It used to be my favorite restaurant in Northern California (which is why it’s featured on my blog’s header), before it closed due to a fire on October 12, 2007. Original Joe’s was one of the most well-preserved classic restaurants anywhere (though it opened in 1937 the decor was mostly mid-century). The food was good too, if you stuck with the meat choices like steaks and chops, the Joe’s Special or their signature hamburger sandwich (two menu items common to all the Joe’s restaurants in N. Cal.). And the veteran waiters (like Angelo, who retired in 2005) were as entertaining as watching the cooks from the exhibition kitchen counter seats.
A couple of years ago it wasn’t looking promising for Original Joe’s reopening, despite a grant in 2010 of $50,000 from the City of San Francisco for its reopening in the name of local history and neighborhood revitalization. You see, it was located in the Tenderloin neighborhood, a place of SRO hotels, the down-and-out, winos, and drug addicts.
Then in 2011 came the news that Original Joe’s would reopen, but in North Beach instead of in its original location. Surely a great business move for the family, who told the press they labored long and hard over the decision to stay put or move. But to me it didn’t look promising because I’ve seen too many classic joints remodeled beyond recognition or moved to a new space decorated in a retro style that never feels like the original. I felt betrayed and vowed never to eat in some “new” Original Joe’s. Well, I am eating my words on seeing the photos of the new place. Designer Anthony Fish reused the original bar stools, recreated the original booths and signature open kitchen counter seating, and brought over the mermaid wall decoration, bricks, and wood ceiling treatments that were in the original’s bar. Even the menu is a reproduction of a 1950s design, with vintage graphics and all of their classic dishes retained.
Mayor Lee Rings In Original Joe’s Glorious Return Today – Eater Inside – Eater SF.
601 Union St., at Stockton, San Francisco. (415) 775-4877
Open Sun-Wed, 10:30am – 10pm; Thu-Sat, 10:30am – 11pm
Note: There is also an Original Joe’s in San Jose, which was terribly remodeled several years ago. The bar was transformed from 1950s film noir swank into late 90s Las Vegas trashy. The main dining room fared a little better, but received large saucer shaped Vegas conference room “chandeliers”. The street facade stayed the same, which begged the eternal question – why did they remodel at all?
There are several other “Joe’s” restaurants extant in Northern California, from the still original 50s-modern-coffee-shop-styled Marin Joe’s (my personal favorite; definitely the best food of all the Joe’s) and googie-modern Westlake Joe’s, to the ugly, remodeled San Rafael Joe’s and Vaca Joe’s (in Vacaville). As far as I know they are all individually owned. The name and some of the menu was imitated, but they are not affiliated with each other.
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