The Original Fog City Diner, gleaming Chrome and "Don't Worry" Neon ClockDriving by the 're-manufactured' Fog City Diner, fully modernized to 2013 aesthetics and no doubt the latest culinary best practices, I found myself missing its original gleaming chrome, the design genius from its launch at this prime Embarcadero location across from the San Francisco Bay Club. OK, it was originally the Mildred Pierce, a favorite haunt for the "Mad Men" of San Francisco back in the 70's and 80s prior to Fog City's original birth June 12, 1985.
The legendary Herb Caen went to the grand opening of Fog City Diner and proclaimed its white hot nature in his famous column:
"Another day, another new restaurant. These things cost big bucks and are a high-risk business, but I guess when they pay off they pay off big. I know a lot of rich restaurant owners and several who died multimillionaires. Wednesday night’s kickoff was for the Fog City Diner, owned by the three people (Bill Higgins, Bill Upson, Cindy Pawlcyn) who made a winner out of Mustard’s in the Napa Valley. This one’s at Battery and the Embarcadero, on the spot where two earlier places died – Mildred Pierce’s and Battery Point – but I think they got it right this time. The diner is a stylized super 20th Century Limited “car” that cost half a million in chrome alone. In the fog, which was thick Wed. night, the Fog City Diner looks ready to roll. I think you’ll need reservations.
Well said but is this an improvement?
I am sure it is better for business, and for those of us that study historical preservation it will always bring up the questions as to whether demolition leads to a better experience, asking what should we save, when and why.
What do you think of the change at Fog City?
Bill Higgins said the “diner” concept has had its run and Pawlcyn left over a decade ago. Higgins says, "the concept isn’t commensurate with current dining expectations."
Back in the day, those of us, known at the time as the "Three Amigos" did admittedly frequent the Fog City Bar after a grueling workout playing badminton at the Bay Club. OK laugh. But, if you ever played serious shuttlecock you would know that this involved serious sweat. Anyway, this led us to the world famous Billy Berger, his hijinks in general, the Knights of Knee, popular at the time, and the best Mai Tais on Earth and and the correctly named "Tim and Tonic", after Tim Hill naturally, and eventually, a eventually a bronze plaque, appropriately nailed to the bar upside down in our honor. The Three Amigos are long gone, but not have not forgotten. Such is the nature of the "Bar in San Francisco", an experience with countless thousands of stories over nearly hundreds of years now, all with variations on a similar theme. PS, we were always successful at "working off the work out" at Fog City - they Delivered in spades - Thanks Billy Berger(sp), Nancy Hahn, Bill Higgins, Ty Joseph wherever you may be and everything Fog City.
And, I miss what was no doubt the best pork chop on Earth and notably the first time I had ever heard about a farm-fresh Sonoma grass fed pig, cattle, chicken anything - and that was in the 80s.
PHOTO NOTES: Some decades ago, I shot this exterior view of the Fog City Diner, at the time commissioned by founder Bill Higgins, for a promotional postcard. The final was actually a hand-tinted version of this view. 6 x 7cm old school transparency film of course.
Reference: Waterfront History of San Francisco