John’s Grill looms large on any list of San Francisco’s classic bars and restaurants. Doing business in this spot since 1908, they’ve poured more than a few Martinis.
Long a favorite of celebrities, John’s Grill figures large as the legendary home of “The Maltese Falcon” by author Dashiell Hammett. Fans of the famous 1930 book and 1941 Humphrey Bogart movie know that the San Francisco-based fictional private detective Sam Spade had lunch here at his favorite booth. Was he drinking, you guessed it, a Martini?
Inside on the second floor, a replica falcon is displayed, although not one of the original two thought to have been used in filming “The Maltese Falcon.” One of those was unearthed and sold at auction in 2013 for $4 million.
Framed celebrity photos and snapshots of past patrons are hung with pride on the dark oak panelled walls. Potted plants and brass lamps set off bentwood chairs at tables set out with white linen tables on the restaurant’s three bustling levels.
The historic townhouse restaurant has an old-fashioned atmosphere which the Zagat guide indicates “really takes you back” and cocktails “that Sam Spade would be proud of.”
At lunch, go for Sam Spade’s lamb chops, the filet of sole featured in Gourmet Magazine, a classic cut of steak or perhaps one of the Dungeness crab dishes that feature the local daily catch. For dinner, select your size of John’s featured steak and top it with peppercorn or bernaise sauce. Porterhouse, T-bone, ribeye, filet mignon and New York steak share the menu with traditional seafood cioppino and a chicken Jerusalem featured in Gourmet Magazine.
Classic American desserts such as chocolate mousse, pecan pie, cheesecake, vanilla caramel flan and berries with ice cream round out the close of a meal, topped off with an after dinner drinks list.
Just follow the cable cars heading for the historic turnaround at Hallidie Plaza at Market Street. Look for the vintage neon sign above the dark green awning, right in the thick of things two blocks east along Powell Street off Union Square. Surrounded by popular hotels, shopping, dining, theaters and the Moscone Convention Center, absolutely no detective work is needed to locate John’s Grill.