It’s Tops Coffee Shop is a time capsule in which the Fifties are alive and rocking, complete with red vinyl booths, coin-operated juke boxes, and a cornucopia of photos, posters, and other memorabilia garnishing the walls. And there are plenty of memories to display: Starting life as not much more than a humble griddle in 1935, the diner was bought by Richard Chapman in 1952 and has stayed in the family—and essentially the same—ever since.
The retro eatery is the perfect antidote to the overbearingly “artisanal” nature of much of the San Francisco dining scene. That’s not to say it doesn’t use quality ingredients or take pride in its food—far from it!—but there’s a distinct lack of pretension and an appreciation for the good old days.
There are no surprises among the menu of pancakes and eggs and grilled cheese and strip steak—unless you count the genuine ice cream fountain, or the more recent addition of soju cocktails—but it’s homely food that’s just done right. And the burgers—well, if you like your patties fresh-ground and juicy you’ll see why there’s a sign out front that announces “VOTED BEST BURGERS.”
You can get your nostalgia fix Mon–Sat 8:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m., with a late-night 8:00 p.m.–3:00 a.m. shift on Wed–Sat; Sundays are 8:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m. You can call ahead for takeout if you want, but you’ll miss half the fun.
Photo: Cyril Fluck