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Saturday, April 15, 2006

Jerrold Market Place

You can call it sheer chance that I stumbled upon the Jerrold Market Place hofbrau in the San Francisco Produce Terminal.

After hours of investigating what hofbraus there may be in San Francisco, I happened to find one small reference, in fact, a sentence, that someone wrote about a diner that was near a hofbrau at the Produce Terminal.

That was it. No names, no address, nothing.

I checked everywhere to find this hofbrau; a googol Google searches, the phonebook, the DPH violations page – all to no avail. So I gave up. I figured that with no mention anywhere, it must be long gone or perhaps in the original author's imagination.

But then, one Saturday around 1 PM, on our way back from Daly City, I asked Bruce to take a detour through the industrial area that was near the Produce Terminal. I knew from experience that some pretty divey places could be found around these areas, especially those that cater to truck drivers at 4 in the morning. I figured I could at least find a couple to write about after I had finished this whole hofbrau project.

A memorial to deceased Produce Terminal employees who lost their lives bravely weeding out the spoiled corned beef from the "mostly edible" corned beef at neighboring dining establishments.

As we drove down Toland and reached the corner of Jerrold, I cranked my head to see what was down the street that went past all of the produce warehouses. And out of the corner of my eye, what did I see in the distance but those grand words, "hofbrau", in big faded purple letters.

"Oh shit! Turn around! Turn around!" I shouted with glee. "That's the hofbrau!"

Bruce, less excited, let out a groan as he swung the truck in a sharp left turn, breaking all sorts of laws about signaling, driving over two yellow lines, etc., as we made a quick U-turn back to the Produce Terminal.

Neon beer signs were on in the windows and behind them I could see what looked like restaurant equipment. The entryway was dark and forboding and the thought that I had stumbled onto a true dive, that was also a hofbrau, made my nipples hard.

I stepped in only to see what I had been hoping for: a hofbrau steamtable set up to the left, and old bar to the right, a big television over the bar playing sports, and a seating area whose décor harkened back 30 years.

How many lonely truckers with bleary eyes have had their hearts broken we they realized that those buxom babes standing on the mezzanine were actually Beer Babe cutouts? Sad.

Unfortunately we had arrived after the hofbrau food stopped being served, but the small, older Asian woman offered to make me a sandwich.

I declined but said I'd be back. I asked her what the hours were and she said "from 3 to 3".

Then I thought, "Oh great! I can come here after work and check it out. Maybe I can get there around 10 or 11 and see if it's hoppin'." OK, I know. I can be a total airhead sometimes. After thinking about it for a minute, I suddenly realized that "3 to 3" wasn't 3 PM to 3 AM, it was 3 AM to 3 PM!

Hold on, now. I’m not waking up at the butt-crack of dawn, taking whatever bus crawls out to the southern end of town, just for some greasy hofbrau food. Granted, I'm sure it's quite a scene at 4 or 5 AM, full of truckers and dock workers, likely all Teamsters or some other union, either wide awake from popping cross-tops, or trying to shake off No Doze jitters at the bar while swigging down their third MGD right before they hit the road. In fact, if I was into the whole bar scene and sticking around past 2, I'd probably enjoy heading over to the Jerrold Market Place for some freshly carved roast beef and mashed potatoes to satiate my drunk munchies. Or if I was a loading dock worker, I'm sure I'd be a regular at Jerrolds and also be on a first name basis with the 3 or 4 people that work there, as well as the many old dudes that hang out, drink their coffee, read the paper, and play that stupid dice slamming game at the bar.

Six hours earlier, these tables were filled by guys named Bud.

But, as it is, I am a boring office worker at an architecture firm who regularly lifts boxes of invoices, and sometimes rolls of drawings, when I'm not parked on my ass in front of the monitor. The biggest on-the-job hazzards I routinely face are papercuts and/or the network server going down. And my greatest irritation at work are the men's restroom stalls whose doors open inward instead of outward.

This, however, doesn't stop me from going back to Jerrold's to see which came first, the hofbrau or the dive.

Today we drove back to the Produce Terminal and parked alongside several other cars in front of Jerrold's. The weather was cold and grey, and it was raining lightly. I made a mental note that across the way from Jerrold's is another fine dining establishment by the name of "J & V" which, from the looks of it, could be a dive score or a real pit. DPH gives it a 94 while Jerrold's scores ten points less at 84. But then, should I really trust health inspectors with greasy palms?

I was pretty disappointed when we walked into Jerrold's to see that the hofbrau was, in effect, shut down. Oh sure, there were a few meats (noticeably a big ham), although they were covered, and a dark green mass resembling a vegetable medley, but nothing looked hot. I didn't even bother taking a photo.

What I really wanted was a traditional hofbrau dinner for breakfast, but why bother if this is how things were looking. Bruce busted a move and got a real breakfast, which in his case was a bacon and (American) cheese omelette (with ice tea came to be $8.50), and I, ever the purist, got a sliced pastrami sandwich with coffee ($6.10).

I was a little confused since there were no trays to rest your plate on, but eventually after paying I realized that we were expected to have a seat and then the cashier, who doubled as waitress, would bring us our food when Bruce's omelette was cooked.

There weren't many people left in the place when we got there. The ones who were I imagine had been there for some time. There were two overweight old guys (can you say plumber's butt?) sitting on bar stools at the bar and carrying on with the squeeky-voiced female bartender, two other guys sitting at tables reading the paper, and a some guy who looked liked he worked for DPW finishing up his breakfast. A little while later, 3 younger guys walked in and sat at the far end of the bar.

Eventually, breakfast was served. In Bruce's case, the omelette had been fried on top of a grill that should've been scraped down and washed about 20 fried eggs, 5 patty melts, 16 breakfast links, and 40 bacon strips ago. Some would call the blackend residue on his omelette "flavor", yet that's not exactly his interpretation. Also I think his precise words were "I don't know how anyone could get eggs to be this tough" and something about being able to re-sole the bottom of his shoes.

I was like, duh! Why even eat breakfast when the place clearly says "hofbrau"?

So how was my sandwich? Well, the pastrami looked and smelled good. It was tough. Not tough enough to re-sole my shoes, but it definitely had a chew to it. I wasn't completely disappointed. The sourdough bread (which was authentic) the pastrami came on was toasted and buttered and there was sliced tomato and lettuce, as well as mustard, on the sandwich. It went well with my trucker, rock-gut, coffee which, while not all fancy like some, has it's place in the coffee community, though likely on the other side of the tracks.

Frankly, it would be hard to lure me back here (impossible to lure Bruce back), since the food wasn't that great and it's pretty isolated in relationship to where I live. However, while the food doesn't score high marks with me, the atmosphere, the friendliness of the staff (in particular Stanley), the fact that everyone seems to be on a first name basis, the unusual hours of operation, and the quirkiness of the place and it's location place this high on my dive score card. And of course, you know from reading me, that's a good thing.

I walked away from Jerrold's today still wondering if this place is a hofbrau dive or a dive hofbrau. Perhaps I should shut up, stop worrying, have some more coffee, and look for some shoes that have holes them.



At 9:43 AM, Anonymous lelandwong said...

since we're on the subject of hofbraus, I would like to hear your review of Tony's Joint on Van Ness and Geary. It seems to be an SF establishment too. I have mixed feelings about that place.


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