Bill’s Place, a Clement Street institution since 1959 – Richmond Review/Sunset Beacon
By Judith Kahn
When Bill, the first owner of Bill’s Place, opened his restaurant in 1959, his vision was to serve the best burger in town.
Bill’s Place is a neighborhood restaurant with a large outdoor patio. It is located in Outer Richmond on Clement Street between 24th and 25th Avenues.
Burger lovers and lovers of the great American sandwich have made this restaurant a constant destination for their food of choice.
Today, the Jarrar family, the current owners, still take pride in cutting, chopping and forming the beef patties seven days a week, and they continue to use fresh potatoes to make their fries.
Between Bill’s death in 1980 and today, the restaurant has changed hands several times. Since 2016, the Jarrars have taken over the legacy of Bill’s, and patrons of years past will be pleasantly surprised by how much of the original menu remains after more than six decades since it opened.
The Jarrar family came from Jerusalem 23 years ago, looking for a better life and a place to raise a family in the United States. Before buying Bill’s, the family owned a sandwich restaurant called Togos in Santa Clara. When they got tired of working in the franchise business, they decided to buy Bill’s Place.
Reda Jarrar, who now runs the classic retro restaurant, has worked at Bill’s Place since he was 18. He is now attending the University of San Francisco to pursue a degree in business administration. He says every day at the restaurant is a learning experience, especially as longtime customers share stories of their own memories of the place over the years. Some have been coming to Bill’s Place since they were children, and they happily share their Bill’s experience with their grandchildren. Bill’s, for Jarrar, is a second home.
Bill’s two cooks have been there for over 20 years, so it’s really an ongoing legacy. The Jarrars want to embrace the long history and tradition of Bill’s, but they also want to modernize it to include menu items that reflect 21st century tastes, like sweet potato fries, veggie burgers and jalapeño peppers. Jarrar says the patty melt — a 1/3 lb burger between two pieces of melted American cheese on toasted rye bread — is always a customer favorite.
He also recommends the Giants Burger, with cheddar cheese, bacon and avocado on the patty. Don’s Burger, named for the former owner, tops the meat with sautéed mushrooms and cheddar cheese. But these examples barely scratch the surface of a huge offering of 25 different burgers, including The Famous Bill’s 50th anniversary gourmet burger, topped with four different cheeses and four strips of bacon. If you like things spicier, try a Mexican burger, topped with jack cheese, salsa and jalapeño pepper slices.
Many burgers bear the fanciful names of local celebrities, politicians, opera singers, musicians, journalists and TV personalities in San Francisco, all of whom have eaten at Bill’s Place. For example, one offering is the Herb Caen Burger, named after the legendary San Francisco newspaper columnist, and Senator’s Choice, in honor of State Senator Milton Marks. Of course, you are welcome to design your own burger. In addition to vegetable, chicken, and turkey options, many classic sandwiches, such as Reubens, ham and cheese, and tuna fondues, are available from the grill.
The kids’ menu includes hot dogs, a grilled cheese sandwich, and PB&J. If it’s before 1 p.m., diners can also enjoy a breakfast of buttermilk pancakes and three-egg omelets, served with hash browns and your choice of toast or an English muffin.
If you remember milkshakes or, to go even further, malts, Bill’s is justifiably proud of its thick and generous ice cream drinks. They are brought to the table in the original frosted stainless steel container in which they are mixed, to be poured into a tall glass, or two, if you are sharing. It’s a service feature some younger patrons may never have seen, but it was the norm in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and it still is the norm at Bill’s Place.
In fact, the variety of fountain offerings at Bill’s is like stepping into the last century—in a good way—with hot fudge sundaes, banana splits, brown cows, and ice cream floats. If your drinking tastes are more adult, beer, wine, and vodka drinks are also available, and the outdoor patio allows guests to socially distance while taking advantage of the fare.
When you go, take a look at the nine commemorative presidential plaques along the wall. Jarrar says they came with the restaurant, so a previous owner must have liked them and bought them at an estate sale or auction. They’re part of Bill’s old-fashioned vibe, friendly and cozy, with moderately priced food. It’s a great neighborhood spot for a family lunch or dinner, a casual get-together with friends, or a hearty breakfast.
Bill’s Place was recently voted “Best Burger” in the Richmond District by readers of the Richmond Review newspaper.
The Jarrars hope to continue this Richmond District legacy restaurant for “many years to come.”
Bill’s Place is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It is located at 2315, rue Clément. For more information, call 415-221-5262.