Buena Vista is a San Francisco institution that is equally popular with locals and tourists. Serving a mouth-watering menu that consists of all-day breakfasts, burgers, sandwiches, entrees, and desserts, the cafe is most famous for its Irish Coffee.
70 Days Across America
Where to eat like a local in San Francisco.
The Buena Vista has been a San Francisco institution since 1916, when it transitioned from a boardinghouse to a saloon.
The name is Spanish for “good view”, and what a view it had!
With its unobstructed view of the Golden Gate, fishermen and dock workers could sit in its toasty interior keeping an eye out for incoming fishing vessels while sipping whisky.
When the right boat came in, off they went to earn their keep …
Best Irish Coffee
All of that changed in 1952, when Stanton Delaplane, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, returned from a trip to Europe.
He mentioned to then owner of the Buena Vista, Jack Koepppler, that he had tasted a heart-warming coffee and whisky-based cocktail at the airport in Shannon, Ireland, while waiting for a flight back to the United States.
The two of them decided to see if they could concoct the same thing, but it proved to be far more difficult than either one of them could have imagined.
They simply couldn’t get the taste right, and they couldn’t get the cream to float to the top of the coffee the way it did in Shannon.
Following numerous failed attempts over a lengthy period of time, they finally discovered that the cream had to be aged for 48 hours and frothed to just the right consistency.
The tipple was an instant success, and it soon became popular across the United States.
- The Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Café is made with Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey, Peerless Organic Coffee, C&H Sugar, and Heavy Cream.
Where to Eat Lunch …
While I was staying at the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square, I asked an old friend that lived nearby if she would like to join me for lunch. I also asked her for a recommendation as to where we should eat.
With so many restaurants and cafes in the neighborhood to choose from, we were totally spoiled for choice.
Should it be Mexican food, Italian food, seafood, or a burger? What about a Greek salad, sushi, or Vietnamese fare?
Since I was the visitor, my friend insisted that the decision was all mine.
When I couldn’t make up my mind, she said, “What about the Buena Vista?”
As a travel blogger, I was torn between trying an old place that had passed the test of time and trying something newly opened.
After a bit of thought, I decided on the former.
The Menu …
Lunch and dinner choices range from hot entries to burgers and sandwiches. No nouvelle cuisine here. Everything could only be described as “comfort food”.
There are 10 hot entrees, ranging from spaghetti and meatballs to fresh trout, grilled salmon, New York strip, and Jambalaya rigatoni.
All entrees are served with a house salad and San Francisco sourdough French bread.
All burgers and sandwiches are served with a choice of cole slaw, potato salad, French fries, or sweet potato fries
Desserts include warm bread pudding with Irish whisky sauce, New York style cheesecake, molten chocolate cake, and carrot cake.
There are also numerous daily specials.
Breakfast is served all day, with mouth-watering choices ranging from three kinds of eggs Benedict and cinnamon French toast to New York steak and eggs, corn beef hash, eggs Blackstone, and five kinds of omelets.
For a decadent side dish try the Ghirardelli dipped Chocolate Bacon!
Our Lunch …
The Reuben Sandwich
Reuben Sandwich – made with grilled corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing, served on rye bread with a choice of cole slaw, potato salad, or French fries. US$15.95.
The Cable Car Meatloaf
Cable Car Meatloaf – served with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and house gravy, served with a house salad and San Francisco sourdough French bread. US$16.95.
The food was hearty and the servings were generous.
The Ambiance …
The Buena Vista has a lengthy bar and large tables, which means parties of two have to share tables.
The convivial atmosphere encourages conversation with strangers, and we had a wonderful time chatting with the charming British couple that shared our table
The Verdict …
I have to be honest: I’ve had Irish Coffee before, and I was never impressed. I only ordered it at the Buena Vista out of curiosity, but I was totally blown away.
I LOVED it! It was smooth and creamy. I had to have a second cup. And I’m sure I’ll go back upon my next trip to San Francisco.
As for the food, my Reuben sandwich was delicious. Would like to try other dishes. I also loved the sense of history – if only those walls could speak!
Buena Vista – 2765 Hyde Street (at Beach), San Francisco, California. Tel: (415) 474-5044.