Town’s End Restaurant and Bakery is Closing after 30 Years in South Beach
Guest post by Galen Abbott
Another piece of the San Francisco restaurant fabric has been torn away by the global pandemic that continues to weigh down local businesses. This one stings just a bit more, as food service wasn’t the only focus. A community was formed around the couple that has purveyed this family run institution for almost 30 years.
It all started in the Marina with the opening of Home Plate in the 80s. A destination breakfast spot that had long brunch waits and fresh pastries on every table to go with some of the most delicious and sought after classic brunch items in all of SF. In 1991, David and Mary Sperber sold Home Plate and moved to a more expansive and picturesque location in South Beach and Town’s End was born. This time with an in house bakery and now also featuring dinner service.
Mary is the master baker and purveyor of a brunch that has seen wait times well over an hour. David is the head chef for the dinner and lunch menu. Italian influenced with a California flare, David has been cooking with organic ingredients far before culinary fashion dictated it. Through his trained technique he cultivated multiple layers of ‘umami’ into his dishes. The couple met at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco 1980 and have dedicated their lives and culinary skill to this city ever since.
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David and Mary put their heart, soul, and family (yes, their 2 kids) into the endeavor and created a dedicated extended family that is increasingly rare in San Francisco restaurants. Much of the staff worked for Town’s End far longer than the average turnover rate and many for over 2 decades.
Beyond the many menu standouts that will be sorely missed, the sense of community that was created in this once out-of-the way area is the true casualty. But yeah, the food was really bomb too.
For brunch, homemade hollandaise graced numerous Benedicts, most notably the Crab Benedict that David has always claimed proudly is “almost 90% crab with almost no filler” and will leave you reminiscing in the tastiness days later. But other notable dishes include the Corned Beef Hash, 3 chili scramble, and Mary’s Special. Lunch favorites like David’s 7 hour Brisket, Chicken Pot Pie, and Risotto Quinoa Croquettes made deciding on what to satiate yourself with a challenging choice.
The decision to close was not taken lightly and the Sperbers have tried everything they can to stay afloat in these challenging times. But with cold weather on the horizon outdoor dining has become a significant challenge. On top of that, confusing and sometimes retracted safe practice orders from SF Public Health have caused the business to lose thousands of dollars in operating costs, including food that was bought that later had to be thrown away or donated. Even with a 50% capacity for indoor dining most restaurants can’t even come close to breaking even. With the pandemic still raging and no end in sight, the stress of protecting employees and possibly another forced closure if cases rise (as we’re seeing in other parts of the country) makes the uphill battle too costly.
As I dined there this past Sunday, the Sperbers were filled with mixed emotions. They are exhausted from the rollercoaster of keeping the business going while also supporting their amazingly dedicated staff. But also, they’re extremely sad to lose the community they’ve been cultivating for decades. The down to earth and endearing nature of this extraordinary couple can be felt through the love with permeates every one of their dishes.
In Mary’s tearful words, she will truly miss the “intertwined and multi-generational connections that have blossomed out of Town’s End community” either through customer or employee. So will we.