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This San Francisco Christmas Eve tradition feeds prime rib to the city’s most vulnerable

A woman holding a plate giving it to the guest.
Lily Steyer, a volunteer at Glide’s Christmas Eve brunch event, serves food to a guest. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

On a typical Christmas Eve, Vidal Santana, who lives in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, would drop by the corner store to buy something to take home and eat alone. But this year, he enjoyed a specially made brunch with thousands of others seeking community and a great meal during the holiday season.

Sitting at Glide Memorial Church, Santana devoured a slice of juicy prime rib, mashed potatoes, and a mix of greens and bread, with cookies for dessert.

A plate of prime rib, mixed of greens and mashed potatoes, a pear and cookie.
The Christmas Eve brunch at Glide included a slice of prime rib, a mix of greens, mashed potatoes, fruit and a cookie. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

“I am very grateful that we have the meal,” Santana said. “I don't have my family with me right now. This is the family I have. I connected with the people here.”

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It was the first time Santana had taken part in the Glide Foundation's annual tradition, which has now officially hit its 30-year mark. In partnership with the owners of House of Prime Rib, a legendary restaurant known locally as a meat mecca, the Tenderloin nonprofit has logged three decades of feeding some of the city’s most vulnerable residents with love and a smile.

Glide Memorial Church has long been a centerpiece of the Tenderloin community and is known for its Daily Meals Program, which started as a volunteer-run potluck before evolving into a service that provides three meals a day to San Francisco’s hungry.

The organization serves thousands of meals daily, but the Christmas Eve prime rib brunch remains a marquee occasion.

Joe Betz, owner of House of Prime Rib, was struck by Glide’s teachings around hope and empathy and thought through what he had to offer to the city’s needy. He landed on beef and now donates some 3,000 pounds of prime rib, plus all the fixings, each year. It’s become a lifelong passion project for Betz who is committed to continuing the tradition.

Glide Foundation CEO Gina Fromer and House of Prime Rib owner Joe Betz pose for a photo.
Glide Foundation CEO Gina Fromer and House of Prime Rib owner Joe Betz share a smile at Sunday's brunch event. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

“It's an honor to be a part of this,” Betz told The Standard. “As long as they let me, we'll be here.”

Betz, 84, implored the guests to always have hope in life, regardless of whether it’s big dreams or small joys like having something delicious to eat on Christmas Eve. The meal service, which started at 11 a.m., had lines snaking around the church in the morning.

READ MORE: How to Order Off-Menu at House of Prime Rib

Glide’s event has become one of San Francisco’s Christmas Eve traditions, with about 2,500 people expected to arrive at the event to break bread with one another. In addition, 250 boxes of to-go prime rib meals were set to be delivered to homeless encampments across the city.

Before the brunch, Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis joined Glide to serve breakfast to those in need at 8:30 a.m. She thanked Glide for inviting her to join the service to showcase San Francisco’s values.

Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis joined Glide to serve breakfast to the public on December 24, 2023 in San Francisco.
Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis joined Glide to serve breakfast to the public on Sunday. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

“People struggle with poverty, mental health issues and drug addiction,” said Kounalakis, who is running for governor in 2026. “But people are people. Their community is here to show support and caring for them.”

Walter Amador, who lives on San Francisco’s streets, has relied on Glide’s free meal programs for the past few months to help him survive. But this was the first time he attended the prime rib brunch.

A man with a plate of food smiles.
Walter Amador joins the Christmas Eve brunch event for the first time at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

Although Amador enjoyed the array of side dishes offered by Glide and the House of Prime Rib, his favorite part of the meal was the beefy centerpiece of his platter. He said that he sees this event becoming one of his holiday traditions. 

As for his plans for Christmas Day? He said he would be back Monday to take part in Glide's annual Christmas lunch, which offers ham, turkey and sides to thousands.