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Aug 4, 2008 07:23 AM

Best stuck-in-the-past restaurants?

I'm looking for more restaurants that have a stuck in the past feel. Places where the waiters might still do table side caesar salad, bartenders make a perfect martini in a proper glass, menus have a distinct meat and potatoes flair, decor fits in more with 1958 than 2008. Finding old restaurants is easy, but which ones have the better food? So far we've enjoyed:

Marin Joe's
Capp's Corner
Balboa Cafe

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  1. You must go to Sam's and request a booth in the back. Very, very retro and great food (I like it better than Tadich).

    Another restaurant that is REALLY stuck in the past is La Bergerie. A review of mine from two years ago:

    "The decor is almost surreal; painted leather shields adorn the walls amidst low ceilings and heavy, dark pillars, pink tablecloths with candlelight and roses adorn the tables. Ceramic cherubs look down upon diners from unassuming locales and a very amateurish painting of Provence shows age from water drips from the ceiling and cracked paint. Too much of the upholstered banquets have been taped from wear. Again, all circa 1976.

    Then came the food... We started with escargot which was served appropriately in the shells with clamps and the even-rarer long, two-pronged fork. With the restaurant's warm, crusty bread, we made short order of the snails. Then came a split pea cream soup. Not overly thick the way so many pea soups are, this was creamy, smooth, and elegant with an undercurrent of fresh sage. To our surprise, a salad came next; fresh butter lettuce with a perfectly light, creamy dressing. I can't remember the last time a restaurant served a soup AND salad course along with an entree that cost less than $20!

    The entrees? BF ordered Duck a l'Orange and I, a roasted rabbit. Accompanying sides were fresh haricot verts (a tad overcooked), a sweet potato puree (excellent!), and a savory rice with the duck and a potato gratin with the rabbit. Being too full to stay for the complimentary ice cream, we opted to take home a creme caramel that I still enjoying, bite by bite. In tasting the food, it TASTED the way I remember "fancy" French food tasting in the 1970s. Eating the left-overs today, BF suggested that MSG (remember, Accent?) is being used which may give it its 70s flavor. It was wholesome, hearty, and savory. It was not cutting edge. It was not haute cuisine. It was surreal and enjoyable.

    As it happens, the restaurant has been open for over 40 years. Ten years ago, two Cambodian brothers purchased it (which may explain why, in a room of a dozen people, we were the only non-Asians). There were only Asian people in the kitchen and on the service floor. Yes, the room and building itself is showing its age. But the service was impeccable and the entire experience memorable. So, two entrees in the $20 range, an hors d'oeuvre, the most expensive bottle of wine on their list (a du Pape for $42), a dessert and tip put us back a little more than $100. Pretty cool in my book. I like retro-eating and look forward to similar dining experiences, when I can find them!"

    Sam's Grill & Sea Food Restaurant
    374 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94104

    La Bergerie Restaurant
    4221 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

    2 Replies
    1. re: Carrie 218

      Thanks for the tip. When I was working over there I was always intrigued by La Bergerie but never had the opportunity to try it.

      1. re: Carrie 218

        I completely forgot about Sam's. I always duck into the alley and head to B44 or Plouf when I'm around there. Sam's is spot on for this kind of place. I was impressed to see they still have liver & onions on the menu. Thanks for the tip.

        By the way, does anyone have a comment on the sweetbreads at Sam's? They have a few different preparations listed on the online menu. Are they good?

      2. I don't know if they do a table-side caesar, but Alfred's works for steak and the perfect martini, as well as the right vibe...

        Alfred's Steak House
        659 Merchant St., San Francisco, CA 94111

        5 Replies
        1. re: susancinsf

          I second the Alfred's recommendation. FYI - They used to, but no longer, do a table-side caesar. Harris' is another good "stuck in the past" steak choice.

          Other fun options - Marcello's Italian, Tia Margarita, and Westlake Joe's.

          Joe's of Westlake
          11 Glenwood Ave, Daly City, CA 94015

          Marcello's Restaurant
          2100 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA 94116

          Tia Margarita Mexican Restaurant
          300 19th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

          1. re: kresge86

            Anyone been to Marcello's? I served on a jury with the owner. Wanted to check it out but haven't gotten around to it.

            1. re: Calvinist

              I was at Marcello's several years ago. It was pretty good, but I would go with the Gold Mirror (Taraval@18th Ave.) as having a purer old-school vibe.

              1. re: Calvinist

                I ate at Marcello's about a year ago. Went early and found ourselves surrounded by the blue-haired set. Totally surreal experience, but the food was pretty darn good. As I recall the drinks were only so-so. Alfred's bar/bartender is far superior, but Marcello's is still fun.

                1. re: Calvinist

                  I have been to Marcello's an uncountable number of times and I think they have possilby the best veal in the city. You can order it prepared in at least 6 different ways- very tender, very tasty
                  Also- service is super friendly and good attentive- especially Pat- who has been there for at least 15+ years- Porcinni mushrooms abound- great risotto
                  Pasta dishes- some places do manage to screw it up- is also very good

            2. Tommaso's makes some of my favorite pizza in the area.

              Generally the food at Schroeder's is so-so, but the free meatballs they serve at happy hour (Thursdays & Fridays 5-7, rotating with mediocre fries and chicken) are great. Some more recommendations:


              Tommaso Ristorante Italiano
              1042 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133

              Schroeder's Cafe
              240 Front St, San Francisco, CA 94111

              1. Try the Gold Mirror on Traval@18th Ave. for old-school Ital-American. Definitely closer to 1958 than 2008 there!

                Joe's of Westlake on John Daly Blvd. in Daly City is another go to old-school joint. Stick with the grilled meats & fish!

                1. Hey I love Casa Orinda for fried chicken, pasta with chicken livers and great cocktails. Familly always rave about the veal dishes. The don't do table side Caesar salad. They have a pretty classic supper club menu.

                  I was considering posting a review of the Dead Fish in Crockett but I think I'll just tag it along to this post. A friend had recommended the place and we were heading back home from Tahoe so we decided to check it out. I didn't realize that it was a throw back kind of place. Good cocktails and soups but everything else wasn't quite as good as we were hoping so I don't think we will be back even thought it is very convenient when you are on 80 and looking for something good.

                  Once again, can only seem to add a link to one place!

                  Casa Orinda
                  20 Bryant Way, Orinda, CA 94563

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Cheesy Oysters

                    Dead Fish is a corporate place, same company that has Boboquivari's, Calzone's, the Crab House, the Franciscan, and Strinking Rose in SF. It's not really stuck in the past, as it opened in 2004. It was previously Vera's Villa Valona.

                    Nantucket is the same general idea, similar view, but family-owned and cheaper. Very old-school menu (cioppino, fried seafood) and vibe.

                    Nantucket Restaurant
                    501 Port St, Crockett, CA

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Thanks for the clarification. I thought it was a newer place too but after going there, it just seemed like an old style place. Maybe we'll check out Nantucket next time. Thanks

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        excuse me for interrupting but, God Bless Vera's Villa Valona ! I remember diners parking their cars along old Highway 40 for what seemed like half a mile.

                        1. re: DonZ

                          It's amazing as one goes through the archives how much rw contributes to this site.

                      2. re: Cheesy Oysters

                        I checked out the fried chicken on a recommendation and thought it was pretty darn good. The price kept me from going back. It is a cool place, though.