Goodbye to All That
On July 13, the inimitable Joyce Goldstein closes Square One after a 12-year run. The Barbary Coast restaurant enjoyed a national reputation in the 1980s, "when everyone went out to eat five nights a week," she says. "Now it's the '90s, and people don't go out as much, and it's more difficult to deduct meals as business expenses, so we haven't been as busy. No one has. The neighborhood hasn't helped, either; there's nothing going on here in the evening, no shows or theater."
Goldstein also thinks that the Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989 hurt the city's restaurant business by making it more difficult for suburbanites to get into town for a meal.
"Not repairing the freeways changed dining patterns forever," she says. "People living in the suburbs discovered that it was easier to go to suburban restaurants. Meanwhile there are 3,800 restaurants in a city whose population is static. There are too many restaurants here."
Business considerations were a major part of Goldstein's decision to shut Square One, but she also had personal reasons.
"My life was out of balance," she says. "I was always there, working all the time, 90 hours a week. I'm sad and glad about moving on. I still enjoy it, and, oh my God, I'll miss it, but it's time for me to do some other things with my life, such as enjoying my writing."
Goldstein has already published two cookbooks (The Mediterranean Kitchen and Back to Square One), with a third, Kitchen Conversations, to be published this fall. She's also bringing out a volume titled Taverna (including recipes from Greece, Turkey, Spain, and Portugal) as part of a Sunset Books series.
"I would like people to cook every damn thing in the books," she says. "These are the same recipes we've used in the restaurant."
She'll also have time to take up various food-related causes, as she did a few years ago in leading the charge against genetically engineered tomatoes.
"They were shitty tomatoes," she says with a laugh. "You don't hear much about them anymore, although they were better than the pink cotton balls you usually get in the off-season."
(It's not hard to imagine Goldstein with her own TV cooking show; she has an appealingly colorful directness. But she's vague on her media plans, if any.)
The last menu at Square One will be "the same food we've always served, with favorite dishes for family, friends, and regular customers," she says. Then, after a private farewell party on Bastille Day, it's lights out, staff scattered, the space itself converted to some other use.
"Most likely more offices," Goldstein says. "But I don't care if they turn it into a swimming pool."