Cafeteria Nostalgia: The Bickford's-Foster's Empire
If you are old enough to remember Bickford's Cafeterias in New York or Foster's Cafeterias in San Francisco (I was intimately familiar with both), here's a website that documents all their locations, including commissaries and retail outlets. Also included are the M&M cafeterias in Miami and various other Bickford's-controlled properties, including The Cliff House in San Francisco.
There was something very existential about sitting for hours in a Bickford's or a Foster's, and Allen Ginsberg and other beats found creativity there.
Any favorite food memories from these cafeterias?
When I was young, many many years ago, I applied at Bickford's. Their employment office consisted of an office with a one-armed woman who took my application. She started me off at a coffee shop named Bick's rather than in a cafeteria. I worked there for awhile
At a later date I applied at Foster's Cafeterias in SF and they sent me to another coffee shop down near Fisherman's Wharf someplace. Being shy and used to going in through the kitchen, I went around back and entered the open door to the kitchen. I found the manager's office and he acted as if I was a hold-up man. Wanted to know how I go tin, why I didn't come in through the front and impressed upon me that my entrance that way was a good way to get shot. Not being particularly desperate for a job at the moment, I told him I had obviously made a big mistake in coming in. I tossed my referral from the office onto his desk and left never to return.
Unfortunately I don't have any particular foods from those places. I did enjoy the macaroni and cheese and the navy beans at the Automat. I worked at the Automat commissary for over a year. The pay wasn't great, but everything else was. And Mr. Hardart knew everyone by his/her first name. That's a lot of names. Nothing but the best quality in everything they prepared. Sad to see all these landmarks slip away.