To its pioneer days much of San Francisco’s Bohemian spirit is due. When the cry of “Gold” rang around the world adventurous wanderers of all lands answered the call, and during the year following Marshall’s discovery two thousand ships sailed into San Francisco Bay, many to be abandoned on the beach by the gold-mad throng, and it was in some of these deserted sailing vessels that San Francisco’s restaurant life had its inception.
With the immediately succeeding years the horde of gold hunters was augmented by those who brought necessities and luxuries to exchange for the yellow metal given up by the streams flowing from the Mother Lode. With them also came cooks to prepare delectable dishes for those who had passed the flap-jack stage, and desired the good things of life to repay them for the hardships, privations and dearth of woman’s companionship.
As the male human was largely dominant in numbers it was but natural that they should gather together for companionship, and here began the Bohemian spirit that has marked the city for its own to the present day.
These men were all individualists, and their individualism has been transmitted to their offspring together with independence of action. Hence comes the Bohemianism born of individuality and independence.
It was only natural that the early San Franciscans should foregather where good cheer was to be found, and the old El Dorado House, at Portsmouth Square, was really what may be called the first Bohemian restaurant of the city. So well was this place patronized and so exorbitant the prices charged that twenty-five thousand dollars a month was not considered an impossible rental.
Next in importance was the most fashionable restaurant of early days, the Iron House. It was built of heavy sheet iron that had been brought around the Horn in a sailing vessel, and catered well, becoming for several years the most famed restaurant of the city. Here, in Montgomery street, between Jackson and Pacific, was the rendezvous of pioneers, and here the Society of California Pioneers had its inception, receiving impressions felt to the present day in San Francisco and California history. Here, also, was first served Chicken in the Shell, the dish from which so many later restaurants gained fame.