I have always been of fan of old things – cars, collectibles, clothing and, of course, vintage eateries. Growing up, my mom was a huge collector and our house was packed wall to wall with collections of stuff from the 1920’s all the way up to the 50’s. She cooked on a stove that was from the 20’s and we ate off of plates she found at a flea market from Sambo’s restaurant. I have never given up my appreciation for vintage and I always keep my eyes peeled for old restaurants and burger joints that still look the way they did when they opened. I had forgotten about the old school Manor Coffee Shop until I was driving by it on my way home from an assignment. I was hungry…it was open…so, I stopped.
From the outside, Manor Coffee Shop appears to be stuck in the late 50’s. From the cool script font on the awning and the original neon sign to the large angled front window, the well-preserved diner looks pretty good for its age. When I first stepped inside of the coffee shop I was taken back by the odd mix of old and new that was trying to be old. While some key features still remain the same, like the long curved counter with bright red vinyl swivel stools, there was a strange mix of new stuff that was designed to look old. There were clocks and little chrome jukeboxes alongside posters of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. I assumed that since this place had been here for longer than I have been alive that they would have original clocks and soda signs. Nevertheless, Manor Coffee Shop is still a pretty cool place. The Asian waitress even wore an old pink dress like Flo used to wear on that sitcom Alice. Unfortunately, she didn’t yell out “kiss my grits” nor did the cook call anyone “dingy”.
I parked myself at the end of the counter and within seconds I had tall glass of water in a vintage-looking Coca Cola fountain glass placed in front of me. The waitress had a huge smile on her face as she handed me a big red menu. My eyes quickly went past the pot roast and the turkey pot pie to the burgers. I went with the basic cheeseburger ($6.75, includes fries) that is supposed to have a hand formed patty. In addition to classic diner food, they offer a wide selection of fruit smoothies and fancy coffee drinks which seemed out of place. I guess they need to cater to a wide range of customers and not all the people that come in are the old folks from the neighborhood. Who knows, maybe some of the old timers like the fruit smoothies – makes them regular.
I was noticing as I waited for my burger that the place was filled with older people that have most likely been coming to the coffee shop since they were kids. A few of the guys seemed chummy with the waitress and one guy was even flirting with her. It must be that pink dress that drives the guys wild.
The cheeseburger was served open face with a decent amount of hand cut fries on a white plate that was trimmed with a checkerboard pattern. The roughly one-third pound hand formed patty was covered in bubbly American cheese and was slightly bigger than the plain toasted bun. I built the burger making use of the iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayo. It stacked up to a fairly decent size burger. Biting into the cheeseburger revealed a decent amount of juice and solid beef flavor that was almost masked by the thick layer of molten cheese. The bun was soft and spongy with lightly toasted edges. While the burger was good and everything tasted fresh, the flavor combination could have been better. Something was missing – 1000 Island would have been good.
I liked the feel of sitting at the counter in an old school coffee shop and I think the burger is exactly what I expected. I was happy with the quality and I think it could be a little better with the help of some additional condiments or seasoning. I have heard that Manor is good for breakfast, so keep that in mind if you are ever in the West Portal neighborhood of the City.
RATING: 3 out of 5
Manor Coffee Shop
321 West Portal Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94127
Hours: Monday – Saturday 7:30AM – 8:00PM