The NorCal Explorer

Some of my photos are now for sale at ImageKind.

Nature Index
(My hiking and camping adventures in Northern California.)

Culture Index
(NorCal cities, highways, restaurants, museums, architecture, historic attractions, vintage neon signs, roadside attractions, etc.)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Interesting Eateries of San Francisco: Whiz Burgers Drive-In

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If it were located on old U.S. Route 99 in the Central Valley, or even on a busy thoroughfare in the suburbs, Whiz Burgers would be perfectly ordinary. But it's surprising to find it in San Francisco.

It's an old drive-in burger joint, originating from 1955. No indoor seating is available. There is a counter that goes around 3 sides of the building, at which there are a grand total of two stools--presumably there used to be many more. Four picnic tables provide the main seating for those who choose to stay there to eat, which doesn't seem like the best option, given all the trash strewn about the neighborhood. It's got its own parking, though, which is a major plus in the city.

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You can get your usual burger companions there: hot dogs, French fries, and shakes. And they offer a few Asian basics featured in pictures in the window--shown both on paper plates and on fine China.

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I got the Whiz Burger, and said yes when asked about cheese on it. I was not disappointed, although admittedly I didn't have highest of expectations from the place. My expectations were exceeded, however, by the fact that there were avocado slices on my burger. Nice!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Interesting Eateries of San Francisco: It's Tops Coffee Shop

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Oh, It’s Tops Coffee Shop! You are absolutely perfect, with your wooden booths and ceiling, lunch counter and stools, and vintage neon sign! Where have you been all my life?

Oh . . . right there on Market Street. All my life. And a few decades before my existence to boot. Well . . . why doesn’t anybody inform me of these things?!?!?! Maybe my friends just don’t want me to be happy.

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Luckily there’s San Francisco Heritage, and their Legacy Bars & Restaurants program, which is how I belatedly discovered this totally classic and completely charming eatery in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. I heard of the program when contacted by San Francisco Heritage for permission to use some of my photos--7 of which now appear in the handy little map/pamphlet they have published with 100 legacy eating and drinking establishments in it. You can see my growing collection of photos from those businesses here.

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But back to my new love--It’s Tops opened in 1935 when, unbelievably, it was much smaller than it is now. There was no separate kitchen and dining area then, according to the restaurant’s website. The luxury of such separation had to wait until an expansion into an adjoining business space “about a decade’ later. And the lovely neon sign dates from then as well.

The menu offers your basic diner fare, but has some fun twists--like the various combinations you can get for your pancakes involving chocolate chips, peanut butter, bananas, and whipped cream. And they take the “coffee shop” thing seriously, serving up espresso drinks and an espresso milkshake, which I can’t wait to get back and try sometime.

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My cheeseburger, Dick’s Double, and onion rings were quite tasty, as were my daughter’s chocolate chip pancakes. And I had no problem finding parking right nearby--although I think next time we go, we will ride the trolley to get there, since it runs down Market Street right in front of the place.

And hopefully there will be many, many next times. I’m not sure how I managed to go so long without being aware of the existence of this place, but now that I do know of it, I am going to try to make up for all those years of neglect.

About Me

My Photo

I love to learn about, visit, photograph, research, and write about everything that is interesting, unique, and historical about Northern California, and wherever else I should be fortunate enough to find myself.  I've spent many years scouring the roadside in my little car for interesting subjects and walking down hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada and along the coast to get to know the wonder that is Northern California.  I share most of this via photos on Flickr, and as much as time permits me to on my blog, the NorCal Explorer.  Fine art prints of my photos are for sale on Imagekind.