Billed as the city’s “original hofbrau,” Tommy’s Joynt has been a San Francisco institution since 1947. In a city that’s constantly changing, this beloved destination takes pride in its roots, serving up tradition and perfectly cooked meats — at nostalgic prices. Situated at the bustling corner of Van Ness and Geary, Tommy’s is hard to miss with its fluorescent pink-and-green sign and bright, muraled facade that boldly proclaims “where turkey is king.”
But the real king here is the beef. While the menu boasts everything from buffalo stew to spaghetti to, yes, turkey, the various assortments of beef are what’s been attracting flocks of hungry patrons for more than seven decades. After seating yourself (Tommy’s Joynt is a self-proclaimed “no-frills” establishment) and perusing the menu, you’ll want to jump in the cafeteria-style line to order from one of the restaurant’s seasoned carvers, who will deftly slice and serve your meat in front of you.
The two most popular options are a sandwich, piled high with your choice of meat for $8.80, or a dinner platter, which pairs your meat selection with mashed potatoes or veggies, beans or salad, and a freshly baked sourdough roll for the “am-I-still-in-SF?” price of $12.90.
For me, the star of the show is the melt-in-my-mouth barbecue brisket, which is intoxicatingly tender and slathered in a slightly tangy, not-too-sweet barbecue sauce. The perfect remedy for a foggy San Francisco day, the French dip sandwich features thinly sliced roast beef and a zing of Swiss cheese on fresh-baked sourdough — then crowned with rich au jus, of course. And for something extra savory, I like to come for the Saturday special: perfectly salted corned beef atop a bed of tangy cabbage and boiled potatoes.
As for the sides, Tommy’s mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving lover’s dream with creamy, smooth potatoes and a thick, satisfying gravy. The sweet, smoky baked beans are another favorite, while the crunchy green beans are a delicious option for something a bit healthier. Whichever combination you land on, I highly suggest you have your order ready — the carvers and cashiers here prize efficiency.
Pair your delectable meats with a similarly affordable beer, wine, or whiskey from the beer stein–lined bar while allowing Tommy’s to transport you to an era of old San Francisco. With its affordable prices, unfussy atmosphere and refreshing constancy, Tommy’s Joynt pays tribute to a San Francisco almost forgotten. Thanks to institutions like Tommy’s, we can keep the memory alive.