Everyone who lived in San Francisco before the fire remembers Ricardo, he of the one eye, who served so well at Luna's, on Vallejo and Dupont streets. Ricardo had but one eye but he could see the wants of his patrons much better than many of the later day waiters who have two. Luna's brought fame to San Francisco and in more than one novel of San Francisco life it was featured. Entering the place one came into the home life of the Luna family, and reached the dining room through the parlor, where Mrs. Luna, busy with her drawn work, and all the little Lunas and the neighbors and their children foregathered in the window spaces behind the torn Nottingham curtains which partially concealed the interior from passers on the street. The elder sons and daughters attended to the wants of those who fancied any of the curios displayed in the long showcase that extended from the door to the rear of the room.
Passing through this family group one came to the curtained dining room proper, although there were a number of tables in the family parlor to be used in case of a rush of patrons. Luna's dinners were a feature of the old San Francisco. They were strictly Mexican, from the unpalatable soup (Mexicans do not understand how to make good soup) to the "dulce" served at the close of the meal. First came the appetizers in form of thin slices of salami and of a peculiar Mexican sausage, so extremely hot with chili pepino as to immediately call for a drink of claret to assuage the burning. Then came the soup which we experienced ones always passed over. The salad of modern tables was replaced by an enchilada, and then came either chili con carne or chili con polle according to the day of the week, Sundays having as the extra attraction the chili con pollo, or chicken with pepper. In place of bread they served tortillas, which were rolled and used as a spoon or fork if one were so inclined. Following this was what is known among unenlightened as "stuffed pepper," but which is called by the Spanish, from which country it gets its name, "chili reinas." To signify the close of the meal came frijoles fritas or fried beans, and these were followed by the dessert consisting of some preserved fruit or of a sweet tamale. Fifty cents paid the bill and a tip of fifteen cents to Ricardo made him as happy and as profuse with his thanks as the present day waiter on receipt of half a dollar.
Accepting Luna's as the best type of the Mexican restaurant of the days before the fire, our inquiry developed the fact that the dish on which he specialized was chili reinas, and this is the recipe he used in their preparation:
Roast large bell peppers until the skin turns black. Wash in cold water and rub off the blackened skin. Cut around the stem and remove the seed and coarse veins. Take some dry Monterey cheese, grated fine, and with this fill the peppers, closing the end with a wooden toothpick.
Prepare a batter made as follows: Beat the yolks and whites of six eggs separately, then mix, and stir in a little flour to make a thin batter. Have a pan of boiling lard ready and after dipping the stuffed pepper into the batter dip it into the lard. Remove quickly and dip again in the batter and then again in the lard where it is to remain until fried a light, golden brown, keeping the peppers entirely covered with the boiling lard.
Take the seeds of the peppers, one small white onion and two tomatoes, and grind all together into a pulp, add a little salt and let cook ten minutes. When the chilies are fried turn the remainder of the batter into the tomatoes and boil twenty minutes, then turn this sauce over the peppers.
This is a most delicious dish and can be varied by using finely ground meat to stuff the peppers instead of The cheese.
Mexican restaurants of the present day in San Francisco are a delusion, and unsatisfactory.
On the Barbary Coast
Much has been said and more printed regarding San Francisco's Barbary Coast--much of truth and much mythical. Probably no other individual district has been so instrumental in giving to people of other parts of the country an erroneous idea of San Francisco.