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Best stuck-in-the-past restaurants?

Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 07:23 AM

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. Carrie 218 RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 08:53 AM

    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
      Calvinist RE: Carrie 218 Aug 4, 2008 10:00 AM

      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
        Shane Greenwood RE: Carrie 218 Aug 5, 2008 07:52 PM

        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. susancinsf RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 09:09 AM

        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
          kresge86 RE: susancinsf Aug 6, 2008 12:34 PM

          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
            Calvinist RE: kresge86 Aug 6, 2008 03:26 PM

            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
              DavidT RE: Calvinist Aug 6, 2008 03:46 PM

              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
                kresge86 RE: Calvinist Aug 6, 2008 04:01 PM

                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
                  Saxby RE: Calvinist Jul 30, 2009 11:08 AM

                  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. Robert Lauriston RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 09:54 AM

              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. d
                DavidT RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 10:33 AM

                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. c
                  Cheesy Oysters RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 11:41 AM

                  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
                    Robert Lauriston RE: Cheesy Oysters Aug 4, 2008 12:17 PM

                    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
                      Cheesy Oysters RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 4, 2008 12:53 PM

                      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
                        DonZ RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 25, 2010 07:31 AM

                        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
                          wolfe RE: DonZ Mar 25, 2010 07:41 AM

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

                      2. re: Cheesy Oysters
                        benjieats RE: Cheesy Oysters Aug 15, 2008 04:47 PM

                        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.

                      3. m
                        mpalmer6c RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 01:06 PM

                        For a 1938 feel, Original Joe's.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mpalmer6c
                          Robert Lauriston RE: mpalmer6c Aug 4, 2008 01:08 PM

                          Original Joe's is currently closed due to a fire.

                          Original Joe's Restaurant
                          601 Union St, San Francisco, CA

                        2. w
                          whiner RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 01:13 PM

                          I have no recollection of life prior to the early 80's. But House of Prime Rib *might* fit your bill?

                          1. hill food RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 01:15 PM

                            drinks only - Cafe Tosca on Columbus below B'way. and Persian aub Zam Zam on Haight near Clayton I know, not the same without Bruno, RIPIR (Rest in Peace in Reno)

                            1. g
                              Giselle RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 03:00 PM

                              Bertolucci's in South SF, Iron Gate in Belmont, Bella Vista in Woodside

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Giselle
                                orezscu RE: Giselle Aug 4, 2008 07:45 PM

                                Those are three great mid-peninsula suggestions. Anywhere the Iron Gate is mentioned, one must also consider mentioning The Vans, also in Belmont, and for Chinese food (and decor) that hasn't changed in 30 years, Hong Kong Restaurant on Ralston. For a stuck-in-the-past breakfast and interior, try Millbrae Pancake House on El Camino.

                                1. re: orezscu
                                  Shane Greenwood RE: orezscu Aug 4, 2008 09:22 PM

                                  I forgot about The Vans, how's the food there?

                                  1. re: Shane Greenwood
                                    chuck995 RE: Shane Greenwood Mar 20, 2011 06:37 AM

                                    The Van's is still there and is still serving GOOD food! It has the best Prime Rib on the peninsula and as far as being old I am 66 and have been eating there sense I was 10

                                2. re: Giselle
                                  kemi5 RE: Giselle Dec 15, 2009 11:10 AM

                                  Yes, Iron Gate is definitely old school. Was disappointed though that depending on where your table is situated they can't do table-side flambe, but instead will do it from afar. I realize that it's a safety measure but still...

                                3. steve h. RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 03:18 PM

                                  i have to stick up for tadich.
                                  been going there for some time. always sit at the bar for a late (after 2 p.m.) lunch. my martinis are always poured into those crummy little glasses and my dozen oysters are always crammed onto the same plate they serve six. they are not about to change anything for me.
                                  still, i'm treated pretty well and continue to go back. i wear a sport coat out of respect. there is no dress code.

                                  1. t
                                    Truffle Dog RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 03:33 PM

                                    For American-style stuck-in-the-past, I like House of Prime Rib.

                                    For continental-style stuck-in-the-past, I like Jeanty at Jack's. I also like Chapeau! and I feel it fits into this category, but I have not been their since they bought Clementine so I would caution you to look for recent reports before visiting on my recommendation.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Truffle Dog
                                      SteveG RE: Truffle Dog Aug 5, 2008 12:26 PM

                                      Jeanty at Jack's is a half-decade old outpost of Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, itself probably only a decade old. The location for Jeanty at Jack's used to be Jack's restaurant, which opened at that location in 1864 and the current building was built in 1907.

                                      1. re: SteveG
                                        asianstamp RE: SteveG Jun 16, 2009 09:51 AM

                                        Unfortunately, Jeanty at Jack's closed up shop earlier this month. That's sad too since I really enjoyed my DAT meal there earlier this year!

                                        Jeanty At Jacks
                                        615 Sacramento St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                        1. re: asianstamp
                                          Jeni Bean RE: asianstamp Jul 30, 2009 01:17 PM

                                          CRUD! That is the SECOND restaurant to close that my Husband's and my courtship touched. First Hawthorne Lane (engaged there) and now Jeanty at Jack's (Wedding Brunch thrown by my Uncle Gerry). Too sad. My party at Jeanty at Jack's was my favorite pre-wedding day!

                                    2. m
                                      ML8000 RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 04:07 PM

                                      Howard's at 9th and Irving. Bad 60's/70's mish-mash. Still the food is very good for what it is, diner food.

                                      1. Paul H RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 05:47 PM

                                        My nomination for this award category is the Hayes Street Grill


                                        1. s
                                          SFDude RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 4, 2008 07:05 PM

                                          House of Prime Rib is definitely the place to go. The meat trolley is a sight to behold and all of the sides (salads, yorkshire pudding etc.) are classics. In addition, the food is quite good and the service professional. I haven't been there in several years but there is no reason it should have changed.

                                          The low end altnernative is the Palace Steak House in the Mission (Right off of Army Street). The decor is dumpy in a classic way and the service is friendly. Food is only OK but very inexpensive. I would recomend bringing your own wine ($5 corkage) unless you really like 2 Buck Chuck knock-offs.

                                          Palace Steak House
                                          3047 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: SFDude
                                            Janet RE: SFDude Aug 4, 2008 11:29 PM

                                            Tommy Toy's is very hands on. Food comes out on a cart with candles, several servers per table, some food prepared at the table, wait staff in black suits, very formal and great food. The tasting menu is wonderful.

                                            We felt we were back in the 50's.

                                            Tommy Toy's
                                            655 Montgomery St., San Francisco, CA 94111

                                            1. re: SFDude
                                              saffrongold RE: SFDude Oct 25, 2008 09:59 AM

                                              IMO food at Palace Steak House is inedible. Baked potatoes taste like the aluminum foil they are baked in (or possibly microwaved and wrapped later) Steak is a cut of beef that is unrecognizable.

                                            2. s
                                              Sharuf RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 5, 2008 02:23 AM

                                              Celias in San Rafael will take you back. It's a classic Cal-Mex place with all the familiar gringo-friendly menu items. The place was created about 50 years ago and it shows - it even has a (no longer smoky) cocktail lounge. There's plenty of Mexican kitsch on the walls.

                                              Their enchilada sauce, refried beans, and tortillas are especially good.

                                              1. Junie D RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 5, 2008 09:36 AM

                                                Buttercream Bakery in Napa. 50's diner food.



                                                Butter Cream Bakery & Diner
                                                2297 Jefferson St, Napa, CA 94559

                                                1. anyhow RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 5, 2008 09:18 PM

                                                  Palo Alto Creamery (until recently, Peninsula Creamery) has earned that '50s American diner feel. I prefer the downtown PA original to the Stanford Shopping Center "retro-like" environment, though the menu is shared by both locations.

                                                  Possibly the best onion rings and milk shakes in the Bay Area. Wide range of decades-proved breakfast, lunch, and dinner favorites that have always been made with premium ingredients and served with personality.

                                                  If you're willing to trade the table-side prep and martinis for a classic jukebox and a bakery counter to buy luscious pies ... drop in. You are going to feel welcome.

                                                  566 Emerson Street, Palo Alto. (650) 323-3131

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: anyhow
                                                    Sharuf RE: anyhow Aug 6, 2008 01:44 AM

                                                    Aaahh, the Peninsula Creamery. Fond memories of slurping up their milkshakes. They give you the entire blender container.

                                                  2. r
                                                    redchair RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 6, 2008 02:12 PM

                                                    Alfred's is the spot. They might no longer do table-side Caesars, but they do offer at least one dessert that is in fire. Nothing like a a flaming, alcohol-soaked dessert to follow your martini and steak as you sit in a red leather(ette?) booth with your date.

                                                    1. s
                                                      sugam RE: Shane Greenwood Aug 6, 2008 05:31 PM

                                                      Dont forget Bix, a beautiful spot, great drinks tucked away on a mystery alley :)

                                                      56 Gold St., San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: sugam
                                                        DavidT RE: sugam Aug 6, 2008 07:23 PM

                                                        Bix is a place that tries to be a retro-look place, but has only been in business 15-20 years (I think). Most of the places recommended here so far were in business in 1958. Bix certainly was not.

                                                        1. re: DavidT
                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: DavidT Aug 12, 2008 06:47 PM

                                                          Bix opened in 1988. The space was previously occupied by a bar called the Assay Office. During the gold rush, it was an actual assay office.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                            wew RE: Robert Lauriston Jun 21, 2009 02:05 PM

                                                            Hayes Street Grill is now 30

                                                      2. Shane Greenwood RE: Shane Greenwood Oct 25, 2008 09:29 AM

                                                        The Big 4 Restaurant in the lobby of the Huntington Hotel fits into this category too. It has a more upscale feel with an old money atmosphere. Bar area is dark wood, cozy, piano player, and small bistro tables. This is the kind of place where the waiters are still wearing ties and the host offers to take the ladies' coats. Menu is a mix of old standards and newer fusions. Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls is the chef.

                                                        I'd recommend this place for a dressier night out and when you want a quieter restaurant experience.

                                                        Big Four Restaurant - duplicate
                                                        1075 California St, San Francisco, CA

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Shane Greenwood
                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: Shane Greenwood May 22, 2009 09:27 AM

                                                          The Big 4 is definitely not stuck in the past. It opened in 1976, if I remember correctly the space was offices before that. The decor and style of service may be retro, but the menu is mostly California / New American plus a few comfort foods like pot roast that would never have been served in the kind of old-school restaurant the Big 4 is intended to evoke.


                                                        2. m
                                                          Mick Ruthven RE: Shane Greenwood Oct 25, 2008 09:58 AM

                                                          Nick's at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica is a 50's throwback (don't know the actual date) that's still very popular. It's in the Sea Breeze motel right at the water's edge. I've been for lunch a few times and love their crab sandwich.


                                                          Nick's Rockaway
                                                          100 Rockaway Beach Ave, Pacifica, CA 94044

                                                          12 Replies
                                                          1. re: Mick Ruthven
                                                            NoeMan RE: Mick Ruthven May 22, 2009 12:23 AM

                                                            Reviving this old thread.......

                                                            Val's in Daly City (chilled plate iceberg wedge salad), Caesar's in North Beach (classic multi-course meals with waiters with 40+ years' service), Bullshead in West Portal (looks like the old west; great buffalo meat), The Old Clamhouse on Bayshore (cioppino).

                                                            Also love and second Nick's Rockaway.

                                                            Caesar's Italian Restaurant
                                                            2299 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                            Bullshead Restaurant
                                                            840 Ulloa St, San Francisco, CA 94127

                                                            Old Clam House
                                                            299 Bay Shore Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94124

                                                            Val's Restaurant & Lounge
                                                            2468 Junipero Serra Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

                                                            1. re: NoeMan
                                                              glbtrtr RE: NoeMan May 22, 2009 09:14 AM

                                                              Iron Gate in Belmont - table side, flaming chafing dish favorites from wilted spinach salad, steak diane and cherries jubliee with polished, black tie waiters.

                                                              1. re: NoeMan
                                                                Ruth Lafler RE: NoeMan May 22, 2009 11:51 AM

                                                                Francesco's in Oakland -- old-school Italian for 40 years. I just took a look at their menu, and they have both Caeser salad and spinach salad prepared tableside. It's near the Coliseum, so your chances of spotting a sports figure of some sort are good when the teams are in town.

                                                                8520 Pardee Dr, Oakland, CA 94621

                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                  tomatoaday RE: Ruth Lafler May 22, 2009 12:38 PM

                                                                  Many years ago, I used to really like Francesco's and found them to be a reliable Joe's type place but after moving back to the East Bay a few years back, I ate there twice and both times was awful. Chicken liver omlette once, an osso bucco special the other. Has anyone been there in the last year with a more recent , and hopefully better, experience?

                                                                  1. re: tomatoaday
                                                                    casalbore spirit RE: tomatoaday Jun 16, 2009 01:02 AM

                                                                    Ugh!Francesco's is the worst example of old school or any style Italian food.Unhealthy,heavy ,no flavor.My Mom descends from Casalbore,Italy.I would take any other Italian food offering in the bay area from old school to present style...wood fired pizzas,fresh al dente pastas to my Mom's delicate homemade manicotti and more over this place ever.

                                                                    1. re: casalbore spirit
                                                                      Shane Greenwood RE: casalbore spirit Jun 16, 2009 06:05 AM

                                                                      Which places would you go Casalbore Spirit?

                                                                      1. re: Shane Greenwood
                                                                        casalbore spirit RE: Shane Greenwood Jun 16, 2009 09:47 AM

                                                                        Retro and kinda corny places I like in Oakland are The Fat Lady and Italian Colors.It's not outstanding food but tasty.The type of restaurant described in the first post ,to me,exists more in Brooklyn NY or Hoboken NJ than in the Bay Area.I can't remember the last time I've seen a caesar salad prepared tableside anywhere.

                                                                        Italian Colors Restaurant
                                                                        2220 Mountain Blvd, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                        Fat Lady
                                                                        201 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                                                        1. re: casalbore spirit
                                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: casalbore spirit Jun 16, 2009 09:56 AM

                                                                          I haven't seen a Caesar prepared tableside recently, but I've read a few reviews of local places that do it.

                                                                          Bull Valley Restaurant
                                                                          14 Canyon Lake Dr, Port Costa, CA 94569

                                                                          The Royal Oak - Silverado Resort
                                                                          1600 Atlas Peak Rd., Napa, CA 94558

                                                                          The Acorn Restaurant - CLOSED in 2005
                                                                          1906 El, Camino Real Menlo Park, CA

                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                            pininex RE: Robert Lauriston Jun 16, 2009 11:41 AM

                                                                            The Spinnaker in Sausalito still does it tableside.

                                                                            1. re: pininex
                                                                              Chuckles the Clone RE: pininex Jun 17, 2009 04:36 PM

                                                                              I haven't been in five or six years or so, but Le Virage in Walnut Creek did a bunch of extravagantly overexuberant tableside preparations including Caesar salad as well as steak tartare.

                                                                              There are only a couple of old mentions of the place here on CH and they're not exactly complimentary. My experience was much better but I can see how people might have issues. Still, in the context of this thread stepping inside from a bright hot Walnut Creek sidewalk is like taking an elevator to Lyon in 1963. I imagine.

                                                                              Google street view suggests it's still there:


                                                                              1. re: Chuckles the Clone
                                                                                tomatoaday RE: Chuckles the Clone Jul 30, 2009 01:09 PM

                                                                                The building is there but the restaurant has been closed for at least 5 years.

                                                                              2. re: pininex
                                                                                Oldnwise RE: pininex Mar 20, 2011 04:07 AM

                                                                                I was waiting for someone to mention the Spinnaker, wedding dinner there, a lot of family history and the food is usually pretty good, I go for the steamed clams.

                                                              2. m
                                                                Moroccanmama RE: Shane Greenwood Jun 16, 2009 09:00 AM

                                                                I used to like going to a place in the alley east of Kearny in the Financial District - Red leather, dark, very East-Coast kinda place with a bartender who knew how to make a mean martini. Can't recall name - is it still running?

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: Moroccanmama
                                                                  Robert Lauriston RE: Moroccanmama Jun 16, 2009 09:21 AM

                                                                  Sounds like Alfred's. It's only been there (former Blue Fox) since 1997, but they recreated the style of the original location on Broadway.

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

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                    Steve Green RE: Robert Lauriston Jun 16, 2009 10:44 AM

                                                                    There also was a place just off Kearny on Maiden Lane that meets that description -- I think it was called The Iron Door or The Brass-Something-or-Other.

                                                                    1. re: Steve Green
                                                                      larochelle RE: Steve Green Jun 16, 2009 11:24 AM

                                                                      I think you mean Iron Horse but its west of Kearny.

                                                                      1. re: larochelle
                                                                        Steve Green RE: larochelle Jun 16, 2009 06:32 PM

                                                                        larochelle, you're right, it was the Iron Horse. According to the "Y" site, the address was 19 Maiden Lane. Just off Kearny (yes, west of Kearn)y, since Maiden Lane only runs from Kearny to Stockton).

                                                                        1. re: Steve Green
                                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: Steve Green Jun 16, 2009 06:49 PM

                                                                          I think that's now the Otis Lounge, which is a pretty nice spot, though more or less at the opposite end of the spectrum.

                                                                          Otis Lounge
                                                                          25 Maiden Lane, San Francisco, CA

                                                                2. dhoffman1421 RE: Shane Greenwood Jun 16, 2009 09:51 AM

                                                                  This thread is like a trip down memory lane, I love a lot of the places listed. I didn't see Duarte's mentioned. In old Pescadero, great Cioppino and Ollalaberry pie!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: dhoffman1421
                                                                    keg RE: dhoffman1421 Jun 16, 2009 07:15 PM

                                                                    Here, here for Duarte (doo arts).

                                                                    Tomasso's isn't stuck in the past. They got it right the first time.

                                                                  2. s
                                                                    saffrongold RE: Shane Greenwood Jun 16, 2009 10:51 AM

                                                                    I miss Vanessi's .

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: saffrongold
                                                                      casalbore spirit RE: saffrongold Jun 16, 2009 01:10 PM

                                                                      Casa Orinda is another throwback restaurant that does martinis,manhattans and various highballs.Meat and potatoes menu and known for their fried chicken.Decent food.Wait staff in traditional wait staff uniforms.Older clientele.

                                                                      Casa Orinda
                                                                      20 Bryant Way, Orinda, CA 94563

                                                                    2. Civil Bear RE: Shane Greenwood Jun 16, 2009 01:51 PM

                                                                      Bills Place still does good burges and shakes on Clement. And there is always the Thursday Special lamb shanks at Tommy's Joynt.

                                                                      Tommy's Joynt
                                                                      1101 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                                      Bill's Place
                                                                      2315 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                                                                      1. a
                                                                        annabana RE: Shane Greenwood Jun 17, 2009 03:54 PM

                                                                        Because my husband loves it, we had dinner at the Spinnaker in Saus. recently and it is really old school. The views (floor to ceiling windows encase more than two thirds of the place) are of course world class, especially when the sail boats come in or the full moon rises over Angel Island. The food, not so much, though if you order carefully its ok. If you don't want to commit fully, sit in the bar/lounge order from that menu and enjoy the same view.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: annabana
                                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: annabana Jun 18, 2009 10:08 AM

                                                                          Horizons in Sausalito hasn't changed much since it was the Trident, the decor's still stuck in the 60s. The kitchen has kept up with the times, the food's pretty good.

                                                                          Nostalgia site:


                                                                          Horizons Restaurant
                                                                          558 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965

                                                                        2. v
                                                                          vivian RE: Shane Greenwood Jun 17, 2009 09:35 PM

                                                                          My vote also goes to Iron Gate in Belmont. They have various table -side preps and flaming dishes. You might want to dress up just a bit. BTW, The Accorn left Menlo Park some time ago and hasn't been seen since. Its decline had been sad to witness.

                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                          1. re: vivian
                                                                            foodeye RE: vivian Jun 18, 2009 09:37 AM

                                                                            Anyone else miss Grisson's on Van Ness? Classic red-booth steakhouse, with a dim cocktail lounge and lots of gracious table-side preparations.

                                                                            Does anyone know where to get a Steak Dianne these days?

                                                                            1. re: foodeye
                                                                              Robert Lauriston RE: foodeye Jun 18, 2009 10:12 AM

                                                                              Grison's Steak & Chop House turned into Harris', which was a very retro place when it opened in 1984, and hasn't changed much since. They still have Steak Diane on the menu:


                                                                              Harris' Restaurant
                                                                              2100 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                                              1. re: foodeye
                                                                                wolfe RE: foodeye Jun 18, 2009 10:22 AM

                                                                                The Cheesecake Factory at Macy's has it on their menu. If you have friends in high places perhaps at certain senator's house in Pacific Heights.

                                                                                1. re: wolfe
                                                                                  chow_eb RE: wolfe Jul 30, 2009 01:31 PM

                                                                                  Val's in Hayward. Where waitresses of a certain age, with hairstyles to match, call you honey. Burgers, etc in the original 50's diner.

                                                                                  Banchero's in Hayward. An old Italian restaurant that celebrated their 60th anniversary last year. Not much has changed. Old pictures of the restaurant and of the surrounding area are on the wall along with old menus. Dinner for $1.25 back when.

                                                                                  1. re: chow_eb
                                                                                    PYTHONCHARLY RE: chow_eb Sep 21, 2009 05:10 PM

                                                                                    I wen to Bancheros the other day, the food was not edible, it was really bad,

                                                                                    it may have been teher for some time, but it was not good, great Italian places

                                                                                    were Ruffino's and the Depot both closed now, both in Napa.

                                                                                    My favorite old world place will, however, remain my secret it is already too.


                                                                                    By the way, a new world place Michale Mina's at the Westin St francis, sucks.

                                                                                    1. re: PYTHONCHARLY
                                                                                      sydthekyd RE: PYTHONCHARLY Sep 22, 2009 12:43 PM

                                                                                      Oh, come on - no secrets on Chowhound!

                                                                                    2. re: chow_eb
                                                                                      glbtrtr RE: chow_eb Mar 3, 2011 07:10 AM

                                                                                      As a kid, Bancheros is where we went to "dine out". It was magic, but returning as an adult as well as someone who lived in Italy for several years it was appalling. Classic red sauce restaurant where they diluted it and called it minestrone, thickened it and called it pasta sauce and ladled it over any entree you chose and only missed a beat not pouring it on the spumoni ice-cream which was the invariable finishing dolce. Go to laugh and love its awfulness, but do not go to dine.

                                                                                      20102 Mission Blvd, Hayward, CA 94541

                                                                                2. re: vivian
                                                                                  glbtrtr RE: vivian Mar 3, 2011 07:14 AM

                                                                                  Second the Iron Gate. Chowhound sent us there a few years ago when visiting this area and it was a wonderful throwback, classy and tacky all at the same time. Well worth a visit to grand style dining techniques and nostalgic old favorites that defined "continental" dining for most of us at a time when visiting the real "continent" was as possible as visiting the moon.

                                                                                  Iron Gate
                                                                                  1360 El Camino Real, Belmont, CA 94002

                                                                                3. j
                                                                                  jnelson29 RE: Shane Greenwood Sep 21, 2009 01:05 PM

                                                                                  My husband and I were in SF a few years ago. We stayed at The Drake and they referred us to a GREAT restaurant. I CANT'T REMEMBER THE NAME. "old", dark, stone floors....The veal osso buco was to die for. And the view - a row of houses then the bay. It was pricey but we'd like to return. I think it' between Broadway and North Point Street. Help please!

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: jnelson29
                                                                                    wolfe RE: jnelson29 Sep 21, 2009 01:18 PM

                                                                                    Possibly one of the incarnations of Julius Castle, now closed.
                                                                                    Additional choice Shadows, once again hinges on how many years is a few.

                                                                                    1. re: wolfe
                                                                                      Chuckles the Clone RE: wolfe Sep 21, 2009 03:21 PM

                                                                                      Dalla Torre, on the corner of Montgomery and the Filbert Steps? Italian. No idea what the floors were made of. It's been closed for five or six years at least.

                                                                                    2. re: jnelson29
                                                                                      Robert Lauriston RE: jnelson29 Sep 21, 2009 02:13 PM

                                                                                      If that view was from the dining room, yeah, I think that would have to have been Julius' Castle, which has been closed since January of last year, or Dalla Torre (formerly The Shadows), which closed a few years ago and has been converted to a private residence.

                                                                                    3. d
                                                                                      DandySF RE: Shane Greenwood Sep 21, 2009 01:49 PM

                                                                                      I thought for sure someone would have mentioned John's Grill as an oldie. They have a snug little bar in the back corner that's a nice spot for a martini. The crowd can get a bit touristy. I go for the atmosphere, mainly. My favorite old time place (for both food and atmosphere) is always The Tadich Grill.


                                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: DandySF
                                                                                        Mick Ruthven RE: DandySF Sep 21, 2009 01:59 PM

                                                                                        I had completely forgotten about John's. How is the food?

                                                                                        1. re: Mick Ruthven
                                                                                          Paul H RE: Mick Ruthven Sep 21, 2009 02:38 PM

                                                                                          I don't know how it is now, but a few years ago, someone quit a job as a food editor because management wouldn't let them publish a scathing review, calling the place a ramshackle tourist trap with inedible food. But, to be sure, we should have a more contemporary take before passing judgement today.

                                                                                          1. re: Paul H
                                                                                            Mick Ruthven RE: Paul H Sep 21, 2009 02:45 PM

                                                                                            >we should have a more contemporary take before passing judgement today<

                                                                                            For sure. Yelp ranges from "Everything from the food to service was just poor" to "The food is exactly as one should expect...good, solid, marvelous American fare. The service has always been gracious, prompt and efficient.", so not much help there.

                                                                                            1. re: Paul H
                                                                                              Robert Lauriston RE: Paul H Sep 21, 2009 02:58 PM

                                                                                              I think Sam's Grill is a safer bet for an old-style SF meal, since they depend on repeat business from locals.

                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                Mick Ruthven RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 21, 2009 03:14 PM

                                                                                                I haven't been to Sam's in a long time. I've been to Tadich's twice in the last several months; first time the food was perfect, couldn't have been better, the second time the food was less than mediocre, just bad.

                                                                                                1. re: Mick Ruthven
                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston RE: Mick Ruthven Sep 21, 2009 03:35 PM

                                                                                                  What did you order?

                                                                                                  I had a fun lunch at Sam's a few months ago. Fried calamari were fine, charcoal-broiled sweetbreads with bacon were a little overdone for my taste but good. My friend had the Sam's special seafood salad, which was served on braised celery. Generous servings. Decent all-California wine list.

                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                    Mick Ruthven RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 21, 2009 03:44 PM

                                                                                                    I don't remember the actual orders, but the good time was in the mid-afternoon at the bar and the bad time was in the evening at a table. I remember at the bar, my bar-stool neighbor remarked that she was a regular there and how good the food always was. The bad night was with a group of four and all of us noticed how poor the food was.

                                                                                        2. c
                                                                                          chuckl RE: Shane Greenwood Mar 25, 2010 02:32 PM

                                                                                          Tommy's Joynt opened in 1947 and I don't think has changed much in all those years

                                                                                          Tommy's Joynt
                                                                                          1101 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: chuckl
                                                                                            glbtrtr RE: chuckl Mar 3, 2011 07:11 AM

                                                                                            Tommy's Joynt was the place to go for Berkeley students in 1967 too -- glad to hear it has not changed since then either. So much has.

                                                                                            Tommy's Joynt
                                                                                            1101 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                                                          2. o
                                                                                            Oldnwise RE: Shane Greenwood Mar 20, 2011 04:16 AM

                                                                                            Just a short list of my favorite restaurants. I wouldn't call them "stuck-in-the-past", I would say they have patina.

                                                                                            Joe’s (of various kinds)
                                                                                            Capp’s Corner
                                                                                            Lefty O’Doul’s
                                                                                            Cliff House
                                                                                            Alioto’s (touristy perhaps but a genuine SF landmark)
                                                                                            John’s Grill
                                                                                            Spengers (Berkeley)

                                                                                            Ernesto’s (Clement Street)
                                                                                            Clement Street Bar and Grill
                                                                                            Swan’s Oyster Bar
                                                                                            Old Clam House
                                                                                            Pacific Café (the Richmond)
                                                                                            Marcello’s (on Taraval)
                                                                                            Scala’s (in the Sir Francis Drake)

                                                                                            Alioto's Restaurant
                                                                                            8 Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133

                                                                                            Old Clam House
                                                                                            299 Bay Shore Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94124

                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Oldnwise
                                                                                              escargot3 RE: Oldnwise Mar 20, 2011 09:57 AM

                                                                                              I had a business dinner at Spenger's earlier this year, and while the booths are the same as before, the food was definitely chowhound worthy tho priced higher than other comparable spots. I was really pleasantly surprised.

                                                                                              1. re: escargot3
                                                                                                Robert Lauriston RE: escargot3 Mar 20, 2011 10:50 AM

                                                                                                Spenger's was bought and restored by the McCormick & Schmick chain a few years back. They have some good happy hour deals.


                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                  escargot3 RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 20, 2011 12:33 PM

                                                                                                  fish tacos with a margarita is quite enjoyable...

                                                                                                2. re: escargot3
                                                                                                  ML8000 RE: escargot3 Mar 20, 2011 11:06 AM

                                                                                                  I've found Spenger's to be a good place to have a business lunch/meeting. Quiet enough to easily talk, rarely crowded, not too expensive (much better then dinner) and the parking lot across the street is validated making it quick in and out. Very handy.

                                                                                              2. w
                                                                                                winkingchef RE: Shane Greenwood Mar 20, 2011 10:16 PM


                                                                                                Food from Mad Men.
                                                                                                Chicken Kiev, Lobster Thermidor and similar heart-stopping delicacies.
                                                                                                Vintage cocktails from the era.
                                                                                                Fantastic desserts.

                                                                                                8 Mint Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94103

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