Everyone has heard of the Mark Twain quip about "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." Perhaps it is appropriate a place once named The Cold Day Restaurant is now as much a part of the city as the fog. The Tadich Grill like the cable cars, the Ferry Building and the Golden Gate Bridge is a part of the landscape. Certainly it doesn't hurt that it predates all of the other landmarks, dating from 1849. Adn, there is no doubt that it is a good place for a meal on a cold, foggy day. It exudes proper and upright stolidity like a paneled library, which it somewhat resembles.
When I first moved to San Francisco, I used eat lunch here every Saturday, perched on a stool at the long wooden bar with my hat and coat hung up behind me. The waiters, dressed in white linen jackets, are professionals and they are efficient without being familiar. Rumor has it that this was one of the last places you could find leather cups full of dice on the bar. A throw of the dice was used to determine who would pay for the meal. But even though I haven't seen them myself, it doesn't take much imagination to pretend that they are there in front of every other seat. I even met a Republican here once. I am not certain who was more surprised, me to find myself seated next to a Republican, or him to also find himself seated next to a Republican.
Unfortunately, the food also seems to be historic. It's solid food: fish, boiled vegetables, fried potatoes and optional sauces. Except for the sauces you probably got food like this at home if you are old enough. On my most recent visit, I ordered Sand Dabs: floured sautéed to a crisp, deboned and served with a wedge of lemon. Even though they were a first time order, they were strangely familiar and unexciting.
I find I don't eat here often any longer. To be honest, I guess I don't like the food that much and don't like paying $30 for lunch (Side Salad, Sand Dabs, and a glass of Pinot Grigo). Eating at the Tadich Grill is like being bathed in the glow of a an emanation of a penumbra from a long-ago San Francisco. It's comforting to be surrounded by softly polished wood instead of blank concrete, and it seems right for the waiters to be wearing white linen instead of black turtlenecks, but it makes you long just a bit for a roasted beet and goat cheese salad.