The Guide toSan Francisco's Historic Buena Vista Cafe
San Francisco may not be the original birthplace of Irish Coffee, but we are it's adopted hometown. Since 1952, visitors have come for Buena Vista Café’s Irish Coffee, a recipe perfected right here in San Francisco.
The Historic Buena Vista Café
The building housing the Buena Vista Café started as a boarding house. In 1916, the first floor was transformed into a saloon. This was the start of what would become a San Francisco landmark, known across the country for its menu and history. Visitors come from around the world for fresh Dungeness crab, the breakfast served daily (until 1:30 p.m.), and a selection of lunch and dinner favorites.
While the Buena Vista Café is known for many things, its most famous achievement is introducing Irish coffee to America. It was a November night in 1952 when the owner, Jack Koeppler, challenged a Pulitzer Prize-winning international travel writer by the name of Stanton Delaplane to help him duplicate the Irish coffee served in Ireland’s Shannon Airport.
After much trial and error — and a visit to the Shannon Airport — they were almost successful. However, they couldn’t get the last piece of the puzzle right. The cream simply wouldn’t float on top of the coffee as it did in the original. They didn’t give up. They went to San Francisco's then-Mayor Elmer "Rob-Rob" Robinson, who also owned a dairy, for advice. They learned that cream aged 48 hours was far more likely to float. A legend was born.
The Café hasn’t changed much since its early days, and neither has the recipe for Irish coffee. Today, many bars and restaurants serve this marvelous hot beverage, made possible by the persistence of the Buena Vista Café.