Happy Hundredth, John's Grill

Categories: Tenderloin
johnsgrill.jpegJohn's Grill celebrated its hundredth birthday a few weeks ago, and as a longtime fan of Old San Francisco and the works of Dashiell Hammett, I made sure to help observe the occasion. Hammett figures into the equation because at one point in his magnum opus, "The Maltese Falcon," gumshoe Sam Spade ducks into John's for a quick meal of chops, potatoes and sliced tomatoes before heading to Burlingame on a bum steer. I myself was on the trail of one of the 8-cent martinis the bar would be offering as part of its commemoration festivities.

A few thousand other well-heeled celebrants were there for the same reason, but like any old-school S.F. restaurant, John's has a warren of elegant upstairs rooms ideal for mingling, and as a result the mood was more convivial than congested. Photographs of the restaurant's satisfied past customers - Alfred Hitchcock, Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, Lillian Hellman et al. - gazed down from the dark oak-paneled walls, and the cocktails were frosty and potent.

John's Grill is of the same genre and attitude as Tadich's, Sam's and Jack's, right on down to the starched linens and starchier waiters, with a menu of toothsome classics like crab Louis, Joe's special, hangtown fry, grilled snapper, oysters Wellington, calves' livers and the Bloody Brigid cocktail: vodka, soda, lime, grenadine and sweet and sour. Plus Spade's circa-1929 chops, potatoes and sliced tomatoes, of course. Why mess with success? (63 Ellis at Stockton; 986-3274.) --Matthew Stafford

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