SAN FRANCISCO -- In a bit of good news for the Obama administration -- which certainly could use some this month, what with brewing scandals over the IRS and other nasty headlines -- a San Francisco institution announced Monday that it will head east to the nation’s capital to offer a little bit of comfort.
Comfort food that is, West Coast style. Happily served to partisans on both side of the aisle. Think petrale sole and Dungeness crab, seafood cioppino and Hangtown fry, a Gold-Rush-era specialty combining eggs, bacon and oysters.
Owners of Tadich Grill, which bills itself as the oldest continuously operating restaurant in San Francisco, said Monday that it will open a branch of the 164-year-old operation on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Capitol Hill.
The owners, in concert with a Seattle-based restaurant company called Icon Inc., will not try to replicate Tadich, with its copper-trimmed doors and white-coated waiters. And the original restaurant in this city’s bustling Financial District promises to remain unchanged.
On Monday, the restaurant was making good on its pledge. Nearly a dozen early diners were lined up in the unseasonable sunshine before opening time at 11 a.m. The white tablecloths were starched, the sourdough bread sliced and ready, the wait staff unruffled by the announcement.
After all, the business has survived through two major earthquakes and a multitude of recessions, a favorite of tourists and locals alike.
Tadich Grill got its start in 1849 as a coffee stand serving sailors and merchants lured by the promise of Gold Rush riches before California reached statehood. The first owners, three Croatian immigrants, moved the business several times before John Tadich joined the operation in 1871.
In 1913, Tadich hired another Croatian immigrant, Tom Buich, who was later joined by his two brothers. They bought out Tadich in 1928. The restaurant moved to its current location in 1967 and remains in the Buich family.
As the butter-yellow menu proudly proclaims, Tadich Grill “has been in continuous operation and Croatian ownership since 1849.”
In “Tadich Grill: The Story of San Francisco’s Oldest Restaurant, with Recipes,” author John Briscoe describes a restaurant and a city whose histories are inextricably entwined. Tadich, he wrote, “has fed its future mayors when they were young and again years later when they were cutting, over sand dabs, the deals that would decide the city’s ever-flamboyant future.”
The big question now is who will Tadich be feeding when it opens its doors in Washington, D.C., early next year.
“The Tadich turned 150 years old in 1999,” Briscoe wrote,” the year after Rules, London’s oldest restaurant, turned 200 years old and Berghoff’s, Chicago’s oldest, turned 100. The following year, the Tadich could claim that it had served San Franciscans over the course of three centuries and two millenia.
“Not bad for a joint that began by serving coffee under a tent.”