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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

Rather than Panama City Beach, Cancun, South Padre Island, Vegas or any of the popular destinations, I chose the city by the bay as the venue for the last spring break of my 11 year pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Despite the weather (the heavens opened up for the better part of my week in SF), I had a great time in one of my favorite cities in the world. I had hoped to spend a few days in Napa, tour some wineries and dine at TFL. The Laundry would not accommodate a solo diner and the weather was not so good, so I put Napa off for a future visit.
In just 7 days in the city, I went to the Ferry Building 3 times, including the Saturday Farmers’ Market. The Ferry Building is Mecca for any lover of food. The first thing I had to eat on the trip was a porchetta sandwich (with extra crackling!) from RoliRoti, a food truck that parks in front of the building a few days a week. I then went to Boccalone and had a meat cone for dessert. Before leaving I returned to this cured meat paradise and stocked up on nduja, lardo, and a few salumis to take home. There are also stores specializing in cheese, mushrooms, seafood, pork, gourmet donuts, and several other things that I love. In hindsight, I’m regretting only going to the Ferry Building three times.
Like any other trip, I did some thorough research for my meals. I search blogs, yelp, get creative with google and talk to friends that live or have visited where I’m going. Friend and blogger extraordinaire Ono Kine Grindz provided me with some great recommendations once again. My splurge meals were at Commonwealth, Sons and Daughters, and Flour + Water. The first two places were incredible and F+W was a letdown, but not bad. There was a 2 hour wait and the food was very solid, but nothing special. A friend from my Army days, Josh, lives in SF and tends bar at a place on Haight called Hobson’s Choice. I went to visit him at work a couple times and he got me very inebriated. HC specializes in rums and was a really cool bar in a really cool area. We went to a steakhouse for dinner after one of his shifts and had a standard,very good steakhouse experience. It was his pick of restaurant and I avoid steakhouses when traveling because they tend to be the same everywhere. The food was well executed and the company was great. It would not be a San Francisco experience without trying cioppino and the place to go for it is Sotto Mare. I nearly took down a double order by myself and it was beyond good.
I did some non-food related things in the city as well. During a rare window of clear weather, I went to Alcatraz. It was really cool and not at all what I expected. The views were amazing and they have a really nice garden and bird sanctuary. The whole prison thing was interesting too, but I thought “the rock” was more of a place of beauty rather than misery.
On the other sunny day I was in SF, I went to Golden Gate Park. The park is HUGE and I didn’t manage to cover the entire thing, but really enjoyed what I did see. The Japanese Tea Garden was very Japanese and very nice. The Botanical Gardens had plants from all over the world and I really enjoyed my stroll through the grounds. All of the walking made me hungry and I stopped for a ceviche sampler and some cava at Pasion. The chef/owner, son of the owners of the well known Fresca restaurants, was working lunch on a Monday (crazy, right?) and showed me how they make the ceviche to order. It was really, really good and a perfect refreshing snack after a morning of sightseeing.
I spent one of the rainy days in the MOMA. I’m not the most refined art fan and tend to prefer classical stuff over abstract/obscure, but had a good time at the museum. They had a wine exhibition and a sex exhibition going on and I am a big fan of both. There were some things I enjoyed and others, like stacks of newspapers or urinals being passed off as art, that I failed to appreciate the artistic merit of. The museum was perfect for a rainy day and I got to enjoy a Blue Bottle Coffee at the cafe.
My final cultural stop in SF was Haight Ashbury. Decades ago the area transitioned from the birthplace of the hippie movement to a commercialized tourist trap, but it’s still a really cool place to visit. There are countless quirky little shops, many of which don’t sell bongs or t-shirts. I went into the enormous, and enormously cool, Amoeba Records. It would not be a trip to Haight without checking out Hippie Hill. The view from the top was beautiful and the smell was fantastic.
SF is not a cheap place to visit and with my focus on food, I stayed at a hostel to help with my budget. USA Hostels San Francisco was clean, nice, and reminiscent of staying at hostels in Europe.
Despite very moist weather and not being able to make it to TFL, this was a great little vacation. San Francisco is a city like no other in the US. People there take pride in what they do and you can see this attitude in everyone from newspaper salespeople to chefs. The cocktail/mixology scene is on par with the food scene. I was blown away by the creativity and taste of the drinks in SF. This was not my first trip to San Francisco and it definitely won’t be my last. If you haven’t been, go!

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