A new location of Little Original Joe’s is headed for Chestnut Street in the Marina, and the family behind the local restaurant empire is expanding into Mexican cuisine with Elena’s, a new restaurant in West Portal.
John and Elena Duggan, the brother and sister who own the Original Joe’s restaurants in North Beach and Daly City, were in expansion mode before the pandemic began, getting set to open their third location in West Portal. That became Little Original Joe’s, and it debuted in December 2020, pivoting from their original plan to become a takeout pizza, pasta, and rotisserie place and Italian grocery market. The restaurant has a couple of tables outside for enjoying the food, but there’s no table service and now, the owners say, there’s no current plan to add that.
But the original concept of Little Original Joe’s — a spinoff of the Italian-American, red-sauce-laden Original Joe’s with pizza added — is finally going to open in a different neighborhood: the Marina.
As the Chronicle reports, the Duggans have inked a lease for 2301 Chestnut Street (at Scott Street), the prominent corner space formerly home to Lucky Jeans, and they will be opening a full-service version of Little Original Joe’s there. The plan for the 3,600-square-foot space includes a bar, and takeout will be available in addition to indoor and outdoor seating. The menu will be similar to the West Portal location, with chicken parmesan, housemade ravioli, pizzas, and other pastas, but there will also be some new dishes added as well — along with brunch on the weekends, because this is the Marina.
The goal is to open by late next year, and it seems like a significant kitchen buildout will have to happen first.
The second new project, Elena’s, is slated for 255 West Portal Avenue — a block and a half up from Little Original Joe’s, which is at 393 West Portal. As Elena Duggan explains to the Chronicle, the restaurant will serve “classic Mexican-American fare,” including tacos and enchiladas, and also take inspiration from family visits to San Bartolo Morelos, Mexico, just outside of Mexico City — the home of the family of the father of Duggan’s two eldest daughters, who she says have been begging her to open a Mexican restaurant for years.
Also, West Portal is the neighborhood that the Duggans call home.
As John Duggan adds, “There’s a need for a full-service Mexican restaurant in that community, done with integrity and a strong dash of fun.”
Elena’s, which is also going to require a serious buildout, is also slated for a late 2022 opening.
The Original Joe’s franchise began with the original Tenderloin location on Taylor Street in 1937, which at first was just a 14-seat counter restaurant with sawdust on the floor. The restaurant eventually passed on to the Duggans, who are the grandchildren of original owner Ante “Tony” Rodin, but it burned down in 2007. The family reopened in a new location in 2012, the prominent corner spot at Stockton and Union streets in North Beach that had formerly been Joe DiMaggio’s. And then in 2016, the Duggans remodeled and reopened Original Joe’s Westlake, in Daly City, which had originally been opened in 1956 by a former business partner of Rodin.
With three restaurants in the current Duggan mini-empire, by late next year, that will rise to five.