If you've ever wondered where the bankroll for Charles Phan's often uneven recent expansion tear comes from, wonder no longer: the latest issue of Restaurant Business reveals that Phan's Ferry Building tourist favorite The Slanted Door is California's highest-grossing independently-owned restaurant, raking in a cool $16.5 million in estimated annual sales. This figure is all the more impressive considering it has a relatively modest average tab, estimated at $48 per head. To put those numbers in perspective, Phan's always-packed Vietnamese spot is #23 among independently owned restaurants in the entire nation, with sales roughly equivalent to those of Mario Batali's four-star Del Posto in NYC (which boasts a much higher check average, around $130), and higher than those of Grand Central Station's Oyster Bar, Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, and human pair of truck nuts Guy Fieri's much-mocked NYC outpost.
Indeed, a view of the water and a homing beacon for tourists appear to be a recipe for success as far as SF restaurants are concerned, with the Sausalito outpost of Scoma's (#2 in California, #32 nationally), Boulevard (#6 in CA, #63 nationally), and the Cliff House (#8 in CA, #75 nationally) as the other players on the list. Still, none of them can overpower the might of the godawful Tao Asian Bistro in Vegas, which raked in $64M last year, nearly twice that of the #2 player, Miami's Joe's Stone Crab. People may carp about The Slanted Door, but compared to Tao, it's basically the French Laundry.