Grilled Linguiça on a French Roll with Butter; Caldo Verde Soup: Portuguese Kale and Potato Soup with Linguiça; Bacalhau à Gomes de Sà: Portuguese Salt Cod Baked with Potatoes, Onions, Hard Cooked Eggs, Parsley, and Olives
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: The Grubstake
Reviewed The Grubstake: Sunday, September 24, 2006
The Grubstake is one of the longest running diners in the Polk Gulch area and is well loved by locals ranging from log cabin Republicans; celebrated drag queens, like Juanita More; artists, like Jose Guzman-Colon; actors from A.C.T.; and touring productions of every play in town to judges cops, firefighters, students, skateboarders, and tourists from every corner of the globe.
An old San Francisco streetcar is half the building, and the other half is a well-maintained and unique diner with a red banquet stretching the length of the building. There are also booths, a counter, and additional tables for a maximum guest load of about 50. The tables along the banquet can be joined for parties from two to 24 with beautiful butcher block tops and inserts.
Most of the menu, served from 5:00 PM to 4:00 AM weekdays and starting at 11:00 AM on weekends, is available until the kitchen runs out of the items that day.
In addition to the regular menu, which features gargantuan sandwiches, salads, breakfasts, burgers, and a host of daily specials, like roast turkey, fresh fish, chicken Kiev, meatloaf and Steak Diane, there is a full page on the back of the menu devoted to home cooked Portuguese food, which draws a devoted clientele of its own. Owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Linda and Fernando Santos and a staff of waiters, cooks, bussers under their attentive and caring eyes, the restaurant makes sure that the customer is always king, which makes for laughter and conviviality without interruption.
Our recent visit found the whole restaurant decorated for Halloween with hundreds of photos of staff and customers hand-mounted on the walls, and a multitude of pumpkins and masks making it a real party setting. This is a place where the owners and staff know the customers after a few visits and strive to make each one feel part of the family.
Never to be neglected are the housemade desserts put out by Linda, including cheesecakes of every description, apple and pumpkin pies, rice pudding, and Santos’ equally intoxicating chocolate mousse. The love they and the staff have for this restaurant is contagious, and it is also shared by the staff and almost all the customers, who return time and time again to this true family restaurant, where the abundance and love of fresh ingredients and quality preparations are celebrated with creativity and care.
Linda and Santos even grow the multitude of fresh flowers that adorn every table year round. This is a must visit for every local and visitor alike.
Location: San Mateo
Favorite Restaurant: Viognier
Reviewed The Grubstake: Saturday, September 23, 2006
I entered the “converted railroad car diner” known as The Grubstake and knew that I would be in for a nice surprise. I walked into a cozy little diner filled with the warm vibe of being a family-owned restaurant. Adorning the walls were colorful murals and street scenes. I was pleased by the lack of pretension, as it was a definite jeans and tee shirt kind of place.
The first thing that came to mind when I saw the menu was “comfort food.” The Grubstake offered a fanfare of hearty American-style breakfast items, steaks/chops, and burgers. However, what I found intriguing was “The Portuguese Corner” of the menu. Admittedly, I am an “all day breakfast kind of girl,” so I found it tempting to just order breakfast for dinner. However, I was set on trying something new, so I selected some traditional Portuguese dishes in an attempt to broaden my culinary horizons. I began my meal with a hearty bowl of Caldo Verde Soup. A charming terra cotta bowl set the stage for the piping hot soup. This rich broth consisted of chopped kale, which still had a nice bite to it, potatoes, and possibly a hint of fish stock. I enjoyed it but I felt it was slightly over salted. That was surprising for me because I, admittedly, love salt. Other than that, it really was a comforting dish against the settling fog outside. For my main course, I selected a dish called Bacalhau à Gomes de Sà. The entree arrived nestled in a lovely terra cotta platter similar in appearance to the Spanish styled cazuela. The dish was a combination of traditional Portuguese salt cod (bacalhau) (it was well soaked and not the least bit salty), sautéed onions, chopped bits of hard cooked egg, minced parsley, and olives. It was very flavorful dish. I felt pleased with my selection. It definitely was in keeping with my initial “comfort food” assesment. By the end of my meal, I was really too full to even attempt dessert. However, I know I will return to give their homemade pies and flan a try.
– Portion size: Good/generous
– Quality of food: Good/homestyle presentation
– Service: Good. It was also a pleasure to meet the owner who invited me back.
– Décor and atmosphere: Mix and match with a definite charm of being family owned.
– Bang for buck: Value priced/inexpensive
– Comfort: Comfortable…a neighborhood feel…nice place for locals without the “locals only mindset.”
– Wine service (if applicable)
– Noise level: Quiet at the time I was there…
– Wait for table: No waiting
– Food arrival speed: My entree took about 15-20 minutes to arrive, which, as stated on the menu, was due to baking time.
I like the funky neighborhood around Polk. There are lots of colorful characters meandering the streets. It is a “come as you are” scene and The Grubstake fits right in. As a musician, I’ve played in a few clubs in that area and it would’ve been nice to know about it, as it stays open on the weekends until 4 AM! (In keeping with musician hours). Parking is a gamble in that area, but there are a few parking garages. I’d recommend The Grubstake to folks who want a value priced/hearty meal.
Occupation: Director Public Relations
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Charanga
Reviewed The Grubstake: Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Everyone should try The Grubstake at least once because is it a San Francisco Institution. The service was great. It felt like a Mom and Pop restaurant. The staff was very warm and kind. The portions were generous. The prices were fair.
It is open until 4:00 AM. Face it, San Francisco closes at 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM. There is not much open after that time. I know The Grubstake is famous for people going there after 2 AM when the bars close. I so glad that the show did not make us go at that time, as I am sure that it is packed at that time.
We did go on a Tuesday night, and it was busy from 7 PM to 9 PM. However, we did not have to wait for a table. It was a mixed group of people, but the majority was a hot and sexy senior citizen crowd, laughing and having fun. I did notice that quite of few tables ordered the steak and fries as I did.
I started the meal with the linguiça appetizer. It came with a toasted French roll and butter. The French roll looked like a dinner roll to me, but I was happy with it, as I try not to eat butter and white bread so this was heaven for me. I felt like I was breaking all the rules. Crazy!!!
I would go back to The Grubstake just for this appetizer alone. The steak had a lot of flavor but a little tough. Since there are so many great steakhouses in San Francisco, I would probably not choose The Grubstake.
The dessert was ok. I had the blueberry cheesecake. I would not go back for the cheesecake.
To sum it up, if it was late at night and I was in the neighborhood, I would go there, especially with a group of friends to people watch. It would be more interesting watching the reality of this crowd than it would be to watch reality TV at home.