Irving Street Cafe
I have a fondness for diners, especially ones situated in working/middle class neighborhoods with a self-contained quality. These diners aren’t self-consciously retro or ironic, they just ARE. I’ve previously made mention of a few diners here among the cyber-folds of Broke-Ass Stuart’s Goddamn Website (Art’s Cafe and Howard’s Cafe) both of which have helped define for over two decades one of my favorite neighborhoods: The Inner Sunset, which perfectly fits the profile I delineated above. It has an Old San Francisco vibe that has resisted being painted over by the high gloss imperatives of gentrification that neighborhoods like Hayes Valley, North Beach and, most unfortunately, The Mission have succumbed to.
Art’s, Howard’s and Irving Street Cafe form a trifecta of un-pretentious, simple eating in the commercial district of the Inner Sunset whose borders I’m choosing to define as Lincoln Street to the North, Judah Street to the South, 16th Avenue to the West, and Fifth Avenue to the East. The latter restaurant is the most personable of the bunch-not a difficult feat to pull off considering the tight-lipped stoicism of the couple who run Art’s. Irving Street Cafe has been owned and run by the same Chinese-Korean family for the last 23 years. Service is headed up by the matriarch, a paragon of infinite cheerfulness and patience. If she ever uttered a cross word to a customer, it was thoroughly sotto-voce and spoken into a napkin while crouched behind the long formica counter lined with backless swivel chairs. As for the food: the omelettes also beat out the competition by several lengths. The key to a successful omelette is knowing which ingredients are best fried with the egg and which are better nestled between the folds immediately before being scooted off the hot frying pan onto the plate (example: greens onions belong to the former category, avocado the latter). The Irving Street people have it down, along with the delicate art of cooking hash browns, and well-timed refills of coffee.
Irving Street Cafe
716 Irving Street (@ 8th Avenue)