Whether it’s a stunning view, incredible baked oysters or unparalleled service, some Bay Area restaurants have stood the test of time — serving their loyal customers for decades or more.
These prolific eateries are part of the city’s fabric and to many locals, they are much more than just restaurants. These are the places where generations have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and milestones; where you can always count on a delicious meal, friendly smiles from the staff and memories that last a lifetime.
Original Joe’s opened its doors in 1937 in the Tenderloin as a 14-stool counter diner. Unfortunately, a 2007 fire burned the restaurant to the ground and the family who owned it had to find a new location for the beloved eatery.
Luckily, it discovered a fantastic spot on the corner of Washington Square Park in North Beach and, today, Original Joe’s is bigger and better than ever.
This new space has plenty of room for big groups, a lively bar that gets rowdy on game days, and intimate booths for date night.
The cuisine is classic Italian-American, so expect to see meatballs and garlic bread, eggplant Parmesan, penne alla vodka and chicken cacciatore.
If you’re in the mood for steak, it has that, too. There’s also Joe’s Special, a ground beef, spinach and mushroom scramble that is famous around these parts.
Chef Roland Passot has served French cuisine at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star La Folie since 1988. What started as a humble brasserie has turned into an intimate haven for upscale French cuisine with a contemporary local twist.
The savory offerings include caviar, elegant pureed vegetable soups, seared foie gras, frog leg and snail ragout, and duck breast. If you’re in the mood for a luxurious French feast, you can’t beat an evening at La Folie.
The next-door lounge dishes out inspired bar bites and has an exceptional wine list. Truffle popcorn, lobster croque and Krug champagne? Yes, please.
On any given weekday, you’ll find hungry tourists and local business people enjoying lunch at Tadich Grill. Established in 1849 in downtown San Francisco, this legendary seafood joint is believed to be the third-oldest continuously run restaurant in the nation.
This is the sort of place where the servers and bartenders have been passing plates and mixing cocktails for 20-plus years. The staff wears charming white doctor’s coats and there is a wonderfully nostalgic quality to the bustling restaurant and bar.
Tadich serves up San Francisco treats like traditional cioppino, pan-fried sand dabs and the hangtown fry, an oyster and bacon scramble that dates back to the Gold Rush.
If you’ve driven up the 101 from Marin to San Francisco, chances are you’ve noticed the sign for the Buckeye Roadhouse on the right side of the freeway. The historic Marin County restaurant opened in 1937 and has been serving its famous oysters bingo (a scrumptious cheesy-charbroiled oyster appetizer) ever since.
Other Buckeye favorites include the pan-roasted artichoke with creamy tarragon dip, Dungeness crab salad and smoked beef brisket with horseradish mashed potatoes.
With an old-school wooden interior, two-story seating and stone fireplace, the Buckeye is an ideal place to dine during the winter. It’s cozy and classic. Plus, the cocktails are tantalizing and strong.
It’s also a wonderful place for a celebration, be it dinner with the family on Easter Sunday or the little one’s 10th birthday.
When Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1971, she didn’t plan on starting a slow food revolution. Waters simply wanted to serve the style of food that she savored on trips to France — cuisine that focused on the ingredients rather than fancy technique. However, over the years, her famed establishment has come to define the quintessential Bay Area dining experience.
The menu features fresh, seasonal food from a network of nearby farmers and purveyors. Book a reservation in advance and come with an open mind, as a unique set menu is served each evening.
One recent night’s delectable selection consisted of grilled spring onion and blood orange salad with radishes and toasted almonds; Riverdog Farm chicken tagine with kalamata olives, baby carrots, and herbed couscous; and coconut panna cotta with passionfruit and kumquats.
Looking for an iconic eatery with a view? Perched on the edge of Ocean Beach, the Cliff House offers stunning vistas of the Pacific, making it an ideal place to bring out-of-towners to watch the sunset.
Dating back to 1858, the Cliff House has a storied past filled with several incarnations. In 2003, for instance, it was remodeled to mirror its 1906 appearance, which is the visage that can be enjoyed today.
Inside, there are three dining options: the more formal Sutro’s, the casual Bistro restaurant and the Terrace room serving cocktails and brunch. The awe-inspiring views are what set this unique venue apart, so grab a seat close to the window, order an Irish coffee, fried calamari or cup of clam chowder and take in the beautiful sights.
On a busy corner of Market Street, you’ll find Zuni Cafe, an adventurous restaurant that opened in February 1979. The late, great chef Judy Rodgers came on board in 1987 and is credited with making the restaurant the institution it is today.
Zuni was one of the first places to have an indoor wood-burning stove, where everything from fish to pizza could be slow roasted.
And if you’re talking fowl, there is no bird as famous as Rodger’s roasted chicken for two; it’s well worth the hour-long wait and hefty price tag for what might be one of the best chickens you’ll ever taste. Perfectly moist with an addictive crunchy skin and served with an arugula and bread salad, it’s a revelation.
Zuni also offers a sensational cocktail list and oysters on the half shell.