2765 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA 94109. (415) 474-5044

It's said that you can't go home again, but I call BS. This past weekend during our escape to San Francisco, Mr.S. took me to one of his childhood haunts- the historic Buena Vista Cafe near the Fisherman's Wharf. Had we planned a little more carefully, we probably could have hopped on a cable car right outside of our hotel and rode it straight to the porch of the cafe. Instead we drove over there and luckily parking didn't turn out to be an issue. We got there minutes before it opened and as we stood outside in line, we inhaled the crisp bay air and Mr.S. excitedly told me how he and his family would always stop by the Buena Vista when he was a child. At 9am promptly, a matronly waitress unlocked the doors and the masses moved in, tables become occupied in a flash and seats at the well worn wooden counter quickly filled. Somehow we were one of the lucky ones who were able to slide into a table next to the window. Those who were unable to find a table stood in the walkway and any open nook or cranny available anxiously looking for a seat to open. Everyone's elbow to elbow, that's how it rolls at the Buena Vista...a bit like musical chairs.

Now if you haven't heard, the Buena Vista is supposedly the birthplace of the Irish Coffee in America. The Buena Vista has been using the same tried and true recipe since 1952, can you believe it?!  Every table around us seemed to be sporting a goblet of the hot, frothy liquid. (I bet they go through TONS of Irish Whiskey!) For breakfast, we both went a bit traditional. Mr.S. ordered a plate of corn beef hash (he loooves hash) and I went with some eggs, sausage and toast. Both orders were tasty- nothing fancy. Service was a bit slow but it was a full house. As soon as we paid our tab and stood to leave, hungry patrons quickly swooped into our still warm seats.

The food at the Buena Vista is solid, the atmosphere is fun and nostalgia is abound in the small restaurant. Regulars and visitors equally were lining up to come in and smiles were plentiful. While I was digging into my breakfast , I looked up and I swear I could picture a school-aged Mr.S. bellying up to the counter and demanding a plate of hash. That made ME smile. So even if the joint is a wee bit touristy, I'm glad we stopped by.
6 Responses
  1. Been by but never in...And, I'm not a fancy breakfast person, so solid works for me. :) I do think this Irish Coffee story is a must for our blog! The creative boozy wheels are turning...

  2. Foodiewife Says:

    I think I ate there, once, a very long time ago. It's kind of a blur. This has been a landmark that I always notice. So glad you got to indulge r. S in a childhood memory. San Francisco will always remain one of my favorite places for a romantic getaway. Glad you two got to enjoy one for yourself.

  3. Ally Says:

    @ Ellen, here's the scoop on the Irish Coffee:

    @ Debbie: No matter how many times I visit SF, I always seem to fall in love with it! :)

  4. Trish Says:

    Always wanted to go in there for an Irish coffee but never made it in! Sounds like a great place!

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I live in San Francisco, on Nob Hill. For a few years I was dating a girl who lived around the block from the Buena Vista.

    We would meet there all the time, to have a quick Irish coffee, meal or snack.

    I would take the cable car home, which would drop me off two blocks from my house.

    She moved to Los Angeles, that was the end of my Buena Vista adventures.

    I recommend the place, but only for the ambiance and Irish coffee. IMO the food is nothing remarkable, not even noteworthy. But taking the cable car from Union Square to the Hyde Street turnaround, and hanging at the Buena Vista, that's a great night.

    Bonus Tips (from someone born and raised here).

    - Cable cars are expensive ($6 one way. Yes, that's $12 r/t). Get a day pass.

    - Take the correct cable car - on the front of the cable car it says "Hyde Street"). Do NOT take the "Bay and Taylor." That does NOT take you to the front of the Buena Vista.

    - Sit or stand on the correct side of the cable car - Heading north traveling toward the Buena Vista sit on the cable car operator's right hand side, on the outside bench. Why?

    That is where the view is. You will see Coit Tower, the City lights, Lombard crookedest Street, and the Bay. Don't sit inside because you can't see anything except the portly butts of people standing two feet from your face.

    Sitting on the west side is boring.

    - Don't go to the Buena Vista for the food. It is average at best. And because it is a tourist destination the prices are high for what you get.

    - I like my Irish coffee stirred. That's not how they serve it, so you will have to ask for a plastic stirrer if you are only getting an Irish coffee.

    - Budget accordingly - Two cable car "rides" round trip is going to set you back $24. Some chow and Irish coffee is going to cost you $50, tip included. So $75 is quite a bit for a "coffee" and an average meal.

    - Note: The cable cars cost the same no matter how far or little the distance. So you might as well get max value for the $6. Ride the Powell and Hyde Street cable car. It is the longest ride and most scenic.

    Do NOT ride the Van Ness / California Street line, it is a short ride and boring.

  6. Ally Says:

    Thanks for the tips, Michael! :)

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