When the legendary Union Square baseball bar and buffet spot Lefty O’Doul’s closed in early 2017 amidst a nasty dispute with its landlord, there were always whispers that Lefty’s would return at another San Francisco location. Those whispers will become cheers of joy (and raised pint glasses) when Lefty O’Doul’s has its grand opening on Tuesday afternoon at 1 p.m. at its new Fisherman’s Wharf location.
To celebrate the occasion, SF Weekly spoke with Tom O’Doul, Lefty’s cousin and president of Lefty O’Doul’s Foundation for Kids. He spoke of the 60-year legacy of Lefty O’Doul’s Restaurant and Bar, and the famous heist of Lefty’s left arm that captured San Francisco’s imagination in the late 2000s.
“We had a mannequin at the old restaurant that was supposed to be Lefty O’Doul, and some pranksters took the left arm off the mannequin,” O’Doul tells SF Weekly. “It disappeared for about three years.”
The thieves mailed the stolen arm back, along with a batch of photos detailing everything they did with the arm over three years.
“Eventually, we got it mailed back to us, with a bunch of pictures attached from traveling around the country, a lot of them from the midwest,” he says. “The arm was up to no good out on a trip. It came back safely and was returned to the mannequin. Now he’s complete again.”
And San Francisco is complete again with the return of Lefty’s buffet. The place is now named Lefty’s Ballpark Baseball Buffet & Cafe, and it had a soft, partial opening in September. But the full facility enjoys its grand opening Tuesday, in a much more tourist-y, Fisherman’s Wharf incarnation, but with all of the old Lefty O’Doul’s memorabilia now returned.
“The new place is different,” O’Doul admits. “We still have a lot of the memorabilia up. It’s baseball-oriented. We have a ground floor with a Dugout Store for the Giants, and a Starbucks cafe that features Lefty’s foods.”
“Upstairs is the main restaurant. It’s all buffet, so it’s all-you-can-eat,” he says.
The buffet will serve both dinner and lunch, featuring Mexican, Chinese, and American food, along with a dessert bar and a chocolate fountain.
Contrary to popular belief, Lefty O’Doul was never a San Francisco Giant. He retired in 1934, before the New York Giants baseball team moved here in 1958. But he managed the minor-league San Francisco Seals for 15 years after that, so his name remains on the Bay Area baseball scene — and now, the restaurant scene again, too.