When Tadich Grill opened in 1849, California wasn’t even a state and people were moving to San Francisco by the thousands to pan for gold. Since then, the Beat Generation, the dot-com boom, and five whole seasons of Dharma & Greg have come and gone, but Tadich is still here. It’s an absolute classic and it’s one of the few places in SF that actually feels frozen in time, while the rest of the city continues to radically change on a daily basis. It will probably outlive us all, but while you’re still around, you should absolutely eat at Tadich at least once.
photo credit: Krescent Carasso
Walking in here feels like you’re traveling back to an era when going swing dancing would’ve been considered a wild night out, but not in a kitschy way. Some of the partitioned-off tables still have doorbells on the walls from the days when that was how you let your server know you wanted another round. There are white tablecloths, a bar so long you can’t see the other end, and waiters in white jackets who crack jokes about your drink choice and seem like they probably know how to make a martini better than anyone else on earth. It never feels like they’re putting on an old-timey show, though, which is what makes this place so great.
The gigantic menu at Tadich Grill is a collection of dishes that otherwise haven’t been seen together since steam engines were the fastest way to get from New York to San Francisco. You’ll see dinosauric things like double-cut lamb chops served with mint jelly and petrale sole a la Newburg, both of which you can really only find here. But the more simply prepared seafood is what you should focus on.
photo credit: Krescent Carasso
There are crab cakes that are light and actually full of crab, a huge bowl of cioppino with a flavorful tomato broth and more types of shellfish than you can count, and a perfectly broiled Chilean sea bass with lemon butter. A full dinner here can get pricey depending on what you order—even the cioppino is $37—but since the portion sizes haven’t changed since Teddy Roosevelt was in office, you can get by just splitting a few things with whoever you come with.
Tadich Grill is walk-in only and it’s one of the few places in SF with a New York Strip where you can show up in any state and feel taken care of. You can come for a blowout dinner when your family is visiting, or when the one client you actually like is in town and you both want to feel like aristocrats for the night. But it makes just as much sense to stop by for lunch on a rainy Saturday because a cup of clam chowder and a few drinks is just about the best way to spend an afternoon when the forecast suddenly goes from “partially sunny” to “sudden downpour.” It’s the same experience you would’ve had a hundred years ago and it’ll be the same a hundred years from now, too, when someone’s actually cracked time travel without realizing they could have just come to Tadich instead.
Boston Clam Chowder
Classic chowder that’s actually full of clams instead of a bunch of potatoes to take its place. Come here for lunch on a rainy day and get this, along with a few martinis to go with it.
Dungeness Crab Cocktail
This is a huge ice cream-sized scoop of Dungeness crab with some cocktail sauce. If you’re really obsessed with crab, go for it. Otherwise, it’s a lot of crab without much else going on.
Dungeness Crab Cake With House Aioli
This is how crab cakes should be, and if you’re dead set on getting crab here, this is the move. There’s almost no filler, to the point where you’ll wonder how all the crab meat is even staying together.
Beef And Barley Soup
Hearty, beefy soup that we’re fairly certain could cure frostbite. It has big chunks of beef and vegetables and tastes like you’re inside a Campbell’s commercial in the best possible way.
Broiled Chilean Sea Bass Filet With Lemon Butter
This is a simple but perfectly cooked piece of sea bass with lemon butter. It’s about as old school as it gets and comes with bright steamed vegetables and rice pilaf.
Seafood Cioppino With Garlic Bread
A gigantic bowl of super tomato-y stew with more shellfish than we can count and a piece of garlic bread that’s 30% butter. Get this.
Sonoma Double-Cut Lamb Rib Chops
The last time we saw lamb chops served with mint jelly was in a Junior League cookbook from 1958, but these are perfectly cooked and the mint jelly somehow works. You’ll end up picking up the bones and gnawing on them, and no one will be able to judge you.
Petrale Sole A La Newburg Stuffed With Crab And Bay Shrimp
This comes with so much butter and cream that we wouldn’t be shocked to see Christian Bale eating this to bulk up for a role. It’s a gloriously outdated and rich piece of fish that’s stuffed with shellfish and vegetables and then covered in dairy and broiled. The best thing about this though is the rice that soaks up all the sauce it’s been sitting in.
Bourbon Bread Pudding
Super dense bread pudding covered in bourbon caramel sauce and whipped cream. If it’s someone’s birthday, you know what to do.