From Fancy to Family : Nash’s Diner

Postcard of Herbert’s Bachelor Bar and Grill.

Herbert’s Bachelor Bar and Grill. The year is 1915 in downtown San Fransisco and this men-only, secluded part of the Herbert’s Hotel is bustling with men who can afford to get in. The smell of cigars and liquor fills the room as men laugh, drink, and eat here. Herbert’s was big in the nightlife scene of San Fransisco and was known internationally for its party scene. But if you fast forward in time to 1938, the Herbert’s Bachelor Bar and Grill has been replaced with a new restaurant named Nash’s. At Nash’s, families and friends gather around diner-styled tables. Instead of cigars and liquor, it has been replaced with waitresses, canned goods, and a family-friendly atmosphere. In a twenty-three-year timespan, a men’s nightclub had completely changed to a family-friendly diner, the complete opposite of what the restaurant used to be. But what could have caused such a drastic change? Like any good restaurant, Herbert’s grew with society and eventually rebranded into Nash’s; turning itself from a secluded bar and nightclub to the answer to “Where we’ll eat”. 

Ad in  The Argonaut : San Fransisco, 07/21/1921.

Around the start of the 1920s, Herbert’s started its long transformation into Nash’s family diner. In an advertisement published in 1921 in The Argonaut, a San Francisco newspaper, Herbert’s announced that a lunch counter has been added to the restaurant. This was the first big step into turning into Nash’s family diner. A place where it used to be only for bar and grill, normally for only dinner and nighttime functions, has added a lunch counter. Here, they are also slowly shifting into Nash’s slogan by saying “A good place to eat”. 

Last Page of Nash’s Menu

This is also reflected in the last page of the menu, where they explain the new changes to the restaurant. There is a lunch counter, table service, and a tray service in which your food would be delivered to you. This is further keeping Nash’s in line with eating trends while still trying to preserve the Herbert’s quality and service. 

Although, there is little information on when exactly Herbert’s rebranded into Nash’s but the earliest Nash’s menu that I could find was made in 1938. I believe that this is really close to when the restaurant was rebranded because, under the new name, it says “Formerly Herbert’s”. Nash’s is running a slogan close to the slogan found in the 1921 ad in The Argonaut, now advertising the restaurant as “The Answer to ‘Where’ll we Eat’”. To me, this slogan communicates the shift to a place where anyone could go and get whatever they want to eat. 

Title Page of Nash’s Menu

Looking inside the menu, you’d find a lot of dishes that diners today would serve. From breakfast foods like ham and bacon to lunch sandwiches and salads to a special dinner menu and everything in between, Nash’s has it all. With its new and expansive menu, Nash’s has truly become a place where people of all ages can have a good dining experience. But how did Nash’s be able to have such a large menu in the first place? The answer to that; canning. 

The availability and price of ingredients were a big factor in the menu changes that occurred at Nash’s. By having access to canned products like fruits, vegetables, and even some instant products, Nash’s was able to expand its menu and keep the prices relatively low for the time period. Things like their pies and fruit compote were made using fresh or “quick-frozen” fruits, perhaps quick-frozen in order to keep their shelf lives longer. In addition to using canned products, refrigeration also helped Nash’s menu expand to its all-day and dinner menus. The use of the cold chain and refrigeration in general, allowed Nash’s to have access to the many cuts and choices of meat that they offer on their menu. 

Although with this great new menu and probably great new customers, a fire happened in the Herbert’s Hotel where Nash’s was located in 1946. I’m not sure if Nash’s was still in business due to the picture saying “Chris’ Grill” where the fire happened but it seems as if Nash’s was then replaced by this other restaurant and then unfortunately burned down. This fire was one of the biggest in San Francisco history, a five-alarm fire needing 33 firetrucks to put it out. Four firemen died in the fire and 37 of them were hurt. Today, Herbert’s Hotel where Nash’s was located, currently does not have an in-house restaurant and is only open as a hotel. 

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