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Gone but not Forgotten

Foodlum | Sep 6, 200407:17 PM

Krys's superb post about the Old Clam House on Bayshore sent me first on a nostalgic trip back to the east coast seafood of my youth - then I started daydreaming about all of the great San Francisco restaurants and food that live on today only in memory…like Junior’s beef jerky, across the street from the cable car barn…(Cue the cable car; fade to foggy flashback…forward into the past!)

I grew up on Long Island, and as a kid my folks would take me and my sister and brother to Manhattan almost every weekend for culinary adventures of every sort, from Chinatown holes-in-the-wall for the Moo Goo Gai Pan of the moment to 4 star formal French restaurants where my dad Gilbert and my uncle Fred always seemed to be on a first-name basis with the Maitre d'…actually my dad seemed to be on a first-name basis with every owner of every food business we ever walked in to (“Gil, you don’t want this lox, your lox is in the back…”) The only rule regarding food in our house was taste new things once. If you don’t care for it you are not required to eat it ever again.

I happily ate my way from one end of New York to the other, from sausage and pepper sandwiches handed through a window on MacDougal Street to soup-within-a-soup at Shun Lee Palace. When I washed up on the shores of San Francisco Bay a couple of years after the Summer of Love there were exciting new western culinary vistas to explore and I was ready… Artichokes! Dungeness crab! Avocados! Jalapenos! Sourdough Bread! Burritos!

I moved to SF in 1971 to attend the Art Institute in North Beach, and only gave up my flat in the Mission this past August. One of the first meals I had when I got to town was at the US restaurant, and I became a regular there for about 25 years. I liked everything about the place - the waitresses who never wrote anything down, pasta al pesto added to any entree for 50 cents, the veal sliced and pounded to order on the big old chopping block in the tiny open kitchen. I was crestfallen when it closed while I was out of town. It was simple, homey and delicious.

Flint’s BBQ on Shattuck – foremost proponent of the Oakland school. Their ribs were good enough to make their reputation, but the coarse-ground beef links propelled them into the stratosphere of cue. I used to drive my 240Z over the Bay Bridge about once a week for a Flint’s fix. The links never made it back across the bridge, always eaten before we hit the toll plaza.

Pat O’Shea’s Mad Hatter on Geary. In the early 80’s I was the service manager at SF Yamaha. Every Wednesday a group of guys who worked in the local bike shops would have lunch together at O’Shea’s, a kind of motorcycle Chamber of Commerce. The chef was a young woman named Nancy Oakes. She offered four to six specials on the blackboard every day, food of astounding creativity and quality for not very much money, all turned out in a kitchen that would not have been out of place on a sailboat.

Doggy Diner – what can I say? The food wasn’t much, but what a sign!

Keystone Korner on Vallejo – not really food related, but nourishment for the soul. The west coast jazz club equivalent of the Vanguard in NYC. Owner Todd Barkin booked all the greats, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Dexter Gordon, Pharaoh Sanders, Chet Baker. It’s an Asian beauty shop now…

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