As 7 Mile House owner Vanessa Garcia explains in a new history of her restaurant, even its name demarcates the past. Opened in 1858, 7 Mile House was just one — or, specifically, the seventh — of many mile houses, stage coach pitstops positioned at one-mile intervals on the road out of San Francisco. 7 Mile House is just over the border into Brisbane — another, called 16-Mile House, survives in Millbrae.
Garcia’s new book, See you at The 7, traces her restaurant’s winding history to the present day: As it’s always been, “The 7” is known for beer and boisterous atmosphere, but since Garcia took over in 2004, it’s also made a name as a destination for sisig, lumpia, and other dishes from her native Philippines.
“The 7 mile adobo, it’s not traditional adobo exactly, but its something everyone likes,” Garcia says. Free bowls of it will be available at a book release party on Friday, January 26, from 11:30 a.m. until they run out.
Garcia has brought plenty of other non-original elements to 7 Mile House during her tenure. It’s no longer the only stagecoach stop for a mile, so she’s got to bring in customers somehow. Innovations like a dog menu and “yappy hour” with “dog beer,” or beer with a bit of beef juice for patrons’ dogs, have been hits.
But Garcia is also an eager archivist of her restaurant’s history, and has spent her free moments interviewing old-timer patrons for her book and scouring public library shelves for references to the bar.
At first, “All I had was a picture on the wall: The Italian immigrant family [who owned the business] in 1903,” Garcia recalls. But with co-author and cousin Regina Abuyuan, she can now account for 160 years of 7 Mile history. With some time allegedly spent as an illegal gambling den, it’s always been a “blue collar” and “teamster” hangout, she maintains, with butchers, truckers, and railroad workers from the nearby Southern Pacific Railroad yard typically mingling at the 7.
“The folks I interviewed and included in the book had really deep stories,” says Garcia. “One of my favorites was Ron Moore, who I met two years ago because somebody called me and told me he had a 7 Mile tattoo, in honor of his dad.”
Moore’s father, it turns out, was a longtime bartender at 7 Mile House. He and his brother fondly recall sitting at the bar to watch their father work, an experience to which Garcia’s kids, 16 and 18, can probably relate. The oldest now works at the restaurant, too.
“Stories like that, that come out from the interviews, were just beautiful,” Garcia says. That’s led Garcia to “her mission,” as she sees it. “Tell everyone to cherish the places we have today, support the old classic restaurants. And also, I want to encourage restaurant owners to write their own books, because beautiful stories pop out from everywhere.”
7 Mile House (2800 Bayshore Blvd, Brisbane) celebrates its book release on Friday, January 26, starting at 11:30 am., with free bowls of their pork adobo and rice while supplies last. A book signing and $5 happy hour is from 3 to 6 pm, live DJs are from 4 to 8 p.m., and from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m, LP Band performs.