Eaters in this town wondered if Original Joe’s would ever reopen after a fire destroyed it four years ago. This beloved institution, started in 1937, drew devoted customers from all walks of life to one of the funkiest blocks of the Tenderloin. I am ecstatic to report that the new Original Joe’s, in the former Fior d’Italia space in North Beach, has not only recaptured the inclusive, unpretentious spirit of the old place, but upped the quality of both its decor and kitchen.
I love the new place though I wish it were easier to get in. The restaurant has served 800 covers a day since it opened. Two generations of the Duggan family have not had a moment to set up a reservation system, a web site or catch their breath. So many old customers have poured in to share memories, to congratulate, to try, that 37 year old John Duggan, the former USF basketball star, cannot walk through the bar or the coveted inner dining room with the signature Original Joe’s open cooking line, without being pulled over for a heart to heart. He told me that by the 18th day of business, he, his mom and sister, had seen at least 500 old customers, and that 300 have been in twice.
During two anonymous visits, the kitchen showed amazing discipline in the face of this onslaught. Each dish from a slightly abbreviated, if similar, menu came out better than I remembered it…
Original Joe’s, 601 Union Street (at Stockton), San Francisco