Joe’s Special, the Original San Francisco Treat #SundaySupper

by Anne Papina on July 21, 2013

Joe's Special #SundaySupper | Webicurean

Personally, I could eat breakfast all day. How about you? I’m not talking about the sweet stuff either. Sure, I enjoy a short stack every now and again, but I’m a savory gal through and through. So, when Conni over at the Foodie Army Wife said she was hosting a Breakfast for Dinner #SundaySupper, I couldn’t resist. My thoughts promptly turned to a Bay Area staple, something on the menu of every restaurant named Joe’s and then some. I’m talking about Joe’s Special–the original San Francisco treat.

According to local lore, a late night patron at “New Joe’s” on Broadway ordered a spinach omelet. The hungry diner asked the chef if he had anything else available to cook, and the chef responded there was hamburger. The hamburger was added to the omelet, and this savory midnight snack soon became a regular item. This was back in the 1920s, when New Joe’s was the only restaurant in San Francisco with full exhibition cooking, that is, everything prepared in full view of the customers. It was also the first restaurant to serve Joe’s Special, although many have followed since. In 1937, the partners at New Joe’s had a falling out, and one of them opened Original Joe’s in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, which serves folks old-school style to this day.

What’s so special about Joe’s Special anyway? It may not win any beauty pageants, but when you need something savory and satisfying, man does this fit the bill. Just serve it with a crusty loaf of French bread and a tumbler filled with house red, and you’re good to go.

Joe's Special #SundaySupper | Webicurean

Start by chopping the onion and garlic. Then sauté in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion starts to brown.

Joe's Special #SundaySupper | Webicurean

Next, brown the ground chuck in the onions, breaking it up as it cooks. The mushrooms should be added at this point, if using. Then stir in the spinach and marjoram, and continue to cook until most of the moisture has evaporated.

Joe's Special #SundaySupper | Webicurean

Have the eggs ready to go, then stir into the meat mixture, cooking until slightly dry. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Joe's Special #SundaySupper | Webicurean

Good, satisfying, breakfast-style grub.

Joe's Special #SundaySupper | Webicurean

Top it with some Parmesan cheese, and serve it with plenty of crusty French bread and a tumbler or two of house red.

Here’s the printable version:

Joe's Special
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Joe's Special, a scramble of eggs, ground beef, and spinach, is savory and satisfying and is a staple on every Joe's menu in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 8 oz. ground chuck
  • 8 oz. ground chuck
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry in paper towels
  • 1 (10-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry in paper towels
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 8 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 8 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion; cook until onion starts to brown.
  2. Add meat and mushrooms (if using), cooking and stirring, until browned.
  3. Add the spinach and marjoram, and cook until heated the excess moisture is evaporated.
  4. Add the eggs and cook, stirring until eggs are done. The mixture should be slightly dry.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese for garnish.

Let’s see what other breakfasty dinners the rest of the #SundaySupper crew has lined up for us!

Tres Leches Pancakes from La Cocina de Leslie

French Toast Casserole with Sautéed Apples from The Foodie Army Wife

Gluten Free Breakfast Pizza from Blueberries And Blessings

Basic Vegan Waffles from Killer Bunnies, Inc

Kale, Bacon, Brown Rice Crustless Quiche from Shockingly Delicious

Bacon Egg and Potato Breakfast Tacos from Cookin’ Mimi

Steak and Egg Tostadas from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen

Breakfast Bowls from Jane’s Adventures in Dinner

Bacon and Egg Waffles from The Urban Mrs

Homemade Lox from Growing Up Gabel

Seattle Sandwiches (Lox, Shmear, & A Fried Egg) from Juanita’s Cocina

Bacon & Brie Potato Bread Strata with Roasted Pears from Eat, Move, Shine

Saucy Ham and Cheese Breakfast Sliders from Daily Dish Recipes

Greek Frittata from Casa de Crews

Elderberry Flower Pancakes from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks

Prosciutto, Gorgonzola and Rosemary Strata from That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Italian Turkey Meatballs (With a Secret) from What Smells So Good?

Bacon, Spinach and Tomato Breakfast Pizza from Runner’s Tales

Red Pepper and Egg Galette from Healthy. Delicious.

Waffles – One Plate, Two Ways: Sweet & Savory from Foxes Love Lemons

Steak & Egg Bagel Sandwich from girlichef

Florentine Benedict from Supper for a Steal

Oatmeal Ice Cream from Treats & Trinkets

Banana Waffles with Peanut Butter Syrup from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures

Baked Berry French Toast from Table For Seven

But wait, there’s more!

Open Faced BTC Sandwich from Peanut Butter and Peppers

Crustless Spinach Quiche from The Hand That Rocks The Ladle

Bacon ‘n Eggs Bread Pudding from gotta get baked

Denver Breakfast Ring from Curious Cuisiniere

Copycat Japanese McDonald’s from Ninja Baking

One Pan Full English Fry-up from Food Lust People Love

Crumpets with Whipped Orange Honey from Kudos Kitchen by Renee

Leek, Mushroom and Gruyère Quiche from Hip Foodie Mom

Joe’s Special, the Original San Francisco Treat from Webicurean

Dark Chocolate, Orange & Pistachio Greek Yogurt Cups from Cupcakes & Kale Chips

Gluten Free Tomato Basil Crepes form No One Likes Crumbley Cookies

Sour Cherry Crisp from Pies and Plots

Cream Dried Beef and Waffles from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings

Sausage breakfast casserole from My cute bride

Almond Rice Crepes Stuffed With Sweet Potatoes & Peas from  Sue’s Nutrition Buzz

Zucchini Pancakes with Sautéed Tomatoes and Feta from Ruffles & Truffles

Apple, Bacon, and Dubliner Cheese Stuffed French Toast from Neighborfood

Dulce de Leche Stuffed French Toast from Basic N Delicious

Normally it would be very socially unacceptable to have wine with your breakfast, but seeing as this is closer to sunset than sunrise, we say go for it!!!

Hangtown Fry and Wine Pairings with Breakfast for Dinner from ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter today! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm EST. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here → Sunday Supper Movement.


{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Conni @FoodieArmyWife July 21, 2013 at 6:02 am

Oh wow! This looks really, really good!


Diana @EatMoveShine July 21, 2013 at 6:10 am

What a fun post, and good to know the story behind it! 😉 Perfect breakfast food any time!!!


Marti Wolfe June 3, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Except the story as presented here has the city wrong! Joe’s Special is definitely from San Jose.


Jen @JuanitasCocina July 21, 2013 at 6:52 am

I want to just spoon this straight into my mouth! YUM!


Shannon R July 21, 2013 at 9:01 am

Huh, I’ve never been to Original Joe’s! Man, I suck at being a Bay Area resident, I’m missing out on so much.


Anne Papina July 24, 2013 at 8:01 am

Well, all the Joe’s seem to have the same menu–try one near you! Our family usually goes to Joe’s of Westlake! (and be sure to try the fried cream for dessert!)


Sarah Reid, RHNC (@jo_jo_ba) July 21, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I gotta say you had me curious – this looks awesome!


Liz July 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Now where has this been all my life???? What a terrific dish…thanks for introducing me!!!!


Martin D. Redmond July 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm

My goodness! It’s been far to long since I’ve had a Joe’s Special . I love em! Thanks for sharing!


Sarah | Curious Cuisiniere July 22, 2013 at 4:32 am

I’ve never heard of anything like this, but it sounds so good! It’s on the menu this week!


Kim@Treats & Trinkets July 22, 2013 at 5:49 am

I think that’s plenty pretty. And forget the bread; I want to just shovel it into my mouth.


Stacy July 22, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I would adore an omelet with beef and spinach. Sounds like a perfect dinner or breakfast to me!


Lori @ Foxes Love Lemons July 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I’ve never had this before – I really missed out while visiting SF, I guess. I’ll definitely be trying this soon! Also, “I’m a savory gal through and through” = my EXACT words during the #SS twitter chat last night 🙂 AGREED.


Nancy @ gottagetbaked July 23, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I’ve been to San Fran 4 times (it’s one of my favourite cities in the world) and I’ve never heard of Joe’s Special! I need to get me some new tour guides (in other words, I’m calling you the next time I’m in the city). This sounds amazing!


Anne Papina July 24, 2013 at 8:02 am

LOL definitely look me up!


Marti Wolfe June 3, 2014 at 5:20 pm

That’s because Joe’s Special is from San Jose! it was invented in a retaurant called Original Joe’s in downtown San Jose.


Family Foodie July 24, 2013 at 10:18 am

I really enjoyed reading about the story behind this dish. It looks delicious… I don’t know if I would even need the bread!


Courtney @ Neighborfood July 24, 2013 at 11:26 am

Oh wow! This looks so hearty and delicious. I could eat this for any meal!


Katie July 25, 2013 at 9:51 am

I have never heard of this dish before, but I am absolutely craving it now! I love the simplicity but I’m sure the flavor packs a big punch!


Marti Wolfe June 3, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Joe’s Special did not come from San Francisco!!!
The story above is essentially correct, but how and who incorrectly attributed it to someplace in San Francisco I cannot imagine.
Original Joe’s is an Italian Restaurant in my home town, SAN JOSE!!! It’s sort of an institution.
I’m delighted to see so many people post this wonderful recipe, but it just curdles my gizzard to see it misappropriated to San Francisco.


Anne Papina June 3, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Actually, it was invented at the Joe’s in San Francisco decades before the San Jose restaurant opened. Even the Original Joe’s in San Jose acknowledges that on its “history” page: Hope this helps clarify!


Valerie May 11, 2018 at 10:33 am

Actually, while living in San Francisco on Nob Hill in the late 70’s, we spent many Sunday mornings at Joe’s just up from Broadway on the way to North Beach. After a full night of dancing, this is where we would head to for a hearty brunch on our way home. Of course, someone at the table would inevitably order this dish as it was a favorite of the group. So I agree-this is a dish of San Francisco just as the cioppino was a staple dish at the now defunct Golden Spike in the same area. Ahhh, great memories!


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