We’ve talked about the Basques in California and more specifically San Francisco on many occasions.

But we believe that, so far, we had never found an article that was so long and so focused on the presence of our compatriots in this port city on the Pacific coast of the USA, which has been there even since colonial times and also in the 19th century.

We’re referring to the magnificent article Danielle Echeverria has just published in the San Francisco Chronicle about the rise and fall of Basque cuisine in this city.  This article goes far beyond restaurant opening and closings, also helping us to understand the evolution of the Basque community there, and what its current status is.

But what the article really leaves you with is the feeling not so much of weakness of the Basque community, which can be felt when reading between the lines, but rather with the loss of its presence in the city, which used to be projected and broadcast through the restaurants serving Basque cuisine.

Firstly, there were the hotels where Basques who had just arrived in the city from abroad or from other places in the US, which reach their peak with the crest of Basque immigration in the 1950s—1970s, and lined Broadway and its nearby areas between Chinatown and Little Italy in North Beach, an area the Chronicle once nicknamed “Basquetown.”  Something similar happened in Los Angeles, when the area known as the “French neighborhood,” which has since disappeared, should have been called the “Basque neighborhood,” as we wrote here.  At the end of this article, we’ll also leave you with a fantastic article published on the website”Basques in California,” which discusses both neighborhoods.

When these hotels began to close, it was the Basque restaurants who took over as the public face of Basque culture in the city.  But one by one, these restaurants have begun to close, until the last one, the Piperade (which we spoke about in 2011, soon after this blog began) closed.

This restaurant was opened in 2002 and run by Gerald Hirigoyen, a Basque born in Bayonne and raised in Biarritz.  Its reach was such that France gave him the Chevalier du Mérite Agricole in 2011, which we reported here.

We don’t know if this situation of weakness the Basque community there is experiencing is an exception or the start of a trend, not only in the United States but also in other places where the Basque presence has been significant and relevant within their adopted homeland.

In any case, it is a cause for alarm, both for the Basques of the diaspora and the Basques of the homeland.  This is especially true for the different Basque institutions that have always found strong support points in these Basque communities spread throughout the world.  We cannot allow them to disappear, and we’re sure that the Basques around the world will not allow that to happen.

The Basques of San Francisco believe that another Basque restaurant would triumph in the City by the Bay.  The end of the article makes it clear: “‘It would be great,’ he said. ‘But I don’t see anybody that I know wanting to do that.'”

That would be a challenge for a Basque chef who wants to make a name for themselves to take up, and develop an attractive and ambitious new project!

San Francisco Chronicle -3/1/2024 – USA

This region’s food once flourished in S.F. Then it disappeared

When San Francisco’s popular Basque restaurant Piperade shuttered in November, the local Basque community was happy for chef-owner Gerald Hirigoyen, who closed up shop after more than 20 years of seafood stew and braised pork cheeks to finally retire.

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Basques in California –   – USA

Two Early Basque Towns: Los Angeles & San Francisco

By 1890, concentrations of Basque immigrants had appeared in small neighborhoods within San Francisco and Los Angeles. These communi­ties, which we will refer to as Basque towns, featured clusters of hotels situated within compact geographical areas. Whereas the ostatuak that developed in California between 1850 and 1890 tended to be isolated resting spots frequented by travelers, the clus­ters of hotels that did business in the two Basque towns toward the end of the nineteenth century emerged as social centers for the greater Basque-American community in the state, and they also spurred the develop­ment of ostatuak in outlying areas. Decades later, Basque towns would also emerge in Bakersfield, Stockton, Boise, and Reno.

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Last Updated on Feb 12, 2024 by About Basque Country

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