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The Weeknighter: Tommy's Joynt

Image from The Social Life

Weekends are for amateurs. Weeknights are for pros. That's why each week Stuart Schuffman will be exploring a different San Francisco bar, giving you the lowdown on how and where to do your weeknight right. From the most creative cocktails to the best happy hours, Stuart's taking you along on his weeknight adventures into the heart of the City's nightlife. So, who wants a drink?

Sitting down to write this piece about Tommy’s Joynt I was gonna use all kinds of wistful and romantic imagery to describe the specialness of the place. This is partially because I’m a softy and often end up waxing nostalgic in this column, but more so because Tommy’s Joynt is a special place. Then I went to the Tommy’s Joynt website and realized that a) they don’t put up with that kind of wistful shit and b) the description of the Joynt on the home page is probably the best, most self aware “about me” a restaurant has ever done. Seriously, go read it now, I’ll wait…

That was amazing right? I want to block quote the whole thing because it’s perfect. Being that I can’t (or rather shouldn’t) block quote the whole thing I’ll just drop this one in:

These men, our founders, children of the Great Depression, knew how to squeeze every farthing out of a penny. They developed an eatery, a joint, where you could eat like you had all the money in the U.S. Mint, but lived like a Polk street pauper. Our lean buffalo meat covering rice is served for under nine dollars because we spend our money on beef, not table servers who exist to screw up your delicious meal. See a line out the door? Don't rush off, in the time it takes to walk to another restaurant, get a table, and order from whatever teenager decided to show up at work that day, our long-term employees have served two dozen people.

I mean, are you fucking kidding me? I want to be best friends with not only whoever wrote this, but also whoever sits at the top of the food chain and okayed it. I imagine that person being like, “Well done Johnson! If they don’t like what we’re doing, they can eat a bag of dicks!”

I do live like a “Polk Street pauper” so the Joynt has always been a go to eatery and drinkery whenever I’m in the area. There have been many times where I’ve been doing a “Muni ride of fame” (no one should be shamed for getting laid) and hopped out at the corner of Van Ness and Geary because I knew that Tommy’s Joynt had exactly what I needed at the moment. A Bloody Mary and a hearty meal are a perfect way to set your hangover at ease before you finish the trudge home. Tommy’s Joynt is the ideal spot to eat and drink before you go to a show at one of the many surrounding venues like The Regency, AMC Van Ness, or the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theatre. I’ve actually never been to Mitchell Brothers, but pairing Tommy’s Joynt with a strip club just seems right for some reason. 

Maybe that’s because Tommy’s Joynt feels like a link to a bawdier San Francisco. At a time when it seems the entire city is losing it’s identity (ending public nudity, kicking out the Market Street chess players, evicting elderly people), the Joynt sits on the corner of Geary and Van Ness saying, “I’ve been doing my thing since 1947. Fuck you if you don’t like it.” And I do like it, immensely.

From all day drunks, to tourist families to hardcore metal kids on their way to a show, Tommy’s Joynt doesn’t bat an eye. They take you in, say “Trust me I’ve seen worse, now order your food already,” and then send you on your way. Tommy’s Joynt is a bar and it’s a restaurant. But more than that, it’s a big part of the soul of a city that’s trying to figure out if it still wants one.    

Stuart Schuffman has been called "an Underground legend" by the SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero" by the SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap" by Time Out New York. Follow him @BrokeAssStuart.