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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Sometimes you gotta leave the city…

And you’ll get a few surprises when you do. My wife and I were trying to figure out what to do last Friday because our daughter was off from school for a furlough day and needed something to get some of the energy out of her.After jokingly saying let’s go to San Jose because I hate when she asks, “What do you want to do” and no matter what I offer she always comes up with something different.

So I waited and she comes in and says what about San Mateo? San Mateo? Why San Mateo? Well it turns out that there’s a huge toy store there called Talbots Toyland that she’s heard a lot about. I figured it’s close enough and I haven’t been outside the city [which means farther south than Serramonte] in quite awhile.

Now I know I’m supposed to be writing about all things San Francisco, but when we got there I saw something I didn’t see in San Francisco, well there were a few things:

  1. It’s clean, almost Singapore-like clean.
  2. No homeless people.
  3. No one has an accent. This is something people who hate the Marina say it’s because they’re “too white” but they aren’t “too white” there were asians, latinos and african americans, just no accents or ebonics.
  4. You can understand people who ask to take your order in a restaurant. See above
  5. Parking Downtown: It’s there and it’s 50¢ per hour!

As we were walking around the downtown area we noticed that there was a Draeger’s market across the street so we decided to take a peek. Not really a cheap grocery store, but the quality of the food was good and they actually had products I had never heard of, like Yunnan Palace Bamboo Rice which is green. They even had an escalator going up to the second floor where they had home and kitchen wares.

As for Talbots Toyland, they had everything. They had a room just for model train people and slot car enthusiasts. I didn’t even know they still made slot cars. They had another room of just dolls and another just for biking supplies. They had a stuffed giraffe toy that was easily 15 ft tall and we were wondering what kind of house you would have to have to have that. Obviously a big one.

There are some downsides though. If you like to drink more than beer and wine you’ll have a problem. There were only two bars we saw downtown [mind you this wasn’t an exhaustive check out, only a couple of hours] and Draeger’s only carries wine and beer. Your selection of foods are a little thin downtown in that there’s four pizza places in one block, Two taquerias in the next and a couple of Chinese and Japanese restaurants in the third. Their traffic signs also could use a bit of work, when we were leaving there was a sign that pointed to us to get over to the left for San Francisco which when we did missed the on ramp to San Francisco because that was on the right. We then proceeded to make a U-turn and what looked like pretty much the only street you COULD make a U-turn on and as we’re driving back the on ramp that pointed to 101 South turned out to be the onramp for 101 North. We still made it home in under 30 minutes.

It was a nice place to visit, but I like the fact that San Francisco keeps you on your toes. Which is probably part of the reason people on the Peninsula don’t like San Francisco. As we were walking down the streets we could have been in Burlingame or Millbrae, everything looked the same. No big chain stores though. I’m sure there’s a few there, there has to be and I didn’t see a single SamTrans bus, but did get shaken as the Cal-Train passed by.

All in all, I think I like San Francisco better, but it’s nice to get away once in awhile.