Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jack's - Is a restaurant that has come and gone worth talking about?

I think so. Jack's Restaurant was once the second oldest in San Francisco. It originally opened in San Francisco in 1864. Jack's Restaurant was the epitome of San Francisco private elegance at 615 Sacramento Street, in an old three-story building. 

The Carte de Jour was incredible – a patron could order anything with any sauce and any vegetable where they could dine publically, or on the second floors discrete rooms that featured a hall and private stair access to go and come so as not to be seen. One dined for hours. San Franciscan’s often dined as a family. Even the children were properly dressed, with the boys in suit and tie, and girls with their pink ruffled dresses and white gloves. This was a place that was cash only. The staff took their reservations over a pay phone that hung of the wall at the edge of their small bar. If you were a regular and had a reservation, your were seated immediately, even if a line was out the door and down the block.

This was also my father’s favorite restaurant for all the same reasons: that we were never disappointed at Jack’s. My favorite waiter was a bit of a boozer but always somewhat gruff while at the same time charming. We would play a game every time I came. I would ask how the house wine was. He would say I will bring you a glass, which he did promptly. After pouring an elegant glass from a full bottle, he would leave the bottle. Every night of the week had its own special five-course meal with selectable alternatives, which was a real bargain even at $50 a person back in the sixties.

Was this the best food, or what exactly made Jack’s standout and make Playboy’s 50 Best restaurants in world in 1970?  I think in some respects the menu certainly helped but when Playboy polled their raters, it was how comfortable they felt there. If a patron ordered steak cooked extra well done with a sweet white wine, the waiter would say “excellent choice” – a customers was never wrong, the staff made us feel like royalty.

I have to say that no restaurant I go to now serves old-school favorites like fried eggplant,  creamed spinach, chateaubriand with a bordelaise sauce, sweetbread in a brandied maitre d’Hôtel sauce, escargots bourguignon,  and crepes suzette.

Also read: Last Taste of History / S.F.'s second-oldest restaurant succumbs to the real-estate market, By Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer, Published 4:00 a.m., Friday, December 15, 2000

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