Red's in the Morning | Mark Lindsay

Along San Francisco’s Embarcadero is an old food joint called Red’s Java House. It’s been there forever. Back in my youth I could get a double hotdog there for about a buck. So, I went there a lot. I’d walk from my South-of-Market office down to the waterfront for my hotdog—a long way for a lunch break. The double dog is now almost $6.00 but it’s been about thirty years since I first found the place. But, less than six bucks for a double dog wrapped in a sourdough roll still seems like a good deal to me.

The old neighborhood where I worked was once the commercial print center of San Francisco. There were train rails that ran down the middle of the streets that delivered paper to the various printing plants in that part of town. Printing was once the largest industry in the city. San Francisco produced canning labels, seed packages, and printed publications by the carload. Now it’s all gone. The grimy longshoreman bars have also disappeared. The longshoremen were long gone before the bars were.

Now the old neighborhood is gentrified with ballparks and condos. I hardly recognize the place. Walking around there gives me a strange sense of disorientation—akin to vertigo. But, on my waterfront walk last week, there it was, Red’s Java House, the lone holdout in a city that’s wiped clean its gritty and colorful past. I went in for a morning double-dog and fries. The place, the food, and the ambience was exactly as I remembered it.

That very spot is now the proposed home of a new sports arena. They say that Red’s will survive but I wonder how that would be possible. If they relocate the joint as a concession in the arena it won’t be the same. Red’s Java House is what it is. You can’t build an arena around it. It has to be left alone with plenty of fresh, bay air and water around it.

Do we really need yet another sports palace in the world? How about if we just put a basketball hoop outside of Red’s and get some guys and girls from the neighborhood (what’s left of it) to get a pickup game going. That would pretty much take care of everything. Sports and hotdogs all in one place.