Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Farewell, Fog City Diner. I Hardly Knew You.

Amy and I stopping for a drink at the Fog City Diner on San Francisco’s Embarcadero last weekend about half way on a trek from downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf via Chinatown and back to downtown. What a fine oasis on the shady side of the Embarcadero on a sunny day at 2 in the afternoon.

Live long enough and I’ve seen my favorite eating and drinking places close up, change hands, transform. This is the first time I came to like a place on first sitting only to find out when leaving that it’ll be gone the next time I get back to the city.

I chanced upon Fog City Diner when perusing the back page of Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany (Ben Schott, Bloomsbury 2004) under “A Few Recommended Establishments – United States,” preceded by Lemon Grass (Cincinnati, OH) and followed by Woody Creek Tavern (Aspen, CO).

At the bar: Cold California beer and a glass of California chardonnay to start. Then a small plate of seared ahi tataki with avocado, mango and ponzu and a small plate of Dungeness crabcakes with green apple slaw and sherry cayenne mayonnaise. And to good health: mixed greens and herbs with toasted almonds, balsamic vinaigrette.

Couldn’t think of sitting and enjoying myself eating and drinking in a nicer setting where the light from the low windows bounced off the bar’s mirror and dark interior surfaces. The kind of place, once discovered, you look forward to coming back to.

“Enjoy yourself, next month we close,” said Augustin, the barkeep. San Francisco hosts America’s Cup and shore-side construction is in full swing across the Embarcadero. “New place,” he said.

“Will you come back to your job in the new place?”

“I don’t know,” Augustin said. “I do this for 26 years but I don’t know.”

I don’t know either. I only know what I found in an ABC News item posted a few days earlier on February 7:

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Some big changes coming to an iconic San Francisco restaurant -- the "Fog City Diner" is closing.

The diner was unique when it opened back in 1985. Now the owners say it's time for a change.

The restaurant will close on March 15th for a major overhaul. In its place, a new eatery called the "Fog City Restaurant" will reopen.

The owners say it will be "American-style" with a new bar.

No word on the opening date for the revamped "Fog City."

I’ll hold to the diner’s current motto: “We love you, but No Cry Babies.

Ben Schott will have to revise his list. I’ll stop by the next time to see if Augustin has returned to his job and what “American-style” means in San Francisco.

--Mike Sato

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