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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The New Original Joe's: Nostalgia Without Kitsch

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 7:52 AM

click to enlarge The main dining room at Original Joe's. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • The main dining room at Original Joe's.

The food scene in this city moves so fast that restaurants more than five years old seem ancient and, three months after they've closed, are mostly forgotten. But the 75-year-old Original Joe's -- the subject of this week's full-length restaurant review in the Weekly -- was closed for five years after a fire shuttered its Taylor Street location, then opened in another part of town, and has been crammed since it reopened. San Francisco foodistas may have short memories, but native San Franciscans, who make up the bulk of Original Joe's fan base, do not.

In terms of the restaurant's looks and its welcome, John and Elena Duggan, grandchildren of founder Ante Rodin, have done a marvelous job interpreting their grandfather's restaurant in its new space. The food? Well, the Italian-meets-steakhouse food's certainly fine, quirks left intact but ingredients improved. In the case of a few dishes, it's excellent. 

But if you're going to Original Joe's, you're not going for the food so much as for the entire experience. Order a $6 Old Fashioned. Spend a quarter-hour inspecting the wall of memorabilia. Strike up a conversation with the diners in line next to you, especially if they have white hair. You might hear a few San Francisco tales worth filing away.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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