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San Francisco Bay Area

Red's Java House - longer than the menu


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Red's Java House - longer than the menu

Stanley Stephan | | Aug 7, 2002 02:32 AM

Ok, everyone's been there. Everyone knows about it. Not much has changed.

After visiting the Union Square area last week, it was nice to have a cheeseburger and wine for the grand total of $3.20.

On top of that there's a pleasant view of the bay, an outdoor "patio" and free parking.

For the two people who probably haven't been there, the burgers are in the McDonald's style, but larger, and can be ordered on a french roll or regular hamburger roll ($2.10. Ten cents more for cheese). Red's uses Heinz catsup unlike the unidentified, inferior red stuff McD's is currently pushing.

Despite living practically next door, I have not been there for quite a while. Wine has doubled in price from fifty cents to a buck, but is still served in styrofoam cups with a lid. There are now french fries ($1.25) and onion rings ($2.25) on the menu.

Since the ballpark opened, Red's hours have expanded and there was a sign that said they were opened for dinner. That seems to mean fish and chips is added to the menu. They are open for Sunday brunch as well.

There are limited breakfast items on the menu now. Last time I was there it was just coffee and donuts. You can get a short stack of pancakes for $3, a McMuffin type of sandwich and a few types of other egg dishes.

There is also a sandwich of the day that seems new.
Monday - Italian Sausage
Tuesday - Club Sandwich
Wednesday - BBQ Chicken
Thursday - Meatball
Friday - Fish and chips

Other than that, things look the same.

Coffee (.75 / 1.00) is smooth and I really liked it. I'm not sure if they still roast their own. Last time I was there you could buy bags to go, but I didn't see any on this visit. If you want decaf, however, it's instant coffee. A sign on the wall says "Espresso - No Way".

Sandwiches (2.10. Add 25 cents for cheese) include ham, salami, turkey, tuna and deviled egg. Clam Chowder - $2. Hot dogs - $1.90. Chili & beans - $1.90. Trip to the past - priceless.

Beer is either Bud (1.90) or Anchor Steam (2.90). I'm thinking the Anchor Steam is an upgrade.

There are now tables outdoor in the back, some of them made of old doors. The bay was active. Red kayaks glided by. There is a run of anchovies in this part of the bay currently that is attracting striped bass that in turn is attracting a few fishermen. A curious otter stuck it's nose out of the water from time to time. Pigeons eyed my burger greedily. Seagulls squacked complaints that I was not sharing my meal. A pleasant way to pass some time on a sunny (finally) day.

A search for the history of Red's on the web doesn't yield a lot of information. It's opening date is listed as either 1923 or 1925. San Francisco had a thriving shipping industry and each pier had itÂ’s own java house in the 1920's.

Artist Richard Perri captured some of the Java houses and a link to an article about his work is as follows:

An interesting, but I suspect untrue history of Red's was posted on epinions by someone claiming to be Red's son.

There are two reasons I think this is a phony. says Red's was named for a former owner who was an Irish boxing coach. The epinions poster doesn't metion this as the career of the "father".

Also, the post was in 2000 and the author claims the dad still owned the place. However, Steve and Maria Reilly have held the month to month lease for at least a dozen years. They led a write in campagn to save Red's from being torn down by redevelopment in the mid 90's.

The site for the stunning black and white photo of Red's (which captures the place perfectly, IMO) is below. There's two more pictures including a lunch photo.

A sidewalk plaque near the Red's says the remains of the "Lost Ghost Ship: Lydia." have been buried nearby beneath the Embarcadero

Red's Java House
Pier 32
San Francisco, CA 94105
Mon-Tue 6am-4pm (open later on game days
)Wed-Fri 6am-8pm
Sat-Sun 9am-3pm