[San Francisco, North Beach] Original Joe's

I’ve been on an Italian-American food kick recently and have went to Original Joe’s in North Beach a few times over the last few months. Originally located in the Tenderloin, Original Joe’s moved to its present location opposite Washington Square park in 2012 four years after a fire closed its original location. I’d never been to the Tenderloin location so can’t say how it compares. I’m guessing the prices were lower. In addition to the North Beach location, the owners also own Joe’s of Westlake in Daly City. There’s also an Original Joe’s in San Jose, but I don’t know if they are related as they have different websites.

I would classify Original Joe’s as an Italian-American diner, with comfortable upholstered booths and a lounge-like bar area. It’s fun to sit at the chef’s counter in the back and watch the kitchen work. They also have a mesquite charcoal grill which gives a nice flavor to grilled steaks and chops.

Here’s what I had over a few recent visits.

Calves Liver and Onion ($25.95, comes with choice of side)

The classic combination of liver and onions. I had this cooked medium rare. Sweet grilled onions. Good texture in the liver, smooth and a little pink in the middle. A good match with the salty crispy bacon and the sweet grilled onions. They put some green colored oil (from parsley maybe?) around the plate which made for an interesting presentation.

Chicken Parmigiana ($27.95, comes with choice of side)

Original Joe’s does a very good chicken parm. I had this a few times. Sometimes a little too heavy with the salt in the tomato sauce though. White meat chicken with a crispy breading, with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese melted and slightly browned under the grill.

Prime Rib Dip ($21.95, comes with choice of side)

A good French dip sandwich. The bread roll is not sourdough but rather something softer and sweeter. Good thinly sliced steak, with a powerful horseradish sauce. I would probably get their burger over this though if I were looking for a beef sandwich.

Joe’s Special ($18.95 plus $2 extra for mushrooms)

A “made in San Francisco” dish. Basically a scramble with ground beef, onions, and spinach. I added mushrooms for a little extra. It tastes like what it’s made of. Eggs were a bit overdone.

Joe’s Famous Hamburger Sandwich with French Fries ($19.95 plus $2 for cheese)

Simply constructed burger. The sourdough bread that it is used in lieu of a bun was not too hard and not mouth slicing. I had it medium rare and char-broiled with cheddar cheese. Very juicy and beefy patty. I think there were some finely diced onions in the patty that gave it some extra flavor. This is a large burger that can possibly feed two.

Hamburger Steak ($24.95 plus $3.95 for sautéed mushrooms and onions, comes with choice of side)

This looks like a larger version of the beef patty in the hamburger sandwich, only without the bread. I and added onions and mushrooms for a little extra. Interesting accompaniment of sport peppers and olives.

Roasted Prime Rib ($38.95)

A solid prime rib with good creamed spinach and mashed potatoes. Won’t give House of Prime Rib much competition though.

Arancini ($10.95)
Little fried risotto balls with cheese. OK.

Fries (Side Dish) ($7.95)
Their fries are good.

Ravioli (Side Dish) ($7.95)
The ravioli themselves were pretty good, but the sauce was a little watery.

Creamed Spinach (Side Dish) ($7.95)
Good creamed spinach. I’ve tended to order this as a side dish most of the time - many of the mains have a choice of a side. Because vegetables. The amount of cream and butter in it probably nullifies any health benefits of the spinach though.



I was looking at the Original Joe’s SJ web site and here’s what they have to say about the relationship with Original Joe’s in SF:

‘In 1937 the partner’s at “New Joe’s” had a falling out. One of the partner’s teamed up with Louis J. Rocca and Ante Rodin and started a restaurant at 144 Taylor Street in San Francisco. He insisted he was “The Original” so they called the new restaurant “Original Joe’s.” The restaurant became extremely popular.’

'On May 24, 1956 Louis J. Rocca, Louis J. Rocca, Jr.(Babe), Arthur Tortore (Otto) and Anthony Caramagno (Nino) opened “Original Joe’s” in San Jose. ’

and finally:
Original Joe’s is an independently owned restaurant and not affiliated with other Original Joe’s establishments.

The SF Joe’s has this to say:
‘Original Joe’s history runs deep, beginning in 1937 as a 14-stool counter on a saw dust covered floor at 144 Taylor Street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. It was opened by a Croatian immigrant, Tony Rodin…’

‘In the late 1930’s, original owner Tony Rodin partnered with Louis Rocca. In 1983, after a fulfilling 40-year partnership, Louis left and sold his share of the business to Tony’s daughter and son-in-law, Marie and John J. Duggan’

Both the SF/ Westlake Joe’s are owned and run by the Duggans, and the San Jose location is owned and run by the Roccas.


Interesting, thanks for the info.

We’ve been around long enough to have gotten acquainted in the Tenderloin (where the sourdough for the burger tended toward jawbreaker), found our way to Westlake (and the bargain Manhattan) and San Jose (where players from teams visiting the Shark Tank are sometimes seen), but not North Beach.