A longtime SFist favorite and a stalwart on Third Street that's been there since the 1950s, HRD Coffee Shop, is closing up shop, and the owner says it's because he didn't get enough help from his landlord or the city.
This is very sad. HRD Coffee Shop (521A Third Street), which has seen two generations of owners in SoMa/South Beach and became so well known for its fusion-style burritos and Mongolian beef cheesesteak a decade ago that they were paid a visit by Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives in 2010, closed for good on Friday, June 23. The restaurant had just celebrated its 70th birthday this year.
As current owner David Yeung tells the SF Standard, the reasons are many, but it certainly didn't help that he wasn't able to build a parklet or have outdoor dining during the pandemic. And it also could not have helped that this was a business whose clientele was largely a work-lunch crowd that all but evaporated three years ago and hasn't come back.
"The landlord did not play the right game with us during the pandemic," Yeung tells the Standard, adding that the city was no help either, and nor was Recology (there was some sort of illegal dumping issue nearby), and at one point the restaurant was losing $20,000 per month.
Yeung's uncle, Ben Chan, opened HRD back in 1953, and as the story goes, his English was so bad that when he was asked what the business would be called, while at City Hall getting a business license, he just repeated what was already on the front of the building — the former tenant was the Social Security Administration's human resources department, with their main office across the street, so HRD was emblazoned on the facade.
"Once the Social Security Office had moved out of the neighborhood, the vacant space became available for lease," the restaurant's About page explains. "[Subsequently], it opened as a Coffee Shop, serving traditional American breakfasts, sandwiches, ice creams, and fountain drinks."
It would be over five decades later, in 2009, when Chan finally decided to retire and pass the business on to his nephew. Yeung and his partner Joanna Banks revamped the restaurant's menu, along with the help of Sydney Saidyan of the venture capital firm Saidyan Group, adding the more modern, mashup items like a bulgogi beef burrito, a spicy pork and kimchi burrito, Japanese-style curry plates, and the famous Mongolian cheesesteak. And a San Francisco classic was born again.
When Guy Fieri came calling a year later, he called the spicy pork and kimchi burrito "the oddest burrito I've ever seen," but after taking a couple bites, he said, "Dude, that is seriously the bomb."
Where Fieri goes, so, inevitably, do tourist, but HRD probably hasn't seen many of those the past three years either.
Briefly, there was a second location called HRD Smokin' Grill on Green Street in North Beach, but that opened and closed between 2013 and mid-2015.
This may not be the final curtain for HRD Coffee Shop, as Yeung hints that a new location is not out of the question.
"I would love to remain in San Francisco as a business," Yeung tells the Standard — adding, "But the question is, would any sane person?" And he says he's open to bringing HRD to the North, South, or East Bay, but this may be up to his investor.
For now, all we have are the Yelp photos to remind us of the glories of HRD Coffee Shop. Don't be a stranger... We'll be looking out for HRD's third incarnation. Fingers crossed.