From Inside the Last Days of Joe’s Cable Car (Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside)


Good Evening:

Joe’s Cable Car Restaurant, waaaaaay out there on Mission Street in the Excelsior, will close this weekend after 49 years of business. Joe Obegi has worked six or seven day weeks without a vacation during all this time, and has decided to retire. Since he believes that no one will run the place as he did, he will shut the doors permanently, and the restaurant might well get torn down and replaced with condos (that’s kind of a standard one-liner joke in San Francisco these days). Since real journalists have written very well about Joe’s retirement–see here for one story–I will settle for sharing some of the pictures I took inside during what will be my last visit.

Even on Monday afternoon after lunch hours, I had to wait an hour.


The iconic doormat:


The inside pages of the menu.


Note that none of the sandwiches are called hamburgers, but instead “fresh ground beef steak.” The reason the restaurant lasted so long is that Mr. Obegi had/has an all-consuming obsession with grinding his own meat. Combine that with decades of experience and you got richly flavorful and ridiculously fresh beef sandwiches that justified the prices.

My last meal. Shake, rings, fries, bacon cheddar “fresh ground beef steak” sandwich. A bit of finger in the lower right hand corner completes the luncheon.


I asked if the milk shake glasses were for sale, but the waitress said they had already sold as many as they could spare. This must be how Mr. Obegi looked a long time ago.


And this is how he looks today. Since I had an old iPhone 4, I decided to go for the pixellation, maximize it, and thereby create a sort of pointillist watercolor effect.


I saw this by one of the entrances. Old-school restaurant humor.


Don’t know who “Henry” is. Some of San Francisco’s great old restaurants, you might feel sorry when they close. I feel grateful Joe’s existed.

Vonn Scott Bair

4 responses »

  1. Pingback: Cat Inside the Basket (Weekly Photo Challenge) | 365 Days of Thank You

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