Legacy Business Spotlight: Dianda’s, Grubstake, Thanh Long

January 31st, 2020 No Comments »

This month we will start to highlight San Francisco Businesses that were part of Heritage’s original 100 Legacy Bars and Restaurants initiative back in 2013. This initiative was the first step in documenting the city’s vast commercial heritage and promoting businesses that did not necessarily qualify for formal historic designation. Legacy Bars and Restaurants directly inspired the creation of the city’s now existing Legacy Business Registry program, which now includes over 270 San Francisco businesses.

Dianda’s Italian American Pastry

Photo courtesy of Dianda’s Bakery

2883 Mission Street
Year established: 1962

Since its inclusion on our Legacy Bars and Restaurants list, Dianda’s Italian American Pastry have now been approved by the Historic Preservation Commission and Office of Small Business to join the Legacy Business Registry! Dianda’s was opened in 1962 by Enrichetta and Elio Dianda, natives of Lucca, Tuscany who left Italy for San Francisco following WWII. The Diandas purchased a bakery at 2883 Mission Street, which had been in operation since 1906, and gave it their family’s surname. It has since become a San Francisco tradition, popular for wedding and birthday cakes, as well as Italian cookies, pastries, candies, and panettone. Hanging from the bakery’s walls are black-and-white photos of Enrichetta and Elio Dianda; near the entrance is an inscription that reads, “Elio Dianda & Sons.” With strong feelings about worker’s rights, Dianda’s offers their employees two unions – one for the bakers and another for the clerks. Enrichetta and Elio Dianda handed down the business to their sons, Armando, Floreano, and Pascuale, who managed the bakery until 2004 when principal owner, Pascuale Dianda sold it to fellow-bakers and long-time employees Floyd Goldberg, Sergio Flores, and Luis Pena. The new owners remain committed to Dianda’s tradition of offering fresh, traditional, Italian pastries on a daily basis while also offering some of their own baking traditions, including Tres Leches cake and New York Brownie with walnuts.

A selection of Dianda’s cookies at SF Heritage’s Holiday Open House in 2019.

Photo by Pengrin/Flickr.

 

Grubstake

Photo courtesy of Grubstake.

Situated between Polk and Van Ness, Grubstake is a unique eatery that boasts of being the only restaurant in San Francisco that is operated out of a railway car. The car originally operated on the Berkeley-Oakland-San Francisco key rail line. In 1927, it was brought to rest in San Francisco after being sold at auction. The Orient Express, a traditional diner, made its home in the red and white car for several decades. In 1967, the owners of Grubstake restaurant, originally located at 142 Mason Street, moved into the charming railcar, which was later repainted. In 1995, it became the only restaurant in San Francisco to serve continental Portuguese food, adding a twist to the diner fare on the menu.

In 2019, plans were announced to demolish Grubstake and then rebuild it. From Eater SF:

The Grubstake, a diner located at 1525 Pine Street, has been serving late-night patrons since the late 1960s, but its roots in the city go back about a hundred years. Its fate was thrown into question in 2015, when former Mayes Oyster House owner Nick Pigott bought the spot (via a company called “1525 Pine Street Dev. LLC”), promised that “nobody is going to notice a difference,” then commissioned plans to raze the diner and build a condo development in its place. Those designs failed to pan out, but new plans reported on by the SF Business Times would see an eight-story, 21-unit residential development in the space. As part of the new plan, Socketsite reports, the Grubstake’s facade would remain, and the restaurant is expected to return after construction is completed.”

Do you think these plans will retain the integrity of Grubstake?


Photo courtesy of Grubstake.

Photo by Leo Reynolds/Flickr.

Rendering of the proposed mixed-use project at 1525 Pine St., the longtime home of Grubstake. KERMAN MORRIS ARCHITECTS

In 2014, Grubstake was featured on KQED’s Check Please Bay Area:

Thanh Long

Photo by Yuichi.Sakuraba/Flickr

Matriarch Diana An first opened Thanh Long in 1971 as a 20-seat diner. When her entire family arrived after fleeing the Communist take-over of South Vietnam, the restaurant expanded and now is hailed as San Francisco’s first Vietnamese restaurant. The name of the restaurant was originally supposed to be “Thang Long” or “ascending dragon” in Vietnamese, but a printer’s error caused to name to appear as “Thanh Long,” or “Green Dragon.” Since the color green has traditionally brought prosperity and luck to the Vietnamese culture, the misspelled name has remained to this day.

The namesake dragon. Photo courtesy of Thanh Long Restaurant.

Diana’s daughter-in-law, Helene, came from a prominent family in Saigon, as her father and grandfather both held the royal title of Vice Consul to the Vietnamese Emperor. When Helene, her husband Danny, and their three young daughters landed in San Francisco, they brought with them dozens of family recipes that would later be the hallmark of the establishment, including the now-popular Roasted Garlic Crab. Having been raised in a family of diplomats, Helene attended many formal dinners as a child, with menus prepared by Vietnamese, Chinese, and French chefs. The unique blend of the foods to which she was accustomed informed the menu at Thanh Long, leading Michael Bauer, former longtime restaurant critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, to name Helene “the mother of Fusion cuisine in the U.S.”

Last week, Rachel Levin of the San Francisco Chronicle profiled Thanh Long in her column “The Usual,” an “irregular column about regulars and their restaurants.” It features stories from customers over the years, who reminisce about the crab, how prices have changed, and the role the restaurant has played in their lives. The actor and SF resident Danny Glover, a regular to Thanh Long since the 70’s, also gushes about their crab. Here’s to more memories in the Outer Sunset!

An family collage. Photo courtesy of Thanh Long Restaurant.

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