introduced the German inspired Hofbräu-style restaurants to San Francisco, which is a cafeteria-style food service offering various prepared meats and side dishes. House specialties include the buffalo stew and buffalo chili (buffalo is actually bison meat), corned beef, beef brisket, and oven-roasted meats. The late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen and current Senator and former San Francisco mayor Diane Feinstein used to frequent the "Joynt." Still open late and reasonable in price, you get plenty of atmosphere and generous servings here. 

On Polk Street (near the California Street cable car line) is the unforgettable Swan Oyster Depot – a nationally known oyster bar/seafood market that has been packing in visitors and plenty of locals, since 1912. Today, people still line up out the door to experience the irresistible charm and hospitality of the Sancimino family and their delicious specialties such as raw oysters, Boston Clam Chowder, and seafood cocktails. 

John's Grill, a seafood, pasta, and chop house in Union Square was established in 1908. The restaurant’s facade certainly has a nostalgic allure, but most people that walk by would never guess that a restaurant on this stretch of Ellis Street would have such an exclusive international draw. Yankees Baseball Hall–of-Famer Joe DiMaggio (an East Bay native) was a regular and many other iconic celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and political figures like Al Gore have dined here. Period furniture and authentic photos of famous guests cover every wall, creating a classic dining experience that complements the traditional Italian seafood and steak menu. 


San Francisco's Culinary History: Part 1 of 12

The Iconic Foods of San Francisco; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 2 of 12

Culinary Institutions; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 3 of 12

Fisherman's Wharf; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 4 of 12

North Beach; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 5 of 12

The Mission; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 6 of 12

Nostalgia; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 7 of 12

The Creme de la Crème; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 8 of 12

Asian Influence; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 9 of 12

The Veggie Scene; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 10 of 12

Ice Cream Goodness; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 11 of 12

Food Forward; San Francisco’s Culinary History: Part 12 of 12



Popular Articles

Umami: the Savory Fifth TasteAn Introduction to MushroomsRed Wine Can Heal HeartsPopcorn : The New Appetizer?20 Smart Tips for Everyday Grilling More Articles ...