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Cliff House, San Francisco

#11 of 49 in Historic Sites in San Francisco
Historic Site · Hidden Gem · Tourist Spot
The Cliff House is a restaurant on Point Lobos Avenue perched on the headland above the cliffs just north of Ocean Beach, in the Outer Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco, California. It has had five major incarnations since its beginnings in 1858. It now overlooks the site of the former Sutro Baths and is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, operated by the National Park Service. On the terrace of the Cliff House is a room-sized camera obscura.
Cliff House has had five major incarnations since its beginnings in 1858. That year, Samuel Brannan, a prosperous ex-Mormon elder from Maine, bought for $1,500 the lumber salvaged from a ship that foundered on the basalt cliffs below. With this material he built the first Cliff House.
The second Cliff House was built in 1863, and leased to Captain Junius G. Foster. It was a long trek from the city and hosted mostly horseback riders, small game hunters or picnickers on day outings. With the opening of the Point Lobos toll road a year later, the Cliff House became successful with the Carriage trade for Sunday travel. Later the builders of the toll road constructed a two-mile speedway beside it where well-to-do San Franciscans raced their horses along the way. On weekends, there was little room at the Cliff House hitching racks for tethering the horses for the thousands of rigs. Soon, omnibus, railways and streetcar lines made it to near Lone Mountain where passengers transferred to stagecoach lines to the beach. The growth of Golden Gate Park attracted beach travellers, in search of meals and a look at the sea lions sunning themselves on Seal Rocks just off the cliffs, to visit the area.
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Cliff House reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
444 reviews
  • If you come here on a clear day, you will enjoy one of the best views in town, the glorious ocean and a big beach. Restaurant and bar here also.  more »
  • It was an array of fabulous food, beautifully prepared and delocious to eat. Reservations are a must, we went at Christmas time, without a reservation we would not have gotten in. We had a window...  more »
  • We had an early lunch on a weekday, so it wasn't terribly busy. I ordered the Crab Benedict, which was delicious! The poached eggs were done to perfection. The Fish and Chips and Crab Cakes were also good according to the other people in our party. Tremendous view! Thought the service was lacking, however. Didn't feel like our waiter was very attentive to our table.
  • A long walk on the beach led us to an unplanned meal here. Despite t-shirts, shorts and sand we were made very welcome in the bistro. Excellent view over the beach / sea, lovely fish dinner (halibut for me) and good puddings. Very enjoyable.

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