Nestled in a building two blocks from Union Square and not far from San Francisco’s big convention center and major hotels, John’s Grill has been hosting celebrities from all over the world for more than 100 years. It was created in 1908, only two years after San Francisco’s devastating earthquake. Indeed, John’s Grill was the first downtown restaurant to open after the quake. It quickly became a bustling anchor in the city’s multi-faceted life – hosting a beguiling and lively mixture of politicians, cops, journalists, entertainers, lawyers, business leaders and the just plain curious who wanted to join in the fun, all while eating some of the best food on the west coast. From the time when San Francisco was rebuilding itself and becoming the financial capital of the western United States, on through World War II (the city was the major embarkation point for troops heading to war in the Pacific) and into the heady hippie days of the Sixties and beyond, John’s Grill was – and still is – the downtown gathering place for those who ran the town and those who wanted to run the town.
Inside, today’s customers will find period furnishing and dark paneled walls framed with hundreds of photos of movers and shakers (and a sprinkling of the not-quite movers and shakers), most of them from the San Francisco Bay Area, but several from the world of state and national politics. On the robust menus, diners have their choice of great steaks, fresh seafood and a variety of salads – try the famed seafood combo salad named for fitness guru Jack LaLanne.
“Sam Spade went to John’s Grill, asked the waiter to hurry his order of chops, baked potato, sliced tomatoes...and was smoking a cigarette with his coffee when...”