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Posts Tagged 'ocean'

Stay Away From The Beach…For Now

Great HighwayI wrote about the makeover Great Highway was going to get a few months ago and I’m glad, in a way that it’s finally started. That being said, the beach is not the best place to go right now.

My wife [hear after known as wife because she doesn’t like public attention like I do] and I like to shop at the beach Safeway because it’s bigger and the lines are smaller. We took our once a week trip out there as opposed to our trips to the worst Safeway in San Francisco, but we were in for a rude awakening this day.

Construction workers were everywhere. The road was torn up all over the place and our usual trip of driving out Lincoln Way and making a right had to be re-routed due to the construction. On the upside, there are a lot of construction workers there so that means that the job will usually be quick. The down side is that it’s not a pleasant place to be right now which is a bit of a shame with the warm weather starting to grace our coastline and giving us sunnier days [side note: wife hates sunnier days. I think she was given up for adoption by a young Viking girl because the foggier and more unpleasant it is the happier she is.]

Go to the beach he said. You'll love it he said....

Right now if you need to cross the park down by the beach do it at 45th and Lincoln Way and drive through to 43rd and Fulton. It will be a much easier drive for you than having to go all the way to the end and then having to snake around the west end until you can find the exit at 47th and Fulton.  Just give the workers some time to finish off the job they’ve started and I’m hoping it’ll become a nicer place.

All this being said, I am hoping that this makeover will bring back a little of the beach area we once had. You have to be a very stalwart type of person to love Ocean Beach, but there was no reason for it to be left as a Russian industrial park looking place. I would like to see some food trucks out here on weekends and it would be nice if there was a way to have some craftspeople to set up shop on the large walkway on the sunny days that we do get out here. The first thing that needs to happen is a good marketing game played by the city to make people want to come out here. It’s a great place to relax and watch the surfers if you’re not going to surf yourself.

Katy Tang In The Polarized Sunset

Katy TangDistrict Four has a new Supervisor — Katy Tang and it is my belief that she has a hard road ahead of her. As I’ve been reading the neighborhood newspapers recently I’ve noticed something about the Sunset District that while I’ve known it, I’ve never really thought much about it. It seems like this is something that needs to be talked about.

The Sunset has a very hard delineation between the Chinese populace and the non-Chinese populace [what other people call white, but in reality is just  more homogenized American in that people don’t notice skin color and everyone speaks English.] The cut off lines are 19th Avenue and Sunset Blvd. In between these two streets you will find a large section of the Sunset District that is predominantly Chinese [I would be politically correct and say Asian, but when even the Japanese restaurants are run by Chinese you have to face facts.]

Above and below this are the other people. Yes, there are Chinese that live above and below the section, but they speak Cantonese and Mandarin much less so than in the Central Sunset. There has been a lot in the papers about her being a safe choice to be in charge of the predominantly Chinese neighborhood, but that isn’t really true of the Sunset. The Sunset over all is a place where it is going to be difficult to please everyone. The Central Sunset is very densely packed and Chinese, but there is a large number of non-Chinese who live in the Inner and Outer Sunset. This is something that can’t be ignored.

You’ll notice this the most if you go down to the beach areas around Noriega and Judah. To use the often used misnomer it’s a lot more white [meaning Americanized]. There is a group of people who want to beautify the end of Judah Street to make it an even cooler place to hang out. The people running this group according to the newspaper are two caucasians and two hispanics. You don’t see a single Chinese name included which seemed odd to me. This particular part of the Sunset is beginning to look a lot like Haight Street in that everyone has tattoos and piercings and loves wearing black. When John Avalos was running for Mayor he had a get together at the foot of Noriega and the group of people who showed up were locals of many different colors, but the Chinese contingent was rather slim.

It seems strange that there is such a hard split in the Sunset District and that is something that I believe Katy Tang will have to deal with as Supervisor of District Four. I do think her first move [which is safe, but also necessary] is trying to stop the switchbacks of the N Judah and L Taraval streetcars. I’ve been kind of lucky in that I rarely have to ride them since the 48 Quintara stops near my house, but it seems like whenever I have had to hop on a streetcar out in the Sunset I always have gotten thrown off before I get to my scheduled destination. I know nothing about Katy Tang and I think that will work for her out here as there are no preconceived ideas about who she is or what she should be. I wish her the best of luck and hopefully I’ll see her on the street one day. Oh and last thing Katy, if you get a twitter account be sure to use it to get things done. Carmen Chu would always answer within a couple of days.

Shhhh…A Shopping Secret

La Playa SafewayI was tempted not to share this one because I do like to shop here even though it’s a drive from my house [3 miles isn’t much of a drive for most people outside SF], but I figured that young hipsters who don’t usually have cars and live in the Mission or Haight won’t bother going all the way out to this place. What place am I talking about? The Safeway at the beach. I honestly hate shopping on weekends and the closest Safeway to me is on Noriega and 30th which I hate because it’s always crowded even during the week and in the evening it’s not crowded, but understaffed. The Safeway at the beach isn’t anything like that.

It’s kind of a hidden mystery for many because it’s a large Safeway, one of the largest in the city and they put it out at ocean on top of what used to be Playland at the Beach. Because of the exposure to all the salt air and fog from the ocean the outside looks a little dumpy, but when you go inside it’s a different story. The typical crowd is a bit on the rough side. I don’t mean fights will break out, just that to most people tossing on a t-shirt over your pajamas and grabbing your flip-flops is considered well dressed to shop here. I suppose a small part of this is due to the few homeless people who hang out in front and the large number that live in Golden Gate Park who go there to buy their food and cheap booze. They’re pretty harmless, but to the uninformed they can look a little scary.

The best part is the aisles are large, very large and it tends to be a very well stocked Safeway, but like many others the staff is a little short in the evenings. There is a Wells Fargo branch at this location where you can get all your banking done even on Sundays [side note, if you’re a real San Franciscan you bank at Wells Fargo]. The deli and bakery are sufficient and a little better stocked than many others around town, but for the general groceries you can find stuff here that is hard to find in other places just because they have lots of room and need to fill it. The butchers are one of the few at Safeway’s that you can pull over and have them cut some meat up for you.

When you finish your shopping and go to check out the wait can be stupidly fast on weekends and it’s not unusual to find a few checkers just standing there talking to another checker waiting for someone to show up. When I used to live a bit closer we used to go here all the time, but now on weekends it’s just kind of refreshing to get some morning air and walk around a store where there aren’t thousands of people pushing you all over the place. It’s even better when it’s a sunny morning which contrary to popular belief we do get more frequently than people think.

Great Highway Finally Gets A Makeover

Great HighwayWell, I wasn’t the first to this story, so I’ll give credit where credit is due to my friends at Ocean Beach Bulletin.  Our beach is different than most other beaches. Just about anywhere else beach front property is expensive and in high demand. In San Francisco, it’s the place where they put a lot of low income Section 8 housing.

You have to be born and raised here to find anything fun at Ocean Beach except on the few warm days we get out there when the beach is packed. It can be so nasty out there some days that I’d have to say it’s worse than Coney Island in December. It was so disliked at one point in 1980 that a group of condos were built on the remains of Playland at the Beach and nobody wanted them. I could see the value in the future and when they’re were trying to dump a four bedroom condo with an HOA of $25/month on people for $13k I wanted to use an early inheritance from an Aunt to purchase one. While my parents didn’t like the idea, they would now if they saw that they are selling for over $500k.

The Great Highway itself is kind of a mess. I’ve written letter upon letter that they need to do something out there. When I used to live closer to the beach and had to cross over from the Sunset to Richmond to do my grocery shopping I’m sure that’s part of the reason my car’s wheels needed re-alignment every six months. The asphalt was garbage and there were potholes everywhere. With the passing of Playland at the Beach there was only the Beach Chalet and Safeway to go for shopping out there.

I’ve been using social media to try and get some food trucks out there on nice days. They wouldn’t really compete with the Beach Chalet and give visitors more choices. They could use a little something more out there to bring people out to the beach, but you also need nice roads with median lines you can actually see.

The part of the Great Highway that runs from Lincoln Blvd to Sloat also needs work especially to keep some of the sand off the road which closes it down frequently. I read that they’re planting a new median, but some more ice plant on the ocean side might help a bit as well. Work begins this week so keep an eye out if you drive around that area.

While I can’t take credit for it at least they’ll finally be doing something to get the place to look nicer. The redo will run from the Point Lobos parking lot where the Lands End Lookout is to Sloat Blvd and Great Highway. I’d really like to see some more added to the beach area to bring people out there. Now that we’re having climate change around the world we’re having less nasty days and more nice days, but the wind on the beach is still a bitch.

Lands End Lookout

The northern end of the beach used to be the go to place for fun. You had Playland, the Cliffhouse, an Oriental Tea Garden [which the owners later moved to Golden Gate Park for the 1894 midwinter exposition] and Sutro Baths. All except the Cliffhouse are gone now and when the Cliffhouse was remodeled the visitor’s center down below it left for good. Luckily though the new Lands End Lookout has done a very good job of taking it’s place.

Expect to see a lot of things for sale there. They do need to make money to keep the doors open for free, but all the proceeds go towards the park service which is a good thing. The best part is that they stuff they have to sell is stuff you actually would want to buy. I thought the reproduction signs from the old Sutro Baths were pretty cool and if I had extra money laying around I would have bought one. There are also products that focus on the area such as locally produced foods and by locally I mean really locally. Many of the books and DVD’s that they have to sell will give you some good insight into the history of the area. I was always bothered by the fact that I was born just a little to late to ever see the Sutro Baths, but the other part of the  Lands End Lookout is a museum. A small museum, but a very well done small museum. They have twin screens with a slideshow on the left of Sutro Park, the Bath’s and Playland and on the right is short footage of activities from around that area. From the hour I stayed there I saw that most of it seemed to be about the Sutro Baths.

They also have extensive information about the Ramaytush tribe of the Ohlone Indians who lived in and around the area. It’s really quite fascinating to see how a windy, foggy, rainy, but occasionally sunny place could be so loved by these people who called it home because of the easy amount of food and water and shelter they could find there. There are also stations in the room covering Sutro Baths, Playland as well as Adolph Sutro and his Mansion in Sutro Park just up the hill.

If you’re in need of a little refreshment there is a cafe next door which made me smile when they had a prominent sign that proclaimed Playland at the Beach It’s-Its. They also offer another San Francisco staple, the bay shrimp cocktail. They also offer a number of soups and sandwiches as well all from local produce and livestock. Don’t worry, my vegan friends, they’ve got a few things for you as well. I’d have to price the food on the inexpensive side, but for me I still think a coke and a hot-dog should run you $2.50 tops.

From the outside the architecture is modern, but with a very Sam Francisco Ocean Beach feel to it. They’ve planted native grasses all around which obviously need some time to get settled and grow up a bit and of course, except to find some sand blowing around. After all you are right up from the beach. On a side note the parking lot for the Lands End Lookout was formerly used for many years on the weekends by teenagers to come and watch the submarine races and if you don’t know what that really means then you aren’t from around these parts.

This is a great place to visit and I enjoyed it so much that I made a little gallery of all the pictures I took so you can see more about it. Now I’d like to see more places move into the area to give more people a reason to go there.

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Surfrider Foundation Celebrates Earth Day!

I’m about to head down to the foot of Taraval street to attend the Surfrider Party sponsored by the RipTide. It sounds like a good time to be had and I’m glad my friends over at Ocean Beach Bulletin for letting me know about it. I’ll be taking lots of pictures and will have a story up about what was going on tomorrow. The Taraval party is from noon – 6pm. The block party will have food trucks Cheese Gone Wild, Seoul on Wheels and Doughnut Dolly, beer from Trumer Pils, and children’s activities, with music by local legends The Mermen. A raffle will offer a surfboard, a bicycle and other prizes. Proceeds will benefit the Surfrider Foundation.

If you go look for me. I’ll have my Baghdad by the Bay ID prominently in place and will be handing out cards and talking to people and being a general nuisance.

Beach Chalet: Great Views & Food

The Beach Chalet occupies the top floor of the old Golden Gate Park Visitor’s center with stunning views of the ocean, great food and a microbrewery that in addition to making beer also makes a great root beer [more on that later]. I’m not sure when the actual building was constructed, but I do know that they artwork downstairs was done as part of the WPA project in the 1930’s by artist Lucien Labaudt. It spent most of its years a vacant empty shell during my youth until Gar and Lara Trupelli and Timon Malloy bought it and started to restore it sometime in the early 80’s.

The place is filled with that “outside lands” vibe that I always talk about. It’s a great place to kick back and relax while enjoying some great food. When the weather’s good I usually like to skip the Beach Chalet and go around back to the Park Chalet. Same general food, but to replace the view of the sea you get a very open area where the windows that also serve as walls can be turned and moved to open up the space to the well kept up garden area where you’ll usually find a few kids running around on the weekends.

Now let’s talk about the food. The prices are in the $10-$32 range for main courses and the variance depends on what time of day you go and of course, what you get. I think the prices are pretty reasonable considering what you get. They have a range of dishes covering the beef, pork, chicken and fish departments and each one has a favorite for me. THey also have a Prime Rib Monday special that while I haven’t tried that yet, I think I’m going to have to.

For beef I have to go with the flat iron steak & frites. I’ve learned to love flat iron steak ever since Chef Bruce Hill [Zero Zero] introduced it to me at a restaurant he previously worked. It’s got a meaty flavor, but is also very tender served with a caramelized onion sauce and the frites are crispy to perfection.

For pork I have to go with their Carolina style pulled pork sandwich. I’m a sucker for pork and this is a juicy sandwich to bite into. You get a really good taste, but not overpowering flavor of the Carolina style sauce in the meat and the fried onion strings [always a favorite with me] are just icing on the cake.

Chicken is tough with me as it is in most restaurants, but they put it to good use in the west coast carbonara. The fettucine, chicken, english peas, bacon, thyme and shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese all blend well with the sauce to create a dish that won’t leave you feeling weighed down when you finish like some pasta dishes can.

For the fish I have to go with an old standby because they do it so well and that’s their V.F.W. beer battered fish and chips. The flavor is intense, but not fishy nor overly greasy.

Now one thing you always have to remember when you come here is that it’s a micro brewery so you have to try the beer. They have five regulars on tap, V.F.W. Light, Presidio IPA, Riptide Red, Fleishacker Stout  & Dee’s Bitter Ale. They also have specials that pop up like their Ocean Beach Oktoberfest beer and I honestly can’t pick a favorite. They’re all good and there’s something for every beer drinker there. They offer a circle of ales where you get a small glass of each of the beers to try and compare.

Now about the root beer. Funhouse Root beer is unlike any root beer you’ll ever taste. I tell everyone who goes there that they have to try the root beer and they all say the same thing, Damn, that’s good root beer! It is and brewmaster Aron Deorsey hit the nail on the head with this one. It’s got a bit of a thicker and heavier taste than most store bought root beers and the flavor will stay with you after you’ve finished it. Best not to switch over to beer afterwards unless you like your beer tasting sweet. I wish they did sell it in stores, but unfortunately they don’t. They did used to sell what they called a growler that was basically a gallon jug they’d fill up with whatever beer or root beer you wanted and you could take it home with you. It really is that good. TRY THE ROOT BEER!

Tuesday’s and Fridays they have live music and there’s always the 3-6pm and 9pm-closing happy hours with $3, $6 & $9 drinks and appetizers Monday through Friday. Since it looks like we’ll be having some nice weather for a bit I suggest you head down to the beach and check out both the Beach and Park Chalets.

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