Dine Like It's '59 - Page 8

12 California restaurants that savor dishing up the mid-century experience
Retro Dine
Retro Dine

7 I Sam's Grill & Seafood Restaurant

San Francisco

No one would deny that Sam's Grill, with its old-line waiters, plank floors, and polished wooden wainscoting, is about as classic a dining establishment as you can find in the heart of San Francisco, like Tadich Grill, say, or John's.

But what's mid-century modern about it?

Not much—to the naked eye. Except—an awful lot of mid-century modern was born here, over platters of steak and fish and a martini or two. Or three.

This great old restaurant, with roots back to 1867, was Joe Eichler's favorite spot—and was also taken up by Bob Anshen and Steve Allen, Joe's original architects. Architect Claude Oakland too, who designed more homes for Eichler than anyone, loved Sam's.

And these men didn't just eat and drink at Sam's—they did business there.

Landscape architect Bob Royston is said to have drawn plans for Eichler on napkins here. Anshen and Allen, who lunched here daily with specially invited members of their staff, dreamed up ideas while Bob downed martinis.

"I think he started the day, really, when he went to Sam's and had his first martini," architect Woody Stockwell recalled of Anshen.

Why Sam's? Well, the place had class, a quality much admired by Joe and his architectural henchmen.

Stephen Nichols, Claude Oaklands's nephew, remembered his always well-dressed, urbane uncle taking him to Sam's. Nichols was suitably impressed. "Sam's," he said, "is really the epitome, with the booze and all that, and the old waiters." And the epitome it remains.

• 374 Bush St. samsgrillsf.com