Gourmet Trips

The story of the Irish coffee in SF

The building housing the Buena Vista Café started as a boarding house. In 1916, the first floor was transformed into a saloon. This was the start of what would become a San Francisco landmark, known across the country for its menu and history. Visitors come from around the world for fresh Dungeness crab, the all-day breakfast, and a selection of lunch and dinner favorites. Most important, they come for Buena Vista Café’s Irish Coffee.

The historic venture started on the night of November the 10th in 1952. Jack Koeppler, then-owner of the Buena Vista, challenged international travel writer Stanton Delaplane to help re-create a highly touted “Irish Coffee” served at Shannon Airport in Ireland. Intrigued, Stan Accepted Jack’s invitation, and the pair began to experiment immediately.

Irish coffee

Throughout the night the two of them stirred and sipped judiciously and eventually acknowledged two recurring problems. The taste was “not quite right,” and the cream would not float. Stan’s hopes sank like the cream, but Jack was undaunted. The restaurateur pursued the elusive elixir with religious fervor, even making a pilgrimage overseas to Shannon Airport.

Irish whiskey

Upon Jack’s return, the experimentation continued. Finally, the perfect-tasting Irish whiskey was selected. Then the problem of the bottom-bent cream was taken to San Francisco’s mayor, a prominent dairy owner. It was discovered that when the cream was aged for 48 hours and frothed to a precise consistency, it would float as delicately as a swan on the surface of Jack’s and Stan’s special nectar.

Success was theirs! With the recipe now mastered, a sparkling clear, six-ounce, heat-treated goblet was chosen as a suitable chalice.

Soon the fame of the Buena Vista’s Irish Coffee spread throughout the land. Today, it’s still the same delicious mixture, and it’s still the same clamorous, cosmopolitan Buena Vista. Both…delightful experiences.

BUsy bar

[Taken from the Buena Vista Bar website]

The Food

Clam chowder

The clam chowder came in three sizes – a cup, a bowl (the picture is a bowl) or in a sourdough bowl (which I often find it a waste of good bread). Slightly different from the Boston variety as it was more runny, it nevertheless packed the flavour.

The Buena Vista burger

The Buena Vista burger is the signature burger of the place, with Monterey Jack cheese, bacon on a sesame bun.

Perfectly medium rare

Perfectly grilled to a medium rate, the burger was juicy and flavourful.

The old signboard

One of the easiest and most popular ways to reach the Buena Vista is by Cable Car. Any Powell & Hyde Street Cable car going towards Fisherman’s Wharf will take you directly to our doorstep on the corner of Hyde and Beach Streets.

The Buena Vista Cafe
2765 Hyde St (@ Beach), San Francisco, CA 94109, US
Tel : (415) 474 5044


Date Visited : Apr 2016

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