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Why San Francisco can’t forget Hippo Burger, the wacky restaurant that closed in 1987

San Francisco’s Hippo Hamburgers’ eclectic menu.

There is a lingering yearning for one particular place that brought different walks of life together in San Francisco: Hippo Burger, a spot that hasn’t been in business for 34 years. Hippopotamus Hamburger (a.k.a. Hippo Burger, Hippo’s or the Hippo) was located in the space that’s now a CVS Pharmacy on Van Ness and Pacific from 1950 to 1987. Inside were giant whimsical cartoon hippopotami created by actual German nobility: Baron Wolff Erhardt Anton Georg Trutzschler von Falkenstein. Known as Wolo von Trutzschler, or Wolo for short, he was a beloved children’s book illustrator and puppeteer.

Those Wolo hippo cartoons live on today: They have an online life in unofficial merch and rarity auctions. The Hippo is a staple vintage San Francisco restaurant logo for several T-shirt-on-demand companies. A Fire-King coffee mug with Wolo’s bow-butted girl hippo recently turned up on eBay from a seller based in Japan with an asking price of $950. Every so often, and as recently as a few weeks ago, one of the 117,000-plus members of a nostalgia-driven Facebook group called San Francisco Remembered brings it up: “Who remembers the Hippo on Van Ness?” Read more >

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