10 Classic S.F. Spots Full Of Nostalgia

In a city brimming with new eateries and foodie pop-ups, it’s refreshing to see thriving joints with close to a century of service under their belts. Simply put, these OGs have staked their claim by remaining down-to-earth, homegrown, and awesome.
So, we set aside the shiny-new bakeries, too-cool coffee houses, and decked-out restos to explore some of the S.F.'s best golden-era, old-timey bars and restaurants. From the longest-standing watering hole to a seafood staple nestled in (gasp!) Fisherman’s Wharf, here are a few of our favorite places for a little walk down memory lane.
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1 of 10
The Saloon
If you’re looking for quintessential old school, look no further than this North Beach bar. It’s not just one of the oldest bars around, but actually the oldest bar in S.F. — seriously. After being constructed in 1861 and surviving the 1906 earthquake, the famed watering hole has gone on to serve stiff ones for about 150 years, and it’s still going strong. Tourists and locals alike flock to this little slice of history to throw one back and soak in the scene, especially the nightly live entertainment.

The Saloon, 1232 Grant Avenue (between Broadway and Fresno streets); 415-989-7666.
2 of 10
Scoma’s Restaurant
Located smack dab in the middle of tourist central — yes, that would be Fisherman’s Wharf — you’ll find a charming waterfront restaurant that’s been in the game since 1965. But, the thing we love about Scoma’s is the fresh, oceanic eats and committed, friendly staff (some have been working there since day one!). Here, you’ll get the hilariously outdated big-booth, white-tablecloth treatment amid a flurry of eager tourists — don’t worry though, the food is worth it, we swear. If you ask us, all that hullaballoo is part of the intrigue — that, and the mind-blowing chowder.

Scoma’s Restaurant, Pier 47 Al Scoma Way; 415-771-4383.
3 of 10
Swan Oyster Depot
Okay, Swan Oyster Depot has had a consistent line since it opened waaaay back in 1946 — if that isn’t a testament to how good it is, we don’t know what is. In this tiny gem of a spot, you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere to sit, and don’t even get us started on the wait. But boy, is it worth it — if you’re an oyster, crab, or fish fan and want some of the freshest seafood around, Swan Oyster Depot is a must. Littered on the wall are nostalgic, marine-themed posters and random memorabilia that really make you feel the old-timey goodness through and through. It’s no wonder Swan Oyster Depot has ranked so high on San Franciscans classic eateries — this is the real deal.

Swan Oyster Depot, 1517 Polk Street (between California and Sacramento streets); 415-673-1101.
4 of 10
Tadich Grill
Is it just us, or are we noticing that most of the mainstay S.F. restos happen to focus on seafood? Either way, we’ll take it! Tadich Grill is another S.F. star that doesn’t just ooze authenticity 'round town; nope, it has statewide accolades, as well. Established in 1869, this is California’s oldest restaurant. With its cozy atmosphere, impeccable grub, and involved staff, Tadich Grill still embodies the tradition and ambiance its adopted ever since opening. Everyone from Groucho Marx to Francis Ford Coppola have stepped foot into this beloved destination — why not you?

Tadich Grill, 240 California Street (between Front and Battery streets); 415-391-1849.
5 of 10
Sears Fine Food Restaurant
We can appreciate an establishment that cuts to the chase. And, at Sears Fine Food Restaurant, everything — down to the name — is pretty dang honest. Tucked away in the shopping oasis of Union Square, this old-school chow house is lauded for its traditional breakfast and brunch. (You can’t go wrong with the “world-famous” Swedish pancakes.) This venue goes way back, though, all the way to 1938 where it was founded by two brothers, Hilbur and Ben Sears. Fun fact: Ben was a retired circus clown who was passionate about a recipe his Swedish wife’s family passed down. And, there you have it: In some instances, it's not so bad to quit your day job!

Sears Fine Food Restaurant, 439 Powell Street (between Post and Sutter streets); 415-986-1160.
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6 of 10
Zuni Café
Sure, Zuni Café may not be the oldest spot on this list (it opened in 1979), there’s no denying that Zuni Café and classic San Francisco go hand-in-hand. What started out as a struggling corner café has blossomed into an upscale, timeless escape in the heart of the city. Of course, no trip to Zuni Café would be complete without the infamous roasted chicken — it’s what this Market Street stop is known for!

Zuni Café, 1658 Market Street (between Van Ness Avenue and 12th streets); 415-552-2522.
7 of 10
Tommy’s Joynt
Tommy’s Joynt is one of those puzzlingly yummy places that you are either totally up on from the get-go or are initially a wee bit sketched out by, but end up acquiring a strange love for. (We were the latter.) There’s no denying that the cafeteria-style comfort food has been a regular in the S.F. dining scene for ages — er, make that 1947. And hey, any place that spells joint with a "y" automatically gets an A+ in our book.

Tommy's Joynt, 1101 Geary Boulevard (between Franklin Street and United States Highway 101); 415-775-4216.
8 of 10
House Of Prime Rib
This meaty classic is about as no-frills as you get. Coded with plushy, vinyl-drenched booths and paneling, The House Of Prime Rib is a carnivore’s bliss — all right in the heart of our hilly city. If you think you’re getting fancy-pants grub, think again. Here, you’ll find vested servers filling plates with slabs of roasted beef soaked in gravy. Simple! House of Prime Rib opened in the late '40s and still offers a literal whirlwind of delightful and delicious presentations — spinning salad, anyone? Honestly, if you’re in S.F. and looking for a respite away from the surge of new eateries, you’ve found your culinary match.

House Of Prime Rib, 1906 North Van Ness Avenue (between Washington and Jackson streets); 415-885-4605
9 of 10
House Of Shields
Another downtown pub, House of Shields is an inspired slice of retro heaven. Giving off the grandpa-chic vibe, the two-story bar is filled with roomy booths, a cool chandelier towering above, and a varied crowd (it even has live music every so often). This laid-back spot has been around since 1906, so given the current craft-cocktail craze, grabbing a drink at this time-warped wonder is the only way to go!

House of Shields, 39 New Montgomery Street (between Stevenson and Jesse streets); 415-284-9958.
10 of 10
Tosca Café
While Tosca Café may be undergoing a bit of a makeover from the NYC folks over at The Spotted Pig, we couldn’t complete this list without adding the iconic North Beach bar. The staple is the third oldest bar in S.F. and has morphed from a beat-generation dream (it opened in 1919) to a frequented Bay Area hotspot. Dripping in red leather, Tosca Café whips up a mean brandy-infused hot chocolate that is nothing short of a libation legend. While we’re excited to see the revamp, we hope none of the nostalgia is chipped away at this oh-so-special place.

Tosca Café, 242 Columbus Avenue (between Jack Kerouac Alley and Saroyan Place); 415-986-9651.
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