Alfred's Steakhouse has been an institution in San Francisco since 1928, an exceptional fact considering the restaurant churn this city regularly undergoes. It's a credit to Alfred's uniqueness that it has been able to consistently foster such a devoted community, despite changing hands a few times over the decades. A desire to preserve what makes Alfred's so unique is a shared trait of all of the restaurant's previous owners, which now includes Daniel Patterson Group.
Since purchasing the beloved restaurant, DPG has been committed to honoring the essence of Alfred's, from the red decor to the iconic tableside Manhattan service, but the Merchant Street restaurant has also seen the benefits of much-needed renovations, which will be revealed on (re)opening day, Thursday, February 18. The process of digging through the space and pulling off wallpaper revealed some long-hidden treasures, stowed away since the building was home to the Blue Fox Restaurant, which closed in 1993. Take a look at the objects they found, which each share their own insight into San Francisco's history.
Alfred’s Steakhouse has been around for almost 90 years, and in that time it’s evolved its plate design a number of times, all of which were rediscovered during DPG’s renovation. First came the intricately decorated round plates (bottom left), followed by the heavy silver plates with matching chargers (top right) — these were the first instance of the logo being used. Once the Petri family assumed ownership of Alfred’s they switched to the oval plates with a blue ring (top left), big enough for a healthy serving of steak with a side. Finally, on the bottom right, we have the new round plate with the new logo, created in clear homage to the former design.
The Blue Fox
The Blue Fox was a restaurant that occupied Alfred’s current location, 659 Merchant St., from 1942 to 1993 under the ownership of Italian-born Mario Mondin. It was once revered as a top restaurant in the United States, welcoming guests like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio, and Marilyn Monroe. Joan Crawford was such a fan that she even stored her own case of vodka there, appropriate considering the Blue Fox was a popular speakeasy during prohibition, prior to Mondin’s tenure. The elegance of the Blue Fox is evident in the heavy silver dishes found in storage, each bowl stamped with the restaurant's insignia. It took a lot of elbow grease for DPG staff to bring back their luster.
Since 1997, Alfred’s Steakhouse has boasted a straightforward but novel menu: It offered a selection of salads and appetizers, and the main event was picking a cut of steak with a complimentary side. DPG plans on continuing that format, with a few individual changes to be released soon. During the excavation, they came across stacks of the old menus from the time Alfred’s occupied its original location at 886 Broadway St., above the tunnel. They were printed in an era when menus were given away as souvenirs, an awesome take-home considering the intricate design.
The Critters Are Always Watching
Most Alfred’s guests won’t get a chance to see the kitchen, even though it could stand alone as its own showcase. Just know that your rich, expertly-cooked steaks are being prepared under the watchful gaze of brightly colored crabs, lobsters, and fish painted onto tiles that have adorned the walls since the days of the Blue Fox. They’re out of tune with the elegant design motif of the dining and bar areas, but these playful critters are a great reminder that San Francisco is a city capable of being luxurious without taking itself entirely too seriously.
Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall
This elaborately adorned mirror has been beautifying Alfred’s walls since the beginning, but in a few days it will hang in a more prominent position. The mirror holds a special place in the hearts of many Alfred’s enthusiasts, some couples even requesting to sit underneath it on their annual wedding anniversary visit to the restaurant. The mirror has been cleaned and polished, ready to reflect the new red paint, local artwork, and chandeliers for which Alfred’s is known.
The Fox's Shadow
One of the most noticeable changes to DPG’s Alfred’s is the facade, now a glorious burned-wood siding that is likely to catch the eye of passersby on Kearny and Montgomery and impress the most discerning loiterers. When it came time to prep the entrance, the chiseled-out silhouette of a fox was found, a leftover relic from the days of the Blue Fox. The fox itself was jackhammered out in 1997 to make way for the incoming steakhouse, then sealed up until Alfred’s changed hands. It just goes to show how much history is hiding in even the most modern of places.