Comments 40

San Francisco-style Potato Salad – Updated


Am doing an update to the San Francisco-style Potato Salad (aka Herman’s Potato Salad) blog as I followed the suggestions of Paul Rogers, who commented on my original blog (see comment June 27th).    He remembers Herman adding thin slices of radish to it – I was quite skeptical on this as I don’t remember any type of crunch when I ate the potato salad and he didn’t say I was to cook the radishes.  I bought radishes, peeled and tried to slice them – too small to handle so I decided to grate the radishes (I used 9 radishes to 2 pounds of potato).  Also, he mentioned slicing the potatoes same as for scalloped potatoes (this was familiar the minute I read it).  Well, I have to say the salad now looks identical to Herman’s and I think the radishes brought the flavor as close as I can possibly get to the original recipe (the radish idea is likely the clincher for me).  I am happy with the recipe and hope you will be too, just in time for July 4th picnics.  And thank you Paul Rogers wherever you are – your input was the best!


  1. JC says

    Well it certainly looks like Herman’s. I will just have to try it myself. I did not ever think there were radishes in the potato salad, but will try it, cuz I really miss that salad.


  2. Fran Donohue says

    Agreed, Herman’s did have the tinest crunch (I think you hit it perfect by grating it) and the potatoes were definetely slliced. Sounds like you have a winner here, I am just imagining I can taste it right now! Fran

  3. Hi!

    I am so appreciative of all you efforts! I just can’t forget the memory of this fabulous potatoe salad growing up in my native city San Francisco. I am going to try making this too. I do have to say that I tried Wills san Francisco pototoe salad at Costco but although the taste was close it was too wet. Thanks again, now if we could find some real old fashioned San Francisco for the great meals and atmosphere of old we could really be in hog heaven!!!!!!!!


    • Linda,

      I am going to try Wills – have heard from several people that it is very, very close to Herman’s. When I have found the potato salad too “wet” I usually add a cooked potato to the store bought version – it seems to soak up the extra dressing! Let me know the results on trying my recipe – would love to hear from you!

      • Hi Claire!!!

        Thanks for the tip, but I will for sure make yours. I will let you know. I also want to explore your website further when I get some time soon. Take care!!!!!!!!


  4. SANTIAGO says

    As a student at SFSU 1968-1971, I discovered Herman’s Deli early in the Fall of 1970…I was intrigued by the “Herman’s” title…as I always thought Delis were Italian named. Once inside I made the right choice of ordering a plate of Herman’s potato salad, some cold sausage and beer…after that I would make that 4 mile trip from campus at least once a week. Between 72-75 I was out if the country in Asia. When I returned in 1976…Herman’s Deli had shut its doors.

    • I am impressed you made it to Herman’s once a week – and how sad upon your return from Asia. As I have said before, it was THE best potato salad I have ever eaten!

      • Ed B. says

        Yes, It was on Geary, I think somewhere in-between 4th and 9th Avenue(?). I seem to remember a bowling alley around the corner from the deli, or close to it.

  5. Hello again.

    Last year when I revisited your S.F. Potato Salad (aka “Herman’s) blog and read through all the comments including the one posted by Herman Voss who mentioned that no radishes were ever part of the original recipe, it got me thinking “what is another ingredient that would provide a light crunch?”. After a little thought, I came up with one idea. Scallions!

    So what I did was to clean and trim the white ends of 4 scallions (non “bulbous” ones) and sliced them in half lengthwise with a sharp knife. Then I finely chopped the (approximate 2 inches) stalk up to where it begins to turn green. This results in a similar size and texture to the grated radishes I believe.

    One other ingredient I added was a “pinch” of chopped dill to the dressing. Maybe this came from my memory of the Herb’s Delicatessen version of S.F. Potato Salad, or from a delusion from my ever-failing memory, but I DID enjoy the end result none the less. Of course if anyone doesn’t remember a taste of dill, it can certainly be omitted. Sorry I didn’t measure my “pinch”, but it would probably be about 1/8 tsp or so.

    Anyway I know you like different options and ideas, so maybe the next time you make your fabulous potato salad, you may want to try this.

    Happy 2016 to you and your fellow bloggers.

    • Hi W.M.
      I like the idea of scallions – I don’t remember the taste of dill, but since I still can’t find that elusive ingredient I will try adding it as you never know “dill” could be that special taste I am looking for that makes it perfect! It would be so simple if Mr Voss would just give the world the recipe. Thanks for sharing your ideas W.M. and Happy New Year to you too!

      • Well considering you put such an “insane” amount of work in reproducing Herman’s Potato Salad to begin with, I am happy you to share any ideas I come up with (right or wrong) just in case I may have stumbled onto something. Let me know what you think when you make your next batch, ok?


    • Louise says

      I have searched everywhere for this ”San Francisco Potato Salad” recipe for about 40 years…I lived in SF for 20 years and it was the only Potato salad I ate then….Thank you…I also remember the thin slices and a touch of Dill…but never could duplicate it…I think Scallions will do the trick too…Thanks so much…heartfelt! ♥

  6. Rick Donaldson says

    A couple of comments- As a youth, I used to get SF style potato salad at Lucca Deli on Valencia in the Mission District – they no longer sell it. Never went to (or tried) Hermans – but sounds very much like what Lucca sold. Ive heard from a couple sources that dill was an ingredient. The only commercial SF style potato salad available as of 2015 is made by Home Maid Ravioli in South City. As others mentioned its available at Mollie Stones and Rincon Market (in SF). Keep up the good work – Thanks. Rick Donaldson – Spokane, WA.

    • Thanks Rick – will have to try the potato salad using dill and see if that makes a difference. Good to know about the other local resources you mentioned. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Linda says

        I also did some research on Homemade Ravioli and found that they sell their products at farmers market location, the one near me at Stonestown on Sundays. I don’t know if they offer the S.F., potato salad there but will be checking to see!

  7. I grew up loving Herman’s too. An ingredient popped up from 50years ago and it is… CHIVES!!!! Maybe the answer to the crunch and the sharp issues?

  8. Well don’t think anyone got it right, Herrnann salad was the best I ever tasted, and think it is so selfish for the family not to share it with the public. Why keep such a tasty potato salad a secret.
    that is terrible. I was born and raised in San Francisco, and worked for a deli. and everyone that came in would order quarts and gallons of the potato salad.
    Anyway, nothing will ever replace his recipe.

  9. Joyce says

    Grew up in S.F. my mom made the closest you can get to Hermans. It was the best. She sliced them like scalloped potatoes, finely chopped red onion , fresh parsley, vinegar, Beau Monde seasoning and dill weed. I make it every so often for family gatherings and never have any left.

  10. Linda says

    I am making a comment on the chives, as I now remember that the green specks might have been (old fashioned) curley parsley. It is a little pungent or bold and that was what I think was the sharpness that offset the sweetness of mayo. Also I find that Trader Joe’s mayo for me is the best using canola oil and not soybean oil. I am pretty sure that soybean oil was not used back when Herman was making it. Probably was something like safflower or called “salad oil”! Mush healthier. TJ’s mayo has all the flavor that Best Foods has, FOR SURE!

  11. Joyce says

    For those of you who lived in San Francisco back in the old days, do you remember sme of the great food restaurants such as, Veneto’s at the Wharf, The Old Colony on Clement St., Bino’s Italian restaurant In the Sunset district, Gold Mirror restaurant off 19th ave and Tommy’s joint on Geary Blvd…..comments please.

    • Linda says

      My posting back in 2016 left out one important memory that I had and still require of potato salad to this day. It HAS to have a tang to it. That means that you HAVWE to have vinegar in it. Probably a small amount like a couple splashes and of course to taste. Hermann’s had that tang and Wills is just too bland or on the sweet side without that vinegar tang. Does anyone else remember that small taste that is missing in Will’s or the like?


      • W.M. says

        I tried Will’s only once a few years ago and yes, it was weak on tang although there was a hint of vinegar, which made it a little bit “familiar”, but not in the same league as Herman’s or any of the other great delicatessens from OUR era. If only the keepers of the original recipe would either produce this fantastic potato salad commercially, include it in a cookbook, or just offer to sell the recipe to all of us who remember it so fondly. They would likely make a fortune.

  12. George Alfredo Gutekunst says

    We came up with this variant that brings back the dream. Apostasy? Certainly. It brings back the memory. I just don’t see the radish. Here’s ours:

    Herman’s “Classic” Potato Salad

    No eggs.
    No Celery
    No Bacon
    No Hot pepper

    Potatoes, boiling, peeled, sliced uniformly, not chopped.
    Carrots, grated fine
    Lemon Pepper Seasoning
    Red onion
    green onion
    Black pepper
    White vinegar
    Mustard, preparedCoarse if possible
    Celery seeds
    Sweet dill pickle relish

    Combine ingredients carefully, tasting along the way, making adjustments.

    Peel potatoes as much as possible.

    Marinate carrots in Lemon Pepper, Salt, and some sugar.

    Both Red and green onions should be chopped very fine.

    Marinate potatoes after being cooked in chicken broth fortified with bouillon cube, but just barely.

    The bullion is the key.

  13. Joyce d. says

    Sorry, but the Herman’s potato salad that I had from Herman’s Deli on Geary Blvd in San Francisco did not have any mustard, radishes, dill pickle relish, or horseradish in the ingredients. It was very simple and and the taste and texture was phenomenal. I lived in San Francisco in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and went to Herman’s quite often. By the way, Costco does have Will’s potato salad that I think has come the closest to Herman’s taste.

    • Hi Joyce,
      Don’t think you actually read my recipe – it doesn’t have mustard, radishes, dill pickle relish, or horseradish in it. Mine is very pure in flavor and if you make it, you will see it tastes very much like Herman’s.

  14. Joyce d. says

    My intention was not to be sarcastic in any way. The recipe I read definitely had those ingredients except the radishes. I even read about the potatoes being in a broth! I tried to duplicate the recipe many times over the year’s and came close but not perfect. When I crave some potato salad I go to Costco and get Will’s like I previously said that has that similar taste of Herman’s.

    • Joyce,
      I believe you were reading the recipe a reader wrote in comments, not my recipe. Since his recipe is nothing like Herman’s I believe his intent was to share his potato salad. My recipe is very close to the original I believe. If you read through the comments you will see relatives of Herman writing in.

  15. Joyce d. says

    My apologies. I did read your recipe and yes, I completely agree with the ingredients you provided. I need to go shopping and try this out. Thank you for your persistence I needed that. Did you live in San Francisco in the 70’s?

    • Hi Joyce,
      No apology needed, I was just afraid you were looking at the man who provided his recipe in a comment and not mine. Yes, I am a native of San Francisco but lived on the Peninsula till 1990. We were big fans of Herman’s, so have tried really hard to perfect the recipe as much as possible. And love to make it all summer long!

  16. Joyce d. says

    I was born and raised in San Francisco. Went to George Washington High School. Grew up with all the wonderful food’s of S.F. From fresh fish to Italian restaurants to great Chinese flavors. Nothing like it. Unfortunately, it has changed over the years so it was our time to leave. Miss it all the time. Take care in this crazy country right now.

  17. Julie Garfield says

    I don’t know if this thread is still open, but Mollie Stone’s carries the SF Potato Salad, which comes close. I, too, was a Herman’s fan growing up in The City and was crushed to learn that it had closed when I returned from somewhere and tried to find it.

  18. Elaine says

    Thanks for the recipe. I remember that there was a store in Daly City that made the San Francisco potato salad, sold in tubs. My dad who was a carpenter in the 1950s was building cabinets for this business. It later moved to another location. Because the owners appreciated his skills, they gave him a tub of salad to sample and brought it home to share. After that, we were hooked and made trips to purchase it.

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