A San Francisco vigilante who brands himself as the “Chinatown Cowboy” on the internet is rallying for a boycott of a Downtown diner, contending he chased down a thief who held up the restaurant and the ungrateful staff denied him even a cheeseburger as a reward.
The diner’s owner, meanwhile, says the theft amounted to $2, and calls the ensuing social media firestorm—which is harming her business—“insane.”
The self-proclaimed cowboy, Darren Stallcup, who’s known for posting videos of the drug and homelessness crises and using GoFundMe donations to move out of the Tenderloin and take a vacation to Brazil, said he chased the thief for a mile from the Pinecrest Diner. The thief, Stallcup added, threw hundreds of dollars stolen from the diner at him during the chase.
Though he did not recover the thrown money, Stallcup said he caught the thief in front of the Powell Street BART Station on Oct. 15 and returned to the Pinecrest Diner the following day to ask for a reward in the form of a cheeseburger. He said his request for the burger was denied.
However, the restaurant’s owner, Sylvia Foundas, says Stallcup’s recollection of the events is distorted and his Twitter/X campaign against the local, family-owned restaurant is now inciting harassment and unwarranted negative reviews.
“My employees are getting harassed because of him,” Foundas said. “He’s putting false information out there, and it really makes me question his motives and his agenda.”
Stallcup did, in fact, stop somebody from stealing money from the business, she said. But the “robber,” was a homeless person, who stole $2 in tip money from a table. She said when Stallcup returned to the restaurant, he asked an employee—who wasn’t aware of the incident and speaks very little English—for a cheeseburger. The employee reportedly told Stallcup to return another time to speak with a manager.
When Stallcup returned for the second time, again demanding a cheeseburger and a "thank you," he started yelling at the restaurant’s workers and threatened to destroy the business on social media, Foundas said.
“He came in like a lunatic and wanted to talk to a manager,” Foundas said. “It’s one thing to be a hero in your mind. … But it was only $2.”
Foundas said she’s considering legal action against Stallcup to prevent him from spreading more misinformation about her business.
Stallcup accused the business of trying to sweep the incident under the rug and said he stands by his recollection that the thief ran out of the diner with a “fist full” of cash.
“Everyone and their moms know I stopped the robbery at the Pinecrest Diner, and I’m out here starving,” Stallcup told The Standard near the diner on Friday.
San Francisco police confirmed a man was arrested on suspicion of petty theft on Oct. 15 near Powell Street Station and said he was detained by BART Police after boarding a train in connection with stealing cash from a restaurant’s table. Police said multiple witnesses at the scene identified the suspect.
Stallcup, who has around 15,600 followers on X, drew criticism online in June after he used part of the over $7,000 in GoFundMe donations he raised to move out of the troubled Tenderloin neighborhood to go on vacation in Rio de Janeiro. He now lives in the Sunset.
In an interview with The Standard, Stallcup defended the decision to go on the vacation, arguing that his mental health had suffered from living in the Tenderloin. Stallcup previously lived in Chinatown before moving to the Tenderloin.
Stallcup has appeared on Fox News and in other outlets to blame progressive values for the city’s humanitarian crises. He has described himself as a conservative.
Stallcup said his followers bought him a cheeseburger after he took to social media about the Pinecrest Diner incident. Nevertheless, he is now calling for a boycott of the restaurant.
Stallcup said he would rescind his call for the boycott if the manager who failed to give him a cheeseburger is fired and if the owner thanked him for stopping the robbery. He later said on X, formerly known as Twitter, he would drop his call for the boycott when the manager thanks him.
“I’m supposed to fire my manager who has worked for me for decades?” Foundas said. “We have dealt with real problems. … Everyone thinks this is insane.”
David Sjostedt can be reached at email@example.com