Chinatown is gone; the Barbary Coast is gone; the haunts of crime have been swept by the devouring flames, and if the citizens can prevent they will never be restored. The old San Francisco is dead. The gayest, lightest-hearted, most pleasure-loving city of this continent, and in many ways the most interesting and romantic, is a horde of huddled refugees living among ruins. It may rebuild; it probably will; but those who have known that peculiar city by the Golden Gate and have caught its flavor of the Arabian Nights feel that it can never be the same. When it rises out of its ashes it will probably doubtless resemble other modern cities and have lost its old strange flavor.
Life in the Metropolis of the Pacific
Brought up in a bountiful country, where no one really has to work very hard to live, nurtured on adventure, scion of a free and merry stock, the real, native Californian is a distinctive type; as far from the Easterner in psychology as the extreme Southern is from the Yankee. He is easy going, witty, hospitable, lovable, inclined to be unmoral rather than immoral in his personal habits, and above all easy to meet and to know.
Above all there is an art sense all through the populace which sets it off from any other part of the country. This sense is almost Latin in its strength, and the Californian owes it to the leaven of Latin blood.
With such a people life was always gay. If they did not show it on the streets, as do the people of Paris, it was because the winds made open cafes disagreeable at all seasons of the year. The gayety went on indoors or out on the hundreds of estates that fringed the city. It was noted for its restaurants. Perhaps people who cared not how they spent their money could get the best they wished, but for a dollar down to as low as fifteen cents the restaurants furnished the best fare to be had anywhere at the price.
The country all about produced everything that a cook needs, and that in abundance—the bay was an almost untapped fish-pond, the fruit farms came up to the very edge of the town, and the surrounding country produced in abundance fine meats, all cereals and all vegetables.
But the chefs who came from France in the early days and liked this land of plenty were the head and front of it. They passed their art to other Frenchmen or to the clever Chinese. Most of the French chefs at the biggest restaurants were born in Canton, China. Later the Italians, learning of this country where good food is appreciated, came and brought their own style. Householders always dined out one or two nights of the week, and boarding houses were scarce, for the unattached preferred the restaurants. The eating was usually better than the surroundings.