Just a quick message to let you all know if you’re looking for something to do today that Sunset Elementary will be holding their Sunset Spring Festival at 40th and Ortega. Doors open at noon and there will be lots of games, things to see, people to meet and of course food.
I’m about to head out the door to run down and prep the corn dogs to sell and there will also be Vietnamese food and iced coffee available as well as lots of other things. Note to foodies my famous cinnamon buns will be on sale to help out the PTA. Be sure to bring the kids.
Yet another place that has gone away. I call it a place more than a restaurant because my Mother and Father used to talk about it all the time as a place you didn’t just go to eat, but you went to experience. There used to be more restaurants like that in San Francisco, but many of them have gone aways now.
Omar Khayyam’s was started by Armenian George Mardikian in 1947 in San Francisco [after he opened a restaurant of the same name in Fresno, CA]. While it was billed as an Armenian restaurant it really had a couple of Armenian dishes with Middle eastern and African mixed in after they were adapted for the American palate. When it opened there was a decent sized minority of Armenians in San Francisco, but the food was still pretty foreign to most people even in San Francisco at the time. You have to remember that back then spaghetti was considered ethnic food.
You can see on the menu I was able to find that there really wasn’t much special by today’s standards, but at the time George Mardikian was a restauranteur which for the time meant he wasn’t just a chef, but a showman as well. Mardikian started as a freedom fighter back when Armenia was having problems with the Ottoman Empire in 1903. His surname was that of the warriors being that Mardik meant warrior in Armenian. He work eventually led him to leave Armenia and come to the US around 1922. He went through Ellis Island and started life in the US in New York before moving west and ending up eventually in San Francisco.
He was very influential here and when he opened Omar Khayyam’s downstairs at the corner of O’Farrell and Powell there were pictures of him circulating around that showed him breaking bread with Dwight D. Eisenhower and Eleanor Roosevelt alone with other notables in local politics. As you walked down the stairs upon entering you would be met by the Rubiyat Lounge with it’s velvet tablecloths. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have to clean those if you think about it.
Mr. Mardikian also served as a food consultant to the U.S. Army which if you think about someone who served ethnic food to the public being hired to construct food for our armed forces then it must have been pretty good food. He introduced the public to flatbread, probably a form of pita that would last longer than your average loaf and still be tasty so I could see why he was asked for advice.
From the day it opened until it eventually burned down in the 80’s Omar Khayyam’s was a well known restaurant. It was the type of place that it didn’t matter if you could pay the bill, you still had to put a suit on to eat there. While I won’t get into that argument here there was a time when having to get dressed up for dinner was a part of the whole ritual of going out to eat.
I went to a mixer last night which is sort of like an all you can eat buffet for techies and in talking with a few people I started to understand how people with a tech background survive in the City.
First off you have to get invited to lots of mixers or meet ups. They’re free, offer food and lots of free booze. They run from 4pm to around midnight depending upon the day of the week. The food and booze is sponsored by large tech companies or at least partially underwritten to make it less expensive to the attendees. So let’s see what I got last night.
I walked in and was handed two free drink tickets. These were pretty much good for anything from a coke to a long island ice tea. I’ve just saved potentially $20. After walking in the door and before I could get a drink the food servers got me. I was offered [not in order of appearance] crab cakes, mushroom duxelles on toast, smoked salmon on toast, kobe beef styled sliders with grilled onions, grilled polenta dusted with parmesan, sweet potato fries with a habanero aioli to name what I can remember. I stayed a little over an hour and I have to say I left overly stuffed. When I got home I could barely keep my eyes open from the food coma I was in and had one of the best nights sleep I’ve had in a long time. Getting seconds and thirds of the food wasn’t uncalled for, but expected that evening and I probably got an extra 2000 calories to add to my diet that day. Total cost for the evening? $2 muni fare round trip because I was able to transfer back home in under the hour and a half time frame.
As I was walking down Montgomery street to the location I noticed something about downtown that I hadn’t in awhile because I don’t go there very often. Most of the people were in a severely dressed down state. I could count the number of button down shirts on one had and most of those were worn by the doormen at the various clubs along the way. Most of the people looked like they bought their clothes at a Goodwill and aimed for the lower end stuff. Passing by 111 Minna there were an large number of hipsters all with bike messenger bags yet there wasn’t a single bike to be found. 111 Minna has a low entry fee and cheap beer so if you’ve got a few extra bucks it’s a good place to end an evening or start one if you’re not hungry.
Now let’s relate this to the techy life. San Francisco we all know is an expensive town to live in. If you work here it’s almost as if no matter how much they pay you, it’s never enough. The ways you make ends meet is by attending the meet ups and mixers. They have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner so if you swing it right you never need to have food in your house. You can supplement those with the perks your business offers you such as chips and cookies before you run home to your your apartment that other people would call a closet. While I’m not as into the tech field as many other people I could still eat out on someone else’s dime for about three nights a week.
To get the techy look you have to buy used clothing or just have not bought clothes since Web 1.0. You very rarely need a button down shirt so you only need to own one that you can keep in your closet and pull it out once a year when you have to dress up or attend a funeral. The bike messenger bag is for carrying all your laptop/tablet and to stuff swag that you get at the meet ups, or stuff food into for a late night snack.
I never had to live this lifestyle since before I got my house the rent was way cheaper and I wasn’t spending upwards of $40k/year just on rent. While I can’t fully relate to it, I do have to say that I admire the way they get by. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go pull the kobe beef sliders and smoked salmon out of my jacket from last night.
Since the Super Bowl is tomorrow it’s all about the food you serve along side the game that makes it a winner or not. I could tell that today when my wife and I went to the store and everyone was there stocking up on chicken, brats, steak you name it. The problem is that with all this protein people will be sucking down tomorrow they need a little something to balance it out it with and that’s where I come in.
My Mom discovered the recipe for Chili Con Queso a little late. Back then microwaves were for heating up food not really cooking it so she would prep this one on the stove. Microwaves are easier now and just about everybody has one so here’s the recipe:
1 lb. (16 oz.) VELVEETA®, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 can (10 oz.) RO*TEL Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained
Chop the velveeta® into chunks and toss everything into a large microwaveable bowl and nuke it on high for 2:30 stir and nuke it again for 2:30. Serve with tortilla chips, chunks of bread, pretty much whatever you have around the house. I have friends who say they can’t cook and the only way to prove that to me is if you can’t make this recipe.
Since this is the Super Bowl you’re not supposed to ask whether or not it’s low salt, vegetarian, organic, healthy. Most Super Bowl snack foods aren’t healthy for you and that’s why I think it only happens once a year. I’m on the verge of calling this vegan because there’s no way anything living [except the tomato and chilies] could have ever come from a living thing. If you don’t go over board and down a couple of cups of the dip your salt and saturated fat shouldn’t put you over the deep like a brat would.
Note to all: This is old school and there is no artisanal, gourmet or other brand marketing in it. Hipster’s need not make unless they’re hosting a retro party.
This is probably one of the simplest dishes to make to go along with all the other garbage you’ll be eating tomorrow and it’s not quite as deadly as some people would think. My friends who are vegetarians and not vegans love this, but they wouldn’t ever admit to eating Velveeta®. Just as a side note, the original recipe called for a can of chili without beans and that definitely had a meatier punch to it. If you go this route I’d start slowly with the chili until you get it at the right consistency for you. Leaner chili would be good since you don’t want grease from the chili having an orgy with the oil in the Velveeta®.
I was talking with a friend the other day about silly jobs we’ve worked. Most of my jobs have been fairly normal and anything odd never lasted more than a week [setting up the audio for a gay new year’s party was interesting, but having to move out the day after wasn’t]. I had to think hard on this one and then I remembered back when I was nine years old. That was what I would consider my first job.
I was in elementary school [Lawton Elementary to be specific] and it was the year that busing started. There was lots of turmoil going around most of it in class or on the school yard and I was this nice clean cut white boy who just should have had a kick me sign glued to my back. My mother was even told by the Principal that the reason I was getting into so many fights was because she dressed me too nice for school. I didn’t like school back then because in a couple of years I would be working out organic chemistry at classes I took at the Academy of Sciences that I learned more from than the prune faced teachers of yesteryear that would just scowl at you and put on the TV so we could watch an episode of Sesame Street or Electric Company while they went to the “conference room” to suck down have a pack of cigarettes.
I needed a way out and a friend of mine Cornell told me there was an opening for a dishwasher in the Cafeteria. Cornell and I because friends because I think I told him he was cheating at four square which I didn’t realize was a challenge or slang for, terribly sorry, but would you possibly mind kicking my clean cut white boy posterior? Afterwards we became friends and he let me in on the little secret.
When you worked in the Cafeteria you got to leave class before lunch. Lunch was split into two sections where the first group would be eating then go out to play and they’d shuffle the second group in. We got our lunch for free and there was almost two hours out of my school day I only had to deal with Mrs. Dixon who scowled at everyone except us, Cornell and one other person who I can’t remember his name. For getting the trays and washing them [I had the dryer detail putting the trays into and pulling them out of the dryer and stacking them] we were paid 25¢ a week plus the free lunch. I’m sure we could have asked for more, but six nine year olds going on strike doesn’t exactly make anyone suffer. In some ways I felt a bit like Oliver from Oliver Twist, without all the filth and suffering.
These were the days when your parents would scare you with threats that if you didn’t do better in school they’d expel you and no other school would take you and you would wind up broke and on the streets. Well at least that’s what my Mom would tell me. Being broke and on the streets would have been tough for a nine year old so I worked at school which wasn’t much of an effort and if I did wind up on the streets I could at least be a dishwasher.
What I remember the most was Mrs. Dixon [who I just can’t imagine what Mr. Dixon looked like if he did exist] would reward us at the end of the month if we did a good job with an ice cream bar. I never understood why she had them since none of the other kids got ice cream [note bragging sound in my voice]. It wasn’t really that much and I could probably go home after school and at least three days out of the week I could grab an ice cream bar out of my own freezer, but I guess because I had to work for it made the difference. Cornell always used to work hard because once a month was about the only time he would get ice cream and he’d run out the door showing that ice cream bar to everyone in the school yard. The quarter didn’t mean much when you got ice cream at the end of the month.
San Francisco has been over run with food truck culture just like many other cities. This time the food trucks are different than they used to be. When I was younger [not a kid, but this lasted into my early thirties] there weren’t really any food trucks other than the taco trucks you would see usually of the El Tonayense variety. These early food trucks were real working man’s kind of places to grab a bite to eat. Now the food trucks have slicked themselves up to cater to the foodistas around San Francisco.
The taco trucks were great when you were on a budget because I could get a burrito I could never finish and a coke for about $4.50. Now the food trucks are pushing up their prices selling gourmet, artisanal and organic foods to the foodistas who have lots of extra cash and in many cases don’t realize that they’re eating the food that the working middle class eats for around four times the price.
I have seen the trucks all over the city and I find it hard to pay $6-$8 for some variation of a grilled cheese sandwich plus the soda is separate from that price. My wife and I were watching The Great Food Truck Race where one truck was selling their hamburgers for $10 and lost due to lack of income and afterwards they were talking that they could have stayed in the game if they charged $12 per burger. I don’t know about you, but I can grill up a might fine hamburger at home with a side of fries and a coke for about $2. I also know of many foodista sit down places where for my $12 I get to have a seat at a nice table and I get the fries and coke for my $12.
I have this little hand gesture I make where I hold my hands flat in front of me to represent the amount I’d have to pay to purchase what they’re selling at cheaper price. Let’s say I pay $10 for lunch for two at In-N-Out burger. Now if I go to a food truck the same thing would cost me closer to $30, so I raise one hand up to show the price difference and ask, for 3x the price is it 3x as good? Honestly, I can’t and don’t think many people can taste organic, artisanal or gourmet in most cases. I can taste a well made hamburger, but gourmet and artisanal are words that are just used for packaging in my mind. I hand made some silver dollar pancakes for my daughter because I thought it was cheaper than buying the pre-made ones for her. Mine ended up being tossed aside for the mass produced perfectly round pancakes. Oh well, at least I and my friends and family know I’m a good cook.
I understand the whole idea of the experience of eating at a food truck gathering. Off the Grid is a great example of pulling in people who have a large choice of food to choose from. It strikes me though as kind of like a food court that’s outdoors though. I’ve eaten food from several of the food trucks, but while they were good in most cases I’ve been able to get just as good from other places that are cheaper where I can sit down inside.
I don’t think San Francisco is the best place for food trucks because we don’t have the weather to support them every day unlike say, San Diego where the weather forecast is always, nice. We’re an expensive city to live in and the costs get passed on to the people. If anyone disagrees with me please post a comment because I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong. I’d like to see what I’m missing here. Please note that I haven’t mentioned anyone by name as I don’t want to upset any of the food truck owners, yet I do find it interesting that when I visit their websites they never list prices. Most restaurants do list prices and I just think the old rule of, if you have to ask the price you can’t afford it shouldn’t apply to a truck were I have to sit outside in a windy area to eat my food that’s gotten cold half way through it.
My wife and I took a trip past a farmer’s market yesterday and as we walked around we began to notice something that I remarked to her about. When I was a kid my parents used to go to the farmer’s market out on Alemany Blvd every few months. My Mom was into pickling and she could buy large flats of cucumbers and wax peppers to pickle and can up because they were cheaper. What we found yesterday wasn’t exactly the case.
Today there’s more than produce at farmer’s markets which makes them kind of more interesting to visit. While it used to be though that you would go to farmer’s markets to get things you couldn’t find anywhere else and to get them cheaper this isn’t really the case today.
Many of the non-produce packaged foods can be found in local upscale grocery stores usually at less price than at a farmer’s market because they just have to deliver the product and not stand around all day to hock their product. With the produce, I’ve seen the same trucks that work the markets at our local produce markets unloading larger amounts than they bring to the farmer’s markets and they are the same quality and cheaper.
So I thought for a second about why would you go to an outdoor market to buy your vegetables and other items when you could get them any day of the week for less at a produce market? I have yet to figure that out. I think it’s nice that there are a few food trucks there because they’re something different, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $20+ to feed my family when there are local restaurants that I can get it cheaper.
While I find them fun to walk around and see what’s available I usually don’t drop more than about $5 and that’s usually at one of the booths set up by a bakery. Frequently we’ve found that the produce we’ve purchased at a market doesn’t last more than a few days and you can never tell if the same business will be there next week.
So if you enjoy purchasing at farmer’s markets please comment and tell me why because I’d like to know.
As I was spending my day surfing the web I came across a few articles about people who’ve moved to San Francisco like this one. My suggestion is don’t move here. Most of the people who were complaining about San Francisco have lived here for 3-5 years at the most, tend to be hipsters from the Mission, and shop at Whole Foods. They don’t understand that there’s more to San Francisco and I’m going to tell you some of the only reasons you should move here.
First, you’ve got an Aunt Gladys who bought her house in the pre-Prop 13 days and stayed there. Then she died and left you the house. Depending on the size of the house you’ll get stuck with paying between $800-$1500 a year in property taxes and the bit of house upkeep. Having a house handed you means that you have the equivalent of $42k/year income a year since you don’t have to pay rent. If you’re rich buy away. Once your house is paid off you’ll be paying per year less than what you’d pay per month to rent. I have a friend who bought a two bedroom house about 10 years ago and his mortgage is less than what he could get for renting the place plus it has a built in bar.
Second, if you choose to rent and now isn’t the best time you pretty much missed the boat by about 15-20 years. If you do decide to rent try to stay there. We’ve got a thing people refer to as rent control. My wife and I rented a two bedroom house 10 years ago that we payed $1200/month. Mind you we moved in there in 1997 before the dot com 1.0 pushed rental prices up to a ridiculous rate. If we stayed there we might be paying $1500/month…for a two bedroom house. When I first moved out to the Mission and that was around 1991 I split a two bedroom house with a full living room, full dining room, big kitchen, two huge bedrooms and a sun room for $400/month and that was my share. Our rent never went up while we stayed there and any fix ups the house needed we got to take off the rent.
Other than that, don’t move here. Rents are high and some of the employers are paying stupidly low wages. People who work in grocery stores and the like are here because they live with there parents, inherited their house from their parents or are section 8 disabled. Seeing guys in their 50’s who live with their aging Mom or Dad isn’t something to look down on here because they’re able to live here and go out to dinner at a nice restaurant every once in awhile while working for $17/hour. If you don’t already own and have your house paid off you need to earn about $35-$50 an hour to live like you would in other parts of the country. I don’t understand why some people move here and work long hours and then go shopping on the weekends for prepared foods because they don’t have time to cook or they go out to eat for half the week at an overpriced eatery when they could make enough food on the weekends at home for the whole week if they just made the effort, but that’s not my place to judge. I did used to shake my head when I worked with a girl who made $14/hour, lived in the upper haight with several roommates and would go to Whole Foods to buy her lunch. I would go around the corner for a $2 taco and bring a soda from home if I hadn’t brought my lunch and this was last year.
If you move here you don’t know the City well enough before you move here and don’t understand things like you can get the best and cheapest burrito outside of the mission because there aren’t those kind of hipsters where this place is located. You can get good food cheap if you know where to look [hint alley ways], but you’ll only know that once you’ve moved here and been around the City for about six months.
PBR is not what cheap San Franciscan’s drink. It’s Budweiser. PBR also tells everyone you’re a broke hipster and you’ve just labeled yourself even if you weren’t trying. While there aren’t that many born and raise in SF people left they’re the ones with the money in this city. Face it, until you’ve got 30 years under your belt here you’re going to have a rough time of it.
By all means though, come and visit us. We have a lot to offer. Great parks and museums and as others have noted great food. Affordable housing just isn’t one of those things.
For me I grew up with the tradition of ham on Christmas Eve and Turkey Christmas Day. I ate it, but luckily I discovered my parents were putting the presents under the tree at an early age so we switched to turkey on Christmas Eve and leftovers Christmas Day. I was never very fond of turkey so after my Dad and Grandmother died I switched us over to prime rib. I mean it’s prime rib and 2-3 bones worth would feed us for a few days.
This year was different. We had decided after last Christmas that we’d do things quasi-Jewish style. Prime rib on Christmas Eve and Chinese food on Christmas Day. This came from the fact that Jews only had Chinese restaurants to go out to on Christmas Day for dinner instead of other restaurants. Why they just didn’t stay home and cook something was beyond me.
We had a couple of friends come over Christmas Eve during the day and when they left my wife informed me that she hadn’t taken out any food for dinner. So what were we going to do? Chinese food? The Pizza Place? El Burrito Express was probably closed to give the girls a day off so they could spend all day sitting at home cooking and not getting paid. My wife came up with In-n-Out Burger. At first I was a bit horrified. Burgers on Christmas Eve?!?!? There was something in that made that feel wrong, but we went.
I have to say for under $9 two burger, fries [make sure you ask for them well-done] and a coke wasn’t a bad idea. Now for me being on a low salt diet at first I thought it would kill be, but then I thought about how much salt I had that day and figured I could get below the 2000mg [1500mg was my total for the day]. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who thought of this as there were several people there. Not as many as usual, but still other people thought of it. The fact that it was the first hamburger I had in over a month made it taste even better. It actually was worth it, but I’m not sure if I’ll do it again.
Christmas Day we had a NY Strip Roast that I had never done before, but considering it’s a bunch of New York steaks all together in a roast made the idea even better. ours was 5.26 lbs which means we’ll be eating beef for the rest of the week. We would have gotten prime rib, but the cost was too much. This was boneless so it made it even easier to cut. I made the gravy and pulled out our gravy boat and made sure it was boiling hot because my wife like all her food to leave blisters in her mouth.
Christmas Day made me happy at least except half way through I forgot that I usually make some Yorkshire pudding to go with the roast. It didn’t really matter to me and I can whip some up for tomorrow. We both were satisfied by this as she got her burger and I got my roast. To top it all off we had all the dishes done afterwards so we didn’t have any clean up in the morning like we usually do.
It was a good Christmas for us even if it included burgers.
Of all the places in San Francisco, as I was driving back from downtown I saw Tommy’s Joynt and when I got home I couldn’t believe in my six plus years of writing this blog I had never written about the home of the meat lover’s Tommy’s Joynt. If you’re even the least bit hungry this is the place to go. It’s got the old San Francisco feel and your plate will be filled and I dare you to finish it all.
I took a few friends from out of town [about 30 actually] once because it was across the street from the hotel they were staying at. A few got confused by the soup nazi attitude, because you have to know what you want when the guy asks you what you want or else you’re in for it. I’ve tried lots of things there [brisket is always great], but I keep coming back to the Buffalo stew because where else are you going to find Buffalo stew for $10.95. I’ve also gotten the $8.95 Buffalo stew sandwich which is for when I just need a little snack [which if you’ve eaten there you know is a joke]. You order your food, grab your silverware yourself and then find a table amongst the three floors going back up the hill.
As you walk up the first set of stairs you’ll see a tub of pickles that says, Help yourself to pickles, but please take only as many as you can eat. All that food and free pickles? You get to see a host of crusty old native San Franciscans there and the occasional person who falls off their bar stool. Incidentally they stock over 100 draft beers in stock and supposedly have a full bar, but for some reason I suspect that if you asked for a cosmopolitan you’d get a knife thrown at you or just thrown out of the place. This is probably part of the reason I’ve never seen cops eat here as they’d end up having to work instead of eat.
If you like turkey and order it as a platter you get the equivalent of a Thanksgiving day meal. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing. If you ask for a side of green beans you’ll usually get a WHAT?! from the carver and you repeat it and he yells side of green beans. This is not a place for vegetable lovers. Probably one of the reasons Metallica loved to hang at Tommy’s Joynt. Just a little side note, Metallica has a rider on their contract that bacon must be available at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Now that is a bunch of meat lovers.
Tommy’s Joynt offers sandwiches, platters, stews and of course their special of the day. Someone like Gordon Ramsey would probably say they had too many items on the menu after which he’s get gob smacked by one of the owners. They do offer salads, but only one is a mixed vegetable. The rest or stuff like potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw and then some other vegetable mixes I never thought of. They also offer desserts such as apple pie, carrot, cheese and chocolate cake so even with the desserts they’re staying very old school. I always like to go as far back as I can when I visit just because it’s quieter and you have less chance of someone falling off a barstool and hitting you.
Tommy’s Joynt is a place where you will eat like a king on a pauper’s budget and I hope that it never goes away because it’s a part of San Francisco that defines the way San Francisco really is, not some half caf soy frappucino place that’s opening up on every corner or some luxury cupcake shop where you pay $5 for a cupcake that, well tastes like a cupcake you would make at home. Tommy’s Joynt has that old San Francisco soul to it and we need to keep these places around..