Examining hidden gems among The City’s back streets and alleyways
2942 Lyon St.
Hard to find factor: 1
1 Nottoo bad
2 Takes some searching
3 Ask a native
4 Bring a map
On the downlow since: 1973
Love letter: We’d always wondered “Who is Lil?” When Ralph Maher first opened his restaurant, he had a friend who lived in Liverpool, England, whom he’d visit several times a year. Then came Lil, a lovely young lady he met during one of his many trans-Atlantic voyages. Ralph wanted nothing more than to take Lil to San Francisco, and Lil wanted nothing more than for Ralph to pack his bags and settle down in Liverpool. A standoff ensued. Then Ralph, hoping to entice Lil to come and live here, named his bar after her. Unfortunately, their love did not stand the test of geography, and neither of them ever made the move.
Smooth moves: While Gil Hodges, the restaurant’s owner, is pretty certain Lil’s has always been a bar (in fact, prior to Ralph Maher’s proprietorship of the place, the bar in its original incarnation catered to bikers and soldiers stationed at the old Letterman Hospital), its signature stained-glass windows remain a bit of a mystery. All Hodges knows is that a gentleman named Smoothie (he’s unsure of the spelling) created the stained-glass window at both Lil’s and the Brazenhead (both owned by Maher). Smoothie was a server, bartender, host, artist and a great help to Maher for many years.
Uptown/downtown: What’s so fantastic about Lil’s is there is always the option to make your experience either a high-end or low-end one. At the eatery’s front is its cozy publike cocktail lounge, covered with sports memorabilia, showcasing those athletes who have frequented the place. So that table in the cocktail area dominated by photos and articles written about the star, well, that’s where heonce liked to sit. In the back is Lil’s official dining room, definitely a bit fancier, but it doesn’t mean you can’t order a burger while seated among the white-linen tablecloth-covered tables. Likewise, feel free to dive into an order of Tournedos Raphael ($23.95), broiled beef filets garnished with grilled mushroom caps and bernaise sauce, when sitting in the cocktail lounge.
Know any hidden gems? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your favorite off-the-beaten-path haunts.