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Apr 29, 2003 10:23 PM

el sombrero out geary [San Francisco]

  • r

there used to be a terrific mexican joint out geary in the sunset, called el sombrero. they made their own tortillas and handmade their margaritas starting with fresh squeezed lime juice. but their real specialty was a green sauce over cheese enchiladas that was better than i've ever had, anywhere. i started eating at el sombrero back in the 70's and no matter where i traveled, i always tried to find a sauce that came close to being as good as theirs---but to no avail. my question---does anybody know where these guys may have opened another place? they closed because of losing their lease---it wasn't due to poor business---that place was always packed. if anybody remembers el sombrero and where the owners may have gone, i'd really enjoy hearing about it. rich

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  1. In September 1993, shortly after El Sombrero closed, the late Pat Steger in the Chron had an item that said the owner, Bill Bernal, would open a tamale parlor in the Marina "someday soon." No sign that that ever happened, and from there the trail goes cold as far as I can tell.

    5 Replies
    1. re: squid-kun
      Zach Georgopoulos

      Is this the place that used to be where Aziza is now (and Soka before that)? They didn't lose their lease -- they own the building. They're retired.

      1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

        That's the one: 5800 Geary at 22nd Ave. What Bill Bernal told Herb Caen in July 1993, the month before it shut down, was that he was closing because "I've lost money for the last two years."

        His dad, Billy Bernal, had opened the place in 1947. That's a good long run.

        1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

          I sure miss El Sombrero. It was my favorite Mexican joint, and I loved the Alhambra-inspired decor. I hope Aziza is showing respect and practicality and using all those arches, tiles, and wrought iron.

          1. re: Sharuf
            Zach Georgopoulos

            They're using quite a bit of it, but I think a lot was probably gutted by the previous tenant.

          2. re: Zach Georgopoulos

            is it possible to get their recipe for their outstanding chile rellino?

        2. thanks so much for the replies. i can't believe it's been 10 years since they closed. rich.

          1. Luz Garcia didn't open another restaurant. They simply closed. If I am not wrong, Zocca went in then closed several years later.

            You might want to try Tia Margherita just about across the street. I know they were related at one point. It's real Tex Mex (as was El Sombrero)..but without the tortilla makers in the corner. Otherwise you will find a number of pretty good Mexican holes in the wall on Mission

            1. Man, I loved that place. My favorite restaurant of all time. The sauces, the home-made tortillas being made as you watched, the best tamales on the planet, chile con carne to die for. Every birthday, every special occasion, whenever we were asked where we wanted to go, my sister, mother and I would always choose E.S. I grew up with that place, and really miss it.

              At one time they had opened a second location in the Cannery in S.F., but I believe it closed before the original did. It lacked the authentic decor, and the food was just a notch below the Geary kitchen.

              I do remember the owner griping about how much money he was losing before it closed. I don't understand it, 'cause it seemed to be busy most of the time. If he had taken a vote among his customers, I'll bet most of us would have gladly paid 50% more to keep them open. I've never encountered another restaurant anywhere that comes close to those unique recipes and sauces.

              I wonder what happened to the chefs? If anyone knows, please post. (Maybe they took some of those recipes with them?)

              1. the el sombrero on geary then the cannery was so awesome I agree...I live in mexico and cannot find that food here in cancun yet....the owner had me paint an oil painting for her to match the decor in her house and she lived in the cliff house area. She was beautifu, with blond hair and a large tree inside her house ..I never will forget her she inspires me in my cooking and art to this day.....they had the most beautiful girls with low white blouses off their shoulders and long colorful skirts as servers...the line went around the block to get in ...