|The Hountalas family has been part of the Ocean Beach community
since 1906. In 1919 Michael Hountalas leased a candy and tobacco
stand inside the Car Barn, the terminus for the street cars. In 1949
the Car Barn was destroyed by fire and in 1952 Mike acquired the
Golden Gate View Coffee Shop next to the Sutro Baths.
In 1941, when
Dan was six years old, he started his own business selling peanuts
outside of his fatherís shop. In 1958 Dan opened the Cliff Chalet
and in 1965 it was extensively remodeled and renamed Dannyís Cliff
Chalet. In June of 1966 it burned down in the blaze that destroyed
the Sutro Baths.
Following the fire, and armed with a degree in
business administration from San Francisco State University, Dan
made a career switch to become national sales manager for
Consolidated Foods. In 1970, he met Mary, regional food service
supervisor for Mannings Foodservice Co., a client of Consolidated
Foods. They were married in 1972, and with financial aid from their
parents in 1973, they leased the unused banquet room and turned it
into Upstairs at the Cliff House. It soon became a popular breakfast
and lunch spot renowned for its huge selection of omelets.
In 1974 Dan and Mary purchased a liquor license and opened the
Ben Butler Bar on the main floor. The following year, armed with a
$500,000 loan, Dan and Mary assumed operation of the bar to be
renamed Phineas T. Barnacle and reopened the main dining room naming
it The Seafood and Beverage Company. Mary, a trained dietitian,
created the menus and ensured that everything was made on the
premises from fresh ingredients. Dan was a wine aficionado, and made
the Cliff House the first restaurant in San Francisco to feature
boutique California wines.
Over the years, Dan and Mary restored the interior to the
Victorian style of the early 1900s, when the last incarnation of the
Cliff House was built. They decorated with hand-painted valances,
silver-leaf and hand-pressed copper ceilings, Bradbury & Bradbury
wall coverings, antique furnishings, and historic photographs to
create an elegant, comfortable setting that transported visitors to
a bygone era.
In 1977 the Cliff House and surrounding properties were purchased
by the National Park Service to become part of the Golden Gate
National Recreation Area. Beginning in the early 1980s, the
Hountalas family began collaborating with the National Park Service
on launching a much-needed restoration of the Cliff House. The
decision was made to restore the historic Cliff House to its 1909
neoclassical style. Construction began in 2002 and was completed in
September of 2004.