Landing in San Francisco is an interesting, if not slightly terrifying experience. As the plane descends and you get below the clouds you start to see the city lights, but then as you keep descending you come upon Karl, the famous San Franciscan fog. You expect it to clear but it doesn't. You just keep going and going through it and you're left wondering how the hell the pilot knows where the hell he's supposed to land. And then, at the last second, the fog clears and before you have time to catch your breath the plane touches down just where it is supposed to.
Our friends Maggie and Chris were awesome enough to let us stay with them at their beautiful house in Oakland. Not only that, they also agreed to play tour guides and drive us around town to see some of the sights.
We started our tour by stopping by Blue Bottle Coffee for a quick caffeine fix. Apparently there are a couple of these throughout the Bay Area but I don't know if any of the other ones are in such an awesome location as the one we stopped at in Oakland. It is located in the historic W. C. Morse Building built in the 1920s. The building is beautiful. The huge open interior has the grand appearance of an old bank. If the architecture and design of this place doesn't suck you in then the coffee and food definitely will. We only got coffees to go and they were fantastic, but the food they had looked amazing. Especially the Eggs in a Basket. I'm pretty sure I'm coming back just to try them.
Coffee in hand, we got in the Jeep and headed to Sausalito for breakfast. We went through Berkley which looked awesome. I'm don't think we'll have time to explore it more thoroughly on this short trip so I'm glad we at least got a driving tour of it.
Eventually we made it to Sausolito which is just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. We had breakfast at a place right on the water called The Trident. The food was nothing to write home about but the view was simply spectacular and made the stop there worth it. We ate outside hoping to see some sea lions. We saw some black thing off in the distance bopping up and down with the waves and decided that it was most definitely a sea lion. Success!
Speaking of success, the houses (more like mansion really) along the cliffs there were awesome. We looked them up online real quick and saw that they go for somewhere around 10 million buckaroos. We all decided that Maggie and Chris needed to buy one of them before the next time we're back.
Following breakfast, as the fog started retreating, we drove up to Hawk Hill for some views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Fran skyline. Then we drove through it and got out for some more views of it from the other side. I'm gonna try and come back to photograph it closer to sunset one of the next couple of days we're here.
After getting our fill of Golden Gate Bridge views we headed over to see the Painted Ladies, otherwise known as the Full House houses. Interestingly enough, it turns out that they didn't supposedly live in any of them. They actually lived down the road at some other place. Everyone just thinks they lived at one of the Painted Ladies because they are hanging out on the park in front of them during the opening credits.
From there we went over to Lombard Street, which is one block on a steep hill of crazy zigzags. The street and houses on the block are really pretty with lots of flowers and greenery everywhere. I imagine living there must be a giant pain in the ass though. Not because of the crazy windy road but because it looks like it's constantly packed with tourist, both on foot and in cars.
For lunch we went to the Castro District for some sushi at Wasabi Bistro. Castro is a cool gay neighborhood. The crosswalks are painted in rainbow colors which makes them so much more fun than your standard zebra cross walk. And a lot of the shops are heavy on the innuendo, such as The Hand Job (manicures) and the Sausage Factory (Italian restaurant). We ended up at Hot Cookie for desserts, including a giant chocolate covered penis macaroon.
After napping hard, Chris and Maggie took us to Old Town Oakland where we went to District for dinner. We had great tapas style food (including a very interesting and delicious tempura avocado) and wine. After dinner we went around some of the bars before heading back to their place. We just sat in their living room drinking wine and talking for hours. We also established that none of us has a future as a didgeridoo player, although Chris can make some hilarious fart noises with it.
Sunday brunch in Oakland. Although the city looked like a ghost town with the streets deserted, the first three spots we tried to go to had wait lines. I suppose the entirety of the city gathers at these places on Sunday mornings.
We ended up going to Bocanova right on the waterfront. The event was made all the more memorable when Chris spilled his entire Bloody Mary on his lap. Ah, good times.
Afterwards we walked through the farmers market being held at Jack London Square. There was a lady making pretty sweet balloon animals. Maggie got herself a little zebra.
After checking into the Hyatt right in downtown San Fran, Sara and I went to the Ferry Building to check out the market. I had read about this place on a "Best Markets in America" list. Much like Ron Swanson, they had me when they mentioned the term "meat cone." Naturally I went in search of the shop that served this magical culinary creation. We ended up getting two different meat cones plus an Italian sausage sandwich. Meat. Overload. Heaven.
So ever since we went to Hawaii last summer I've been dreaming of Poke, which is sushi grade fish diced, marinaded, and served over warm rice. I figured San Francisco being as close to Hawaii as I'm gonna get in the foreseeable future and being such a seafood town would be a good place to look for this magical dish. The restaurant I found that sold it was kind of close by the Palace of the Arts, so I decided to Uber there first and then walk to the restaurant. The Palace was pretty cool and I guess I got there at a perfect time because there was barely anyone there. There was a couple laying down looking up right at the center of the dome, talking and laughing together. It looked like a perfect moment which I'm sure they'll always remember. Just being there felt like I was invading something very special so I fired off a couple of shots and made my way out.
After walking around the monument for another ten minutes or so I started to make my way to Pacific Catch through the Cow Hollow district. What an awesome little neighborhood that was, with an old movie theater and lots of shops, bars, and restaurants lining up the streets.
Verdict on the Poke: a ton better than what I've had in DC, but not as good as what we had in Honolulu. And so the quest for great Poke outside of Hawaii continues.
Sara's conference started today so I was on my own. I got an early start and started walking up town on Market St and some of the surrounding streets. My objective was to walk to Blue Bottle to get those eggs in a basket I'd seen at the Oakland location. Unfortunately that was not something they did at this one so I left empty handed, disappointed, and hungry. I walked around a bit more and then took the BART to The Mission district.
I was told to check out The Mission district for its graffiti, in particular Clarion Alley which is entirely covered in it. It was pretty cool.
The Bay Area seems to really embrace graffiti as an art form as opposed to fighting it. Street art is ubiquitous here; from small pieces on the sides of trucks to murals covering entire walls of buildings, it seems like you're never more than a two block radius away from at least one piece of art.
Someone recommended that I go to Tartine Bakery while I was in San Francisco, so I looked it up online and saw that this place was something like Georgetown Cupcake in DC. Not in that they both serve the same thing but in that they are both a small locale and ALWAYS have a line coming out the door. People did rave about how awesome it was though so I figured if I went early enough it probably wouldn't be too bad.
Low and behold when I arrived there was a line out the door. It didn't look too bad though so I figured it was probably worth the wait. I was right.
It was hard to pick just one of the pastries and since I was alone it wasn't like I could split two different ones with someone else, so I had to pick wisely. I looked around and saw that the Morning Bun was a popular choice and decided to go with that. The thing was decadently delicious with a crunchy, caramelized crust and a soft, buttery, flaky inside. It paired up simply perfect with a cup of coffee.
My cousin, Jose, moved to San Francisco at the beginning of the year to start a job at Twitter, so Sara and I met up with him for lunch and he showed us around the office. Unlike a lot of the tech companies which have their head quarters outside of the city and shuttle their employees in and and out, Twitter's HQ is located right in the center of the San Francisco financial district, which is a perk in and of itself, but there is oh so much more.
For starters, the average age of the people working there could not have been more than 30. This is in complete contrast to my office where in comparison I might as well say I work at a retirement home. There are two levels worth of cafeteria where everything is free; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not just for employees but for their visitors as well! And the food was actually good! What else? Oh let's see, they also had beer fridges and booze stations, free! Smoothly stations, free! DYI espresso and coffee and snack stations throughout the whole building, free! Lounge areas, completely open floor plans, Macs, nap pods, and apparently happy hours on the cafeterias..... Yeah, it was pretty awesome.
Let's just pretend for a hot second that I'm not totally jealous.
After lunch Sara had to go back to work so I continued exploring on my own. I made my way out to the Haight to check out the hippies neighborhood. From there I decided to go check out the Golden Gate again. I'd given up any hope of getting interesting light (it was always overcast) but after seeing the top of a power tower covered in fog I thought maybe I'd get something similar at the bridge... Noooope. Just regular, boring, gray skies. So much for getting any cool shots of the bridge on this trip. Finally, I finished up my tour in Chinatown. I'd like to say I enjoyed it a bit more but by that point I was pretty exhausted and really just walking through it on the way to our hotel.
San Francisco has the oldest and one of the biggest China Towns in the US, which makes sense when you think about it since it was the port of entry for people coming over from Asia. Naturally then the city is known for its great, authentic Chinese Food, and I love me some Chinese food! So that's what we did for my birthday dinner.
After some online research we settled on R&G Lounge because it was both close to our hotel and had been featured in No Reservations. Of course when we got there there was a massive line outside. The host told us it would be at least a 40 minute wait. We thought the fact that at least 60% of the people waiting were actually Chinese was probably a good sign, so we decided we'd wait. Lucky for us a lot of the people who were ahead of us were either not paying attention or had decided to go elsewhere because she called something like 10 parties in a row before us who didn't come up so we were seated in about 20 minutes.
We had the Salt and Pepper Scallops as an appetizer and they were simply fucking spectacular. Thinking back on it they probably set the bar too high for the other dishes to compete. We got a Steamed Crab (which was huge), Seafood Stir Fried Noodles, and the R&G Special Beef marinated in the "special secret" sauce. The noodles were actually pretty bomb, but the beef was just OK, and the Steamed Crab was no bueno. No worries though, the good dishes more than made up for the OK and bad ones. I would recommend this place to anyone and say that the line is worth the wait just for the scallops alone. They also have Salt and Pepper Calamari (as another appetizer) and Salt and Pepper Crab (as an entree) which I imagine are deep fried in the same amazing batter as the oysters.
We were too busy devouring our food to take any pictures.
Woke up at an ungodly hour to catch my 6am flight back to the east coast. I find that flying back home at the end of a vacation always sucks. I mean, what do you have to look forward to? Unpacking, laundry, and work? Ugh...
Today that process was particularly hard, not because I had to wake up super early, but because of just how freaking much I liked San Francisco and the Bay Area in general. I had a great time with old friends, drinking and laughing until the early hours of the morning; ate some delicious food; and fell in love with a city which somehow flawlessly manages to combine the laid-back, hippie'ish attitude and people of California with the feel and scope of east coast cities. Three days was entirely too short of a stay (I didn't even get to see the wine country!). I hope to be back very soon. Until then, so long San Francisco.