San Francisco is for Foodies.

San Francisco is a great place to visit once. Or twice. Even five times. After that, it gets a bit redundant. Especially, if you are so lucky as to visit it biennially. Charming as it is, this town is not a dynamic and ever-evolving city but, basically, a sleepy town with cultural life lagging behind other major metropoles. It is static if not stagnant. Even the ubiquitous San Francisco bums don’t seem as entertaining as ever.
We searched hard for something cultural to do, but found only an orchestra rehearsal at the San Francisco Symphony Hall. We entered the concert hall, ignoring a colorful Rastra character in a black cape, hawking a ticket to the rehearsal outside the main entrance, and took our seats with other tourists, retirees and unemployed – who else would be attending a 9 am concert? The sea of virgin gray hair, never touched by a colorist, spread beneath us. The elderly go au natureil here – no hair color and no makeup. That goes with the dress style of the young and young at heart- neither elegant nor cutting-edge, cheap chic with an attempt on artsy.
With people-watching as dull as it comes, I watched the musicians who spilled upon the stage in jeans and sneakers and struck out their required chords.
The concert was ok, although may not have been the best activity for that early in the morning. But what else do you do in a city where every neighborhood has been explored and had nothing new and unexpected to add? You eat, of course!
What is unquestionably good and abundant here is the number and quality of eating establishments.
Jason was on a a mission to feed us well.
We started out with the neighborhood Italian joint, Firenze By Night, appropriately, the night we arrived, and sampled their homemade pasta.
The next morning, at La Boulange we ate some freshly baked pastries and split a bowl of house-made granola in yogurt, dotted with honey and fresh berries. For lunch, we headed to Polk Street and stood in line to Swan’s Oyster Depot, an establishment not to be missed as much for the atmosphere as for the fresh seafood that 5 co-owners dish out to the 18 customers perched on barstools at the tiled counter. The Depot will celebrate its 100th birthday next year.
Dinner was reserved at The Stinking Rose, another North Beach restaurant, this one celebrating garlic and decorated as a bordello.
Next morning, still in North Beach, got in line to Mama’s, one of the more popular breakfast spots in the city, and had Mama’s famous French toast and omelets. Skipped lunch, thankfully, walked around the almost deserted streets of the Marina and the Pacific Heights. Dinner awaited us at the House, a hip Asian fusion restaurant where pork and sea bass, in particular, were superb.
The next morning back to La Boulange – the place turns up consistently amazing baked goods despite being part of a chain. The people we see around are mostly young and childless (hardly any little kids crossed our path), and many have the appearance of someone who has just stepped off a covered wagon that made a slow and arduous cross-country journey. Some guys appear to have emerged out of a gold-mining camp, all rough, gruff, and grizzly.
Made a cultural stop at the de Young Museum, a nice break between meals. The museum’s collection is limited but enjoyable. We inspected the African and the South Pacific expositions habitually overlooked in other, richer endowed museums in favor of more exciting exhibitions. We climbed the museum tower which offered a spectacular view of the city
After this short interlude, back to eating, at Burma Superstar, a down-to-earth diner on a melting-pot immigrant street of mostly Asian origin. Ate a terrific Bermese fare. An honorable mention goes to their tea leaf salad and poodi. At night, went to the upscale Boulevard. Was strange to see guys in hoodies, baggy jeans, and sneakers among all this opulence. The fig salad was outstanding!
Next day brought more food. Started with cappuccino at the Trieste, another North Beach landmark, continued to La Boulange, drove to the Hays and ate Indian food off a cart and then some homemade ice-cream from Smitten, drove to Chinatown and bought some greasy fast food. Then off to the Fisherman’s Wharf, where I passed, but the guys ate a crab salad sandwich followed with fries and a milkshake. Tonight we are planning on going to a Greek restaurant. I cross my fingers, we’ll fit in our seats on the airplane tomorrow. My pants are bursting at the seams.


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