Thursday, January 19, 2012

Remembering the Basque Hotel Restaurant, and Basque Food Culture in the Bay Area


Basque restaurants, particularly the ones attached to Basque boarding houses in San Francisco in the mid-20th Century played  a big role in keeping body and soul together in my salad days of the early 1960's. The Basque Hotel Restaurant at 15 Romolo Place (there's a hipster bar there now) was my favorite. It was one of the later vintage Basque hotels, but actually functioned as a boarding house for sojourning Basques and, at least in its early years, adhered to a very traditional French Basque dinner service.  You'd walk in before its single 6:30 seating and sit at a long communal table.  At 6:30 sharp food would start coming, and you'd start eating. They would start with soup, followed by two entrees (which varied by day of the week), passed down the table on huge platters. Entrees might include clams, lamb chops, coq au vin, even sweetbreads.There were invariably mountains of French fries, the best I'd ever had.  Sourdough bread (probably from Larraburu Bakery, which existed until the late '70s despite the erroneous info in the chart below), served without butter. Salad would be served last, European style. There was also unlimited quantities of vin ordinaire, and at the end of the meal strong coffee would be served, poured into the same tumbler you drank the wine from.  I've never been a dessert guy, but there may have been pie or ice cream, too.  At the end of the meal one would walk to the back or the room, pay at the bar and exit.  I don't recall the exact price, but it was a splurge, at least double the $1.00 I would pay for a full American-style dinner at Jackson Cafe or Sun Tai Sam Yuen on Jackson street.

Not long into my tenure some traditions yielded to practical considerations, such as the pay-on-exit (which required a detour which was too easily avoided) and, eventually, the unlimited free wine. Prices rose faster than the cost of living as well, but it was still an affordable feast and a great social outing in the '80s when the above photo was taken (that's yours truly with the cig). .

I found the chart below on docstock.com. It's presented as is, though there are some errors and out-of-date information in it (Iluna Basque, for one thing, has closed).


Basque Hotels and Restaurants
In The San Francisco Bay Area

Hotel du Midi
1950’s & 1960’s
Powell and Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
1
Marianne Ospital and Frank Monaut
2
Frank Monaut and Katrine Oillarburu
3
Jose Mari Etchemendy 1960’s
4
Felix & Begoña Bilbao 1964-1974

Hotel de España
1950’s
781 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
1
Katixa & Juanes Bordalampé and Maria and Fermin Uharte
2
Marie and Louis Elu (proprietors)

Pyrénées Hotel
Before 1958
Pacific between Powell & Stockton???, San Francisco, CA 94133
1
Janamarie and Martial Gonzalez

Pyrénées Hotel
After 1958
517 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
1
Amélie and Jean Sorhondo

Obrero Hotel
1950’s to 1970’s
1208 Stockton, San Francisco, CA 94133
1
Mr. and Mrs. Idiart (Juan and Nieves ??? p95 Home away from Home) 1950’s
2
Mrs. Emile Ornague
3
Katrine and Pierre Goyhenetche
4
Mayie and Arnaud Mendisco

Hotel de France
1950’s to 1970’s
780 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
1
Jean Camino & Arnaud Etcheto (1950’s)
2
Juanita and Jean Etchevers and Claude and Claudine Berhouet (1960’s & 1970’s)
3
Annie and Pierre “Titou” Palomes (1970’s)

Hotel des Alpes & Restaurant
20th century
732 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
1
Ambrosio Yriondo 1907
2
Mrs. And Jean Cazahous “Xubero” (proprietors 1930’s)
3
Mayie and Marcel Chaparteguy (1950’s)
4
Katixa and Juanes Bordalampe and Ganix Iriartborde (1956-1965)
5
Ganix and Anna Iriartborde (1962-1975)
6
Helene and Ciriaco Iturri (1975)
7
Augustin Oroz and Basilio Arraiz

The Basque Hotel
1960’s to 1990’s
15 Romolo Place, San Francisco, CA 94133
1
Martha and Pierre Bigue (1960’s)
2
Madeleine and Joseph Gestas
3
Anna and Sauveur Anchartechahar
4
Antoinette and Francisco Oroz
5
Jean Emile Idiart

La Cancha
20th century
Pacific between Stockton and Powell, San Francisco, CA 94133
1
Jose & Expectacion Elizalde
2
Jeronimo “Antón” Meabe
3
Saparart

Cosmopolitan Hotel
1960’s 1970’s
700 Block of Broadway???, San Francisco, CA 94133
1

2

3


Le Chalet Basque Restaurant
1960’s to present
405 N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael, CA 94903
1
Eugenie & Raymond Coscarat
2
Antoinette and Francisco Oroz
3
Roger Minhondo

Tricolor Restaurant
1960’s to present
Geary Blvd, San Francisco
1
Jeanne Marie and Gratien Mocho

Fleur de France Restaurant
166-1972
Geary Blvd, San Francisco
1
Jeanne Marie Mocho

Croisette Restaurant

Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
1
Annie Mocho Newman

Fringale Restaurant

570 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
1
Jean-Baptiste Lorda & Gerald Hirigoyen

Piperade Restaurant
2002 to present
1015 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111
1
Gerald and Cameron Hirigoyen

Bocadillos Restaurant
2004 to present
710 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111
1
Gerald and Cameron Hirigoyen

Cote Sud Restaurant

4238 18th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
1
Raymond Arbelbide

Iluna Basque Restaurant
2003 to present
701 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
1
Mattin Noblia

Guernica Restaurant
1970’s - 2006
2009 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94111
1
Roger Minhondo
2
Gary Jones (2002-2006)

Chez Léon Restaurant
1970’s
San Francisco
1
Peyo and Jean Marie Lagourgue

Larraburu Bakery
1896-1945
San Francisco



Royal Bakery
1960’s to 1987
4773 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94112
1
Dominique Jambon and Pierre Saldubehere

5 comments:

  1. I remember the Basque Hotel in the early 1970's, just as you describe it -- very clear memories of the french fries and the single tumbler for water, wine, and coffee. I'd guess the price was about $5 then. My favorite entree was oxtail stew.

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  2. Don't forget Elu's Spanish Basque restaurant at Broadway and Stockton that lasted until the late 70's.....I loved their food more than my own family restaurant (Des Alpes)!!

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  3. I have an old menu here from the Hotel du Midi. I was just checking to see if it is still in existence as I recall experiences there from late 60's and early 70's. Here's menu for Wednesday, for example: split pea soup, wine, lentils, beef stew, salad, pork chops, coffee, fresh fruit. Family-style and it was such a bargain. But if you wanted an extra pint (pint, mind you) it costs 50 cents!! Ah, the good old days!

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  4. my family ( the Mendisco family) was the last Basque family to run the Obrero hotel. I will never forget the fun times, and lessons in family values, hard work, and pride in your culture that those years instilled upon me

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  5. I ate once at the Basque Hotel in the '90s. Must have been the best value in all SF! Still remember the oxtail stew...

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