Time for July 4th celebrations and firing up the grill for a cookout. What do a sparkler, hamburgers, a hippopotamus and a guy named Joe have in common? All are a part of San Francisco history in the 1960s.
An iconic and beloved restaurant was called, “Hippopotamus – Hamburgers and Dinners.” Jack Falvey, Lowell High School grad in 1929, owned what we simply called, “The Hippo.” If you told the server that it was your birthday, your burger (chosen from the menu of 57 types of burgers) came with a lit sparkler, and not only close to the 4th of July, but all year long.
Falvey had a great sense of whimsy and had his friend, Wolo von Trutzschlera, a children’s book illustrator, design a logo of a cartoon image of a hippopotamus with head and tail tied with polka dot bows.
Here is a black and white photo from the San Francisco Library of the outside of the restaurant:
And here is a photo of the cover of the 1969 Hippo Cookbook, that Falvey wrote and von Trutzschlera illustrated, with the familiar logo on the cover:
The Hippo opened in 1950 and closed in 1987 when Falvey retired. But on the other side of town, Joe’s Cable Car Restaurant is still going strong. Joe Obegi has worked there since 1965 and became the owner in 1968. You can take a virtual tour of the restaurant and see how the burgers are made, with this clip from the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with host Guy Fieri:
If you are in need of a Joe’s burger, here is all of the info on the restaurant: