San francisco restaurants

A Look at Mid-Century Restaurants in San Francisco

San Francisco has always had a love affair with restaurants.

When San Francisco’s population exploded in the 1850s, it became a distinct hotel town. Because the city’s housing construction could not keep up with its population growth, hotels quickly became the go-to place for thousands of people to live. And unlike most other American cities at the time, San Franciscans enjoyed hotel life — and used them as a status symbol. Well-to-do townspeople lived in the finest hotels, eating every night in their fancy restaurants.

Add to that the fact that San Francisco had a strong male bias in its early years – the 1852 California census recorded 20,000 females and 180,000 males living in the state – and it’s no surprise that eating out is often the preferred dining experience.

From the moment the gold was struck, restaurants began to appear in the town. One of the first was Tadich Grill, which started as a cafe on Clay Street in 1849. John Tadich, a Croatian immigrant, bought the place in 1887 and renamed it after himself. Today, it is the oldest operating restaurant in town.

Over the years, San Franciscans have enjoyed an array of elegant and not-so-elegant restaurants. We found photographs of both and collected them here. You’ll see the interiors of Joe DiMaggio’s famous cave and one of Playland’s popular beach cafes.