What happened to 49ers legend Dwight Clark's restaurant

1/15/2022 6:04:00 PM

A risque review of the 49ers legend's former eatery once ignited a firestorm.

Dwight Clark, Tim Harrison

A risque review of the 49ers legend's former eatery once ignited a firestorm.

A risque review of the 49ers legend's former eatery once ignited a firestorm.

The restaurant was indeed real, though opinions on it were varying. Some fondly recalled going there with their families when they were younger, or meeting Clark himself and getting his autograph. Others remembered a less-than-stellar location alongside food that didn’t exactly stand out.

A t-shirt commemorating Clark's By the Bay.Image courtesy of Chang ChoTim Harrison, owner of famed Niners sports bar Canyon Inn, remembers that the restaurant started out as an idea, and a risky one. He actually discouraged Clark, whom he had known since 1981, from pursuing the venture at first because he knew how tough the industry is.

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The question makes sense, as Clark's by the Bay closed more than 25 years ago and, as several commenters in the thread note, was in a tucked-away area that may have hindered some of the business's potential success. The restaurant was indeed real, though opinions on it were varying. USA TODAY "Super Wild Card Weekend,"  the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers will renew one of the NFL's all-time great playoff rivalries. Some fondly recalled going there with their families when they were younger, or meeting Clark himself and getting his autograph. Breaking down the 49ers’ zone coverage The 49ers are towards the bottom of the league in man-coverage frequency, so the Cowboys will need to have their zone-beaters ready. Others remembered a less-than-stellar location alongside food that didn’t exactly stand out. This will be the eighth time the 49ers and Cowboys have met in the postseason, tied for the second most of any matchup in the Super Bowl era to the nine games between the Rams and Cowboys. The menu cover at Dwight Clark's restaurant, Clarks By The Bay, located in Redwood City. The NFC wild-card showdown will be the second annual Slime Game, aired on Nickelodeon in addition to a traditional broadcast on CBS (and Paramount+, with a third offering on Amazon Prime).

Image courtesy of Kjirsten Tuohy A t-shirt commemorating Clark's By the Bay.  NEVER MISS A SNAP: Consider this your historical refresher of just how huge 49ers-Cowboys playoff matchups used to be. The play concept below from the Rams offense last week is a great example. Image courtesy of Kjirsten Tuohy Commemorative pins that were given to Clark's restaurant workers based on years of service Image courtesy of Chang Cho Left, the cover of the menu at Clarks By The Bay; a t-shirt for Clarks By the Bay, upper right; and commemorative pins that were given to workers based on years of service. / Photos courtesy of Kjirsten Tuohy, James Leonard and Chang Cho Left, the cover of the menu at Clarks By The Bay; a t-shirt for Clarks By the Bay, upper right; and commemorative pins that were given to workers based on years of service. 1981 NFC championship game ('The Catch') The most famous 49ers-Cowboys playoff showdown and one of the greatest games in NFL history  is known simply as"The Catch. / Photos courtesy of Kjirsten Tuohy, James Leonard and Chang Cho Tim Harrison, owner of famed Niners sports bar Canyon Inn, remembers that the restaurant started out as an idea, and a risky one. They would end up playing quarters coverage, a common look out of their defense: One of the weaknesses of this coverage is that with four defenders responsible for the four deep vertical zones, that leaves just three underneath defenders to cover a lot of space. He actually discouraged Clark, whom he had known since 1981, from pursuing the venture at first because he knew how tough the industry is.  The celebrated highlight of this back-and-forth clash came when wide receiver Dwight Clark made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone for the winning score in the game's final minute.

“My initial reaction was for him to take all the money that he would spend on the restaurant and put it in a paper bag. And then, as he’s driving over the San Mateo bridge, roll the window down and throw it and then that’s the most money he’s going to lose,” he said, chuckling. The running back released to the flat, taking the linebacker to that side with him: To the front side, the Rams worked middle linebacker Fred Warner with a high-low combination: With Warner in conflict, he was a couple of steps too slow to respond to Cooper Kupp’s in-breaking route. “I was sort of joking, but not really.” Clark may have heard Harrison’s warning, but he certainly didn’t listen to it. His idea developed more and more, getting the right people and money involved, until Clark’s by the Bay officially opened to a group of esteemed guests on Dec.

7, 1987, just a couple months before his NFL retirement, with an opening to the general public scheduled for the following evening. The San Francisco Chronicle’s write-up of the evening detailed a business that had the financial backing of the right people, and a menu that Clark and his wife, Ashley, had personally taste-tested themselves. The former wideout was presented as someone who broke the now-archaic stereotype of a professional athlete squandering their money on excessive luxuries, with Clark instead using his earnings toward an investment that would keep him in a part of the country he’s become enamored with. A present day view of the building in Redwood City which once housed Dwight Clark's restaurant, Clark's By the Bay. Image via Google Street View The Chronicle described the indoor decor as “California Comfy,” with natural oak and tiles that were beige, brown-and-cream and peach.

The article even teased that the walls would eventually be adorned with sports memorabilia from Clark’s playing career, including the ball from “The Catch.” Eventually, that grew to include autographed photos sent to Dwight by famous sports figures, such as Lou Holtz, a former worker said. On top of that, the restaurant’s celebrity owner made regular appearances to actively work at the eatery — as opposed to just showing up for vanity’s sake. “He is determined to learn the business,” the Chronicle reported when it opened. The review didn't mention how the upstairs dining area was frequently reserved for special guests on most nights, typically teammates or staff members of the 49ers, Harrison said.

It was an area Harrison was often invited because of the relationship he had with players after his bar frequently fed them during their first Super Bowl run . The only part of the Chronicle’s article that didn’t age well was the then-30-year-old Clark proclaiming, “Sports bars are fads. They don’t last.” San Francisco 49ers Dwight Clark goes up in the air in the end zone for the game-tying touchdown pass from Joe Montana, famously known as the"The Catch," that would defeat the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. Bettmann/Bettmann Archive However, as the publishing policy for the Chronicle at the time seemed reminiscent of Newton’s third law of motion — for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction — that puff piece was quickly followed up with a harsh, and notoriously horny, review.

In a review titled “Football Hero’s Diner Fumbles in the Kitchen,” Patricia Unterman rated the restaurant a 0 out of 3 stars. The singular plus was the chance to talk to a Bay Area sports hero. The minus was simply “the food.” What really caught the attention of readers was the start of the fourth paragraph. Dwight Clark poses for a photo with young Redwood City resident and 49ers fan James Leonard, who often got to go to Clark's By the Bay whenever he got a good report card at school.

Photo courtesy of James Leonard “And then it happens,” the review reads. “Dwight Clark shows up. He's there talking to that large table of fans. All eyes turn. He's cute, tall, slender and has a terrific rear end in faded blue jeans.

” It did not matter Unterman used the rest of the paragraph to praise Clark for the fact that he was in the trenches — bussing tables, taking out the trash, apologizing to prospective patrons for long wait times — on a busy evening that would make any veteran of the service industry recoil to read about. Readers determined that the critic went way too far in ogling a local sports figure while he was trying to run a restaurant. The next day’s Letters to the Editor page, headlined “‘Review the Rump Roast, Not the Rump,’” highlighted some of these frustrated readers. “Are you serious? Or did your hormones take control of your mind? I mean really!!!” began one from Patrice Hughes of San Francisco. Lila Fitzgerald of San Leandro said Unterman did “an incredible disservice to women.

” Even managing general partner of Clark’s by the Bay Paul Bouchard wrote in to call the remarks “callous (and sexist).” Dwight Clark greets diners at his restaurant, including Kjirsten Tuohy (who was celebrating her 30th birthday) at his Redwood City restaurant. Image courtesy of Kjirsten Tuohy At his restaurant, Clark's By The Bay, the 49er's legend would often make the rounds greeting patrons in the dining room. Image courtesy of Kjirsten Tuohy At left, Dwight Clark greets diners at his restaurant, including Kjirsten Tuohy (who was celebrating her 20th birthday) at his Redwood City restaurant. / Images courtesy of Kjirsten Tuohy At left, Dwight Clark greets diners at his restaurant, including Kjirsten Tuohy (who was celebrating her 20th birthday) at his Redwood City restaurant.

/ Images courtesy of Kjirsten Tuohy (For the record, Unterman did defend her review on that same page, saying she would have said something similar about actress Liz Taylor’s body if she chose to open up a restaurant and that the attraction of a celebrity’s restaurant is, well, the celebrity. “Sexiness is part of entertainment,” she wrote before again complimenting Clark’s physical appearance). Bouchard was not only defending the integrity of Clark’s rear, he also defended the restaurant’s integrity. Even those with no financial interest in the restaurant wrote in to do the same. One reader, Rebecca Rhyner from Turlock, accused Unterman of being unable to handle Clark’s by the Bay’s success, while another, Sue Conley of Yosemite, wrote, “No restaurant is prepared for scrutiny at two months,” before imploring the reviewer to give Clark’s another chance and for her to not write any more “snicker pieces.

” Clark’s by the Bay survived the review and the leering for nearly a decade until it was sold in 1996. Since then, the building where the restaurant once lived has had a busy past couple of decades. What’s known for certain is that after it left the ownership of the Niners wideout, it became a restaurant specializing in “Italian comfort food” called La Rotonda Sul Mare. Top Picks In Shopping .