MY TRIP TO SAN FRANCISCO PART III—DINING
Here’s the final installment of my trilogy about my trip to San Francisco with Mr. X a few months ago. This one is about our dining experiences, (back when I could eat everything,) so, of course, it’s probably the most universally-interesting.
A trip out-of-town would never be complete without trying at least some of the local cuisine. If I had the room in my stomach, I would just eat my way through every day of any excursion.
But, shockingly, the best meal I had during our four days in San Francisco was a home-made one, courtesy of my great friends, the Zarkas. (If you missed it, you can read all about them, and our trip in general, here: itsnotaboutme.tv/news/travel-my-trip-to-san-francisco-part-i-my-review. And you can read Mr. X’s take on the whole shebang here: itsnotaboutme.tv/news/travel-our-trip-to-san-francisco-part-ii-mr-xs-take.)
The rest of the time, though, we had to dine in eateries, much to my delight and Mr. X’s chagrin. (I don’t know if I mentioned it in the previous columns about our trip up north, but we were put up in a hotel with no room service! I don’t know how Mr. X made it through!)
So, here’s the quick run-down on the places we ate while up there, in the order that we visited them:
We were starving when we finally arrived at our hotel, and I noticed a place next door; it served bar food, which I love. But we had invited our new-ish pal, Gus, (he’s a long, fun story, but for another time, but I explained who he is in the first column in this series, if you really need to know now,) to come along, and he seemed to have his heart set set on getting Chinese food. Since Mr. X and I always aim to please others, we acquiesced. (Gus didn’t insist, or anything like that; like us, he would have been fine with any food at that point.) Of course, it was San Francisco, so I figured that’s the place to eat Chinese food, anyway.
But not only was Wing Lum’s food not anything special, (we chose it solely because it was literally around the corner,) but it, like our hotel, had no air-conditioning!!! OMG. What’s with these Northerners?!
We were the only customers, which should have given us pause. But, like I said, we were ravenous. The food was neither good nor bad—it satisfied our hunger, so that was that. But the heat of the place–not the food—made me miserable. At least I got a spot-on fortune! (It read: “People are naturally attracted to you!”)
Billed as “one of San Francisco’s longest living institutions,” I just don’t get how it got to become so. But, after our less-than-satisfying lunch, and a much-needed nap, we were in need of a late dinner. Contrary to how hotels are in New York, (and a lot of other places, too,) we didn’t have many choices near our Hotel Carlton, which we were told was in Nob Hill, but, as we horrifyingly found-out, was instead a block away from the uber-seedy Tenderloin District! (Again, I refer you to the two previous days’ columns.)
Just then, my semi-local pal, Dave called, and, knowing that I never just want food but rather an experience, he directed us to this walking-distance classic. (Several people at the hotel told us exactly which straight lines to walk, though, and warned us, in very ominous tones, to not veer off that path!)
Tommy’s Joynt is the opposite of the cushy situation I was craving at that point. It’s dark, dirty, and you have to stand on line for your food, with a lot of questionable-looking folks. Dave, (and everyone in line!,) told us to order the hand-carved meats. But Mr. X isn’t a basic meat eater, and the look of it was not appealing to me. So, I went with the spaghetti and meatballs, and he choose salmon, which came with a slop of white rice. Ugh. Strange choices for that place, I know. Why do they even have them on the menu???
Mr. X said his salmon was “old-tasting,” and while my meatballs themselves were delish, the spaghetti was only lukewarm, rubbery, slimy, and had no taste whatsoever.
The one fun thing was a take-your-own pickle barrel. Neither of us are pickle fans, but we had a few, anyway, just because we were in need of some flavor. And also because, like a little kid, I enjoyed getting them, (and teaching other newbies how to do it!)
But, it was good enough, a unique experience, and here’s the best part–after navigating a hooker-and-scary-guys path back to the hotel at midnight, we arrived safely!
Because of the no-room-service sitch, we did the next best thing for brunch the following morning—ate at Saha, the restaurant in the hotel. It’s touted to be always voted in the Top 2 or 3 of SF eateries, which is good.
But it was empty that day. No prob—more food for us!
The food is described as “a unique blend of Yemenese Arabic Cuisine, and boundary-pushing California cuisine with French hints mixed in for good measure.” Oysh. But our food was just basic breakfast fare. I went with French Toast
drowning in with berry and banana compote, while Mr. X opted for one of the quintet of e-words Benedict. He enjoyed his so much that he went back the next day, and brought it up to the room.
But guess what? They don’t allow you to take knives and forks back to your room, sort-of like prison. And the airlines!!! So, someone had to slip the utensils to him. I just hope it wasn’t the guy who had turned me down the day before!
The brunch experience wasn’t a total loss for me, though–I was fascinated by the soap opera-esque life story of our amiable waitress, Kate. But Mr. X almost tore a muscle kicking me under the table. He’s the opposite of a yenta! She was an adorable character, and I was happy to lend an incredulous ear. (And, she was the only pal I had at the next evening’s “cocktail hour,” that Mr. X had to miss because he was still working on the set!)
MR. HOLMES BAKEHOUSE
My New Best Friend, Kate, told us of this famous, lines-around-the-block bakery. We missed the famous cruffins, (which are a rip-off of New York’s really famous cronuts, and the reason for the morning queue,) but this place was just right around the corner from the hotel, so we had to give it a shot, right? (When we used to stay at La Fonda in Santa Fe, one of our favorite activities was going to the adjacent bakery and taking-out a boxful of beautiful pastries every day. And that’s when I was skinny! Boy, could I eat back then! But, anyway, that’s what I was expecting from this place, but it was not to be.)
The girl who waited on us was kind-of stupid and nasty, which put me in a bad mood. They had very limited inventory, and nothing appealed to me at all, save for the chocolate chip cookies. But those were $4. apiece!!! What a rip-off! Mr. X, (who’s so generous that he likes to pay just a little over retail,) bought us a bunch anyway, and I do have to admit they were delicious! And came in handy when there was no other chow around a couple of times. (I wish I had some right now! And was allowed to still eat them!)
As my friend Dave and I were on our long drive from San Francisco to his home in Placerville, we finally pulled off the road to find a rest room. All of a sudden, in the outdoor shopping center, I saw a free-standing A&W! I thought it was a mirage! I hadn’t seen one since I was a teen-ager! I don’t even like root beer, (as a matter of fact, I hate it,) but I thought it was the most exotic place when I first saw one in Los Angeles.
I thought they had all closed long ago, so I implored Dave to let us take the time to go in and get a Baby Burger. We did, and I was jumping for joy. Until I tried it; it was kind-of gross. How disappointing. I don’t know what I had been expecting, really; I didn’t remember the taste of the burgers from back in the day, just that it was a cute, different place near my WLA apartment. It wasn’t a food whose passing I lament; it’s just the idea of it. So, at least I had that moment of happiness, just ordering this recent burger.
I was glad that we also shared an order of the nauseatingly-monikered “Cheese Curds.” (I guess they’re trying to get in on the new-ish “poutine” craze!) And they were, as billed, “Curiously Delicious!” They, of course, aren’t a nostalgic choice, but they definitely tided me over until that meal I told you earlier was my fave of the trip—the one that Deb had waiting for us when we arrived at their abode.
Dave and Deb took me to breakfast at this place in their very cute town of Placerville. Dave had mentioned it to me on the phone a few months before, when we both thought I would never get up there. The Zarkas were on the way there on that day I called them, and when he mentioned it, I immediately had to look it up on-line. And, despite there being no chocolate chip pancakes, my mouth was watering to go there! And now I got to! Yay!
It was a pretty hot day, and guess what? This was yet another place with no AC! I was dying to eat in the adorbs interior, but there was no way I could sit in the very hot inside. It turned-out to be just as much fun sitting outside with these two, though.
I took a bite of Dave’s plain buttermilk pancakes, and they were actually heavenly! My dish of potatoes, with gravy, was just okay; I should have made it clear that my country potatoes needed to be really well done. (I kept pilfering some of Deb’s unadorned ones.)
But the absolutely gigundo buttermilk biscuits that came with them saved the day! I not only had one, with butter and the interesting olallieberry jam, in the hotel later, while waiting for Mr. X to get back from the set, but he and I shared one before leaving for the airport the next morning! And they were really delish! (I’m actually craving one right now!)
With the word “Bakery” in their title, Sweetie Pie’s is known for their desserts, but, sadly for us, they were out of chocolate chip cookies, which would have hit the spot for Deb and me. Can’t wait to try one next time!
FLY BAR & RESTAURANT
We ended our food tour of the Bay area with this place that we had wanted to eat at the very second we arrived three days earlier! It was right next door to the hotel, which made it the perfect choice for this final night of the trip. Mr. X and Our New Best Friend, Gus, had been working for over twelve hours that day, with very limited food, and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, (except for one of those emergency cookies and biscuits I mentioned earlier,) so we were all pretty hungry.
It was your basic bar food, but some of it was really good. Mr. X had taken-out a pizza from there the night before, while I was feasting on a home-cooked meal from the Zarkas.
The guys let me do all the ordering, (duh,) and I did a pretty good job of it. At Mr. X’s suggestion, we had the Margherita Pizza, which was good, (but not as good as he thought it was!) We had a salad that we all loooved. But, unfortunately I can’t tell you the deets because their website is nutso, and doesn’t have any menu items on it! Shame. We remember that it had fruits and nuts in it, though.
Mr. X said I chose too much cheese because, in addition to the pizza, I ordered two cheesy appetizers. After all, I was trying to feed two hungry men! So, we tried the spinach and artichoke dip, (which was the worst one I’ve ever had!,) and baked brie, which came with the same dead bread as the dip. I was expecting a crusty baguette, but what we got was chewy rubber. So, those two dishes were a bust. But we were already full anyway.
And, this place is great to have right next door to the hotel. If ever you stay at the Hotel Carlton, in addition to asking a big, “Why?!,” I recommend getting some of your meals from Fly.
And, Ladies and Gentlemen, that is all she wrote for San Francisco! Or rather, all I did! Hope it was helpful. Or at least, entertaining. Or, best yet, both!