Growing by the Bay

Fire at Original Joe’s

I was at the main branch of the SF Library when this dubious-looking character begins to strike up a conversation. One adopts a veneer of reserve after being accosted by street types a few too many times, but this fellow seemed to have something urgent to report. “Ya know Zrignljos?” he said. “What?” “Zringnljos! The restrunt! Over there!” he pointed vaguely. “Zringnljos! Ya know!” Um, yeah,” I replied. “Well, it just burned down! I was there! It burned down! Big fire!”

It was true. Original Joe’s restaurant was shut down by fire and will be closed for at least a couple of months. The restaurant was a Tenderloin institution, having been in continuous operation for 70 years. This will be its longest shut-down ever.

Chronicle Staff Writers Kevin Fagan and Stacy Finz have the story at SFGate:

“The pipe from the charcoal burner started making a roaring noise, so we called the Fire Department,” said longtime waiter Roger Miranda. “That’s always a bad noise. When the smoke started, we ran out as fast as we could.” The charcoal burner is always lit on Fridays to cook steak and fish, Miranda said.

While Miranda was helping evacuate the 21 workers in the restaurant, waiter Sergio Morales dashed upstairs to the 30-room, low-rent residential Moderne Hotel that occupies the second floor of the two-story Original Joe’s building.

“I ran down the hallways, banging on doors and telling everyone, ‘Get out! Get out!’ and then I got out, too,” Morales said.

One man, however, headed up instead of down – hotel manager Dennis Rindell. He hit the roof, grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed its contents down the flue.

It didn’t work. He was pulled off the roof by firefighters using an extension ladder.

“The flames and the smoke kept coming, and I couldn’t stand it any more,” Rindell said as he stood on Taylor Street sucking air off an oxygen mask.


Weekend getaways from San Francisco


Joseph Cornell exhibition overview


  1. I went by the Original Joe’s the other day and mourned for past glory. I remember going in for a late dinner/early breakfast back when I was just a wee young thing. That was a few years ago but I think I will remain silent on just HOW many years.
    And the denizens of the Main Library – ah yes. I remember the time I went to the 5th floor to read some magazine or other and saw a guy in the corner building his nest. He had a newspaper over his head and was busy shredding another paper to bits in a heap around his chair. When I pointed this out to the librarian, she said that the staff were laying bets on whether he would lay an egg or not. I think that they had him taken to SF General for observation. Then, there was the time I saw somebody take off his shoes and socks, in an urgent search for lice. Then, there was the …interesting…situation in the bathroom. It’s a bit of free theatre combined with a lunatic asylum at times.
    When I get tired of the show, I go to the Mechanics Institute which is very quiet, has well behaved patrons and nobody bothers you. Plus, you can actually check out the art books.

  2. I used to be a member of the Mechanics Institute. It’s a good library. And they have an excellent chess room as well.

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