I saw a local SF chef, Ravi Kapur, Tweet that phrase a few days ago. Restaurant Clubhouse. He was at Beretta, a popular restaurant in town, and as Ravi pointed out, it's kind of a restaurant industry 'clubhouse'.
A place that's always got a decent crowd. A place you can always get a good drink. A place where good, simple food is always coming out of the kitchen (late night too!). A place where, if you're in the biz, you're bound to run into someone you know.
Whether it's Mon night, or Sat night, or even Sun afternoon, I've never gone to Beretta without seeing someone I know. As we often say, don't go to Beretta is you've got some secret business to discuss, or if you're looking to go unnoticed. Not an 'affair' kind of a place.
I've drank my way through the cocktail list (in one sitting no less), taken friends there from out of town, taken foodies traveling to SF from near and far, gone there for after dinner drinks, pre dinner drinks, post brunch drinks, and have even taken dates there to see how they'd handle themselves in all the craziness.
A clubhouse is indeed, a great way to describe the place.
Why is this so important? It a place where chefs, servers, restaurateurs, and others in the biz can relax. Where we can be ourselves, with the fun of potentially running into other friends and like minded individuals.
Sure, anyone can go and eat and drink at Beretta. But not just anyone can be in the club. And you know what? It's generally easy to spot the members from the non-members. There's just something about them. Maybe it's the secret handshake.