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The Old San Francisco Steak House, San Antonio, Texas, USA

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If you've ever been to San Antonio, Texas, you may have come across a little place called the Old San Francisco Steak House. If you haven't then you should, because it is certainly entertaining and offers a valuable insight into human nature.

The Old San Francisco Steak House is situated off route 281, just north of the 410. It's easy to find because you can't miss the giant red and yellow sign. Once you get there and you've parked your car (lots of spaces but they're all taken - you'll wonder why, but not for too long), go inside where you'll be confronted by d├ęcor reminiscent of what you might expect an old bordello house to look like. This feeling is reinforced by the fact that all the young female employees wear nothing more than a corset, fishnet stockings and a feather boa. Now you may be thinking 'Hey, why are you recommending a place like this to me? I want to take my family for a pleasant meal and not have my wife accuse me of being a pervert.' But don't worry, this is for families. In fact you'll find all sorts there, be they old, young, male or female, and they'll all say they're there for the food.

Up to now this probably sounds like a middle-of-the-road theme restaurant, but wait, the twist is yet to come. After one of the young waitresses (dressed as mentioned previously) has shown you to your table and you've mulled over the choice of steak and... well, steak, things will suddenly take a turn for the strange. You see, in this particular restaurant, every half-hour or so a feather boa-clad waitress will walk up onto a stage situated in front of the bar. Above this stage hangs a red velvet swing on which the girl will sit before beginning to set off swinging back and forth. She will do this in a refined manner, showing off her toned, gymnastic physique as she goes, and it is now that you will realise that you're the only person watching! Why? Has no one else realised what's going on? Does this happen everywhere in San Antonio? You can't take your eyes off this girl on a swing but now you feel like everyone is watching you because you're the only one watching her. To everyone else, you are the unusual one. The fact that there's a girl swinging higher and higher up towards what must be at least a 30-foot high ceiling is of no consequence; you are the one watching her. She knows it, and so does everyone else.

The girl carries on swinging and showing off her legs. Every now and then she flashes a smile at you because you're the only one who cares. She must be getting too high, surely! She heads towards the ceiling for what you believe will surely be the final, bone crunching time when she stretches out one of her long legs and kicks a bell dangling from the ceiling above her. A sense of great relief washes over your body as you realise what she's been up to and you begin to clap enthusiastically. The rest of the restaurant remains silent apart from the occasional 'tut' and other such utterances from your fellow customers. The fact is, you probably won't care any more. As the swing girl slows down to dismount and everyone else stops wondering who the unusual outsider is and gets back to their food, you feel pleased to have seen something that, let's face it, you don't see every day. You also feel defiant. You are applauding this brave young woman and she is clearly pleased about it. To hell with the others! You're happy and when she comes over to thank you for your support you'll be glad that you were the only one.

This is where the insights into human nature come in to it. When the show's over and you've turned back to your food you will know that culinary excellence is not the reason why people travel to the Old San Francisco Steak House. It's all about the swinging girl. Why then, do people ignore the show when the show is why they're there? It's because they don't want to admit that their idea of a good night out is watching an attractive girl on a swing. They'd much rather be known for their appreciation of good food. These people go and spend a not inconsiderable amount of money on food they probably don't like that much so that they can ignore a girl on a swing. It's not about the watching, it's about being able to say 'Oh yeah! Girl, swing, I see it all the time. I'm so cultured it just doesn't shock me. Why, I care so little I can ignore the show.' It's human nature to treat the unusual with disdain once it's become familiar. We don't want to be seen to be getting over-excited about such things; it just wouldn't be proper. We can only hope that from time to time someone will go to the Old San Francisco Steak House and make the swinging girl happy again.

Other Locations

Old San Francisco Steak Houses have also been opened in three other Texas cities: Dallas, Austin, and Houston. The concept is the same in all four restaurants, and directions to all of them, as well as other information, can be found at the Official Website.

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