By Anne McMullin
Although it has changed hands a number of times over the years, Eats restaurant has served breakfast, lunch and brunch at the corner of Clement Street and Second Avenue for almost 45 years.
Current owner Joyce Lee was a frequent patron and fan of the restaurant when the previous owners put it up for sale in 2009. After some thought, Lee, who owns nearby restaurants B Star and Burma Super Star, decided to purchase the business so that she could insure that the neighborhood institution would continue to serve the community.
Lee, a San Francisco native and long-time Richmond District resident, has continued the tradition of offering fresh, simple and “approachable” food in a neighborhood-friendly environment.
Eats is open seven days a week, 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and has an all-day menu. Some of its most popular breakfast and brunch items are the Mexican scramble (similar to chilaquiles); avocado toast; spicy tomato skillet with grilled bread; and huevos rancheros, served with crispy tortillas, salsa, eggs, white beans, pepper jack cheese, avocados, sour cream and pico de gallo.
In addition to the savory items, they also have a number of sweet options, including their homemade waffles topped with berries, whipped cream, bananas and honey butter.
The Eats lunch menu’s highlights include: a kale Caesar salad; a fried chicken sandwich made with a panko-crusted chicken breast topped with avocado and slaw; soup; a grilled tuna melt; and a tri-tip sandwich topped with caramelized onions and horseradish.
In addition to its fresh juice bar, Eats serve specialty lemonades, coffee, tea, beer, sparkling wine, mimosas and a bloody mary made with ginger-infused soju.
The restaurant has wood tables, high ceilings and big windows that let in lots of natural light. It also has a number of tables outside under a red awning and heat lamps for when it gets chilly.
On weekends, the line to get in can sometimes be long, especially on Sundays during the Clement Street Farmer’s Market. However, customers can put their name on the waitlist and be contacted when their table is ready or sign up for the wait-list electronically through Yelp.
Ixchel Acosta, who has been the manager of Eats for the last seven years, said she sees the restaurant as a real neighborhood hub, much like the home-away-from-home establishment at the center of the 1980s show, Cheers.
The owner and staff have become friends with many of the Eats customers over time. They have watched couples come in for a first date, later marry and then come in with their kids. One customer enlisted their assistance when he brought in a customized crossword puzzle designed to help him propose to his girlfriend. Another couple that frequented Eats when they dated, just hosted their rehearsal dinner there.
Eats has a mix of patrons, from mothers with kids in strollers to seniors. Jim Nance, a Richmond resident, has walked to the restaurant for lunch or brunch approximately three times a week for the past 30 years.
“It’s really nice to go somewhere where everyone knows your name,” Nance said. He also said he appreciates that the friendly staff remembers what he likes to order, too.
Acosta describes the staff as a very tight-knit group and explains that because most of them live in the neighborhood, she feels they also have a vested interest in the restaurant because it is so much a part of their community.
Eats closes at 2:30 p.m., but sometimes opens its facility to the community after hours and has hosted book launches, talks, dinners and special events.
In September, Eats participated in the Clement Street Art Walk, spotlighting five female artists and hosting spoken word, poetry and games. On Dec. 5, they will participate in ClemenTime, Clement Street’s holiday stroll, where they will host a pop-up store with Reverie and Roar (a creator of “dream catchers”) and feature different artists, food, drinks and crafts.
“It has been an honor to continue the tradition of this restaurant that has been passed down from person to person,” Lee said. She sees herself as “the custodian” of this neighborhood institution.
“It has become an extension of our family,” she said.
Eats is located at 50 Clement St., at Second Avenue. For more information, visit http://www.eatsrestaurantsf.com or call (415) 751-8000.