It has finally happened. At 2am Monday morning the doors of the Tosca Cafe closed and the ownership under Jeanette Etheredge came to an end. It is scheduled to re-open with new owners and the only thing that will change we’ve been told is that it will now serve food.
Jeanette Etheredge will always be welcome said new owners April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman, but there is something to be considered. The new owners are from New York and if there’s one thing San Franciscans like to thumb their nose at more than Angelenos it’s New Yorkers. We don’t like the pompousness of the food they present. We aren’t going to pay $200 for a skewer of lamb that was made while the chef was standing on his or her head while singing Verde. Food is not about what goes on in the back room, it’s about taste and the look. We don’t need gold leaf on our hamburgers if we can’t taste it. We love good food and we’re practical about it.
So we have a couple of New Yorkers who sound like they understand this and don’t want to change a San Francisco institution. Good for them. They better keep to it. Minor updates aren’t a bad thing and I honestly believe if they clean the nicotine stains off the walls that would be an improvement even if they added a bit of character, but I fully expect when I go in there to see the bartenders wearing the old school lab coat style jackets and ties. I fully expect the Irish Coffees and Cappucinos to remain unchanged and when they add food they better take into consideration of the last paragraph.
Hipsters and others moving into San Francisco are killing off the history of this city that attracted people to it over the years. This is a bad thing because they’re actually destroying what brought them here in the first place. Tosca is a hold over from a long time ago and its class doesn’t really attract the hip crowd. It attracts a more grittier type of people with a few lines on their face and some history behind them, not the nouveau types who have come here to make a few bucks and leave.
On closing night you could see why Tosca was so popular with some of the more colorful people of San Francisco. Francis Ford Coppola, Will Durst and Carol Doda were some of the names of celebrities who were there. They may not all be A list, but they’re all well known enough that they’re appearance made a statement.
I read an article on SFgate today that the Tosca Cafe may be closing. While I wasn’t a frequent visitor, I’ve been there enough times that it feels like home when you walk in the door. It has quite a history that the SFgate article doesn’t cover so I’m going to give you the details today.
It turns out that Tosca opened in 1919 and it was the first place in the United States to serve espresso and cappuccino. Started by three Italians who came to San Francisco after World War I, they wanted to create a bar like they used to frequent in Italy. This made Tosca a keystone of North Beach. Their drinks that they were known for were their cappuccino [which unlike Starbucks has brandy] and the White Nun [steamed milk, brandy and kahlua]. Tosca is also known for it’s Irish Coffee which many people say is better than the Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe where it was started.
Carol Doda was known to be seen sitting in the front window sipping White Nun’s in between her acts at the Condor club. Many other celebrities from around the world have been known to stop in at Tosca’s. Jerry Brown is a regular customer as is Willie Brown. It’s the place to go in San Francisco to find celebrities and it’s a same that the strip club owner landlord wants to shut down a piece of San Francisco history.
Last night was the best free entertainment I’ve had in years. After living 48 years in the Sunset District I finally had a chance to step into the United Irish Cultural Center. I have to say it was a real treat and getting to meet most of the mayoral candidates and hear them talk was just icing on the cake.
The Irish American Democratic Club hosted a political debate that was pretty much a gloss over due to the fact that there were eight candidates they only had 2 minutes to introduce themselves and one minute to answer each question. The first humorous part was when they announced the order the candidates were going to speak. Saying they would start from the extreme right drew a roar of laughter. I thought we had passed a law against the extreme right in San Francisco. The second humorous part was the signal they used to notify each speaker that their time was coming to an end — a loud boinging sound. Boing meant wrap it up Boing Boing meant you time was up and Boing, Boing, Boing meant SHUT THE HELL UP AND SIT DOWN!
I suppose now would be a good time to summarize the opening statements. I’ll have to look back to the tweets I was sending out during the debate.
- Dennis Herrera: Fast out of the gate trying to get as much in as possible in two minutes that I didn’t really understand what he was saying other than vote for me.
- David Chiu: Like many San Franciscans he attended private school as a Chinese kid surrounded by many Irish Catholics. I guess he forgot to mention the Roman Catholics that were there as well, but first play of the Irish race card. I guess I’m also not like many San Franciscans because I attended public school and I’m not Chinese. I have been surround by Irish Catholics a few times, but I won’t go into that here.
- Joanna Rees: Speaks about diversity [always a word you have to use in politics] and entrepreneurial interests. She uses lots of adjectives and not many nouns, so I’m not sure what she was advocating.
- John Avalos: Speaks about families and how to keep them in San Francisco as well as bringing businesses to San Francisco. Safe, but smart move.
- Tony Hall: I’m a Republican talks about corruption in politics, jobs, cutting parking fees. I didn’t get much past the I’m a Republican part. Chances are slim with an opening statement like that.
- Leland Yee: Gives a nod to Tony Hall and how he grew up poor in a one room dwelling. Pretty good to grow up poor and have the most money invested in this election. Pretty bad that he gives a nod to the Republican in San Francisco.
- Phil Ting: In his years as assessor, we’ve brought in more money than we’ve been spending. OK, why then is the city in the red?
- Bevan Dufty: Tells us we have three choices, we know that. Tells us things aren’t working, we know that.
- Michaela Alioto-Pier: Plays the Irish card heavy telling everyone that she’s fifth generation Irish and even tells us which county in Ireland her family is from.
And there you have it. Now the questions start:
- Ranked choice voting: Everyone pretty much glossed over it to cover points on their agenda. The people with the better chance of winning were against it, the underdogs were in favor of it.
- Your thoughts on reunification of Ireland: WTF?!? What could the Mayor of SF do to influence the reunification of Ireland? Everyone of course said yes, because you don’t come into the U.I.C.C. and repay their hospitality with insult. The Irish race card was played heavily here to the point that David Chiu answered, I David O’Chiu say YAY! I had to step outside the box this morning and talk with a friend of mine in Dublin, Ireland. When asked the same question he said, Probably not. I would like to think that as members of the European Union we can celebrate nationalism without borders. Besides, violence would increase 10 fold with Irish unification. Sure England are our biggest exporters, actually they are pretty much carrying Ireland lol. OK ’nuff said.
- Keeping our neighborhoods safe: OK, would you really expect one of the candidates to say no to this?
I realized that I had been standing for well over an hour after the introductions and three questions were asked so I got a bit distracted and noticed that the rest of the questions were like question three in that you’d be an idiot to say no to them. The Irish card was played very heavy last night forcing @BethSpotswood to tweet: I’m just waiting for one of the candidate to be like, “And another thing. I love potatoes! And U2. And nuns.”
It was fun to hang out with the local bloggers and discover as we were tweeting our impressions from the back that I was standing next to C. W. Nevius of the Chronicle. I have yet to read his take on last nights proceedings though.
Overal, I didn’t get much indication of who TO vote for than I did get more who NOT to vote for. At least that helped me narrow down the playing field.
Tonight I’ll be heading over to the United Irish Cultural Center to listen to several of the candidates for mayor tell me why I should vote for them. This is my first time getting involved with anything close to real politics and also my first time stepping into the U.I.C.C.
Scheduled to appear tonight are: Leland Yee [who’s staff apparently doesn’t like me very much], Phil Ting, John Avalos [a man who took several minutes out of a campaign stop to talk to me personally], David Chiu, Joanna Rees, Bevan Dufty, Michela Alioto-Pier, Dennis Herrera and Tony Hall.
Since I’ll be visiting the United Irish Cultural Center, it seems only fitting that I wear my green suit in honor of Irish heritage even if I’m not Irish myself. It also doesn’t say if there will be drinks or snacks available, but I’ve been told they have an excellent restaurant that I might stop by for some potato leek soup, cod and chips with a slice of Bailey’s cheesecake to finish it all off.
From what I’ve been reading about the political candidates running for mayor, none of them are straying too far from each other for fear of losing a place in the second or third tier of the ranked choice voting. I’m assuming then that many of the candidates tonight will probably be saying the same thing unfortunately, that is unless Rose Pak shows up with the Run Ed Run crew. The only other thing that could get interesting is if I get pulled aside by some of Leland Yee’s crew to have a word about some of my previous posts regarding him.
If I end up spending the night in the bar then at least I’ll have a few friends to sit with me. Slainté!
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Francis “Lefty” O’Doul was born here in San Francisco. He is considered one of the New York Giants most colorful and popular personalities. He played in the Pacific Coast League as well as the Major League, where in 1929 he had a .398 batting average. It was the highest average of any National League outfielder in the 20th century.
Lefty was a highly respected coach and manager for the San Francisco Seals baseball team. He was a friend and team mate to the great players of our time, such as; Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, and Ty Cobb to name a few. Lefty was the man who brought two countries together after World War II. Lefty was credited for bringing America’s favorite past-time to Japan.
In 1958 Lefty O’Doul had an inspiration to open a restaurant bar in San Francisco where friends and family could come to eat and meet with sports stars, creating a unique environment where everyone was family. Over the years Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant has seen the likes of some of baseball and Hollywood’s greatest entertainers. We strive for quality food and quality service with the Old World Charm of baseball’s past. We feel that this is the way Francis “Lefty” O’Doul would have wanted it.
OK, enough with the by the book story. That’s off of their website. Lefty never got the chance to open the restaurant and his friends the Bovis family made his dream come true. Lefty’s has a wall that is a sort of mini museum to all the people who have ventured into this sort of Irish, sort of sports bar, definitely San Francisco establishment. This is the closest to an Irish pub that I’ve encountered in San Francisco and Lefty’s is definitely old school San Francisco.
When you go there expect a hof brau atmosphere. Lost of good food at a cheap price that’ll have you filled up for at least the next day or two. It’s the only place downtown where you can get dinner with a beer for $10. The food is good here and plentiful. The menu is a working man’s fare of roast beef, corned beef, turkey legs, ham or lamb shanks served up with potatoes and vegetables or sauerkraut. Of course being a San Francisco establishment named after an Irish baseball player it’s not unusual to find turkey enchiladas on the menu.
While it only got started in 1958, it still became a San Francisco classic fast. They cater to families having a special kids menu and when you go in expect to get your food quick. This is a good thing if you work downtown and only have a half hour for lunch. Lefty’s opens at 7am sharp and stays open until 2am. It’s one of the few places left downtown where an under paid working man [or woman] can get a good meal cheap. Make sure you try their signature Bloody Mary when you go in.
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I was surfing around the web yesterday when I got a notification that an old friend of mine Kirsten had added me to the Sunset District Group on facebook. I had to check this out since it’s one more thing about San Francisco. I’m glad I did.
Someone started this group so that all the people who grew up and or lived in the neighborhood could get together and talk about the old times. I like nostalgia so as I’m starting to look over the postings a portion of my brain unlocked and all these childhood memories started flooding back in.
Names I hadn’t heard in close to 30 years started to pop up. People were posting old photos of places that no longer exist [Don’t cook tonight, get Chicken Delight!] It was fun reading all the old stories. There’s a lot that’s gone over time. Like the Fotomat booth that used to be out near the foot of Noriega. Aladdin Bowl on Noriega which I always remember people complaining that the lanes were warped and of course you can’t talk about the good old days in the Sunset without a mention of the old ice skating rink out on…45th Ave was it?
Then there was the post of all people I knew as a kid who had died. It was kind of sad finding a bunch of people who’s names you haven’t heard in years only to hear more names of those that have died. But at least there’s more fun to cover the sadness.
There’s over 2300 people now in the group and it’s growing faster every day. If you want to know what it was like growing up in the Sunset amidst the fog this is a good place to go.
On a completely unrelated note, I received a tweet today from @geeksugar which is a website for techie girls that was in response to their request for the nerdiest/geekiest pick up line ever used. I guess I won with:
Sorry, I will not tell you what CHMOD 777 means if you don’t know and I didn’t realize how funny it would be until my cellphone started vibrating off the table with all the retweets. I’ve finally come up with something that’s gone viral. Let’s see how far it goes now.
The Buena Vista and Irish Coffee have become an icon of San Francisco history. While Irish Coffee originated in Ireland, it was refined to perfection at the Buena Vista on the Wharf which is still the best place to sit and enjoy a glass looking out over the bay.
The trick in making a proper Irish Coffee starts with the glass. It is a 6 oz glass as you see in the picture. 6 oz being the optimal amount to perfectly mix all of the ingredients and the Buena Vista seems to have a lock on these glasses. I luckily have a few from the 50’s that my parents picked up when they were all the rage.
You start by pouring hot water into the glass to heat it up to a proper temperature then pour the water out and fill the glass with coffee to about 3/4’s full. Add two cubes of sugar and a shot of Jameson’s Irish whiskey, no other whiskey will do. The secret technique which took a few years for Jack Koeppler and Stanton Delaplane to figure out was how to keep the cream from sinking to the bottom. It turns out that aging the cream for about 48 hours and briskly frothing it made it float. You would then pour it over the back of a spoon to neatly let it float on top creating a drink of Ireland that was inherently native to San Francisco.
While the Buena Vista sell’s Irish Coffee glasses to the public for $5.95 each, those aren’t the real Irish Coffee glasses of legend. There is no handle on them and they appear more goblet-like than the originals. Apparently what makes this drink taste so good is the glass. At least that’s what people have been saying recently. I’m not sure if that’s true or not which means I’ll have have to pull out a bottle of Jameson’s and brew up some coffee and do a taste test.
Probably the two people who helped make the Buena Vista and Irish Coffee well known as the “San Francisco Drink” were Stanton Delaplane and Herb Caen, though Herb often ordered, “Irish Coffee, hold the coffee”. For those who don’t recognize the name Stanton Delaplane, he was one of Herb Caen’s co-horts at the S.F. Chronicle and if I remember correctly Herb’s column was on one side and Stanton’s was on the other.
As a kid I looked up to these two because they made San Francisco more than it was. They were old school, kind of like Sean Connery was old school Bond compared to Timothy Dalton who’s now old without the school. That’s probably why I liked things like scotch and vodka martini’s before I was old enough for people to think I should be drinking them. Irish Coffee is one of those old school drinks that I think needs to make a comeback with the vodka and redbull crowd. Irish Coffee was the vodka and redbull of the old days. It turned you into a wide awake drunk so that maybe you’d remember how stupid you acted the night before.
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