Old School Restaurants in the West

Skip the fast fad diners and enjoy a meal at one these quintessential restaurants in the West.

Tommy's Joynt has been a San Francisco staple since 1947. 

Courtesy Tommy's Joynt

In a world where change occurs in nanoseconds, there are restaurants that have unflinchingly stood the test of time. Like the Energizer Bunny, they keep on going, bucking fads and trends to steadfastly provide signature food and warm service. Here are six classics in the West not to be missed.

Tommy’s Joynt, San Francisco

San Francisco may boast some of the most cutting-edge restaurants in the world. But it’s also the proud home of Tommy’s Joynt, the city’s original hofbrau that opened in 1947. Always packed, it is known for buffalo stew and sliced-to-order, mile-high barbecue brisket sandwiches. As general manager Eddie Martin says, “Our ‘Welcome Stranger’ decals above our doors just beg you to come inside and eat.’’

No one can resist the classic banana split at Fentons Creamery in Oakland. 

Kristen Loken

Fentons Creamery, Oakland

It’s not every place where you can take a seat at the counter for a liverwurst sandwich followed by a scoop of Coffee Cookie Dream ice cream. But at Fentons Creamery in Oakland, you can. The 124-year-old creamery has drawn folks for generations to devour sourdough crab salad sandwiches and monster-sized banana splits. “It’s a rare establishment where you'll find folks of varied ages and different backgrounds coming together over ice cream,’’ owners Scott and Nini Whidden say.

Gold ‘N Silver Inn, Reno

Whether you crave breakfast at 8 p.m. or a burger at 7 a.m., Reno’s Gold ‘N Silver Inn has you covered. Any hour of any day, too, because the 24-hour, family-run joint never closes. “We’re a multi-generational restaurant,’’ says owner Jeff Paine. “We get customers who first came here with their grandfather, and now come in with their own grandchildren.’’ They can’t resist the best-selling tri-tip sandwich, chicken fried steak and eggs with country gravy, and milkshakes served in the shaker.

From the ambience to the tuxedo-clad waiters, the Golden Steer Steakhouse in Las Vegas evokes a bygone era of dining.  

Chris Wessling

Golden Steer Steakhouse, Las Vegas

Not only is the Golden Steer the oldest steakhouse in Las Vegas, but the restaurant, which opened in 1958, has a far-reaching clientele, some with a storied past. “Where else in the world can you get tuxedo-clad, professionally trained servers preparing Caesar salads and bananas foster tableside while sitting in an original booth where Frank Sinatra or Elvis used to dine?’’ says maître d’ Mark Steele. Indulge in a taste of old Vegas with a massive prime-aged steak.

Ruth’s Diner, Salt Lake City

Former cabaret singer Ruth Evans, founder of Ruth’s Diner in Salt Lake City, may have passed away in 1989 at age 94, but her spirit still imbues this now 88-year-old institution. “We still have plenty of people come in who dined here when she was still alive,’’ says manager Amber Cross. “They talk about how she was feisty, always had a cigarette between her lips, and didn’t care what anyone thought of her.’’ Meatloaf with mashed potatoes reigns here, along with baked mac and cheese, and a towering four-inch-tall biscuits and gravy.

Opened in Sacramento in 1939, Frank Fat's has earned a reputation for its enticing combination of Chinese and American classics. 

Courtesy Fat Family Restaurant Group

Frank Fat’s, Sacramento

A Chinese restaurant as famed for New York steak smothered in oyster sauce and onions as it is for banana cream pie? That’s Frank Fat’s in Sacramento. The restaurant, which received a James Beard “American Classic’’ award, started serving the decidedly non-Asian dessert not long after it opened in 1939, to attract a wider clientele, says general manager Phi Vong. The place has been a hit ever since, especially with the political sect, as it’s steps from the State Capitol. Governor Jerry Brown, who is a regular, is partial to the fried rice, Vong says.