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Restaurants & Bars 26

Eat at Al's

Zach Georgopoulos | May 16, 200312:56 AM

OK, as I've made clear in the past, I love old hole-in-the-wall places, where I can eat things like pot roast and mash potatoes at the counter. I don't know why I like these places and their basic food so much -- most people dismissively refer to them as "greasy spoons" and move on to the next place, unless they're in some desert town with no choice.

Anyhow, it must have been fate that made my motorcycle came to a halt with a little "pop" in the outer Mission tonight. Usually when she does this, she's trying to tell me something, like "I'm tired because you don't take care of me, and this looks like a fine place for you to eat." I've learned to listen to my 'sickle, So I looked up, only to be greeted by the grinning, body-less visages of Laurel and Hardy, surrounding the sign for "Al's Cafe." "Good Food," is the unassuming logo beneath the floating heads, and there was a newish banner that said something like "Still Open for Business, Just Waiting for You." I'd seen this rather striking sign before, but it was always when I was driving/riding by in a hurry, and I had never taken a good look at the place. The way I see it, that banner was talking to me, but then again I think my motorcycle talks to me, so maybe I won't go any further down that road...

Gleaming stainless steel based stools along a looong counter, lots of tables, and more movie paraphernalia than you can shake a stick at welcome you, as does the proprietress (Jeanie, I quickly found was her name) who calls you (and other patrons, and the hapless counter worker) "honey" and "sweetie" and encourages you to eat more than you should. The menu is straight out of the '40s, with lots of roasted and fried meats, basic salads, daily soups, Prime Rib, Shrimp Cocktail, chili, and all sorts of other classic diner dishes. Among the burgers was a chili burger (somebody was posting about those the other day), there are lots of hot sandwiches (proudly served on white bread), and a breakfast list that includes Biscuits and Gravy and Chicken Fried Steak, among other artery clogging options. Sort of a poor man’s Original Joe’s. Heaven!

Anyhow, to cut this short -- had the fried pork chops, served with mashed potatoes and basic vegetables. Exactly what I expected and craved -- not amazing, but good, basic diner food. Came with soup and salad and a huge hunk of garlic bread. The winner was the Navy Bean soup, which was flavorful and thick with beans and chunks of ham. No beer or wine, but Jeanie winked at me conspiratorially and said "we can't sell it, but they can't stop us from giving it away," whereupon she produced an ancient looking bottle of Gallo and filled my water glass. Perfect!

I didn't ask, but the feeling I got was that Jeanie just reopened this place after some sort of hiatus, as she seemed downright ecstatic to be there, and was still training the counter fellow. She gave me tour of some of the movie paraphernalia, which included stills and small posters her parents had collected in the '20s (Jeanie ain't no spring chicken, though, and she proudly displays the Ice Follies programs she has collected herself). If, like me, you actually like greasy spoon, diner type fare and atmosphere, you can't lose with this place. Plus, they're just the nicest folk you'll ever meet.

Al’s: Mission @ 29th, across from Rock Soup. Open 7 days a week.

I found some pictures of the place on the web:


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