The cable cars are a wonderful institution, absolutely indivisible from San Francisco, and we would lay down in front of one if ever there were plans to remove them, but let's face it, dining options by the cable car lines are like following a rainbow to the end and finding a big bowl of crap where the gold should be.
Fortunately, there is now an exception to this rule in Terminus, the café/bar at 10 California St., diagonally across from the terminus of the cable car line — but the name is also a play on a long-gone French absinthe. It's the newest venture from Dennis Leary, whose downtown empire also includes House of Shields and the Sentinel, and it's open a whopping 19 hours a day, longer than the most driven hedge-funder's weekday schedule.
While the menu rotates daily, breakfast emphasizes pastry and goodies such as a light, eggy bread pudding, and lunch is sandwich-heavy. The pork shoulder (with ham, cheese, pickles, and spicy mustard on two slices of Leary's own white bread, glazed to perfection with an egg wash) was pretty much un-improvable, just fatty and juicy enough to keep from falling apart.
Judging a place on its beer taps is like evaluating dates based on their cars' hood ornaments, but know that Tricerahops Double IPA and Goose Island Matilda are available. If you want a drink with lunch, though, you'll have to eat a late breakfast because the taps (and that appealing shelf of single-malt Scotch) are forbidden until 2 p.m.
Mirrored and hung with globe lights, Terminus is predominantly black-and-white without being stark, and has a long concrete bar with about 15 stools. Tables were lacking during its first few days in business, and nearly everyone who walked in saw the lack of furniture, paused, and asked, "Are you open?" Yes, it was, softly, and even in that phase, it was worth it.