in San Francisco
From Traditional Sheepherders to Cosmopolitan Restaurants
like a petite Basque cheese between Chinatown and the Financial
District, the spunky North Beach neighborhood has had a rich
ethnic history. In between being a home for a colorful assortment
of criminals known as The Barbary Coast and being the Jack-Kerouac-meets-Little-Italy
conclave it is today, the neighborhood was home to immigrant
populations and there was an important Basque presence. In
1906, the first Basque boardinghouse in the area opened,
catering to herders who lived on ranches to the North and
East. Other hotels followed suit and by the 1950s and 1960s,
there was a vibrant Basque hotel scene on San Francisco’s
Broadway. Obrero Hotel, Hotel Pyrenees, and the Basque hotel
are some of the boardinghouses on Broadway remembered for
their family-style cooking and hearty, welcoming meals.
In the Basque-owned
boardinghouses and restaurants throughout the American West, each meal consists
of overflowing platters of food. The daily meals at these boardinghouses are
an adaptation of the festive holiday meals in Basque country, an area between
France and Spain. Most of the Basque boardinghouses and restaurants in San
Francisco have closed and most Basque cultural events now take place in the
San Francisco Basque Cultural Center and not around North Beach.
may think that the existence of Basque cuisine in San Francisco, a symbol of
simpler sheepherding days, is dwindling into disappearance, a new era is just
beginning. The old-style eateries on Broadway have been replaced with new Basque
restaurants that blend seamlessly into the city.
renowned chef Gerald
Hirigoyen opened Fringale, which means the “urge
to eat” in French, with J.B. Lorda. The restaurant was an instant success.
In 2002, he proceeded to open Piperade, a restaurant named for a signature
Basque dish and blends traditional Basque cuisine with Californian ideals.
Hirigoyen grew up in Basque country and moved to Paris before finding his home
in San Francisco. He has opened other establishments since, including Bocadillos,
a wine and tapas bar near the original Basque hotels.
understand the importance of preserving their rich culture and tradition. You
can take part by making your own Basque food or visiting a Basque festival,
restaurant, or bakery. Here are some helpful resources:
Basque Kitchen: Tempting Food from the Pyrenees by Gerald
Restaurants throughout the American West
Travel Guide to Basque America by