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.
I know I hate using the word Frisco for San Francisco, but I was trying to do a riff on the old Debbie Does Dallas, so I thought I’d give it a go. Anthony Bourdain’s the Layover aired last night and was about San Francisco. He used to hate us and thought we were obnoxiously smug twits. Well, he came by and saw us once and changed his mind. This time I have to say he did San Francisco proud.
While he hit almost every neighborhood of San Francisco, he did leave out the Sunset District, but I’ll let him slide on that one because he did a good job by staying away from the trendy places and focusing on more middle class fare this time. Swan Oyster Depot was probably the most expensive place he ate at, but he also tried one of the Mission District’s bacon wrapped hot dogs that they sell on the streets.
The only touristy thing he did was ride a cable car, but at least in doing that he understood how cool the cable cars are. The funniest was him telling us how cool they are a phony cable car with wheels drove past him in the background.
Bars, Bars, Bars. I think Tony was drunk about four hours after landing. After the hitting the Swan Oyster Depot it was onto the bars and the Tonga Room was a spot where he seriously got his drink on. He hit a bar in the Haight and Li Po’s in Chinatown where I’m surprised he didn’t sample the Uhn Kapay [I have no idea how that’s really spelled, but I have received a bottle for my birthday a few years ago and it’s something only for serious drinkers].
I think the best part of the show was when they interviewed locals who gave very good descriptions of what life in SF is like. Wear layers, expect overlaps in cultural cuisine, etc. I do wish he had made a trip out to the Sunset because we have some excellent places to eat. If he did I only wish that Pacific Sunset was still in business on Judah Street because what would he love more than to meet Klaus Loos who was the Executive Chef at Maxim’s in Paris and one day said, f*ck it I’m out of here to open a small restaurant in SF. He made some awesome food by the way and if you never got to eat there before they closed in the 90’s you really missed out.
Tony, hats off to you. You did a great job in San Francisco even though you ignored the Sunset District. I hope you survived your hangover and I think you should have gone to Trader Sam’s in the Richmond over the Tonga Room [which technically, the Tonga Room is a tourist attraction].
I read an article today that has been on my mind for a long time. Every since the Food Network came to the Bay Area we have yet to see one of the star chef’s open up a restaurant here. Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Anthony Bourdain [who dislikes San Francisco because of Alice Waters in Berkeley] Mario Batali and the several others don’t want to even bother opening a restaurant here because the competition is too stiff.
Now we do have Wolfgang Puck who opened up Postrio and Roy’s Hawaii Cuisine, but not a single Food Network star has bother with San Francisco. Well I suppose I could include Martin Yan, but he’s no longer a part of the network. I haven’t seen Tyler Florence much lately, but he’s busy with his restaurant here at the moment. Now to me, if you’re going to talk like you’re a world renowned chef you should at least be able to thrown down in Baghdad by the Bay and pull it off. We’ve got some really hefty chefs here already like Michael Mina and Jeremiah Tower who have changed the restaurant industry, but for some reason we scare off the big guns of the media. Had I the money I would travel to one of Bobby Flay’s restaurants with a small camera crew and pull his throw down move with him to get him to come to SF and try his hand in the restaurant business here.
San Francisco, while being seven by seven miles has the largest number of restaurants than any other city in the United States. I was walking around the Embarcadero yesterday and found that there were more places to eat than I remembered. One block alone had six restaurants on one side of the street and these were Subways or McDonalds, but real white linen, sit down restaurants [I’ll still count the Tadich Grill since it’s so good, but no white linen table clothes.]
I like the Food Network and consider myself a bit of a foodie, but not a food blogger. I’ve got more to write about than Mom’s great recipes or the great dishes you can get around town. I watch it at least a couple of nights a week and do have a fondness for Guy Fieri’s Diner’s Drive-in’s and Dives, probably because he’s not afraid of San Francisco. I would love to see some of those Iron Chefs give it a shot in San Francisco, but apparently we scare them off. Could they even handle going up against one of our great food trucks at Off the Grid on a Friday night at Fort Mason? I don’t think so. Could they stand up against the falafel at Sunrise Deli or a shawarma at Yumma’s? I don’t think so.
Bobby Flay, I challenge you and your East Coast Food Network crew to a throw down to open restaurants in San Francisco and see how you fare in our Kitchen Stadium.
I stopped working downtown too soon. It wasn’t my choice, but I missed the first rush of the new sensation that’s sweeping San Francisco and everyone’s smartphone — food trucks. I’m not talking the old beat up taco trucks that you used to see in Oakland, but these are upscale trucks serving upscale food and the best way to find out about where they are in on you smartphone.
Here’s how it works. You pull out your mobile phone and download a Twitter app. Then you find and follow all the trucks around San Francisco. They really are more SF and the peninsula than just SF, but they seem to be focused around San Francisco at least a couple of days a week.
If you want to be an über-cool techie hipster geek you’ll get Eat Street which gives you a map that’s based on their GPS so you can see where they are when you want to get food. I use both because I like to talk back to the people to try and get them out to the Sunset and Richmond on sunny weekends [WHICH WE DO HAVE!!!!]
You can find more than just tacos and burritos now. We’ve got BBQ places that are cooking up some smoky goodness. Curry Up Now that does burritos with an Indian twist [aweeesome!], Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches left and right. Pretty much if you can think of a food there’s someone out there in a truck that will sell it to you.
One of the best places to try and fill your food truck craving is Off The Grid that’s held in many places around San Francisco, but Fort Mason [5pm-10pm Fridays] seems to be what everyone is talking about because that hosts the most trucks [up to 30] and tents. I was down at Fort Mason one night and happened to see a huge amount of trucks out there with an even huger amount of people wandering around. The smell of all the different trucks wafting up through the open window just pulled me towards the trucks during a break. I think I ended up spending a little over $20 getting the small sampler plates as I call them from several of the trucks.
This was definitely some good food and I wish that we could get more of them to try coming out to Ocean Beach because on a sunny day there isn’t anything going on there to feed people. The biggest problem is that we usually know about a sunny day out here with about 15 minutes in advance. Most of the trucks have websites where you can check where they’re going to be that week if you don’t have a smartphone.
Food trucks are gaining more ground in San Francisco now that the city has made it easier for them to do business. Because they don’t have to pay rent it’s cheaper for them to operate which is bad for brick and mortar businesses, but good for you and me because they can produce the food cheaper. Check them out NOW!