February 25, 2016

Sam Jordan's Bar and Grill in San Francisco

Sam Jordan was a man of many pursuits.

An African-American Navy veteran, he came to San Francisco after World War II. He went on to become a boxing champion, who, as a light-heavyweight won the San Francisco Golden Gloves Diamond Belt in 1948. He earned the nickname “Singing Sam” for serenading the crowd when he won.

He was also a prominent leader in his Butchertown neighborhood, so called for its many slaughterhouses and meat-packing companies. (Today, that neighborhood is more commonly known as Bayview.)

His generosity and commitment to his community earned him the nickname of “The Mayor of Butchertown.” And in 1963, he became San Francisco’s first African-American mayoral candidate, running on a platform that emphasized equality and civil rights.

Sam Jordan's Bar

photo by: Stacy Farr

Sam Jordan’s Bar and Grill is one of the oldest continuously operating African-American businesses along San Francisco's Third Street Corridor

But a few years prior to that, in 1959, Sam Jordan became a business leader when he opened his eponymous tavern. He renovated a circa 1883 structure on Third Street, building a new foundation and adding a new performance stage at the rear of the ground floor in the process. In addition to drinks, live music, and dancing, his bar functioned as an important community gathering space, hosting scholarship drives, neighborhood meetings, networking luncheons, and other community-focused events.

Now, 57 years later, the bar is called Sam Jordan’s Bar and Grill. And although Jordan retired in 1995 and died in 2003, his children, Allen and Ruth, continue to provide the same welcoming spirit Sam always did.

Family photos line the walls, along with other memorabilia from its nearly six decades of business—like a photo of Sammy Davis Jr., who was once a customer.

Today, Sam Jordan’s Bar and Grill is one of the oldest continuously operating African-American businesses along the Third Street Corridor. San Francisco Heritage named it to its Legacy Bars and Restaurants Project, and it was designated a San Francisco Historic Landmark in January 2013.

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Location: 4004 Third St., San Francisco, CA 94124

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m., seven days a week.

You’re Having: The brisket, a side of mac and cheese, and a cocktail.

Best Yelp Review: “Mr Allen is always pleasant and it's always smelling good when you walk in the bar. The brisket is by far the best dish. But I also get the colossal prawns sautéed in garlic on [a] bed of lettuce. When you go in there they make you feel like family not just a customer. Also you have to stay for at least one drink you won't regret it.”—Foteche M.

Lauren Walser served as the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

Join us for PastForward Online 2022, the historic preservation event of the year, November 1-4, 2022.

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