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The Tandoor-loin Bordered by O'Farrell, Geary, Leavenworth and Taylor streets, a little grid in the Tenderloin has become the unlikely hub of Indian food. In more than half a dozen restaurants in four square blocks, and a couple more places nearby, hip couples in de rigeur black chat on cell phones, women in saris admonish their kids, and cab drivers leave their taxis idling -- all as they down a mango lassi or quick tandoori kebab.

Instead of going the all-you-can-eat-lunch buffet route, or fancy sit-down dining with sitar music, these Indian food-lovers go for a simpler formula -- spicy, inexpensive food served on the fly.

The Chronicle's Food department compared the dishes offered at many of the restaurants, ordering the same dishes whenever possible -- chicken tikka masala, tandoori lamb chops, saag paneer, naan, rice and an occasional mango lassi. Here's what they found:

Pakwan: The big windows and airy feel of Pakwan set it apart from some of its hole-in-the-wall cousins. But the Pakistani-influenced Pakwan, where all the food is halal (slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law), isn't as vibrant as it might be. Tandoor lamb chops tasted as if they had been sitting in the marinade way too long. Palak paneer featured tough little blocks of cheese and a watery spinach sauce. Chicken tikka masala was tender, but the tomato-y sauce lacked character. Naan here was very crispy, and about the size of a small dinner plate. The best thing might have been the multicolored rice, with nuanced flavors of saffron and cardamom and a light texture. 501 O'Farrell St. (at Jones); (415) 776-0160. Open 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. daily.

Shalimar: Shalimar has become synonymous with the inexpensive Tenderloin Indian food scene, and with good reason. The naan alone makes the case. It's impeccable, with a light crisp bottom and big, soft bubbles on top, and is not the slightest bit doughy. Ordering -- which is done at the counter -- can be challenging, and you might be stranded there watching massive piles of chicken get chopped if you don't assert yourself. Still, a waiter with a crisp clean apron and towel runs food efficiently from the open kitchen in the back to your table, and tends to drinks or extra silverware. Palak paneer had a clean, spinach taste and tender chunks of cheese. Chicken tikka masala was nice enough, but lacked depth. The lamb chops were cooked almost past medium-well; an order is four chops, not nearly the same value as Naan 'N' Curry. Still, the naan, the aromatic rice, the fresh flavors and the service give Shalimar an edge. Plus, the place smells like a mix of mild disinfectant and grilling food, which is kind of pleasant. Shalimar, 532 Jones St. (near O'Farrell); (415) 928-0333. Open noon-11 p.m. daily.

Lahore Karahi: The new kid on the block opened in May 2003 and is still feeling its way. It's clean, spare, decorated with travel posters of India, and follows the model of ordering at the counter and fetching your own silverware and water. There are even three small tables outside, unusual in this stretch of the 'Loin. Indian music blares from a boom box at the counter, where service was exceedingly pleasant and helpful. The meat and poultry are halal. The menu features the usual array of dishes, but the twist here is that specialties -- lamb, chicken or salmon -- are cooked in an Indian wok called a kahari. The cheese in the saag paneer was nice and light. Chicken tikka masala was tender, but the sauce was sweet and one-note. Overall, the dishes were underspiced, perhaps overcorrecting for non-South Asian palates. 612 O'Farrell St. (near Leavenworth); (415) 567-8603. Open noon-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, until midnight Friday-Saturday.

Chutney: By comparison, Chutney is the four-star version of the order-at-the-counter Indian places in the Tenderloin. You could take your squeamish mother here without too much worry. All the tables and chairs match. The open kitchen looks more like what you'd find at a California bistro. As one diner said, "Look -- they've got sconces!" Meals start with a little chopped romaine salad with white onion slivers and tomato wedges. The mango lassi was outstanding -- cold, refreshing and fruity -- but the other dishes had flavors as subdued as the atmosphere. Naan tasted like under-cooked pizza dough. Chicken tikka masala had a refined feel, with tender cubes of meat. But the palak paneer really disappointed. The cheese was almost fluffy, but the pureed sauce was was reminiscent of baby food. Some redemption came in the form of five tandoor lamb chops. They had a nice light char from the oven and only a slight heat, which allowed more of the flavor of the meat to come through. Other pluses: You get a number when you order, which helps facilitate the snappy table service. 511 Jones St. (at O'Farrell); (415) 931-5541. Open noon-midnight daily.

New Delhi: With its tablecloths, extended menu, full bar and table service, the 15-year-old New Delhi, just outside the four-block Tenderloin grid that houses the other restaurants, aims higher than the newcomers. It's spacious, with tall gilt-topped columns and exposed brick. The menu ventures into inventive dishes like Kofta Shah Jahani, a stuffed meatball cooked in Kashmiri spices that supposedly was loved by the builder of the Taj Mahal, and Murg Akbari, a chicken-and-dried-fruit "favorite of Emperor Akbar." But the backbone of the food here is familiar: meats and poultry from the tandoor, curries and vegetarian sides. Saag paneer wasn't on the menu, but the kitchen was happy to substitute spinach for its version with peas and produced a fresh-tasting dish. Spicy and tender chicken tikka masala also was a special order (and at $17.95, a surprisingly costly one). The closest thing to tandoori lamb chops was Achari Boti Kebab, spice-marinated lamb chunks cooked in the tandoor; the seasoning was mild and the meat dry. The mango lassi was perfect. Service sings, and dishes arrive in decorative metal dishes. But at $57 for two including tip, the cost was at least double New Delhi's more casual competitors. 160 Ellis St. (near Cyril Magnin); (415) 397-8470. Open 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5:30-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

More Tenderloin restaurants:

Bodega Bistro: A gem in the middle of the Tenderloin's pho houses, this Vietnamese restaurant is dressed up with purple walls and black-and-white photos of Vietnam. The food is fresh and zingy -- green papaya salad with chewy pieces of dried beef, or Hanoi-style pork lettuce wraps. The pho -- Vietnamese rice noodle soup -- is fine as well, and comes with above-average accompaniments. (-SF Chronicle) 607 Larkin St. (at Eddy), (415) 921-1218. ( Chronicle Review

Borobudur: This restaurant straddling the Civic Center/Tenderloin sells genuine, home-cooked Indonesian fare with careful attention paid to traditional ingredients. Don't miss the flaky, multilayered roti prata with peanut dipping sauce, the sauteed string beans with dried shrimp paste, or the lamb and chicken satays. (--SF Chronicle) 700 Post St. (at Jones); (415) 775-1512. Lunch, dinner daily. ( Chronicle Review )

Farmerbrown: Fresh takes on soul food with an upscale bent. Main courses are substantial -- a huge pork chop over mashed sweet potatoes and plantains, and a rib-eye steak with a dose of anchovy sage butter -- but save room for the bourbon pecan pie for dessert to go with the Blue Bottle coffee. Gumbo and po'boys are served at the bar after hours, and are complete with house-made hot sauce. The ingredients are mostly organic and sustainable, and much of the produce comes through Mo' Better Food, an organization that connects restaurants with Northern California African American farmers. Cocktails include Southern favorites such as mint juleps. (-SF Chronicle) 25 Mason St. (at Turk and Market), (415) 409-3276.

Golden Era Vegetarian Restaurant: Step down Golden Era's short, dark flight of stairs and you'll be rewarded with a large, open dining room, topped by cheap chandeliers and tended to by a friendly, very Zen-like waitstaff. Every dish on the menu is completely meat-free, even those named "Heavenly Lobster" or "Lemon Chicken." Steamed buns with tofu and carrots (Tay-ho Rolls) are a favorite among the new-age and alternative college crowd. 572 O'Farrell St., (415) 673-3136.

Lalita Thai: Although the food is no longer on par with the decor, there are still some good options, like the angel chicken wing and the lamb musamun curry. Service is friendly and efficient. A fun cocktail list is a major draw for many of the nearby Hastings law students and pre-theater folks who fill the space. (-SF Chronicle) 96 McAllister St. (at Leavenworth), (415) 552-5744. ( Chronicle Review )

Maharani: This white-tablecloth restaurant features an monthly-changing ayurvedic menu, which consists of these six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter. The resulting dishes, such as the lamb tikka masala (sweet and spicy) and bhindi (salty and pungent), are well-balanced. The back room, called the Fantasy Room, comes complete with tented private booths and low tables with plush cushions. On weekends, it's the setting for an Indian dance party and movie nights featuring Bollywood films. 1122 Post St. (near Polk), (415) 775-1988 ( Chronicle Review )

Mangosteen: With its lazily waving fans, bright lime decor and French love songs on the sound system, Mangosteen is one of the first stylish Vietnamese restaurants in the Tenderloin. The imperial rolls are some of the best around, and expertly fried. The pho is very good and the five-spice chicken with rice or garlic noodles is terrific. Despite the restaurant's name, no mangosteen, a fruit from Southeast Asia, is featured on the menu. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 601 Larkin St. (at Eddy Street). ( Chronicle Review )

Millennium: Chef Eric Tucker has developed a loyal following among vegans and meat eaters alike for his complex combinations and his proclivity for mixing cultures, with influences from India, Indonesia, Spain, Latin America and many other parts of the world. The space retains the brasserie look that it had when it was Brasserie Savoy: marble accents, an open kitchen and an impressive bar. It's also great for people watching. (-SF Chronicle) 580 Geary St. (at Jones), (415) 345-3900. ( Chronicle Review )

Osha Thai Noodle: On a busy corner of the Tenderloin, this noodle house pulses with house music and life. The bright blue booths, surrounded by walls sponged yellow and orange, are filled with young people from the neighborhood slurping up noodle-laden tom yum soup and pan-fried rice noodles with egg and broccoli. Open until 1 a.m. on weekdays and until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, it's a nice place to head after clubbing for the noodle dishes as well as snacks like deep-fried taro rolls, chicken wings or fish cakes. (--SF Chronicle) 696 Geary Blvd. (at Leavenworth); (415) 673-2368. Lunch and dinner daily. ( Chronicle review )

Pearl's Deluxe Burgers: No-nonsense joint cuts right to the caloric chase with satisfying renditions of fully loaded hamburgers. 708 Post St. (near Jones Street), San Francisco; (415) 409-6120. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., until 2 a.m. Fri.-Sat. ( Chronicle review )

Saigon Sandwiches: This tiny counter sets the standard for banh mi, the French-Vietnamese sandwich on a hot, crisp roll. Each bite delivers crunchy crust, barbecued pork or chicken and a blast of fresh cilantro, carrot and jalapeño, with a smear of mayonnaisey special sauce. Cash only. (-SF Chronicle) 560 Larkin St. (at Eddy); (415) 474-5698. ( Bargain Bites 2004 )

Thai House Express: This bright and perky restaurant on the edge of the Tenderloin offers a more casual and less expensive menu than its two sister restaurants, Thai House and Thai House Cafe, both in the Castro. What makes this place unique are the regional dishes seldom seen in other Thai restaurants, such as kao soy, a northern curry noodle dish, and sai oou, a northeastern spicy sausage appetizer. Most people order the rice plates such as kao ka moo (sweet slow-braised pork leg over rice) or kao mun gai (poached chicken with soy-ginger sauce over oil-cooked rice). The food is regarded by many Thais as the most authentic street food in the Bay Area. (-SF Chronicle) 901 Larkin St., (415) 441-2248. ( Bargain Bites 2004 )

Thai Noodle: This late-night dining staple has undergone quite a face-lift, with an extra room added on, a fresh, bright coat of paint and hip, modern light fixtures installed. The food is still nothing extraordinary, but it does just fine at 2:30 am. 696 Geary St., (415) 775-4877.

Vietnam II: Of all the restaurants cooking up pho and other Vietnamese dishes along the stretch of Larkin Street dubbed Little Saigon, Vietnam II has by far the most extensive menu. A few items top the bargain range, like the deep-fried boneless duck, abalone and crab (live from the tanks by the door). But most don't. Even the most deluxe versions of the pho -- giant bowls of star anise-scented broth crowded with noodles and rare beef, brisket, chewy tripe, melting tendon or whatever you choose -- top out at $6.50. And this is a certifiably great bowl of pho. (-SF Chronicle) 701 Larkin St. (at Ellis), (415) 885-1274. ( Bargain Bites 2004 )

The Summer of Love was a revolutionary time. It started in Haight-Ashbury and spread throughout the rest of the city--and eventually, the world. Although the Summer of Love was 50 years ago, there are many restaurants from that era that are still open today. Who knows? You could be dining today where like the likes of Janis Joplin , Jimi Hendrix or the Grateful Dead once ate.

According to the SF Heritage Legacy Project , here are the San Francisco restaurants that were cooking up love back in 1967.


The Old Clam House (299 Bayshore Ave.)
The Old Clam House was established in 1861, making it the oldest restaurant in San Francisco. Initially named "The Oakdale Bar & Clam House," the restaurant served seafood to neighbors and locals. When the restaurant first opened, its immediate setting included Islais Creek. In the wake of the 1906 earthquake and subsequent construction, the creek was filled in, with nearly 100 buildings built throughout the neighborhood. Even as its surroundings have evolved, the Old Clam House has maintained its unique historical identity.

Sam Jordan's Bar (404 Third St.)
Established in 1959, Sam Jordan's Bar was created by boxing champion Sam Jordan. The business occupies an 1880s building located within “Butchertown,” the name given to the Bayview, as it formerly contained corrals, slaughterhouses and tanneries. Sam Jordan himself was an African-American community leader and proprietor. Often known as “The Mayor of Butchertown” for his strong involvement in the community, he became the first African-American candidate for Mayor of San Francisco in 1963.

Bernal Heights

Wild Side West (424 Cortland Ave.)
Founded by Pat Ramseyer and Nancy White in 1962, the Wild Side Bar first debuted in Oakland before moving to San Francisco in 1964. The bar's new moniker became Wild Side West, named after the 1962 Barbara Stanwyck film "Walk on the Wild Side." Since then, Wild Side West has been a haven for artists and musicians. Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan frequented the bar for its pool tables, and owner Pat Ramseyer opened the doors to numerous struggling artists. While the establishment is considered one of the few lesbian bars remaining in San Francisco, today the owners consider it to be a "community bar with a lot of lesbians."


Cafe Du Nord (2170 Market St.)
Café Du Nord is located where the Swedish quarter of the city once thrived. Residing in the basement of the San Francisco Swedish Society, the bar is one of two music venues that occupy the same building, with the Swedish American Hall above. Café Du Nord began its operations in the basement shortly after the debut of the Hall, and it remained open through Prohibition as a speakeasy. Eventually, live music was added to the line-up, and the underground venue earned acclaim for supporting local talent.

Central Market

Gangway Bar (841 Larkin St.)
Billing itself as one of the oldest gay bars in San Francisco, the Gangway opened its doors under a different, unknown name in the Tenderloin in 1910. The nautical-themed bar has had numerous monikers throughout its history, but the name "Gangway" originated in the 1960s. During this era, it became a gathering place for the local gay community, acting as a haven for those who had been marginalized and turned away from other businesses.

Tommy's Joynt (1101 Geary Blvd.)
Opened in 1947, Tommy's Joynt is the original Hofbrau (a cafeteria-style restaurant) of San Francisco. Tommy's Joynt has been owned and operated by the Harris, Veprin, and Pollack trio since 1947. Tommy Harris, one of the original owners, was also a popular crooner on the local radio station KFRC during its golden era in the 1930s. Over the years, such illustrious figures as Herb Caen and Senator Dianne Feinstein have dined at the restaurant that bills itself as the place “Where Turkey is King.”


Far East Cafe (631 Grant St.)
Far East Café has been serving both locals and visitors fresh Cantonese and Sichuan cuisine since opening in 1920. The restaurant is located right in the heart of Chinatown, just two blocks away from the Gateway of Chinatown and directly across the street from Old St. Mary's Church. The interior of Far East Café is adorned with antique Chinese artwork that dates back over a hundred years. Oriental chandeliers hang gracefully from the elevated ceilings, and interior murals bring color and liveliness to the walls.

Hang Ah Tea Room (1 Pagoda Pl.)
Hang Ah Tea Room was established in 1920 and is one of the oldest Chinese restaurants still in operation. Touted as the oldest dim sum house, this gem is tucked away in one of the Chinatown's many small alleys. This restaurant was a symbol of hope after the destruction of much of Chinatown during the 1906 earthquake.

Sam Wo's (813 Washington St.)
Dating back to 1912, Sam Wo is one of the oldest restaurants in Chinatown, with roots linked to the recovery of the community after the earthquake and fire. In the 1950s, it was a popular hangout for members of the Beat Generation, who frequented the restaurant to order from its "secret menu." The restaurant also gained widespread attention for its notorious server, Edsel Ford Fung, who earned the title "world's rudest waiter" from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen.


The Ramp (855 Terry A. Francois Blvd.)
Located in the heart of the industrial waterfront, The Ramp has grown from a bait shop to a beloved neighborhood joint and Hollywood backdrop in its more than 60 years of operation. Jim and Donna Elkin, the original owners, sold bait from a stand yards from the bay, serving primarily small boat fishermen. Eventually, they added hot dogs and other concessions to their shop, including a bar in the 1950s.

Embarcadero/Financial District

Alfred's Steakhouse (659 Merchant St.)
Open since 1928 and recently restored to its vintage glory, Alfred's features dry-aged steaks cooked over a mesquite grill, along with sides, appetizers and even vegetarian entrees inspired by the Bay Area's fresh produce. Martinis and Manhattans are served with a refill in the shaker, and Bananas Foster are flambéed table-side, in a nod to steakhouse traditions.

Pier 23 Café
Pier 23 Café was founded in 1937 along the Embarcadero. During the heyday of the waterfront in the early 20th century, each pier was home to a “java house” or “bayside bar” that served longshoremen, dockworkers, and soldiers. The Café is famous for the 1939 photograph of the ladies of Sally Rand's Nude Ranch, which hangs above the bar. Rand, San Francisco's reigning burlesque dancer, hosted the most popular attraction for people visiting the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island. Under the ownership of Havelock Jerome, the establishment began hosting live music in the 1950s. In 1958, Chronicle jazz critic Ralph Gleason declared Pier 23 Café "one of the few remaining Good Time and Pleasure Clubs left in an expanding universe of ICBMs, chromium bar fixtures and blue mirrors."

Schroeder's (240 Front St.)
Originally founded in 1893, Schroeder's longstanding history has made the Bavarian-inspired beer hall a favorite of San Francisco residents and business professionals for the past 120 years. The original structure was opened at 545 Market St. and was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire. After relocating to 16th and Mission for a period of time, Henry Schroeder, who was actively involved in downtown San Francisco's reconstruction, reopened the restaurant at 240 Front St.

Sam's Grill (374 Bush St.)
The story of Sam's Grill begins in 1867, when Irish merchant Michael Molan Moraghan began selling fresh Bay Oysters out of a vendor stall in the California Market, which was located in the neighborhood that later became the Financial District. He quickly became the area's leading seafood and shellfish merchant, giving him the title "The Oyster King." Though the California Market was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, the Moraghan business continued operating at various spots around the city. By 1919, the California Market had been rebuilt between California and Pine Streets, and Moraghan's business was renamed Burlingame Oyster Company. Bought in 1922 by businessman Samuel Zenovitch, Burlingame Oyster Company became Bay Point Oyster Co. and Zenovitch & Zenovitch before arriving at Sam's Seafood Grotto. In 1936, under the ownership of Frank Seput, the seafood establishment became Sam's Grill and Seafood Restaurant, and the name has endured ever since. The business relocated to 374 Bush St. in 1946, and Seput's sons joined the business after the end of the war.

Tadich Grill (240 California St.)
Tadich Grill first opened as a coffee stand on Clay Street in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. Croatian immigrants Nikola Budrovich, Frano Kosta and Antonio Gasparich set up a tent and served fresh fish grilled over charcoal to the merchants, sailors and argonauts that populated the waterfront. In 1887, John Tadich, an immigrant from the Dalmatian region of Croatia and a bartender at the saloon, purchased the establishment and renamed it the "Cold Day Restaurant" in 1882. Following the destruction of the restaurant's home in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, John Tadich reopened his business in a series of locations, settling at 545 Clay St. in 1912 with the name "Tadich Grill." Tadich sold the restaurant in 1928 to the Buich family, who continue to own and operate the establishment that is best known for serving traditional seafood today. In 1967, the restaurant moved to its current location on California Street after the building on Clay Street was purchased for redevelopment. Renowned for its interior details, including distinctive Art Deco lighting fixtures, the owners took great care to preserve the original atmosphere and design, including relocating the original Clay Street bar to the new location.

Fisherman's Wharf

Alioto's #8 (8 Fisherman's Wharf)
Honored as a San Francisco legacy business for being open since 1925, Alioto's was started as a fresh fish stall by Nunzio Alioto, a Sicilian immigrant. To this day, it is still serving Sicilian-influenced seafood with an incredible view.

Fishermen's Grotto (9 Fisherman's Wharf)
Another Fisherman's Wharf stalwart that harkens back to the neighborhood's origins, Fishermen's Grotto has been serving seafood since 1935. The original restaurant (still in the same spot) was decorated in a Venetian motif, with gaily painted mooring poles reminiscent of Venice. Today, it's a great place to sit down, grab a cocktail, fresh seafood and marvel how far it has come.

Sabella & La Torre (2809 Taylor St.)
Established in 1927, by Luciano Sabella and his son Antone, Sabella and La Torre (originally call A Sabella) is one of the few original Fisherman's Wharf restaurants in existence today. Upon arriving in San Francisco from a fishing town in Sicily named Siacca, Lucian immediately put his learned trade to work by crab fishing outside the bay. In 1927 he opened A Sabella selling crabs and other seafood items to drive up customers. After World War II, Antone decided to sell the stand to his two brothers Frank and Michael Sabella and his two nephews Toni and Louis La Torre. As time passed on, the business expanded into a full-service restaurant. Today the operation is being run by the fourth generation, catering to both locals and tourists from around the world.


Aub Zam Zam (1633 Haight St.)
Once referred to as the "Holy Shrine of the Dry Martini" by San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Herb Caen, Aub Zam Zam represents a special piece of city history. The owner, Bruno Mooshei, was so ornery that it became a game among patrons to see who could stay in the bar the longest. Bruno would throw someone out for something as trivial as putting the wrong song on the jukebox or not ordering a drink he liked. Today, they are certainly friendlier.


Balboa Cafe (3199 Fillmore St.)
One of the oldest operating saloons in the city, Plumpjack Balboa Café was established in 1913 in Marina/Cow Hollow. During Prohibition, the Café hid its secret stash of booze in its inconspicuous kitchen nestled in the rear of the building. This also allowed Café staff to conveniently run to the nearby butcher and stock up on meat needed for its dishes. Today the Café is a popular joint among locals for its inventive American food, drinks, and lively and rustic night atmosphere.

The Bus Stop (1901 Union St.)
Representing four generations of family ownership, The Bus Stop has been in operation since the early 1900s. In 1960, the name was changed to the “Bus Stop,” for the Muni bus stop located on the corner of Union and Laguna Streets, three feet from the bar's entrance. After realizing that an entire evening of work would only bring in $11, the owner initiated some additional changes that would later result in new business. New décor, a new logo, polished brass, and premium cocktails with fresh-squeezed juices all added to the enhanced ambiance.

Horseshoe Tavern (2024 Chestnut St.)
Affectionately known as “The Shoe,” Horseshoe Tavern was established in the Marina District on Fillmore and Chestnut in 1934. The original owner, Vic Ramos, was a storied character, serving as a U.S. Marine and a football player for an early team that would go on to become the San Francisco 49ers. Over the next several decades, Horseshoe Tavern also went by the names The Wrinkle Room or God's Waiting Room, but always maintained its faithful regulars. Three such regulars, Robert Walker, Brenda Turner and Stefan Wever, had known Ramos for years and made him many offers to purchase the bar, which he always turned down. Finally, after 38 eight years serving as the bar's owner and proprietor, Vic Ramos sold to the three enterprising patrons.

Manua Loa (3009 Fillmore St.)
In 1939, Johnny and Marie Martin purchased a bar at 3165 Steiner Street, known at the time as the Silk Hat Inn, for $10. They were drawn to the neighborhood due to its proximity to the water. Under the terms of their agreement with the original owner, the Martins operated the bar under the same name for the first 10 years. In 1949, they changed the name to Mauna Loa, likely a tribute to the Hawaiian volcano, which had been particularly active the year they moved to San Francisco. The following year, the bar relocated to its current location at 3009 Fillmore St., and the Martins moved into the apartment on the second floor. They operated the bar with simple values, offering basic comforts to all of their customers, at times even loaning money to those down on their luck.

Mission District

Double Play (2401 16th St.)
This bar has been a favorite hangout joint for Bay Area baseball fans since its opening in 1909. Double Play is among the last remaining tributes to the old San Francisco Seals Stadium. The stadium was demolished after the 1959 season, shortly after the New York Giants moved to San Francisco and the Seals departed for Arizona. The old stadium site is located right across the street. Inside, the bar showcases a vast collection of notable past player's gloves, scorecards from famous games throughout baseball history, and signs advertising old San Francisco businesses that have since disappeared.

Elixir (3200 16th St.)
On 16th Street and Guerrero sits arguably the oldest bar in the city (definitely in the Mission), Elixir. Since the Wild West days, Elixir has been transformed into many things. In 2003, it was fully restored, including its original bar, and returned to its former glory.

The Homestead (2301 Folsom St.)
Opened in 1906 as The Old Homestead, there's evidence in this Mission bar that it was a speakeasy during Prohibition. The private room in the back couldn't make it anymore obvious. The Homestead maintains much of the same decor that was around during the turn of the century.

St. Francis Fountain (2801 24th St.)
St. Francis Fountain was founded in 1918 by James Christakes, a Spartan immigrant. The business, which remained in his family for three generations, focused on its confections, ice cream parlor, and its lunch counter. For decades, the bustling eatery hosted workers and families from the local Irish, Italian and German immigrant communities. Legend has it that the Morabito brothers, who owned a nearby lumberyard and frequently lunched there, devised their plan to purchase the 49ers franchise in the late 1940s over a meal at St. Francis Fountain.

Whiz Burger (700 S. Van Ness Ave.)
Whiz Burger has been a fixture in the Mission District since its establishment in 1955. Since then, it has been considered one of the few places in the area where you can order a hearty old-style burger.

Nob Hill

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar (950 Mason St.)
Located at the Fairmont San Francisco, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar has delighted guests with its tropical décor, decadent libations and Asian cuisine since 1945. Having reigned as a swanky outpost of South Seas style for much of its storied history, the Tonga Room more recently gained a following as an icon of tiki's pop culture heyday of the 1940s and 1950s.

Top of the Mark (999 California St.)
In 1910, engineer George D. Smith walked past the eventual site of the hotel and declared he would one day build a hotel there, on the corner of Mason and California Streets. The Mark Hopkins Hotel quickly became a social center of post-earthquake San Francisco. Smith created a San Francisco institution when he converted the 11-room penthouse on the 19th floor of the hotel into a cocktail lounge walled only by glass, with unparalleled views of the city. Designed by architect Timothy Pflueger, the penthouse became known as the Top of the Mark. The lounge was an immediate hit upon its opening on May 11, 1939.

North Beach

Fior D'Italia (2237 Mason St.)
One cannot mention old-school, classic Italian food without thinking of Fior D'Italia, located in the heart of North Beach. Established in 1886, not only will Fior D'Italia fill your Italian taste buds, it has also been a center of Italian culture in the community.

La Rocca's Corner (957 Columbus Avenue)
Opened in 1934, this sports bar has a place in baseball lore as Joe DiMaggio's favorite hangout. During the 1940s and 50s, local mobsters were known to frequent La Rocca's as well.

Northstar Cafe (1560 Powell St.)
The oldest bar in North Beach, Northstar is a comfortable neighborhood bar with lively character, including such eccentricities as a customer-of-the-month award and a perpetual supply of free popcorn for its happy patrons.

Original Joe's (601 Union St.)
This veteran Italian-American restaurant is a classic San Francisco dining experience. With dark wood interior, red leather booths, and smooth cocktails, it's like you jumped into a scene from “Mad Men.” Don't forget the awesome fireplace.

The Saloon (1232 Grant St.)
The oldest saloon in the city, The Saloon has been has a great place to grab a drink and get your dance on since the 60s —1860s, that is.

Tony Nik's Cafe (1534 Stockton St.)
When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Tony Nicco immediately opened his business in North Beach. Tony Nicco's was called a café because, at that time, food was required to be served with alcohol. Step in and step back in time. Entering Tony Nik's will bring you back to an era of friendly and professional bartenders, ice cold beer, delicious cocktails, and drinks served just the way you like them.

Vesuvio Cafe (255 Columbus Ave.)
A regular hangout of beatniks Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg, Vesuvio was the seat of the hippie revolution. As the neighborhood has evolved, the bar has become a tribute to jazz, art and poetry.


The Cliff House (1090 Point Lobos)
If you know anything at all about San Francisco — or even if you don't — chances are that you've heard of the historic Cliff House . Since 1863, this fabled restaurant has been a favorite for generations of locals, tourists, foodies, history buffs and lovers of the fine art of good living. It has hosted some of the most famous people in the country, including Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William McKinley, and a who's who of Gilded Age millionaires. However, in spite of its grand history, it retains its original warm, welcoming atmosphere that has made it a favorite restaurant for people from all over the world for more than 150 years.

Tommy's Mexican Restaurant (5929 Geary Blvd.)
Touting the title of "The Premier Tequila Bar on Earth," Tommy's Mexican Restaurant serves genuine, family-made recipes from the Yucatán. Tommy originally migrated from the town of Oxkutzcab as part of a guest worker program, and after the restaurant opened, much of his extended family joined him. Over the years, he provided numerous jobs and an informal safety net for dozens of friends and acquaintances from the Yucatán who moved to San Francisco, many of them settling in the Richmond District.

Trad'r Sam (6150 Geary Blvd.)
Established in 1937, Trad'r Sam is an early example of Tiki design and culture in San Francisco. Though the Tiki movement reached its heyday around the country in the 60s, this interest in Polynesian culture first emerged in the 1930s in San Francisco as bartenders competed to concoct imaginative and exotic cocktails. This Outer Richmond watering hole stands out as one of the few remaining bamboo bars. Adding to the bar's kitschy charm are the different seating areas named after tropical islands, all of which are covered in rattan. Trad'r Sam continues to offer the same menu of tropical drinks as it did in 1937.


The Garden Court and the Pied Piper Bar (2 New Montgomery St.)
Both housed inside the Palace Hotel, the palm-filled Garden Court debuted in 1909 with the reopening of the hotel after the 1906 Earthquake. Known for its magnificent stained-glass atrium, elegant Austrian crystal chandeliers, and lush tropical flowers, the Garden Court has been one of San Francisco's most prestigious dining halls since its inception. The Pied Piper Bar & Grill also dates back to 1909. The establishment is named after the Maxfield Parrish painting that was commissioned for the opening of the bar. The painting, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," is one of only two Parrish barroom artworks in the country, and the only one to remain in its original location.

Hi-Dive (Pier 28)
Before it became known as Hi-Dive, Boondocks, a lounge established in the 1930s on Pier 28, was a popular San Franciscan dive bar. Boondocks was known for its eclectic waterfront atmosphere and tasty, comfort-driven menu featuring items such as braised lamb shanks sold at $7.25 per dish or sautéed fresh snapper offered at the same price. Popular among sailors and dock workers, the joint was an indelible part of the bustling port.

Hotel Utah Saloon (500 Fourth St.)
Hotel Utah Saloon opened in 1908 with a clientele primarily consisting of shady people. The original owners, the Deininger family, commissioned furniture makers in Belgium to design and create the ornate bar-back. They also served Fredericksburg beer, which was brought to The Utah by horse and carriage and lowered into the cellar in wooden kegs. Completion of the Bay Bridge in 1936 ushered in a new type of clientele from across the bay, including longshoremen, merchants, metal smiths and furniture makers. In the 1950s, Hotel Utah Saloon bartender-turned-owner Al Opatz renamed the bar Al's Transbay Tavern and would play host to clients from beat poets to gangsters, as well as celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio and Bing Crosby. The bar was renamed the Hotel Utah Saloon in 1977, when the co-writer of the 1979 movie The Electric Horseman , Paul Gaer, took over the business. Gaer added a new stage where folks like Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams and the Pickle Family Circus performed early in their careers.

House of Shields (39 New Montgomery St.)
The House of Shields is one of the oldest bars in San Francisco, but its origins are somewhat of a mystery. The building was completed in 1912 and owned by Eddie Shields, but did not officially open as a bar and gentlemen's club until 1944. During prohibition, however, House of Shields served as a speakeasy connected to the Palace Hotel by way of a secret underground tunnel. The House of Shields was a gentlemen's club for most of its history, as women were not permitted until 1976.

Java House (Pier 40)
The Java House has been in business since 1912. Through the years, The Java House has served longshoremen, sailors, dock workers, military personal, yachtsmen and women, baseball greats (including some current Giants), as well as other celebrities. The menu has remained the same with a few additions in recent years to satisfy the appetites of current clientele.

Red's Java House (Pier 30)
The java joint on Pier 30, which first opened as Franco's Lunch during the Depression, was known for its cheeseburger and beer breakfast special. It was founded in 1912 and around 1952 was purchased by two brothers, Michael and Thomas “Red” McGarvey. Eventually, a brotherly feud led Red to leave the partnership and purchase Franco's Lunch, to which he gave the nickname by which he'd been known since childhood due to his red hair. Fortunately, the brothers eventually reconciled, and Red was joined again in business by his brother, who gave up the original Java House to work at Red's.


Little Shamrock (807 Lincoln Way)
As the Sunset District's oldest business, the Little Shamrock has been serving drinks on Lincoln Way since the late nineteenth century. So the legend goes, Antone J. Herzo (born in Austria) and his wife, Julia Herzo (born in Ireland) opened the doors in 1893 to serve workers at the Midwinter Fair in Golden Gate Park. San Francisco city directories, however, indicate that the Herzos resided in the Richmond District and operated a saloon at Seventh Avenue and Fulton Street. Following her husband's death in 1893, Julia Herzo moved the Richmond bar to 733 Fifth Avenue and established the Little Shamrock around 1896, as well as another bar at Ocean Avenue and Arlington Street the following year. Around 1900, she married Jason P. Quigley, and the couple resided in the same building as the Little Shamrock. Since the 1930s, the Little Shamrock has attracted athletes and sports fans due to its proximity to Kezar Stadium.

Union Square

John's Grill (63 Ellis St.)
Dating to 1908, John's Grill remains an indelible part of San Francisco's living history. Featuring original period furnishings, the dark paneled walls of this downtown establishment are replete with old San Francisco memorabilia and portraits, reminding patrons of the city's rich past and the restaurant's layered history. John's Grill solidified its place in popular and literary culture when it appeared in Dashiell Hammett's noir masterpiece, The Maltese Falcon . The restaurant proudly displays photographs of Hammett and Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet, stars of the celebrated film adaptation. While John's Grill is a popular tourist destination today, it was a haunt for politicians, newspaper barons, financiers, and private investigators for generations and continues to serve its time-honed fare to its dedicated "regulars."

Sears Fine Foods (439 Powell St.)
Sears was founded in 1938 by Hilbur and Ben Sears. A former circus clown, Ben Sears was very well-known for his traditional Swedish pancakes, made from a recipe inherited from his wife's family. Mrs. Quita Benner bought the restaurant from the Sears family in the early 1950s, but she maintained both the name and the menu. Benner added the “Cadillac Waiting room,” where the owners parked their two pink Cadillacs with their heaters and radios on to provide comfort for their guests. Benner's son-in-law, Al Boyajian, convinced Mrs. Brenner to move the restaurant from the 500 block of Powell to its current location at 439 Powell St.

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Stay 2 nights 15%
Stay 2 nights and get 15% discount. No discounts on weekends