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by smmmarti guide
October 19, 2003
Sears Fine Foods, established in 1938, secured their fate early on by providing a heated Cadillac in the street in front of the diner to serve as a waiting room for the throngs of people who came here for the house specialty - a platter of 18 miniature Swedish pancakes. Today, there is no Caddie parked in the present tow-away zone out front, but a telephone booth just inside the door holds a few records for "packing ‘em in" and reminds customers of the restaurant’s funky outlook. The founder was, after all, a circus clown before opening the restaurant.
In an era of packaged and manufactured nostalgia, it’s refreshing to find an authentic holdout right there on Powell. Sears looks more like a restaurant you’d find in Chicago or Philadelphia than in highbrow Nob Hill, but there it stands, dripping in kitsch, with bubblegum-pink walls and oilcloths and heavily trod flooring that’s obviously taken a licking over the years.
We walked to Sears from the St. Francis after being assured that they would still be serving breakfast well past noon. A cheerful but seasoned hostess lead us to a table in the back of the long, mirrored room and made us comfortable by offering drinks immediately. Our regular waitress arrived a bit later, admitting she’d been thrown a few extra tables this morning, but assuring us we’d get the best service possible.
I watched a platter of the famed Swedish pancakes being delivered to the table next door (space is tight in the restaurant) and decided against them, since they didn’t appear to be as thin and crispy as I’d have expected, in spite of the fact that the restaurant serves 11,000 of these babies a day.
Instead, I opted for lunch and was quickly overwhelmed with a platter of club sandwiches, only a quarter of which I could finish. My husband had the "two eggs with choice of meat" combo, passing on the admittedly enticing waffle with whipped cream. For groups, Sears offers a unique "Ranch Breakfast" whereby groups of six or more can share platters of fruit, pancakes, eggs, meats, breads and more for only $11.00 per person, including choice of drinks. Classic diner sandwiches and salads round out the menu.
Not everyone will tap into the ambience of Sears, but it has benefited
at least a few people. Sidney, a maitre d' hired to work for Sears at age 106, smoked till he was 60, drank until 95 and never did give up the ladies, claiming his vices and his job at Sears kept him young.
But I wonder if it isn't something in those pancakes? Can’t hurt to test the theory.
From journal San Francisco: America's Favorite City
Bayside, New York
October 25, 2001
Our waitress was not overly friendly, and resented my telling her that the fruit which accompanied my meal was rancid. She kept insisting it was fresh...I asked for orange slices instead, and got them. The scrambled eggs were terrific in taste, naturally my waist line would suffer at some point. Chuck had a cheese omelet that could have fed 4 people with hash browns. Yes, definitely comfort food with a down home feeling. With so many wonderful places to eat in SF, this was not my preferred venue.
From journal From Sea to Shining Sea