The Cliff House
1090 Point Lobos • San Francisco, CA 94121
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Meet the Team
The Hountalas family has been part of the Ocean Beach community since 1906. In 1919, Dan Hountalas’ father Michael, leased a candy and tobacco stand inside the Car Barn, the terminus for the street cars on 48th Avenue. In 1949, the Car Barn was destroyed by fire, in 1952 Mike acquired the Golden Gate View Coffee Shop next to the Sutro Baths. In 1941, when Dan was six years old, he started his own business selling peanuts outside of his father’s shop. In 1958 Dan opened the Cliff Chalet next door to The Cliff House, remodeled it extensively in 1965 and renamed it Danny’s Cliff Chalet. In June of 1966 it burned down in the blaze that destroyed the Sutro Baths.
Following the fire Dan made a career switch to become national sales manager for Consolidated Foods. In 1970, he met Mary, regional food service supervisor for Mannings Foodservice Co., a client of Consolidated Foods. They were married in 1972, and with financial aid from their parents in 1973, they leased the unused banquet room at The Cliff House and turned it into Upstairs at The Cliff House. It soon became a popular breakfast and lunch spot renowned for its huge selection of omelets.
Over the years, Dan and Mary added the Ben Butler Bar on the main floor, assumed operation of the Phineas T. Barnacle bar, and reopened the main dining room as The Seafood and Beverage Company. Mary, a trained dietitian, created the menus and ensured that everything was made on the premises from fresh ingredients. Dan was a wine aficionado, and made The Cliff House the first restaurant in San Francisco to feature boutique California wines. Dan and Mary restored the interior to the Victorian style of the early 1900s, they decorated with hand-painted valances, silver-leaf and hand-pressed copper ceilings, Bradbury & Bradbury wall coverings, antique furnishings, and historic photographs to create an elegant, comfortable setting that transported visitors to a bygone era.
In 1977, The Cliff House and surrounding properties were purchased by the National Park Service to become part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Beginning in the early 1980s, the Hountalas family began collaborating with the National Park Service on launching a much-needed restoration of The Cliff House. The decision was made to restore the historic Cliff House to its 1909 neoclassical style. Construction began in 2002 and was completed in September of 2004. More than 50 years later, Dan and his wife Mary are celebrating 44 years as operators of the Cliff House.
When seasoned chef Ralph Burgin joined San Francisco’s historic Cliff House in 1998 to oversee the restaurant’s growth and restoration project, he did it by taking on front-of-the-house roles like culinary director, general manager, and VP of operations. Now, almost 20 years later, Chef Burgin is back in the kitchen as chef de cuisine, marking an exciting time for Sutro’s restaurant and the Cliff House legacy.
Born in Germany’s restaurant-rich Rhine Valley, Burgin has worked as a chef in celebrated restaurants throughout Europe and the United States for more than 20 years. During this period, he has won several culinary awards and earned the esteemed title of certified master chef. His stellar culinary background is highlighted by a two-year stint as executive chef at Mosimann’s, London’s most prestigious private club. He left that position in 1990 to become the executive chef at the Carnelian Room and Bankers Club in San Francisco, which earned the DiRoNA (Distinguished Restaurant of North America) award under Burgin’s direction. In the summer of 1998, Burgin came to The Cliff House to help facilitate the restaurant’s growth and restoration project, which includes the cuisine and, most importantly, the structure itself.
Within his tenure, he has overseen the operations through the renovations of The Cliff House, which include the new Sutro wing with Sutro’s restaurant and the renovated 1909 building, which include the Bistro, Take Out and Banquet facilities. He is directly responsible for all staffing operations and is the anchor for much of the employment decisions, which includes many employees with more than 20 years of service and several generations of families.
When he arrived at The Cliff House as culinary director, Burgin says he realized right away that he had taken over the culinary workings of an institution steeped in tradition. “A lot of people think of us as a tourist destination,” Burgin says, “but the majority of our business comes from loyal locals who have had a love affair with The Cliff House for years, we are a San Francisco institution, and that’s how we like it.”
And, in addition to his chef and management responsibilities at The Cliff House, Burgin has expanded his creative abilities to include the development of Cliff House Classic. This company is the product line for his own creations of a Bloody Mary Mix and Popover Baking Mix.
The popovers, served daily in The Cliff House Bistro, have been greeting guests for years; five years ago Burgin decided to fine tune the recipe and package the morning treats. They retail for $6.50 and are available here on our website Gift Shop, or during your next visit to The Cliff House, and with distribution in 25 stores around the Bay Area.
And the Bloody Mary mix was developed in 2014 and is available in 25 stores as well throughout the Bay Area and is available here on our website Gift Shop, or during your next visit to The Cliff House. Burgin’s goals with the product are to offer guests an extended taste of what they may find at the landmark restaurant in San Francisco. Click here for a the link to his website.
Chef Kevin’s love of cooking began at a very early age. Learning “from the ground up” by working his way through fast food, corporate dining, private clubs, and finally fine dining lead Chef Kevin to move west after college. He fell in love with The Cliff House immediately and has remained here throughout the years to help shape its transformation into one of San Francisco’s finest culinary destinations. Chef Kevin was promoted to executive chef upon graduating from the California Culinary Academy in 1989. He stays current with culinary trends by annual attendance at the Greystone Campus of the Culinary Institute of America Worlds of Flavor Program. Each year a different area of culinary treasures is explored in depth, and have included the cuisines of Asia, India, Central and South America, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.
Although The Cliff House has won many awards, such as the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence 2006 − 2016, Michelin Guide Recommended 2007 – 2017, SF Examiner Best Brunch 2015 & 2016, Best Wedding Venue 2016, J Weekly Best Party Venue 2016, it is for the guests themselves that Chef Kevin remains most attentive. “Whether you are here for a simple drink and an appetizer, a casual breakfast, a champagne brunch buffet, a fine dining meal, or your own wedding, I want it to be special. Memories are made here.”
Jaime Wong – Assistant General Manager
Dom Alvarado – Controller
Andrew Anonuevo – Accounts Manager
Lisa Bellomo – Director of Marketing
Arthur Bradley – Procurement Manager
Virginia Casey – Director of Private Dining
Lauraine Edir – Banquet Manager & Large Party Coordinator
Mary Ing – Department of Human Resources Manager
Bob Kovacs – Restaurant Manager
Dana F. Scott – Restaurant Manager
Vicki Burgin – Restaurant Manager
The Cliff House employs over 180 people, many who have worked at The Cliff House for 18 years or more. Some of our staff have been with the company for over a quarter century, as well as several generations of families.
The Cliff House Hours
Cliff House @Home Takeout
Thursday through Monday 11:00 am – 7:30 pm
Orders can be phoned in starting at 9:00 am, last order 7:15 pm
Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
Lands End Lookout Cafe Takeout
Saturday and Sunday 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Closed Monday through Friday