Sunday, November 09, 2003

Hangtown Fry at Tadich Grill

San Francisco has had a wild history. It wasn't called the Barbary Coast for nothing. Brothels, saloons, gambling, opium dens, San Francisco was famous for all of that, especially at the time of the gold rush. You can still see remnants and reminders of that time in the streets of San Francisco. Many streets are actually named after "ladies of the night". Another reminder of those times is a dish that was created during that era and has been served in San Francisco ever since.

The town in the gold country known as Placerville was once known at Hangtown. The dish that bears its name is Hangtown Fry. The legends surrounding the dish are numerous. The two stories I have heard are that either a man condemned to be hanged requested this dish as a way to postpone his hanging since the ingredients were expensive and hard to come by or that a miner who struck it rich asked a bartender to create the most expensive meal possible and he did using oysters, salt pork and eggs. Whichever story you believe, what is certainly true is that this was an expensive dish back then. Eggs sold for 50 cents each and bacon or salt pork and oysters were reportedly worth more than their weight in gold. The dish made it to San Francisco soon after being created and it has been here ever since. Over the years it has also made it onto the menus of restaurants all up and down the coast.

Many places serve Hangtown Fry and it's slightly different at each place. Some places bread the oysters, some don't. Some add mushrooms, some don't. Some add green onions, some don't. Some add bell peppers, some don't. I believe the best version may be the one served up at Tadich Grill, a restaurant that opened on the San Francisco waterfront in 1849 as the New World Coffee Salon. Here is how they do it: A couple of slices of bacon are fried until crisp. Half a dozen oysters are dredged in bread crumbs then fried in butter until plump. The oysters, bacon and three eggs lightly beaten are then put in the pan with few dashes of tabasco some salt and pepper and cooked for about three minutes. The eggs are cooked "frittata" style, flipped then cooked for another two minutes and served.

Or you can try Hangtown Fry at:

Tadich Grill
240 California Street
San Francisco
(415) 391-1849