Howard’s Cafe, A True-Blue Diner.
Don’t order the specials
Howard’s Café is a diner in the Inner Sunset. Remarkable? Not particularly, and that isn’t to its detriment.
American diners represent comfortable familiarity with a twist of that quality us State-Siders would like to think we invented: individuality. They’re all very much alike, but with little design quirks and decorative memorabilia that lend them a sense of singularity and history amidst the heavenly scent of frying bacon. I usually ensconce myself at the counter, where one can be comfortably anonymous while stirring over-easy eggs into crackling hash browns and sipping coffee while browsing through a newspaper. A good diner is one which you can’t imagine having a beginning or an end; they just are. That kind of lived-in atmosphere is hard to convincingly manufacture, a fact none of the gazillion new retro joints that have popped up in the past few years have understood (or perhaps care about).
The space is large, square and high-ceilinged, with an odd horseshoe-shaped bar in the middle butting up against the kitchen, which is separated from the dining room by a low wall made of beat-up, paneled particle board. Howard’s food is cut from exactly the same cloth as any other old diner in the country, and god bless them for it. Their prices are inflation-proof, something essential to the diner ethos; I ordered two eggs, two link sausages, three pieces of French Toast, a big plate of hash browns, washed it all down with a refillable cup of non-artisanal, Fuck You Blue Bottle coffee and spent less than ten dollars. The owners are deep San Francisco, clad scalp-to-sole in Niners and Giants gear, a sartorial gesture echoed upon the walls, strewn as they are with sports kitsch but also with framed photographs of family and friends who’ve frequented the place over the years. Tuck into a big, greasy breakfast at Howard’s, sip slowly from a bottomless cup of coffee and give belly-felt thanks for the American Diner.
1309 9th Ave.,