The new Glen Park Café has a long history in the neighborhood. Three generations of history.
The café opened on July 13 and is being run by Damon Victorson and his wife, Ellie. Damon graduated from the famed Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, New York in 2011 and since then has cooked as several restaurants in New York City and San Francisco.
His mother Ana Victorson owns the building and lives in the apartment above it. She in turn inherited the building from her aunt, making Damon the third generation of his family to live or work on the site.
The cafe is open Wednesday – Sunday from 8:00 am to 2:30 pm.
Damon spent three months retooling the space that Tyger’s Café had occupied under two different owners since October of 1984.
“Young Kim [who ran Tyger’s] offered to let me take the space over two times. The first time I said no but the second time I’d had time to think about it and said yes,” Damon said as he sat down on the new restaurant’s fourth day of operation.
Mario, who cooked at Tyger’s for years, remains in the kitchen, but the menu is new.
“We’re concentrating on standard breakfast and lunch items and we’ll be testing new dishes,” Damon said. They realize the neighborhood loved Tyger’s but hope their new perspective will also be welcomed.
The offerings include French toast, pancakes, eggs benedict, omelettes, steak and eggs and other breakfast items.
For lunch there are hamburgers, sandwiches, torta, salads and French fries.
While diners will find prices somewhat higher than those charged by Tyger’s, the Glen Park Café accepts credit cards, making the frantic rush to the cash machines on Diamond Street no longer necessary.
Ellie is originally from Taiwan and is adding some dishes from her own repertoire to the menu. On Tuesday a refreshing winter melon tea was on offer. Made from the flesh of winter melon cooked with rock sugar, it’s a common drink in East Asia during the summer months.
The restaurant was also serving trendy Japanese soufflé pancakes with fresh fruit, whipped cream and a side of the sweet, chewy tapioca balls known as boba. The menu warns that it takes 20 minutes as each order is made from scratch, but it was well worth the wait.
An ever-changing business space
The space at 2798 Diamond at the corner of Diamond and Chenery streets is an example of Glen Park’s long history.
In 1988 Kim, a recent immigrant from Korea, went to work at Tyger’s. He took over the management of the restaurant in 1997.
Pre-COVID, seven people worked there, but during the COVID-19 pandemic that number went down to two—Kim and his wife, Suzie.
By March of this year, the pandemic shut-down, limited carry-out and, towards the end, a few tables on the sidewalk and then partial inside dining had taken a toll on the restaurant’s revenue. Even as business began to pick up a bit in the spring, the Kims were exhausted but could not afford to hire anyone else, Kim told the Glen Park News.
Ana Victorson had offered them a new lease but the couple decided it was time to retire, closing the much-loved eatery.
Changes are a constant
While the Kims’ 24-year run in the space seems long, it’s only the most recent of several long-term businesses that have occupied the space. Damon says he’s been hearing from neighbors who remember the various transitions.
“We had one guy come in to tell us this space used to be a donut shop. And then another came in and said that before that, it was a pharmacy.”
The first would be Jim’s Donuts. In October 1984 the Glen Park News ran a short note welcoming Tyger’s Coffee Shop to the neighborhood when it replaced Jim’s Donuts.
“Many interesting changes are planned, including additions to the menu and extended hours,” the story said.
Prior to that the building housed a pharmacy for decades, in various guises.
Volume 34 of the National Association of Retail Druggists Journal — from 1922 — noted that the Glen Park Pharmacy at 2798 Diamond Street has been sold by Louis Weramsky and Dr. Johanna E. Tow to Robert Schwartz.
Before that it was “a lively saloon” run by A.F. Dissmeyer, according to San Francisco’s Glen Park and Diamond Heights by Emma Bland Smith.
A photo in her book shows Dissmeyer with his family in front of the shop, with the same support post at the corner of the entrance as today, and a large sign painted on the side of the building. “My Specialty a large Sharp Cool glass of Steam Beer drawn direct from the Keg” it reads.
The Glen Park Café, lacking a liquor license, will not carry on that particular tradition.