Restaurant icon, donor Moose dies

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Philanthropic restaurateur Ed Moose — who in 1973 opened North Beach’s Washington Square Bar and Grill, a legendary sanctuary for The City’s big-timers — died Thursday morning. He was 81.

Moose is survived by his wife, Mary Etta Moose, and “a whole lot of kids, just none of them were blood-related,” said Peter Osborne, who took over the restaurant after Moose sold it in 1990.

Moose left his signature “Washbag” to open Moose’s, a bar and grill just across Washington Square Park, then sold it and retired in 2005.

“I knew him in the community as a young man. He represented that generation above all of us,” said Osborne, who now owns MoMo’s across from AT&T Park.

Politicians such as former Mayor Willie Brown, famous athletes such as Giants legend Willie Mays and prolific authors such as columnist Herb Caen helped put the Washbag on the national map with their six-hour lunches that contributed to The City’s colorful history.

“My favorite story of Ed was when he erected a big pool in Washington Square. He wanted to make the world’s biggest Cobb salad,” said press agent Lee Houskeeper, who added that he would pitch stories at the Washbag when he first moved to The City in 1981.

“There were some extra alcoholic ingredients in there, but I don’t think anybody cared,” Houskeeper said. “But the next day, the front page just said it was done by a restaurant in North Beach. He was livid.”

Moose and his wife raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the St. Anthony Foundation, which helps some of The City’s most underserved residents.

“Ed loved to feed people, whether the rich and famous at his restaurants or the poor through his contributions,” said the Rev. John Hardin, president of the foundation’s board.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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