By Chris Barnett
In my 35 years of libational research, I’ve found few saloons where women consistently outnumber guys at the bar. One is the Elite Cafe, the eating and drinking den at 2049 Fillmore, busy since the day it debuted in 1981.
The spot opened in 1928 as the Lincoln Grill. In 1932, with Prohibition drying up thirst parlors, it became a chop suey house called the Asia Cafe — and supposedly a front for a bookie joint in the basement.
As the story goes, the phone company couldn’t understand why there were 50 trunk lines into a cafe that didn’t even do takeout. Some say the Asia Cafe ran a full gambling operation in the cellar, but I can’t prove that.
It became the Elite in ’81, launched by the notorious serial bar and restaurant owner Sam DuVall, who these days owns Izzy’s in the Marina and Larkspur, with a Cajun theme that remains today. In the Elite’s most recent incarnation under owner Peter Snyderman, the food has become more authentic.
Much of the interior and exterior has hardly been touched. The wooden booths remain, with the scars to prove they’re vintage. From the high ceilings hang wooden fans lazily whirling above sculpted Deco lights. It looks very New Orleans.