Tommy's Joynt: still tasty after all these years

(This is the first installment of a mini-pub crawl around Van Ness Avenue. The next installments will include Amsterdam Café and The Blackhorse London Pub.)

San Francisco beer bars come in all shapes and sizes. Some have been around for decades while others are less than a year old. One thing the good pubs all seem to have in common, though, is a sense of community. Unlike other forms of social entertainment – restaurants, night clubs, the theater, movies, concerts or even cocktail bars – pubs create an environment where people who walk in as strangers can within a couple of hours become part of the “family.”
Tommy’s Joynt on Geary and Van Ness has been welcoming strangers since the mid-1940s, with a sign over the front door to prove it. Located on a busy thoroughfare, Tommy’s Joynt has long beckoned tourists, but unlike most tourist traps it’s a local institution as well. You’re as likely to engage in conversation with a solitary spry septuagenarian regular as you are to meet a young couple visiting from Spokane trying to decipher the extensive beer list.
Viewed from the outside, with a line snaking out the door, Tommy’s Joynt can seem a bit daunting at first glance and a little chaotic. It’s neither. People line up for the hofbrau carving station where veteran carvers serve fresh turkey, barbecued brisket, lamb shanks, ham and buffalo stew, to mention a few. If the line seems a little onerous, simply veer left and walk past it and belly up to the bar, where you can order a beer while the rush subsides, as it invariably will. Once you’re able to order your food, you can bring it to the bar until around 6 p.m. By no means is the food "gourmet" and some of the sides are more than a little sad, but it's affordable, fresh and hearty.

Hofbrau food like brisket and roast turkey matches perfectly with beer, and Tommy’s Joynt has the usual suspects on draft – Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Anchor Steam, Sam Adams Lager and Guinness – along with a few pleasant surprises, such as Trumer Pils from Berkeley, Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA and Chimay. You can find some winners among the bottles, too, like Maredsous (Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat NV) and Leffe from Belgium; Old Peculier (Theakston) and Old Speckled Hen (Greene King / Morland Brewery) from England; and
Franziskaner Hefeweisse and Hacker-Pschorr's Munich Gold, Gold Weisse and Dark Weisse from Germany.
Very little, if anything, about Tommy’s Joynt has changed over the years, and that's by design. Its Web site declares:
“While the City has been changing year after year, we remain steadfast in our opposition to change. We want things to remain the same because our founders established a reputation in San Francisco; a reputation that promises hot food and cold drink at a price that parries our atmosphere.”
As long as Tommy’s Joynt continues to deliver on that promise, it will remain a valued destination for hungry tourists and locals alike.

1101 Geary Blvd
(between Franklin St & United States Highway 101)
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 775-4216

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