Ground Beef and Spinach: San Francisco Joe’s Special Recipe

This is one of those recipes I’ve seen off and on for years, typically referenced by a nod to a San Francisco restaurant. Somehow I’ve only now just gotten around to trying it.

I went to Costco today. My main client’s staff was at an off-site meeting so I figured this was a good day to “sneak off” mid-day to Costco. I detest going on weekends, yet always have a hard time going during the week when work is a’plenty, as it has been lately. There are a few things I almost always get there (milk, half and half, eggs, laundry soap, dishwasher soap) and other things I check the prices on and get if they’re reasonable. The big huge (2.5 pound!) bag of spinach is usually a given. I personally don’t like cooked spinach but my girls will both eat it–go figure. I do like a spinach salad however so we have no problems consuming all this spinach before it goes bad. Hamburger, ground round, was about $2.49 a pound–a good deal around here, so I bought the 5.5 pound package. I divided it into roughly 6 equal parts and froze 5 of them. I can pull these out later for meatloaves, tacos, meat sauce, shepherd’s pie, and so forth. Sometimes I boil it up and then freeze it, but since it was a working day I froze it raw.

I hadn’t planned a dinner tonight, figuring I’d use up something I got at the store. I debated between tacos, spaghetti sauce, and a few other things but somehow nothing was grabbing my attention. I skimmed a few cookbooks, not dead-set on the ground beef as the mainstay. I have tons of tomatoes in the garden and despite having BLT’s last night for dinner, I was tempted to do some pasta with tomatoes tonight. Then I spotted a recipe for “Joe’s Special” in one book, and “San Francisco’s Little Joe’s” in another book. One had garlic and the other had Parmesan and Tabasco, but they were basically the same recipe. Being a “more is more” kind of cook, I combined them both and used it all. Both recipes warned this was not a pretty dish. Spinach and ground beef. You can imagine. The girls gave it an expected look of horror–but having just returned from an hour and a half of swimming they were starving and had no choice but to dig in.

“Mmmmm. This doesn’t look very good, but it’s actually really good!” says the youngest.

“This is gross.” Chew. Chew. Chew. “Can I have more? It actually tastes good.” says the eldest.

I used about 3/4 of a pound of ground beef, despite the recipes calling for a pound. I served it with some bread and mock apple pie for dessert. This served the three of us (with two hearty swimming eaters) with one portion leftover. For big eaters, add more meat, serve with bread and another side dish, etc.

2 Tbs oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 – 1 pound of ground beef
1 pound fresh spinach, steamed or blanched, and chopped (you could use frozen of course)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
a dash or two of Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic until softened. Add the ground beef and brown as you break it up into small pieces. If your children swim, turn this down to low, drain the fat off, and let sit covered until they’re done showering.

Add the spinach and cook a few minutes. Salt and pepper here if you’d like, or at the table later.

Mix together the eggs and Tabasco, then pour into the meat and spinach mixture, stirring until the eggs are set. Pour the whole thing out onto a platter and top with the Parmesan. Prepare yourself for groans and set it on the table. Prepare yourself to accept accolades as well, which you’ll get as soon as they taste it if they’re at all hungry.



  1. Park Pantry Restaurants in Southern California used to serve the as an omelet called a San Francisco Joe with cheddar cheese sprinkled on top. Delicious. So glad to find the recipe.


  2. I first ate the Original Joe’s Special almost 55 years ago when my Dad played baseball for the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League. All the players would go to Joe’s after the game to relax and have great food. I’ve been back several times over the years and have always been amazed at the waiters and bartenders who were still working and remembered my Dad.

  3. I’m happy to see that someone is using spinach again! I think it went out of the kitchen for a while but glad to hear that it is back. I’m happy to say that I never stopped cooking with it, but this recipe is something I haven’t used before. YUM!
    Kitchen Scales

  4. First had this in the 60’s while sitting next to Carol Dodda, she was eating a piece of pie. Came home and recreated it and have eaten it ever since. Kids and grandkids alike like it and eat their spinach. Bought fixings yesterday to have over the weekend as it does make extra that is always good cold or the next morning.

  5. I actually was out of frozen spinach tonight but had the frozen green giant’s creamed spinach and it turned out incredible. I will only make it with that again. I did add a lot… nutmeg, chopped mushrooms, and canned tomatoes…I know it’s not the original but I don’t care, it was to die for. Thank you for posting this!

  6. Mary Nelson says:

    Have eaten this for close to 50 years.Use olive oil. No need to cook spinach or eggs separately..inf act better w/ twice the amount of fresh spinach added at the very end and stir fried in the ground beef mixture. (better if ground sirloin) 3 minutes maxim. Last, crack the eggs in and don’t over cook. Maximum time 1 minute stir. Better if eggs are creamy vs hard fried… Then the pièce de résistance… serve on top of sour dough pan fried bread fried in butter and sprinkled with a bit of parmrsan. ooolala !!!

  7. Like so many others I remember my mother making this as a child. She was from San Francisco and she could taste a particular recipe and know how to make it. I am sure she asked how it was made and was given the recipe. I vaguely remember her using mushrooms, worcestershire and the eggs. As I recall, the eggs are cooked separately and added last. Ours never looked “gray”, you could see the distinct colors. I would drain the spinach really well and squeeze out the excess. In recent history I think it can be made with ground turkey, but the beef is where it is at. I plan on making it tonight. We have a restaurant here called Peg’s Glorified Ham and Eggs, “San Francisco Joe’s Special” is on the menu and it’s terrific!

  8. I have also had this combination when i was a kid in the Bay Area. I remember that it was also served inside warm pita bread which made it even better. My mom found it was a great way to get my brother to eat mushrooms without an argument.

  9. Anonymous says:

    How interesting. My first exposure to this combo was in 1972 at “Alameda Joe’s” restaurant at an Alameda, CA bowling alley. I later had it at Francesco’s restaurant on Hegenberger Road in Oakland identified as “Francesco’s Special”. I remember a touch of Sherry added during the final stages of cooking. The mushrooms and eggs were part of the mix. I never worried about the appearance because the smell and taste were terrific. Thanks for all the earlier source info.

  10. Warren Lee says:

    I first had this dish in San Francisco in 1954 at Original Joe’s. Supposedly he started combining the spinach and chopped beef during rationing in WWII. I have continued to make it over the years and have combined it with potatoes and onions. I do not remember combining the dish with eggs at Joes.


  11. Anonymous says:

    You left out the nutmeg! Which really makes it great….

  12. Anonymous says:

    I was searching for this recipe my mother cooked for our family as a child. I am so excited to see how my children and husband like it. I called my father and told him I had gotten it and he shared with me that the recipe actually comes from a well known restaurant in San Francisco, called “Original Joe’s”. I looked them up and sure enough, there it was “Joe’s Special”. Now we know where it came from…

  13. This is a great, quick and healthy combination. Thanks for your Blog. I originally tried this from Marian Cunningham’s Lost Recipes book and left that book at my summer house. I couldn’t remember the name. I searched “ground beef, spinach and San Francisco” and I found you. Thanks.

  14. This is an old mainstay for the family who has a kid who has anemia. She had forgotten it in her own married life til I mentioned it a few months ago – now a 3rd generation is enjoying this quick fix wonder. We also brown mushrooms [canned if that’s all we have] and add a sprinkle of nutmeg to the seasonings. I use Worcestershire, not Tabasco. But I have always made it with frozen, micro-zapped spinach, so looked yours up to see what to do w. the bag of raw I’ve got. Sure ‘nuf it needs pre-steaming. Thanks.
    Also, with toast and sliced tomatoes or avocados, this is a pretty well rounded meal. We make enough to warm it for breakfast the next day! [and did you ever try pulling out your pre-cooked burger to make Stroganoff? -another working parent’s easy fixer.]
    Tell us about the mock apple pie? Is that the old war time thing with Ritz crackers? My Mom may have done that along with crazy cake — mmm, memories…

  15. I’ve never thought of such a combination, but I think I’m destined to try it…given my love of both…mmmmmmmmmmmm, especially spinach…all those warm and wonderful meals my grandmother tried to coax me into eating instead of Chef Boyardee…making up for lost time…thanks for the recipe!


  1. […] first made this skillet dish of ground beef, spinach and eggs 11 years ago! And I’ve made it many times since.  I have used frozen spinach but usually use fresh, and […]

  2. […] Ground beef and spinach: Joe’s Special […]

  3. […] less than 1 pound portions and froze, leaving out one portion for tonight’s dinner of San Francisco Joe’s (ground beef and spinach and eggs cooked together). My girls love this and asked for it when they […]

  4. […] bought a big bag of spinach at Costco the other day. First I made our favorite San Francisco’s Little Joe’s Special. Tonight I made this soup from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. It’s a bland soup but good […]


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.