Buena Vista Cafe San Francisco

Buena Vista Cafe 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.

Take the cable car to Buena Vista Cafe for an authentic Fisherman’s Wharf breakfast!  The iconic San Francisco eatery is popular with both tourists and locals. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

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Want to eat like a local in San Francisco? If you eat at the  Buena Vista Cafe, you won’t just be eating like a loca. In fact, you might even get to meet a local!

In fact, the iconic eatery at 2765 Hyde Street has been a San Francisco institution since 1916. And that is when it transitioned from a boardinghouse to a saloon.

To clarify. the name is Spanish for “good view”. And what a good view it had!

Because Buena Vista San Francisco had an 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.

Buena Vista Irish Coffee Recipe

Here I am savouring a delicious Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

So what is the origin of Irish coffee? Was it really invented at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco as many people think? Not exactly.

In fact, there is an interesting story behind the cocktail’s invention.

When Stanton Delaplane, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, returned from a trip to Europe in 1952, he boarded a flight back to the United States at the airport in Shannon, Ireland.

When he got back to San Francisco, he mentioned to Jack Koeppler, owner of the Buena Vista, that he had tasted a heart-warming coffee and whisky-based cocktail while waiting for a flight back to the United States at Shannon Airport.

So the two of them decided to see if they could concoct the same thing. However, 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.

There were numerous failed attempts over a lengthy period of time. However, they finally discovered that the cream had to be aged for 48 hours. And it had to froth to just the right consistency.

Their Buena Vista Irish coffee recipe was an instant success. And it soon became popular with tourists visiting San Francisco from across the United States.

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. In addition, I 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 I make the decision.

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.

Buena Vista Cafe Menu …

Entrees come with a garden salad and San Francisco’s famous sourdough French bread. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Lunch and dinner choices range from hot entrees 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.

And all entrees are served with a house salad and San Francisco sourdough French bread.

In addition, all burgers and sandwiches are served with a choice of Coleslaw, potato salad, French fries, or sweet potato fries.

Finally, desserts include warm bread pudding with Irish whisky sauce, New York-style cheesecake, molten chocolate cake, and carrot cake.

Moreover, there are 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

A mouth-watering sandwich with potato salad and a pickle. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Reuben Sandwich – made with grilled corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing. served on rye bread. And it comes with a choice of coleslaw, potato salad, or French fries. US$15.95.

The Cable Car Meatloaf

Meatloaf with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Cable Car Meatloaf – served with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and house gravy. It comes with a house salad and San Francisco sourdough French bread. US$16.95.

The food was hearty. And the servings were very generous.

The Ambiance …

The bar at the Buena Vista. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

The Buena Vista has a lengthy bar and large tables. For this reason,  parties of two have to share tables.

As a result, 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 …

Here I am with a lovely British couple from Yorkshire, England. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

I have to be honest: I’ve had Irish Coffee before, but I was never impressed. To be honest, I only ordered it at the Buena Vista out of curiosity, But I was totally blown away.

In fact, I absolutely 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 Cafe – 2765 Hyde Street (at Beach), San Francisco, California. Tel: (415) 474-5044.


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For More Information …

The Buena Vista Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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