Herman’s Delicatessen on Geary Street in San Francisco featured what I, and many of the locals, considered to be the world’s best potato salad. It was a basic recipe of potatoes, carrots, mayo (Best Foods of course), parsley and vinegar. It had a silky consistency to it, very thin slices of potato, and was very white in color, as it did not contain any mustard or eggs. No celery, no onions, no pickles, no pickle juice either. Of course I don’t have the actual recipe and have tried to locate it for years, as apparently many others have mentioned when I started a Google search recently. Herman’s deli closed in the 1970’s and summer just wasn’t quite the same.
After Herman’s closure we found Lucky grocery stores started selling “San Francisco-Style” Potato Salad in their delis. If this wasn’t Herman’s original recipe it sure made a grand attempt. Once I moved to Washington State I was relegated to getting my potato salad fix every few years when I returned home to the Bay Area and headed straight for a Lucky’s store. But I still longed for a solid recipe I could follow and am not one to give up easily. In 2004 I contacted the Food Editor at the SF Chronicle and asked for help in finding the recipe – she kindly wrote a plea to the masses, but no luck there either. Then a few weeks ago I decided to contact Lucky’s and see if I could at least get the ingredients that are listed on the Nutritional Fact tag. They say timing is everything, and my timing was obviously wackado, as Lucky’s had decided to discontinue the product as of this March, after carrying it for about 37 years – what bad luck!
I regrouped and started calling the various Lucky stores located in Northern California in hopes someone would either look up the manufacturer of the product so I could call them, or give me the list of ingredients. I won’t go into details here, but I spent the better part of half a day trying to speak with someone even remotely interested in helping me out, but that unfortunate experience is for another blog. Note to Lucky’s stores (which are owned by Save Mart), in the spirit of Julia Roberts getting poor customer service on Rodeo Drive in Pretty Woman: big mistake – Big – HUGE! Just sayin’ – now I feel better.
So back to square one, but more determined than ever to figure this out. I had the basics of the recipe from years of taste testing it myself but couldn’t figure out that secret ingredient. But maybe it isn’t a missing ingredient after all, but rather a particular step in the preparation of the salad? Maybe?
Back to reading blogs to see if that will reveal anything – Chowhound has the most and best comments, either describing their remembrance of this salad and/or how to prepare it, or what they felt was that elusive ingredient. Some of the comments are quite hilarious. And here is where I think I have finally figured it out. Yay!
It’s all in the vinegar! While I have always added vinegar to my potato salad, as my Mother taught me – I apparently don’t use enough. Her technique was to lay your fingers across the top of the bottle opening (using Heinz White Distilled Vinegar), and then lightly shake the vinegar over the potatoes. This gave the salad a bit of vinegar, but not the “bite” or “punch” that I feel my recipe lacks. Not to be outdone I searched for the right vinegar technique, and lo and behold, there actually is one.
Follow the recipe below and I think you will find this to be a very good rendition of what is referred to as Herman’s Potato Salad.
2 pounds white new potatoes
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar – Heinz brand if you have it
Fresh curly parsley – finely chopped
3/4 of a carrot – grated
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Best Foods Mayonnaise
1/8 tsp. celery seed
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1. Peel potatoes, slice into thin pieces, and place potatoes into a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until cooked, but not mushy.
2. Drain potatoes and spread out on platter – let them cool for about 5 minutes. While still warm, add salt, onion powder, and here is the “secret” – drizzle the 1/4 cup of white vinegar over the potatoes – they need to be warm when you do this. Leave them out for another 10 minutes while the vinegar soaks in and then place in bowl and refrigerate.
3. While the potatoes are chilling in the refrigerator you make the dressing.
4. Combine the sour cream, mayonnaise, celery seed (I crush this as I am adding to the dressing), grated carrot and the parsley. I use Italian parsley for almost all my cooking, with the exception of potato salad, where I use the old-fashioned Curly Parsley.
5. Once the potatoes are cold, add the dressing, gently mix it with potatoes and then chill overnight before serving so all flavors blend.
I hope Herman would think I nailed it – and be happy his recipe lives on. For those of you familiar with Herman’s’ Potato Salad I would be interested in knowing if you think I have captured the essence of this wonderful potato salad. And if you have the original recipe, or one you feel is closer to Herman’s or Lucky’s, please leave a comment with your suggestions – it will be greatly appreciated by me and others!
I recently found Will’s SF Potato Salad at Sprouts in AZ. Maybe you have a Sprouts in your area.
Sprouts only carry their own brand now (looked April 2013). Did not want to try. Not sure what to do now. Only one here eating the salad.
Al – follow my recipe; make the salad – you will think Herman is in your kitchen and made it for you! You can do this!
Sprouts disconitued the S.F Potato Salad. not sure if it was all stores but Sacramento, CA doesnt have it. i will def be trying this that was my FAV!!!!
I think I mentioned last year that you can get San Francisco style potato salad at Costco and Mollie Stone’s. Wish I had tried Herman’s…we had Knudsen’s (see comment about that with link).
Thanks Tim. We don’t have Sprouts but have heard Will’s SF Potato Salad has same flavors as Herman’s – I may just have to do a little shopping online!
Sprouts attempts but does not achieve a good SF potato salad. Their vinegar is all wrong. Costco used to carry a great brand but what they carry now is mediocre. Trying your recipe this weekend!
Hi Claire, your recipe is a very close approximation of Herman’s recipe, however, he did put thinly sliced radish in as well (I grew up a few blocks from the deli)! The potatoes were cut as if scalloped, he definitely used white vinegar, and the binder was primarily sour cream. Well done! Paul
Thanks Paul – I never would have guessed the radish – that is so helpful to know. Looks like I will be making potato salad this weekend with radishes in tow. Thanks!!
The Will’s brand San Francisco Potato Salad sold by Costco has eggs. It is not the good stuff!
haven’t found Will’s brand at Costco for over 2 years. Loved it and hope they
bring it back. BEST TASTE & TEXTURE!
Wills at Costco as close to Hermans as I have found, a little too creamy sometimes can’t taste any egg in the salad, although it may be in the whole egg mayonnaise . Carrot slivers remembered so well. Novato Costco in Marin county has it in the refer section////sometimes. eat drink and be merry!
The ingredients of Will’s according to the label at Sprouts is: Potatoes, mayo, water, sugar, onions, carrots, salt, white vinegar, parsley, soybean oil, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate (preservative), “spice” and garlic. The label says it contains egg, but that may be in the mayo.
The Will’s does have a definite mayo taste, so adding sour cream would lessen that I guess. Which makes sense because I have never, especially as a kid, liked mayo.
I purchased “Will’s SF Potato Salad” (no it’s not me) yesterday at Sprout’s Farmers Market in Phoenix. While there is a familiarity to the flavor, I don’t think it has enough of the “bite” from the white vinegar…perhaps from using too little? Anyway I intend to make a batch from your recipe here, but I may try cooking the potatoes whole as is usual in many other recipes as I think it somehow preserves more of the natural flavor of the potato. I’ll just have to take extra care not to overcook them. I do want to thank you for your time and hard work in bringing this recipe back to all of us who delighted in enjoying Herman’s all those years ago and for posting the update on our Western Neighborhoods Project message board. A happy 4th of July to you and all!
Thanks for taking the time to share the ingredients label for Will’s – appreciated!
It was fun trying to recreate the recipe – hope you try it soon. Let me know how it goes with cooking potatoes first. I don’t have much luck cooking potatoes first – my potato salad turns to mashed potatoes when I slice em after cooking. Hope you have a wonderful 4th too and thanks for visiting my site.
San Francisco Style potato salad is available a a couple of markets in Marin County. (United Markets and Mollie Stones) I asked a deli clerk if they made it, and he said that all of their potato salads were made by Home Maid Ravioli Company. So it is probably available from other stores too? Look at: http://www.homemaidravioli.com/homehistory/productsservices.html
Tastes just like Hermann’s to me! My dad uesd to take me there as a kid, and I remember that they would give you Two Dollar bills in change if you asked for them. I still have one!
I do plan to try your recipe too.
Thanks Richard. You have just made some of the locals very happy with this information!
There apparently is another source for S F Potato Salad! Check out WILL’S FAMILY FAVORITES, in San Leandro CA. Their list of ingredients is different that your recipe though. They also include, high fructose corn syrup, whole egg, mustard bran, lemon juice, sugar and garlic. These added to the items in your recipe. I found an old container in my basement, and looked on line to find that they are still in business.
This is Herman Voss, son of the originator of Herman’s Famous Dutch Salads… we had a person working in
The Kitchen, who against sworn employment agreement, illegally sold the rececipe to the San Leandro
Company. A second thief was the driver named Lucier who opened in the Bay Area and used our private
Recipe but could not stay in business long.
The salad is very tricky to make…hope this clears the confusion, and when our children wish, we will pursue
The sole manufacturing and patent recipe…
Thank you Herman. Hope your kids realize what a gold mine there is in that potato salad. Truly the BEST potato salad anywhere!!
When everyone who was around to enjoy Herman’s Potato Salad when the deli was in business dies, there won’t be anyone to keep the experience alive. How really sad, when it doesn’t have to be this way. If Herman’s children have no interest in using the recipe for commercial purposes, then why not enable the public keep the legend alive? If Herman would consent to releasing it to be enjoyed and passed down through generations this would happen. Is it better to let the recipe die out of spite, or reward all the loyal patrons who have actually eaten it and want to share this special dish with friends and family? In Mr. Voss’s comments I hear little generosity or appreciation for his loyal customers, who he could reward for their patronage of his store by sharing the recipe. Instead, Mr. Voss’s statements carry a lot of complaints and grievances about long past acts by employees. When people die, Mr. Voss, people talk about their generosity or spitefulness. Those who are generous live on through their good works. Those who can’t get beyond life’s unfairness and are self-fabsorbed about the mean old world are quickly forgotten. I consider myself to be a very imperfect person with a ton of flaws, but my beautiful and kind wife has shown me the way to relate to the world–be kind, be generous and be forgiving. How easy it would be for Herman to do something that would give him a real sense of satisfaction and joy out of doing something for those of us who have fond memories of the food served at Herman’s Deli.
Mr Voss … my father (Albert Sander) used to make Herman’s Potato Salad when he worked those many years for your Father (also Herman Voss). While Dad passed some years ago, he did share the recipe with me but I have since lost the recipe. I’ll just bet he would support sharing the recipe. As I’m sure you’ve noted, lots of folks have a desire to purchase and/or prepare this SF institution’s leading salad seller!
As a tribute to your father, if nothing else, releasing the original recipe and techniques to making it would keep the Deli’s tradition alive! What a grand “living” memorial that would be and most certainly would put a big smile on your father’s face.
Thanks for writing Erika. Hopefully one day Mr Voss will change his mind and share the wonderful recipe his father created while the people who cherished this potato salad are still alive. I would be excited to wake up one day and find he decided to share the recipe – what a delight that would be!
I cant wait to try this. The Savemart in Seaside, CA had this when I was living there, and when we got stationed elsewhere I missed it more than anything else about California.
Thanks Josh – hope it lives up to your expectations!
Yes Claire, my father would take me to Hermanns. I remember the potatoes would be more solid and “scallop” styled and not approaching mashed ,but that happens to potatoes hehe.
I love potato salad and have never tried it made this way before, so I must try it! Thanks for the follow. I look forward to reading more of your delicious blog. Rob 🙂
Thanks Rob, hope you like the potato salad. Your blog is hilarious!
I love this recipe detective story! Great, as well as the recipe itself!
Thanks Cindy – although it took a while, it was fun finally completing the recipe!
The addition of carrots sounds like a good idea.
Laurie, yes the carrots bring a little sweetness to the salad. Thanks for visiting my blog.
Can’t resist a good potato salad! thanks.
Thanks Rhonda. I like potato salad whatever season!
This is a great recipe, I love potato salad and there are so many variations. I make so many different kinds and always add a little vinegar, I usually use apple cider instead of distilled it adds a touch of sweetness. I really love the addition of carrots, I have never tried that and it sounds great.
Thank you. I should try apple cider in place of the distilled, great idea. Thanks for visiting my site!
I was a pup Ad Man in 1973/4 and working for a small Ad Agency at 4444 Geary. Most media salesmen – who were used to working with pups like me – were used to taking my downtown peers to the Redwood Room, the Tonga Room or the Leopard Cafe, etc.
Meanwhile, I was stationed only yards away from Herman’s and could get sales types to drop the puffery and “let’s do business.” I made deals over Hermans Potato Salad, and I was sure the cost of the lunch plus the Potato Salad (and the great sandwiches) was why my negotiations went better than others.
My boss agreed.
I am – after a 30 year of Advertising in San Francisco – now teaching advertising at USF and am not too working not too far from 4444 Geary and wish that Herman’s potato salad had lasted longer.
Greg – thanks for commenting and sharing your story – it was delightful! I can totally relate and love that you feel your negotiation power increased when you did business over Hermans Potato Salad. I had a similar routine and would take clients in the 1980’s to a tiny sandwich shop at Stanford Shopping Center. They made an amazing pastrami sandwich with horseradish dressing on a Kaiser Roll that had been dipped in au just. I conducted my best negotiation in a 12 year hotel sales career over this sandwich with a well-known East Coast football team that was looking for a hotel to stay in for a week during the playoffs with the 49ers. Just when I thought I was ready for the “close”, the travel manager said “this is the most incredible pastrami sandwich I have ever eaten, and could we ask them to wrap up another one “to go”. The topic immediately switched from football to food for the next 20 minutes, and I was certain I had just blown my opportunity to ask for the business, when he reached across the table and said “hand me that contract and let’s get this underway”. Always loved pastrami sandwiches from that day forward!
I realize Im commenting on an item written over six years ago but hopefully this might get to you. My girlfriend andI were talking potato salad and I mentioned that the best I ever had was Hermanns. So naturally I looked it up and discovered this recipe with your comments. Hopefully you are still around and living the good life. Drop a line if you areas inclined.
April 10, 2019
I love the San Francisco Potato salad at Molly Stone’s (I grew up in LA so didn’t experience Will’s). You can also buy San Francisco style potato salad at Costco in (of course) huge tubs. All that said, it all tastes identical to a recipe developed at Knudsen Creamery in LA (I had several family members who worked there plus Knudsen and my great uncle were childhood best friends in Denmark). They had the recipe years ago in their share holders cook book and they sold it in supermarkets for years along with macaroni salad. The patents were sold after Knudsen died and most, but not all are now held by Kraft foods. A bit of trivia…Knudsen invented the process for cottage cheese so it would stay stable (Kraft has that patent too).
Thanks for the info, very interesting. I wonder if the shareholders cookbook is somehow available (maybe through Archives). Thanks for visiting my site Barbara!
I had hoped the cookbook would turn up with my moms cookbooks when we had to move her to memory care. Sadly not. It’s only been 6 years since I posted above (😁)…. I should start writing some letters to see what I can track down.
Interesting to discover the origin of “San Francisco Style” potato salad, which I’ve been buying for several years at Sprouts in Southern Ca. and at an “upscale” market in Fresno. Also interesting that your delicious-sounding recipe calls for much more Sour Cream than Mayonnaise. I trust that you’ve got it right and can’t wait to make it.
Awhile back I tried, like you, to track down a recipe for a superb and long-remembered potato salad, this one from Brink’s Delicatessen in Santa Barbara, which I discovered had closed long ago. An unusual characteristic of their version was that half of the potatoes in the salad were mashed.
Thanks for your comment Jeff. Until I did my research I never added any sour cream to my potato salad, but it really does taste very similar to the potato salad I was trying to replicate. How interesting that your favorite version had mashed potatoes – not something I would have ever thought of. If you make the recipe, let me know what you think. Thanks for visiting my site!
I just brought the Wills Potato Salad yesterday and it is not the same any more. That good old San Francisco Style is gone, I was sad, anyway I will also be out looking for that Potato Salad, since I am other girl who grew up in San Francisco and loved Hermann’s Potato Salad!!!! Will let you know what I find…
Yes, let me know if you find another one that comes close. Herman’s was the best!!
Herman is my great uncle. Unfortunately I don’t have the recipe. I’m making your recipe today and taking it to my parent’s for my dad’s 84th birthday. He remembers the potato salad well. I’ll let you know what he thinks. I know I should let it set overnight but I didn’t have time for that. If there are any leftovers I will taste it again tomorrow.
I am so excited that you found my recipe and that you are related to Herman. I hope your Dad liked it – will really want to know if he thinks it tastes like the original. Hope you saw that I did an updated version which includes radishes. Would never have added that ingredient if a reader hadn’t mentioned that he knew that was part of the recipe. Will be very excited to hear from you after your Dad’s birthday!
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your comment!
Claire, How much parsley? I think I may have used too much. Too soon to tell though.
I usually just eyeball it till it looks right – probably 1/3 cup.
Wasn’t it “Hermann’s” (2 n’s)? Lowell’58
I thought so originally too- but looking into articiles from the 50’s they all show up as Herman’s with one “n”.
Herman’s Up and across, with the M in tne middle. 4228 Geary San Francisco. Famous Dutch Salads. Eat Salad for Health.
Herman’s The Finest Delicatessen. That’s what is says on the pencils and ashtrays that I keep as memories from the late 60’s when I worked there making salads.
No two n’s. Herman
I am Herman, named after the Potato Salad and Deli..my Dad in1920 was on
Fillmore St., then California St, then across Geary two blocks North of 4228
Where it stayed 1933-1985. President Hoover, Governors Pat & Jerry Brown,
Senator D. Feinstein lived near and were also customers. No Radishes were
Used in Salad..twice, dishonest workers tried to steal the receipe but did not
Last on market long. Glad to read of those being happy with their attemps.
One was correct, the method of applying ingrediants are very important. That
Is all I will say until one of our offspring decide to try 12 hour days at that.
Thank you so much Herman for your comment – I am delighted you read my post about your father’s potato salad as it was truly one of the best potato salads of all time. I will remove the radishes from the recipe immediately – was never quite comfortable adding it, but thought it helped to make the recipe taste close to yours. Now I will have to continue to investigate that one elusive ingredient that makes it taste like your father’s recipe. I totally understand your not wanting to share the recipe, but please, please, please nudge your offspring to take the challenge and give your fans (and you know there are many) what they want – your potato salad! You/they would make a fortune!
Last year I posted the idea of cooking the potatoes whole prior to slicing…an idea I still stick by. One method I came across to best avoid overcooking them is to steam cook the whole potatoes until tender yet firm (this was from a post I read on another blog site from someone who worked at Herb’s Deli on Taraval St). When I tried this method out, I kept a close eye on them and tested their doneness by simply pinching them (quickly) with my fingers. The end result was minimal “mashed” potatoes that peeled and sliced easily after cooling enough to handle (a quick submersion into an “ice bath” would work well for this).
Now for an updated idea using today’s technology if you are more pressed for time would be to cook the whole potatoes in a microwave until the same firm/tender state is reached. I haven’t yet tried this method for your potato salad recipe, but I have done this for other dishes including a variation I sometimes use for preparing hash browns.
Obviously cooking times are depending largely on the size of potatoes and how many you are cooking, but I started testing for doneness after about 30 minutes while using the steaming method and about every 5 minutes after that.
I do have to say that I had an amazingly tasteful flavor from the past with the guidance of your recipe (I never follow exact, but close for this one. Oh, one shortcut I took was to not bother peeling the radishes. I really don’t think it would make much difference either way. Again I thank you for all your experimenting to find such a great recipe.
Thank you for your comment. I have not had much success with slicing the potatoes after cooking but think it’s good to give people options – and like your idea about the microwave. I am glad to hear your taste buds had a blast from the past – just wish we had the real recipe. See comment from Herman Voss, as he is the real deal.
You can definitely pick up San Francisco Potato Salad at Piazza’s Fine Foods, corner of Middlefield Rd/Charleston Ave in Palo Alto. I just picked up a pint last week (1/10/2014). I used to live in Palo Alto but can’t get there often enough so delighted to find this recipe.
I grew up on 7th between California and Lake back in the 50s and 60s (GWHS 66). I still think the deli on Clement between 7th and 8th Avenues and Herman’s made the best potato salad, both salads were German-style, but a little different from each other. Personally, I think it is a draw when it comes to which was THE Best. I’ve been trying to recreate the other potato salad on and off for decades, and now I think the OTHER world’s best potato salad can be made by folks who use my recipe:
Potato Salad–San Francisco Clement Street Deli Style
Original recipe makes 6 to 8 servings
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1/4 cup grated onion
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup, plus more to taste, mayonnaise
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
ground black pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes; cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes.
Drain. As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove skin by holding them in a towel and using the towel to rub off the skins. Cut into 3/4 inch dice and put in a large bowl.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, sugar, onions, salt and pepper until the sugar and salt is dissolved and vinaigrette is emulsified. Gently stir it into the potatoes. Refrigerate for an hour. Gently stir in 1/4 cup mayonnaise and parsley. Taste, add more mayo if desired and adjust seasoning.
Let me know what you think. You would be doing me a solid if you knew the name of that old and apparently most forgotten Clement St. Deli. Enjoy!
Jud, I can appreciate your effort in spending decades trying to recreate the OTHER best potato salad as I did the same for Herman’s! So am posting your recipe here in the Comments section but would like to post your recipe as a future blog too on my site, since Potato Salad recipes are so in demand. Do you have a photo of the prepared potato salad? Your recipe looks really good and I am curious about your addition of Rice Vinegar – I may try substituting that in my own recipe and see how it enhances the flavors.
I’ve used white, cider, wine or rice vinegar for pasta and potato salads over the years, depending on what flavor I want to impart. Personally, (and hey, doesn’t everyone seem to have a specific potato salad that is their favorite?) for German style, I favor the clean, sharp flavor and mild bite of rice vinegar – you can add enough to get strong flavor without an overwhelming acidic bite. Over the years I’ve modified many recipes by substituting rice for another kind of vinegar. One example: we like to make a salad out of fresh orange segments, sliced red onion, and sliced avocado with butter lettuce. To dress it, we make a orange vinaigrette with grapeseed oil, rice vinegar, minced shallots, orange juice and grated zest and a little simple syrup. The orange flavor really comes through because it isn’t hidden by stronger flavors.
Sorry, no photos. I cook, eat, and talk about food, and that is enough.
Do you recall the name of the Clement St. deli I refer to? If not, maybe Herman would remember? Anyway, would love to give an attribution to the deli in my recipe title for being such an inspiration.
I’ll be interested to hear if the OTHER “San Francisco’s best” potato salad reminds you of a p.s. you may have purchased from a Richmond Dist. deli other than Herman’s, which by the way was indeed a great deli. A cousin made one like this in another German style deli she and her husband ran on Geary St. (and maybe 18th Ave. or so) back in the ’50s), and I think there were others as well.
One other question you or one of your blog readers may have the answer to: the Clement St. deli my family shopped at, and maybe Herman’s, sold thin slices of a German sausage that my grandmother called “mettwurst”. it looked like genoa salami but had a very different unique flavor. Any idea what that sausage was? It was great by itself on a slice of fresh Larabarue Sourdough. I’d even consider mail-ordering it if I knew what it was.
It is likely that the salami-like mettwurst has it’s origins from northern Germany. One variety I found online is known as Holsteiner mettwurst (and no, it is not made from horsemeat). You can order it from this website: http://www.koenemannsausage.com/scripts/prodList.asp?idCategory=7
Hermann ‘s was the best ever!!!! Anxious to try Will’s. (Reesers’ is pretty good) Raleys’ use to make a S.F. potato salad. Don’t know why they stoped.
I just found out the name of the Clement St. deli I refer to in my recipe above–it was the California Delicatessen. So the name of my dish is now Potato Salad –California Delicatessen Style
Claire: copies of really old cookbooks from Knudsen (my mother is 89 and she remembers the recipe being different but can’t remember in what way. I don’t remember the egg)
Barbara, thank you for visiting the site and sharing your Knudsen recipe – it is very similar! I don’t think there was any egg in Herman’s either.
I actually just read all of the other recipes…talk about time traveling. When was the last time you were tempted to add canned chipped beef to a salad? The shrimp salad sounds just like something you could have at Fifth Ave in the lunch room watching fashion shows (my grandmother would take me…I loved the way the clothes looked and the models softly saying things like “sports wear, fourth floor”)
We live on Ft Ord in Seaside, Ca and I love the San Francisco style potato salad they sell in the commissary. If Josh ever had it from there this recipe is just like the one in the store! I am making it now for a father’s day picnic tomorrow!
I’ve been trying for years to duplicate the potato salad from the old Basque Hotel in Fresno. Your recipe seems close. I’ll give it a try. I know theirs had no egg or mustard but did have bay shrimp. Maybe I’ve been using the wrong vinegar.
Thanks Sheila for stopping by my blog. For me, figuring out the right amount and HOW to use the vinegar made a difference for me. Give the recipe a try and let me know your thoughts!
Claire, When my mom didn’t make her potato salad, I would go to Hermans Deli on Geary Blvd and buy some. I always though my mom’s was the closest to Hermanns. She used Yukon gold potatoes, sliced them like scalloped potatoes, added finely diced red onions, fresh parsley, Beau Monde seasoning, dill weed, Knudsens sour cream and Best Foods mayonaise and white vinegar. My mom made it for large family gatherings and there was never any left….THE BEST!
Please remember that the salad lid containers were labeled, “to your health”. Memories of the regal gas station gift shop next door after purchasing the potato salad, A bit tangy and smooth, the curly parsley may be the answer as well as the white vinegar, Best potato salad ever. Will try the recipe. I hope Herman can share the recipe, sounds like our only hope for the real McCoy. Martin
Thanks for stopping by Martin. I too wish Herman would share the recipe, but based on his response from last year, think it will be a while before that happens. Hope you like the recipe – let me know if it fills the bill.
Lunardi’s down here in the South Bay area offers a S. F. Potato Salad. I like the taste a lot and wonder if any “Herman’s” veterans have tried it and could offer a comparison?
Het, Maybe we can get John (see comments) to share what was in the real salad. I tried sprinkling vinegar on the warm potatoes then creating the salad. The real recipe would be a treat, how about it John? Martin Riordan class of ’67/ St Monica class of 64. Stay healthy. Martin
Great minds think a like! I’d love the real recipe!!
I think you’ll find if you replace the onion powder with 1 Tbsp grated onion it’ll improve the recipe. We just did this and now think it is close enough to Herman’s that few would notice a difference. It’s too bad Herman apparently is going to take the original recipe to his grave. Better to be remembered for generosity than spite; I feel sorry for someone who evidently carries so much resentment around with him. His recipe could be an enduring legacy passed on from generation to generation starting with his loyal customers whose patronage made his business a success; instead, he apparently is bitter about what choices his children made. Sad to see his focus is misdirected. -Jud
I live in Sacramento and there is a grocery store chain called The Nugget, almost like a Whole foods. Anyways their deli makes San Francisco style potato salad and it is fabulous. Maybe they can give you their recipe?
I stop in to get San Francisco Potato salad regularly at Lunardi’s Markets in various locations near SF and also the Molly Stones stores near SF. It is my favorite PS by far. Is this the SF salad you are referring to or does anyone know if it is what is sold by the Ravioli company in San Leandro?
Tried your recipe, though I added chopped onion for crunch thinking it wouldn’t change the flavor much. It’s good I really like it. Though I myself have nothing to base it off of except wills, which I do like alot. I like this recipe more though. Thank you.
Thanks Eric – I appreciate you letting me know that you tried it and liked it! Thanks!
About HERMANS “to your health” potato salad. Maybe enjoying the salad in the 60’s was like a first kiss, you can never duplicate the experience. Not until we get the real recipe from the surviving relative will we know for sure!. I do think the suggested recipe, and adding vinegar to the warm potatoes is getting pretty close. Also try YUKON GOLD potatoes. Makes a difference.
My father was good friends with “Herman” Voss, owner of Herman’s in S.F for many, many years. But, unfortunately, I don’t have the recipe, however, four things stand out in my memory:
3) Very thin slices of potato, not over cooked so each slice had texture
4) Not overly creamy like most potato salads, this one was very lightly dressed
My father, now 87, grew up on 41st Avenue in The City. Once a month, my 5 siblings (2 more would come later) and I would go and visit my dad’s father. Grandpa Gough always had ham and butter sandwiches on white bread, Herman’s potato salad and a Coca Cola in the tiny bottle for us. We were in heaven! We loved the potato salad and marveled at the whiteness of it. It wasn’t your usual, pedestrian style of potato salad. Always had a yen for it all these years . I love that you’re going after this! I sent this blog to my mom and dad to read . Thanks!
I grew up in San Francisco and Marin. My mom belonged to the old French Hospital on Geary. As a treat she would take us to Hermans for Potato Salad and Corned Beef on Rye Sandwiches. The best!
Ill never forget the sign in front and the interior with dutch windmills etc on the walls. My dad had been eating there since the 30s when he went to S.I. and USF. I do believe the WILLS salad that Costco sells is pretty close… Until I read this thread I was pretty sure that they had copied Hermans recipe. I remember when they closed and the family would not part with the recipes. I think the relative was in Hillsborough, there was a write up in the SF Chronicle. Now we are talking great old San Francisco food history, along with Larabaru French Bread!!!!!!
Agree. And yes to Larabaru – to me the one and only sourdough French bread! Wish I had one of their starters they used to sell at Fisherman’s Wharf!
Other richmond district favorites, Zims beteween 19th and 20th, apple pie alamode with their special sauce, tip toe deli, McFarlans candies and sweets, Klabundies, to mention a few. Grand old times in the avenues. Martin
Hi Claire! I received a comment on my blog today about a post I did 5 years ago that included a recipe for Herman’s Potato Salad. It seems the person who gave me the recipe may have gotten it from you – it’s too similar to be a fluke.
Reading through the comments here made me realize that the one standout was “it was so white.” It really was a white salad – and I’m thinking the grated onion may be a good choice over the onion powder, since Herman, Jr definitely stated no radishes – the grated onion would give it a bit of a kick and not alter the color.
Anyway… Thanks for the stroll down Memory Lane!
Thank you so much for this recipe!
Mollie Stone also sells San Francisco potato salad but it is pricey.
I know this is an old post, but I came across this post after trying some delicious potato salad from Trag’s Market in San Mateo. It was called “San Francisco Potato Salad”, which not being a native, I had no idea what it was. Not sure how true to the original recipe it was, but it tasted great. I will definitely try making your version when Oktoberfest season rolls around!
I tried your recipe & it was too sour. I remember Herman’s as having a tangy slightly sweet taste. I suspect it should have some sugar & dill instead of parsley. I a. A native San Franciscan & went to school there. My Dad’s first office was on Clement st & I always loved that potato salad. As a adult I lived in San Rafael, CA. & there was a little shop that sold hot dogs & potato salad which was very much like Herman’s. The shop no longer exists so I guess I’ll never know if that was the salad. So the mystery goes on.
I think a combo of sour cream and mayo
Right i use a combo of both mayo and sour cream. I originally tried just using mayo but found it was much better using both.
Oh, so sorry you didn’t enjoy. I know for sure it had parsley but not so sure if they included dill – could be a missing ingredient. 😀
Lucky’s GR certain stores sells an s.f. potato salad for 3.99 a pound that is the best I’ve ever had. Don’t know how it compares to the original unfortunately.
I found the San Francisco Potato Salad at the Lucky on Fulton and Masonic today, June 9, 2019. I used to get the same potato salad at Lucca Ravioli, but it closed its doors at the end of April.
The ingredients from the label are as follows: white potatoes, mayonnaise, water, sugar, onion, carrots, salt, vinegar, parsley, soybean oil, pepper, xanthan gum, and garlic.
Wow! I love food detectiv-ing!
I wonder if the “secret” ingredient Herman was hinting about was just a bit of sugar? If your recipe used about 1/2 tsp of sugar, that would be enough to only slightly season the flavor, right? And what if the sugar were dissolved into the vinegar before it was sprinkled on the potatoes? Oooo . . . now I have to try it!
FYI, I recently took photos of the ingredients list on the packaging of a 20 pound box of HOME MAID S F Potato Salad, and a ten pound carton of Will’s S F Potato Salad. Both lists include sugar. I’d attach the photos, but don’t see any way to do so??
Very interesting since previous commenter also suggested sugar. Will be making potato salad next weekend so will try a little sugar and see what happens. Thanks for sending comment.
I do have photos of the “ingredients list” of HOME MAID and WILL’S S F Potato Salad. Is there any way to share them with this group?
Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post them.
Thanks for your comment. You may be onto something. Will add it next time I make potato salad.
Just read this new-ish thread. It is very likely that a touch (1/2 tsp) of sugar is the “missing element” to the original Hermann’s Potato Salad. The Dutch and northern Germans often use a touch of sugar to balance the extreme acidic taste of vinegary dressings (for example, cuke/onion salad in oil/vinegar dressing, which benefits from a tad of sugar)! Do report back, all!!
Several other people have mentioned sugar and I havent’ tried that yet, but should as it makes sense to offset the vinegar. Thanks for the reminder – am going to add that to the next batch.
Ironically, I’ll just bet my Dad (Albert Sander), who made Hermann’s potato salad for over 30yrs, and the elder Hermann Voss (the boss, so to speak) are looking down on this little socio-drama laughing up a storm!
Hermans potato salad was an institution. Anyone can call it San Francisco potato salad, and many have missed the mark. It may be time to have the recipe out and about. Some of us are running out of years to enjoy this blast from the past. See what you can do. Best. Mart
You said it best. Time to have the “recipe out and about”. Herman Voss said in a comment on my blog back in 2017 that it’s up to his kids if and when they want to patent the recipe and manufacture it. I say it would be a joy if Herman would just bite the bullet and share the recipe like many other family recipes and restaurants that have done so. Think of the notoriety they would gain on doing such a magnanimous thing in these trying times we live in. Mr. Voss, what do you say??
Fully agreed! It would be consistent with the Senior Hermann Voss’ nature (I knew him relatively well, as he and his wife often had our family out for lunch in the backyard at their home in Burlingame)! Dad would capture him as a typical “Dutchman” … an endearing term for task-oriented, at times stoic folks from the northern “germanic” lowlands with a heart of gold!
I’m sure you are right – and probably loving the fuss. 😀
As a native San Franciscan who grew up on Herman’s potato salad I was crushed at the loss of that salad when they closed. I have looked for years for a potato salad that came close to that salad. The other day my wife went shopping at Oliver’s Mkt in Windsor Ca. and bought a potato salad called San Francisco potato salad. I was bowled over, it was the closest any potato salad has come to Herman’s potato salad. I’m blessed now since I have found it and it’s close to where we live.
Very well written!
I think the family that’s still around is “enjoying” the interest shown. The site is so much more than potato salad, it’s obviously a labor of love. Yes, it was wonderful when we had it. Now a new generation of San Franciscans is rewriting what San Francisco Potato Salad is, certainly not Herman’s. Sorry to say, it’s gone…but I’m OK with that. I love this recipe!
I am so happy to have found your recipe! I can’t find the recipe anywhere! I grew up in Oakland, CA off Park Blvd, we had a small deli nearby and they always had San Francisco potato salad. I really don’t like a lot of potato salad that is made today because of all the eggs and mustard. I don’t like eggs much and now I know why this was my favorite potato salad! Making it right now! Reading the above comments I don’t remember radishes in it, just the parsley and carrots chopped up fine. Thank-you so much!!
Thanks for visting my site and I hope you like the recipe. I did try it once with the added radishes but it didn’t bring that missing ingredient I am looking for, so I don’t use it, but rather stick to my original recipe. Let me know what you think if you end up making the recipe.
I tried the recipe but it wasn’t kick-y enough as I remember. Based on all the comments, I added rice vinegar to the dressing since I’d already mixed in the potatoes, a smidge of sugar, and added some dill. We’ll see how it goes at tomorrow’s bbq!
Let us know how your potato salad came out after adding sugar and the rice vinegar. I make my recipe several times each summer and I am happy with it, but there is still something missing for me to say YES, it tastes like Herman’s. Will try your idea of rice vinegar and sugar. Thanks for suggesting! One of these days, we will nail it!!
It took me a few times to get that “kick” with the stock recipe, technique is everything! Love my Claire’s San Francisco Potatoe Salad!
Thanks Tim – what a compliment!!
Can’t believe I misspelled POTATO! Sincerely, Tim Kilcline
Hello. I live in the Coachella Valley. On occasion, I shop at Gelson’s [premiere supermarket] in Rancho Mirage, CA. Their onsite kitchen/delicatessen prepares Gelson’s Self-Serve San Francisco Potato Salad which sells for $8.99 per lb. It is pricey but wildly popular, sometimes selling out by noon. [I got to remember to check the ingredients label on the takeout container next time I buy it]. Gelson’s pricey commodity motivated me to Google-search and find a DIY recipe on canapesandchocolate.com. After reading all the comments since 2012, *I’M WONDERING* if Gelson’s recipe was inspired by the HERMAN’S DELICATESSEN in San Francisco… In any event, I was happy to try Canapes and Chocolate’s San Francisco-style Potato Salad recipe (aka Herman’s Potato Salad). I respectfully admit that it’s missing a lil’ bit of ‘je ne sais quoi.’ Boiled egg yolks, perhaps? Salt and butter in the boiling water? [Maybe sugar, but that is not an option for me] …OH, by the way, HOW MUCH finely chopped parsley goes in your recipe? …CARBOHYDRATES FOR EVERYONE!!!
Thanks Frank for your post. I chop a bunch of parsley and throw it in, so measure by eyesight. If I had to measure would probably say 2 Tablespoons. Next time you buy it, take a pic and send to me, as I would love to see the ingredient list.
Save Mart carries a San Francisco potato salad in their deli. Only place I have found in my area and only potato salad i’ll eat because it doesn’t have mustard (yuck) in it. 🙂
Herman “Vic” Voss Obituary Memorial:
Herman “Vic” Ernest Voss
It is with profound sadness that the family of Herman “Vic” Voss announced his passing on August 1, 2020, at the age of 87.
One of two children born in 1933 to German immigrant parents in San Francisco and raised in Burlingame, Vic grew to be an ambitious young gentleman. He spent his first 50 years on the San Francisco Peninsula. He pursued a career as a police officer for the Town of Hillsborough, CA, for over 30 years, retiring in 1984 as its Lieutenant.
In 1957 he met Katie, his lovely wife of 61 years, who passed away in October 2018. They made their first home in Millbrae, overlooking the San Francisco Bay, and were blessed with three children. Vic had been named after his father’s business on Geary Blvd. in San Francisco, Herman’s Delicatessen. Herman’s was famous for its Dutch-style potato salad, which was distributed throughout Northern California. When Vic’s father, Hugo, became ill, Vic bought Herman’s from his father and ensured its ongoing success, while still completing his career in law enforcement.
After retiring, Vic closed the delicatessen and with Katie, managed a number of commercial and residential properties they had invested in. Vic and Katie relocated to their favorite vacation spot of Lakehead, California, enjoying fishing, boating and volunteer work in the community, including his work as a Boat Safety Officer on Shasta Lake. Vic also enjoyed travel, including frequent trips to Kihei, Hawaii, where he assisted the Maui Police with the citizen patrol.
Vic loved mingling with others, especially through community organizations. He belonged to the Elks and Lions Clubs, the German Edelweiss Club, was a Mason, an active member of the International Police Association, and a member of St. James Lutheran Church.
Survivors include daughter Deborah (Brian McDermott) of Mt. Shasta, CA, sons, Robert (Michelle) of Scottsdale, AZ and Richard (Carol) of Stafford, VA, seven adoring grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Burial and Services to honor Vic’s life will be held Friday, August 14th at 10:00am at the Redding Memorial Park Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are by McDonald’s Chapel. Donations in memory of Vic may be made to the St. James Lutheran Church, Redding, CA.
Thanks for sharing Gil. I was sad to see that he had passed two years ago. I think the recipe is now gone forever. If he didn’t share it, likely his remaining family members won’t. That’s too bad, but at least we all have fond memories of the Potato Salad and Herman’s wonderful deli
I was very upset when Herman’s closed on Geary St. Loved the potato salad…no egg… found a very similar one with carrot, but not enough to suit me, at Molly Stone’s over in Sausalito…used to shred a bit more and add it….