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Passionate about history or theatre? Both need to eat. And there’s no denying the utter fascination foodies have for San Francisco’s oldest restaurants, especially when you can dine at one. and attend a Tony Award-winning musical from the same era. Now there is a pairing!
“Hello Dolly!” – which stars Broadway legend Betty Buckley – opens February 19 at the SHN Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco. The scenic action may be set at the turn of the last century in New York, but we see the spectacle here, where more than a few restaurants date from that period.
If you’re lucky enough to have tickets, pair the show with a meal at one of the city’s oldest and most iconic restaurants for a taste of turn-of-the-century life. And if you’re really in the mood for nostalgia, meet your dining companion at the city’s oldest landmark, Lotta’s Fountain. A gift to the city in 1875, the ornate 24-foot-tall cast iron fountain at the intersection of Market, Geary, and Kearny streets served as a meeting place for survivors to reunite with loved ones after the 1906 earthquake.
“Hello Dolly!” until March 17. For tickets and information, visit www.shnsf.com.
If those dark paneled walls could talk… John’s Grill opened near Union Square in 1908, at a time when the post-earthquake city was rebuilding and establishing itself as a financial center. Photographs of celebrity patrons, from Derek Jeter to Sophia Loren and President Ronald Reagan, line the walls, and you can always head upstairs to the Maltese Falcon Room for live music nightly. The restaurant is famous for its hearty steaks, large salads and specialties, such as Sam Spade’s Lamb Chops with Baked Potatoes and Sliced Tomatoes.
Details: Open from 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon on Sunday at 63 Ellis St., San Francisco; www.johnsgrill.com.
Fior of Italy
This North Beach quirky has been open since 1886, when Italian immigrant Angelo De Monte began serving hungry fortune hunters during the height of the gold rush. Since then, the restaurant has operated from six different locations – and a post-earthquake tent. Nine years ago it was purchased by new owners. Longtime executive chef, Milan-born Gianni Audieri and his wife Trudy became the restaurant’s fourth owners in 128 years. Look out for Audieri’s signature Northern Italian dishes, including fresh handmade pasta, creamy risottos and four-way veal.
Details: Open from 11:30 a.m. daily at 2237 Mason St., San Francisco; www.fior.com.
Seafood lovers have been flocking to this Financial District restaurant for 166 years. It is believed to be the oldest restaurant in California and the third oldest restaurant in the country, behind Union Oyster House in Boston and Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans. Inside, there are art deco brass and milky glass fixtures, and signature dishes such as massive crab cakes, aromatic cioppino, and broiled, steamed, or broiled fresh catch. Expect long waits, whether you’re a tourist, a San Francisco politician, or even Dolly Levi. Tadich does not take reservations.
Details: Open from 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 11:30 a.m. Saturday at 240 California St., San Francisco; www.tadichgrill.com.