Diners in San Francisco


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In 1947, owners Mel Weiss and Harold Dobbs assembled a staff of 14 carhops to serve passing motorists at the first Mel's Drive-In. For the next two decades, customers partial to automobile dining flocked to the chain’s 11 California locations, eager to wash down grass-fed half-pound burgers with thick milk shakes. As fast-food outlets outpaced the drive-in's once-speedy service, its popularity declined, and it was eventually scheduled for demolition. The building got a temporary reprieve, however, when filmmaker George Lucas decided to use the drive-in's original location on Lombard Street as the colorful backdrop for his film American Graffiti. As bulldozers destroyed the last remnants of the historic drive-in, American Graffiti opened in theaters. A decade later, though, Mel's son Steven reopened Mel's Drive-In in an attempt to carry on his father's dream. Steven restored the drive-in's multiple locations to mirror their original motif by stocking each with midcentury must-haves such as illuminated marquees, jukeboxes, and Elvis-themed WiFi passwords. The drive-in’s menu, meanwhile, balances period-appropriate fare, such as hot dogs and burgers, with healthy options, such as the Haven’s Famous vegetarian sandwich, two slices of nine-grain bread topped with avocado, sprouts, and tomatoes.
3355 Geary Blvd
San Francisco,
CA
US
Louis’ Restaurant: A User’s Guide Waterfront, Cliff-Top Dining | 80 Years of History | Organic, Local, Fair-Trade Ingredients | Diner Menu Sample Menu: Breakfast: coffee with a cheddar-filled, chili-stuffed omelet Lunch: Shrimp Louis salad Dinner: 8-ounce new york steak sandwich Beer: Anchor Steam Dessert: locally baked pie served à la mode The Setting: Louis' is nestled in the craggy, fog-blanketed cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. Massive windows not only showcase this stunning, panoramic landscape—with a red-streaked sunset if you time your visit right—but also indigenous and 19th-century ruins. This view, especially if taken in through the glass-walled corner booth, makes visitors feel like they're savoring their tuna melt in a fairy tale. The Ingredients Eggs: cage-free, and sourced from within 100 miles Produce: certified organic, and sourced from within 200 miles Meat: natural, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed, humanely-raised Bread: sourced from within 25 miles Desserts: sourced from within 25 miles Coffee: certified organic and certified fair trade Green Stuff: Louis’ prides itself on being an eco-friendly establishment, from its 55% recycled tiled floors to its compostable takeout containers, and most everything in between. History Valentine's Day, 1937: Married Greek immigrants Louis and Helen Hontalas open shop. In addition to a full menu of dine-in options, they sell peanuts and popcorn from wagons outside. 1939: Their son Constantine, third after John and Jim, is welcomed as the newest Hontalas. 1947: 27-year-old Rachel "Rosie" Lelchuk, wearing her signature flower in her hair, begins her 55-year career as a Louis' Restaurant server. 1973: The National Park Service acquires the land Louis' sits on, making the restaurant an official NPS concessioner. 1975: Jim, now the owner, dramatically renovates the building. 1988: The NPS opts to shutter Louis' Restaurant—but thousands upon thousands of customer-written postcards convince officials not to go through with it. 1997: Jim retires, and his sons Bill and Tom step in. 2002: Rosie retires at the age of 82. 2010: Another remodel gives the place a whole new look, and a contract with the NPS keeps the Hontalas family in charge for at least another 10 years.
902 Point Lobos Ave
San Francisco,
CA
US
St. Francis Fountain Historic Soda Fountain | Monster Hashes | Egg Creams and Floats | Vegan Milk Shakes | Hangover Cures Sample Menu To eat: hamburger with spuds To share: a pair of Upside Down Hog Cakes—pancakes made with bacon, cheddar, and onion To drink: milk shake Past Lives: St. Francis Fountain came by its lovely old neon signage authentically—it’s been a soda fountain since Greek immigrant James Christakes opened it in 1918. The family updated the dining room in 1948, but not much else changed until Peter Hood and Levon Kazarian took it over in 2002 after the original spot closed. (In the interim, Mission Local reported, regulars taped pleading notes on the windows asking that the fountain be preserved.) The new owners preserved St. Francis’s spirit while trading in the candy- and ice-cream-making areas for a full menu; the ice cream now comes from local institution Mitchell’s. While You Wait: Browse the selection of vintage pop-culture ephemera filling what used to be the candy case, perhaps picking up a pack of Magnum, P.I. trading cards to entertain a fussy 55-year-old. Inside Tips Scan the menu closely if you’re vegetarian or vegan—tons of dishes have meatless or nondairy tweaks available. Larger groups might have trouble finding space here, since seating options are limited. (Things were smaller in 1918.) Vocab Lesson Black Forest ham: a black-edged ham named for the part of Germany where it’s produced via a three-month process involving curing with garlic, coriander, pepper, and juniper berries before it’s smoked over fir branches. Egg cream: a classic (egg-free) fountain drink made with soda water, chocolate syrup and a little cream or, more commonly, milk. While You’re in the Neighborhood Before: Ramble down Balmy Alley (parallel to Treat Avenue and Harrison Street between 24th and 25th Streets) and tour murals ranging from the 1980s to, potentially, a couple weeks ago. After: Plot to make your own sourdough french toast with a sourdough-bread-baking class from Sour Flour at La Victoria Bakery (2937 24th Street).
2801 24th St
San Francisco,
CA
US
Five Things to Know About Toast Eatery Toast Eatery satisfies the Bay Area’s breakfast and lunch cravings with its unique take on classic greasy-spoon fare. From Nutella-slathered pancakes to mac & cheese made with bleu cheese and cheddar, each dish invokes a simpler time while reflecting a modern sensibility. Here are some more facts to chew on before your visit: Breakfast is the main event. Guests can take their pick from 10 omelets, 10 scramblers, and 7 types of pancakes—not to mention house favorites such as corned beef hash and salmon benedicts. The French toast is a must-try. Cooks make this morningtime delicacy their own by dipping challah bread or a croissant into a special egg batter made with vanilla cream and cinnamon. *There are plenty of post-breakfast eats, too. Specialty salads, sandwiches, and burgers make it tempting to stick around for multiple meals. Hot, cold, and boozy beverages abound. From lattes to milkshakes to bloody mary’s, there’s a fix for everyone’s craving. There are two locations. Toast can be found on Church Street and 24th Street. Pro tip: the 24th Street spot stays open ’til 9 p.m. most nights, while Church Street calls it quits by 5 p.m. at the latest.
1748 Church St
San Francisco,
CA
US
Zazie’s moniker comes from a ‘60s-era French film starring a pint-sized heroine of the same name. In an interview with Check, Please!, owner Jennifer Piallat describes mischievous Zazie as a French Shirley Temple—that is, one who drinks, swears, and smokes. With a mascot like that, perhaps it's surprising what type of people the French bistro attracts. It’s mostly families and regulars (about 80% by Jennifer’s estimation), a fact Jennifer credits to her staff, who form a rapport with the regulars by shouting the name of their own favorite board game every few minutes. Of course, Zazie didn’t score a stellar Zagat rating on its service alone. Critics and customers delight in the brunch menu, which is filled with treats such as house-made cream cheese coffee cake, pancakes, eggs, and, of course, French toast. But Jennifer prefers dinner, when chefs prepare grilled pork chops with Riesling sauce and casseroles of crispy duck leg and French sausages. Experience these dishes outside on the garden patio or in a dining room where vintage posters embellish exposed brick walls.
941 Cole St
San Francisco,
CA
US
Sam's Diner offers delectable diner chow in a comfortable environment — ideal for a casual get-together. The menu at Sam's Diner does not include any low-fat options, so come ready to indulge. Sam's Diner diners can also take advantage of the many drink options offered here. Youngsters don't need to sit out a trip to Sam's Diner — it's super family-friendly and perfect for little diners and their folks. Wifi is on the house at Sam's Diner, so bring along your tablet or laptop. Big crowds can spread out in comfort at Sam's Diner, which specializes in hosting large groups and gatherings. Be sure to make reservations so you can get seated right away. Take it nice and easy at Sam's Diner, where casual dress is the rule of the day. If you need to feed a big crowd, Sam's Diner also offers catering services for parties and get-togethers. If you're strapped for time, take out food from Sam's Diner. You can leave your car curbside with nearby street parking. Prepare to spend about $30 per person when dining at Sam's Diner. The breakfast dishes at the restaurant really bring the crowds in, though lunch and dinner are also served.
1220 Market St
San Francisco,
CA
US
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