Joe’s Cable Car (4320 Mission Street) first came to my attention in George Motz‘s Hamburger America book. Many folks considered it to be the best burger in the San Francisco area.
Opened in 1965 as the Cable Car Drive-In, Joe’s Cable Car’s founder Joe Obegi did not become the owner until 1968.
Joe’s made its name for being an anti-fast food establishment. Obegi wanted everyone to appreciate the art of the steak burger, hence the daily butchering of meat in front of their customers.
Joe’s Cable Car closed on March 16, 2014, after Joe Obegi retired. The following morning a silent auction was held to sell decor, fixtures, and more to their loyal fanbase.
The building was to be raised for an apartment complex. As of this writing in July 2021, the Joe’s Cable Car building and sign are still standing.
I never had the opportunity to eat at this legendary establishment. My friend Caveman ate there on my behalf and wrote about it for the Burger Beast blog in 2010.
Original Joe’s Cable Car Post on the Burger Beast Blog
July 31st, 2010 – After walking 12 blocks (down Mission Street), I stumbled upon Joe’s Cable Car Restaurant. As soon as I walked in, it smelled like meat, and it felt like home. I was greeted inside by a butcher grinding chuck steak.
Joe’s grind their burgers daily. The seating area is small, with lights and pictures of previous customers.
I gave the menu a once over (it’s filled with pictures) and decided to go with the Country Fresh Beef Steak (burger with a sunny side-up egg and cheddar cheese) and some homestyle fries.
The burgers are 4 ounces unless you go with the Hungry Person (6 ounces) or Paul Bunyan Special (8 ounces). The burger was one of the best I have ever had.
It was as if they had just ground the patty (wait a second…). It was a juicy and savory burger. The fries were good too!
I was lucky enough to talk to Joe and thank him for grinding his own burger daily (great tradition!).
Burger Museum Collection
My Burger Museum collection had an ashtray and salt & pepper set from Joe’s Cable Car.