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Wistful lament for old San Francisco Favorites

  • r

Years ago prior to relocating to the Bay Area, I frequently used to travel to The City on business and then later for pleasure. As any tourist would do, I sought out resources to assist me in finding local recommendations, mostly food and wine related but also attractions, communities, hidden spots, you know.

One of the guide books on which I came to rely was Fodor's Guide to San Francisco. This little tome was as reliable as the sunrise when it came to helping me as I began to explore the Bay Area. Well, when doing some cleaning and reorganizing the other day, what do you think I found, that little book, looking old, tired and worn but still around, kinda like some people I know.

I got it out and read over it, longingly recalling with a certain melancholy how it felt to discover some of those now forgotten spots, Hoffman's on Market, The Washbag, La Pantera, Bardelli's etc. Then it occurred to me that my friends The Chowhounds must have similar laments. So how about it, what are some of your favorites that are now nothing but a distant memory and why were they significant?

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  1. Why waste time lamenting the past. Wouldn't it be wiser to find new and exciting places to replace those long lost favorites? Just a thought.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Jim

      Any reason why we can't do both? Just a thought.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Does anyone remember the old Jack Lirio Cooking School?How about that wonderful French inspired restaurant in San Rafael on the downtown corner run by the two guys, they had been in SF before. And remember that German restaurant run by the couple in North Beach and the wonderful German wines they had? Nothing will be the same. Audrey

        1. re: audrey

          The Green Valley Restaurant in North Beach. Curtain partitions between the large round tables, family style dining with soup, salad, pasta, entree items listed on the chalkboard and complimentary house wine. Chinatown hole in the wall, Jackson Cafe with its long counter for cheap rice plates and noodles.

          1. re: allen

            There were four or five places like the Green Valley...all serving mediocre but cheap food and the ubiquitous 7-up bottle with a cork, containing only the finest jug wine. Caruso'a, New Pisa, and I can't remember the name of my favorite. Jackson was the quintessential Chinese joint. At least once a week I would go for Jackson Chow Mein and steamed clams. After work I would go back and get an order of chow mein to go...next day for dinner we would have chow mein omlettes. Can't understand why no one has duplicated their chow mein. I always took out-of-towners to Jackson, and that was the highlight of thier trip to SF.

            1. re: allen

              The Jackson Cafe was my favorite cheap chow mein lunch place. Beef chow mein with black bean sauce is something I keep hoping to find somewhere here in Marin -- so far, no luck. I once pointed to what someone down the counter was eating and was told it was "sand dabs in fancy sauce" -- I had it and it was marvelous.

              Their American dishes were great too -- especially the roast duck and the roast pork. I noticed that the Chinese customers were more inclined to pick up a fork and order from that side of the menu while we Caucasians focussed on the Chinese offerings.

              1. re: Sharuf

                Try Young's on Kearny at Sacramento...not Jackson, but great beef and peppers black bean chow mein Hong Kong style. You can also get it pan fried.

          2. re: Ruth Lafler

            And besides, lamenting the lost treasures of the past is the quintessential San Francisco experience. ;-)

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Sorry Ruth, I just don't see the purpose in lamenting the loss. It certainly won't bring it back. Since we eat in the present/future, doesn't it make sense to post about food presently available instead of some long gone restaurant? Just my humble opinion.

              1. re: Jim

                But since one doesn't preclude the other, I don't see why you need to be so adamant about your position.

                Besides, you never know when someone might have a suggestion about a restaurant that is similar to the dearly departed, or news about where the chef/owner/decor elements might have ended up.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I don't think I'm anymore adamant about my position than you are about yours. I'm not going to comment anymore regarding this as it just fills the board without contributing to the purpose which is to share information about food discoveries and critiques.

          3. z
            Zach Georgopoulos

            Randy, I miss all the same places you listed (except I never made it to Hoffman's, though my office building occupies the original location, and is two doors down from the later location). I would now add the House of Shields, which, despite efforts on the part of your's truly, is rapidly going the way of the do-do. Also the Temple Bar. Mostly, I miss genteel downtown drinking.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Zach Georgopoulos
              r
              randy salenfriend

              Hey Zach-

              Glad to hear House of Shields is still standing and that you are doing your part. It is tough duty but someone's gotta do it. Next time you're in there, have one more for me. In this small way, I will feel as if I am contributing by proxy!

              Randy

              1. re: randy salenfriend
                z
                Zach Georgopoulos

                It's actually closed now, but I've been working with the landlord to get some of my restaurant clients in there. The landlord really wants to preserve it, but the kitchen belongs to the Palace Hotel garage and they're talking about turning into parking spaces. Without a kitchen, it can only be a bar, and nobody seems to think it can make it that way (also, I think the Palace feels it would compete with their Pied Piper room). Sigh. Anybody out there want to open a bar?

                1. re: Zach Georgopoulos
                  m
                  Melanie Wong

                  I hope House of Shields can be preserved. But if not, please put in my first dibs on a couple of the old brass spitoons. (g)

            2. The cottage cheese-dill bread from the old Tassajara bakery (now Boulange de Cole). Flying Saucer, when it first opened--the dining room was smaller than my living room and the menu was projected on the wall with an overhead projector. The food was amazing and a real splurge back in my indigent just-out-of-college slacker days. New Dawn Cafe and Radio Valencia in the Mission--not because the food was so great, but because they filled a need for comfy places open when you needed them.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dixieday

                yeah, Radio Valencia was a great loss. I remember when those 2 firetrucks crashed into it and a year later it reopened and we were so excited. Only to close later. Bummer.

              2. c
                Christine Vallejo

                I don't know how old "New Joe's" on Geary was, but after I moved to the Bay Area in 1983, it became one of my favorites. When my daughter was young, we'd spend her birthday (12-23)in the City, Christmas shop, and go to New Joe's for dinner. The waiters were always great with her. If we were in a booth, she'd wander over to the counter to watch the exhibition cooking.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Christine Vallejo

                  Thanks for reminding me of the original New Joe's on Broadway: stayed open really late, as did Vanessi's, and one could "sober up" with a great Joe's burger on SF sourdough with Monterey Jack and sauteed onions.Maybe it's a romanticized memory, but I seem to recall their grinding their excellent beef if not to order at least often.(Cured me forever of American-style burgers!)

                  1. re: Fine
                    c
                    Christine Vallejo

                    Never got to the original New Joe's but also liked Little Joe's in North Beach. Is it still there? Have the cookbook and just made his minestrone this past weekend for my grateful husband...he loves the stuff.

                    1. re: Christine Vallejo
                      r
                      randy salenfriend

                      Little Joe's is still there Christine, although it has been about 4 years since I ate there. Always loved the linguine with prawns there. Must make a mental note to return one of these days.

                      Link: http://tracker.tmcs.net/customer/litt...

                2. Spinelli's Coffee