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Food & Drink

John’s Grill celebrates 115 years in San Francisco with free lunch, drinks

John Konstin Jr., who co-owns John’s Grill in Union Square, stands out front of the iconic Downtown restaurant and bar. | Source: Eddie Sun/The Standard

Business lunches in San Francisco used to start with highballs for appetizers, cocktails for a main course and more drinks for dessert.

“In the old days, it was a free-for-all,” said John Konstin Sr., owner of John’s Grill. “They would start at noon and finish at 5.”

Times may have changed, but John’s Grill still knows how to party during the daylight hours. On Wednesday, the Downtown restaurant and bar will celebrate the establishment’s 115th anniversary while honoring the people who made the city what it is from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. as it hosts a free lunch with wine gratis.

On top of ballet and musical performances, along with Renel Brooks-Moon, the voice of the San Francisco Giants, serving as emcee, special guests will include Mayor London Breed, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins and a host of other city and state officials.

And, of course, former Mayor Willie Brown—the host of the booziest Election Day lunch in town—will be in attendance.

“The whole city is invited,” Konstin said. “It’s a community event.”

Former mayors Willie Brown, left, and Gavin Newsom flank PR guru Lee Houskeeper at a past election day luncheon at John's Grill. I Photo by Mike Koozmin, courtesy of Lee Houskeeper

While the anniversary event is a celebration, it will also include moments of respect for icons San Francisco has lost this year. A table will be specifically set aside for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a former mayor of the city who died last week, and a moment of silence will be observed both for Feinstein and crooner Tony Bennett, performer of the city’s most famous song: “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

Jeff Silbar, songwriter of the tune “Wind Beneath My Wings,” also will be unveiling a new song dedicated to San Francisco, and Konstin hopes it could become an anthem of sorts for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC).

Regardless of why people choose to attend, Konstin said he and his family are proud of the legacy John’s Grill has created over an incredible run of 115 years.

“You know how farm-to-table is popular now? We’ve been farm-to-table for many, many years. We just don’t say it. We practice it,” Konstin said. “We buy from local purveyors, and have so for decades and decades.”