“West Side Stories”
By Valentine Batra
The story behind who currently owns El Mansour, the legendary and cherished Moroccan restaurant in the Richmond District, is a heartwarming one.
If you’ve ever been to El Mansour (and I strongly encourage you to go if you haven’t!), the combination of interesting decor, delicious food and belly dancing is one of the most unique experiences in SF.
Last week, I met with current owner Ken Pholisith. Ken has owned El Mansour since July 9, 2021, and almost inherited the store from his former boss. Ken grew up in the City and as a teenager was a busboy at the restaurant.
“I was walking one day in the Presidio and I overheard this man talking in Thai about needing a busboy for his restaurant,” Ken said. “I was so excited Jack spoke Thai like me, we immediately started connecting and we found out we were from the same town in Thailand as well! And that’s how I started working here.”
He worked at El Mansour until going to college. He loved the incredible working environment. The owners at the time, Jack Tanverakhul and his wife Houda Rakib, created an atmosphere of community.
“Jack became like a family friend,” Ken said.
In 2020, Tanverakhul was exhausted from dealing with the restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, so he asked Ken if he wanted to take over.
“I knew the ins-and-outs of the restaurant already and everyone here is like family to me,” Ken said. “I also already had some restaurant experience from my family owning a restaurant on Balboa Street when I was young. I thought about how special this place was to me and how important it was to the community around here.”
So, Ken decided to carry on the work that Jack and Houda put into El Mansour.
It’s clear when you walk into El Mansour, that someone has put a great deal of work into making the interior look comforting and ornate. Houda took great pains to make the interior reflect her vision, traveling back and forth to her home country of Morocco to bring back ingredients, decorations and furniture.
The atmosphere at El Mansour is unlike any other. The colorful cushioned seats surrounded by decorated low tables give you an escape from the outside world. You can enjoy a delicious tagine or couscous as belly dancers move effortlessly through the space, inviting you to join in the fun.
As soon as I saw Ken, I had to tell him that El Mansour was very special to me and that I had many memories in this colorful room.
“That is part of the reason why it was so important to me to keep this place alive. This is such a special place for so many locals. There is no place like it!” Ken exclaims.
So come check out El Mansour on Clement Street and 33rd Avenue in the Richmond for an incredible experience!
For more information about El Mansour, go to https://www.elmansour.com.
Valentine Batra is a Richmond District resident and new contributor to RichmondSunsetNews.com. She started Heart & Soul, an Instagram page spotlighting local small businesses. She is currently a second grade teacher and is passionate about unearthing hidden history and shining a light on unknown and unique businesses in San Francisco.
Categories: West Side Stories
My husband, Bobby and I (Una) performed there in the early years. Our boss Tony Tantyavaron, introduced us , to Jack. Bobby did a bit of the tent style like the Menara. So glad to know it’s in good hands !
Although we’ve moved to the East Bay and don’t visit it as often, El Mansour has been one of our favorite and most reliable restaurants for decades. We’re delighted to learn it’s being run by someone who values quality and tradition. We’ll have to renew our visits this year.