Caffeine Fueling in San Fran

I spent a good portion of my week in San Francisco exploring various neighborhoods of the city and often finding a coffee shop in the area to hang out at for a few hours.

Several of these coffee shops either offered good enough coffee, food, or people watching to warrant return visits. In particular, two spots- Velo Rouge Café and The Blue Danube Coffee Shop on Clement became go-tos for the week.

Velo Rouge

 

After a pleasant, but tiring, bike ride through golden gate park on my first day of exploring, my buddy and host recommended that I check out Velo Rouge (it turns out Velo is a term for “Bike” in French) for lunch and a little work. The afternoon turned out even better than could have been expected, as I was invited to enjoy my lunch in the company of a very friendly (and attractive) young lawyer who happened to work at the nearby USF Law school and who recommended the cool Kabuki theater.

On the same day, while doing some good writing, I managed to piss off the management not just once, but several times. To start, I attempted to plug my dying laptop into a surge protector hanging from the ceiling. It did seem a little strange, but given that a nearby TV was also plugged in there, I went for it. Not even 30 minutes later, I was reprimanded for putting my legs on the glass table in front of me. In my defense, my feet weren’t actually on the table, but rather just the bottoms of my pant legs. However, as they explained to me “people eat off of that,” (something I was well aware of, as I had just eaten off of it myself). My final offense was bringing in a bag of outside food, although I never planned to actually eat any of my leftovers that I was carrying around before heading home. Ironically, when back there the next day, I sat next to the same seat I had been at the day before (with the tempting glass table) and the girl seated there pulled the same move, only to be scolded in exactly the same way. Luckily I happened to be there to warn her not to plug in any cords above her head.

The Blue Danube was located just a few streets over on Clement street (where Eats and Q Brunch were also located). We stopped in there on Saturday morning for a late breakfast. Everyone else in my party went with a classic egg and cheese sandwich on one of their delicious looking bagels; however, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a tuna sandwich on a bagel, a favorite combo of mine.

Blue Danube

While seated on an interesting mixture of chairs, couches, and pillow-covered benches, we noticed a “Blue Danube journal” sitting on the table in front of us. Upon opening it, we discovered not your typical traveler’s messages-“I love the Blue Danube, I stop here whenever I come to visit,” but rather much more intimate notes that you might find in someone’s actual personal journal or better yet a diary. I kid you not; there were descriptions of the sadness associated with unrequited live, the loneliness of long distance relationships, and even accounts of more serious signs of depression and hopelessness. I certainly couldn’t see myself writing about such personal details of my own life in a notebook that would be on display for any future patrons; however, given my interest in other people, I could definitely have spent longer than I did sitting there to read more of the entries.

Café Trieste was located in the Little Italy district of the city, just past Chinatown and on the way to the Presidio. A friend of mine, and a lover of SF, told me that the one place I needed to go was Cafe Trieste and the one thing I had to get (and something he tries to get on each and every trip out there) is a Latte. Trieste 3Unfortunately, I stay away from milk in my coffee. However, I think the iced coffee was certainly worth the trip over there. Additionally, when I started chatting with the very friendly owner (it’s debatable whether he may have been interested in me other than just as a customer), he gave me some recommendations for other parts of the city to check out and also added a free shot of espresso to my coffee. This location was slightly less amenable to working while “plugged in,” (I couldn’t find any outlets, not even off-limits ones) but was certainly a nice change of scenery from my other two more-frequented locations.

Additionally, after my umpteenth coffee of the trip (this trip certainly got me back on a coffee kick), I realized that I wasn’t very far from In ‘N Out Burger and decided that it would be the best day to make that trip, given that it was certainly something I wanted to grab while out there.

I don’t think anyone needs an entire blog post on In N Out, if you’ve never been, or even less likely, never heard of it, you won’t have any trouble finding countless reviews of the In n Outburgers or all of the cool “secret” orders you can get there. Personally, I think they’re good for what they are, a better quality fast food burger, but I get slightly frustrated with self-righteous Golden staters who claim them to be god’s gift to the earth.

 

Doodle counterpart? Not quite, but how about some ramen with your eggs?

Ikes inside

One of my favorite breakfast spots/greasy spoons ever has to still be New Haven’s late Yankee Doodle (a Yale landmark, which the University sadly couldn’t save). Whenever I move to a new city (or sometimes even when I visit one), a part of me is still looking for its counterpart. When I arrived at Art’s in the heart of San Francisco’s Sunset district, I thought I could have at long last found it.

From first glance, Art’s had the right level of greasiness, a single row of counter-top seats, a large-open griddle, and it came at the recommendation of a fellow Elm City transplant and former Doodle lover.

Unfortunately, Art’s didn’t quite live up to my Doodle-esque expectations, but I did have an enjoyable (and maybe more importantly) reasonably priced breakfast. After the fact, my friend told me that I should have ordered something called a “hash-brown sandwich,” which I’m pretty certain I saw someone nearby eating, but didn’t know what I was looking at the time.

Ikes food

I did get some of the interestingly shaped “potato-stix” type hashbrowns, the same patty that I now know is often used to make a delicious sounding sandwich. However, the corned beef hash I ordered left a little something to be desired (it consisted more of potatoes than much actual corned beef.)

For a quick, cheap breakfast, Art’s was perfect and held me over for my exploration of Dolore’s Park when I headed to the Mission after filling up.

On an interesting (and somewhat funny side-note, at least to me). Art’s is owned and operated by a Korean family, who serve not only traditional breakfast fare Ramen 2 (eggs and bacon etc.), but also Ramen. I never would have know this, had I not noticed the Asian gentleman seated next to me get served a steaming hot bowl of noodle-filled soup with his coffee. I don’t know whether this would be my idea of the ideal meal at 11am on a weekday, but hey, I probably shouldn’t knock it until I’ve tried it.

“You sure you don’t want to try the hot turkey?”

Arguello sign

As much as I love sandwiches, I didn’t seek out too many sub shops or delis while in San Francisco, as there were plenty of other cuisines to try.

However, I think it speaks for itself that I made three trips, for four sandwiches, to the Arguello Market and Café. Even though it was located just around the corner from where I was staying, the pure volume of visits should be enough to sing my praises for their sandwiches

On my first two trips, I went for a classic and one of my all-time favorites- chicken salad. However, I had to do this against the recommendation of the “sandwich artist” to try their renowned hot rotisserie chicken or turkey.

The one staple throughout all of my sandwiches was the bread. Each time, I went with a delicious, thick, and soft French sourdough loaf. However, when I make it back there, I may try something called a “dutch crunch” roll (which I saw several patrons order on each of my visits). The chicken salad included a great balance of solid chunks of white meat chicken, mayo, and a nice addition of chopped green and red peppers. As usual, I kept my chicken salad pretty simple, just adding lettuce, onion, and a little vinegar (interestingly, their default was red wine vinegar as opposed to balsamic, but added essentially the same taste).

Arguello bag

My last trip came on my way to catching my flight home to Boston. Given that I hate buying food at airports or on airplanes, I doubled up my order.

To start, I went with a bacon and egg sandwich on a delicious and buttery warm croissant. For lunch, I finally tried the highly touted hot rotisserie turkey. For toppings, I stayed away from the recommended “everything,” and just went with some bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Unfortunately, my only complaint was entirely my fault, I waited to eat the sandwich until I got to the airport and by that time it had already cooled off. Regardless, the meat was delicious, along with the bread and toppings as usual.

Hot turkey

Next time I’m in the Richmond, I’ll certainly need to try one fresh, while it is still warm.

Birthday Brunching at Q

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On my second breakfast trip to Clement Street, my crew passed by Q Brunch, deciding that it was a little much for what they were looking for at the time (really just bagels and coffee). However, I looked over the menu and decided it was worth a visit.

Luckily on Sunday, my breakfast companion, who was in town to celebrate her birthday (a celebration she recounted as one of her best ever) was down to try it. Unlike some other birthday brunchers, who were downing Mimosa’s and Bloody Mary’s at 10am, we were past celebrating and onto recovering by that point.

After my less than stellar hash at Art’s, I was hesitant to try it at Q, but I wanted to give hash on the West Coast a second chance. I’m certainly glad that I did. Image

Rather than the hash that tasted more like extra salty and crispy potato strings the last time, what I was served instead contained a plentiful helping of large chunks of well-cooked corned beef. Also, the poached eggs were perfectly cooked (actually the first time my breakfast date had ever actually had poached eggs).

As usual, the breakfast potatoes weren’t really distinguishable from the hash; however, they mixed in nicely enough. Even though the hash wasn’t as crispy as I’ve come to enjoy, the meat was great and the potatoes were what I’ve gotten used to. Overall, I’d definitely give Q Brunch another go around. Image

“We all live in a…” – The Beatles

When I asked my friend (and San Francisco host for the week) where to get a sandwich, he claimed without hesitation that ‘Yellow Submarine,’ in the Inner Sunset, was not only the best sub he’d had in San Francisco, but the best sub he’d ever had period.

Yellow submarine 2

His only other sub-par recommendation came on Art’s Cafe, but since I knew that this was based on his being partial to a good value and that he held on to the same desperate hope as I did that we may finally have found a Yankee Doodle competitor, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

By about 11:00am, I had to decide whether to go for breakfast or lunch on my last full day of exploring SF, and given that I really only wanted out of breakfast was steak and eggs, I figured I could go without the eggs.

That decision made my sandwich choice for me, steak and cheese; however, I still liked their very limited menu(only basic sandwiches). Interestingly, for the latter portion of my time spent living in Philadelphia, I gave up the “cheese,” part of the Philly-famous cheesesteaks. However, whenever I would find myself at one of the two classics in the city of Brotherly Love (Pats or Geno’s) or my favorite, Jims on South Street (usually when hosting friends or family), I’d still grab a plain steak. However, I’ve recently gone back to adding some provolone back into my sandwich topping arsenal. Therefore, at the Yellow Submarine, I ordered what would be known as “One provolone wit’ “(meaning a steak and provolone sandwich topped with onions) back east.

After applying a healthy dose of ketchup, I took my first bite and couldn’t have been happier with my friend’s recommendation or my order choice. The steak was nicely shaved (not finely chopped like they do at Jim’s, but still great), the onions well-cooked, and the bread perfectly grilled.

steakcheese

 

My only slight improvement might be to cook the cheese a little longer. While it was warm, it didn’t quite melt to my liking. Like I said, I haven’t had a true Philly Cheesesteak in quite some time, but I’d be willing to bet that if these two were stacked up, they’d go down to the wire.

Back in Cambridge, my new favorite sub place has become Al’s (I frequent the Harvard Square location, but they’ve got a few throughout the city). When there, I mostly go for the award-winning chicken or tuna salad subs, served on Al’s unnecessarily large, but delicious, sub rolls. I’ve had a steak sub there once and it was very similar to the one from the Yellow Submarine. I’d have to call it a 50/50 toss up, perhaps with the sandwich meat and toppings going to Al’s and the bread going to YS, but all in all a great contest.

Even though the menu was limited, there were plenty of others I’d like to try and it will certainly make it on to my list for a repeat visit on my next trip back there (which will hopefully be sooner rather than later…)

 

Ka-Bu-Ki

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                                                                                        My “friend” whom I met while hanging at my temporary home base coffee shop for writing and waiting, Velo Rouge Cafe, recommended that if I like movies, I should DEFINITELY check out the Kabuki Theater while in town. Image

This recommendation wasn’t a hard sell for me at all, particularly given the fact that I love movies and since I had already planned on seeing something on an afternoon when i didn’t have much else planned.

However, her main selling points, comfy seats and adult beverages didn’t hurt either. The seats were relatively comfortable, but I could understand more of their appeal when I noticed that the arm rest could be lifted and they could be converted into a love seat for two (a nice feature for a date I’d imagine). Also, I didn’t take advantage of the alcoholic offerings, as by the second to last day of my trip, I’d had about as much boozing as I could handle for the week. 

However, my overall experience was certainly great, particularly given the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed my film of choice, Zero Dark Thirty. 

A few nice added touches included conveniently located internal coffee shop and amusing asian movie posters in the restrooms. Image Speaking of the restrooms, my only slight complaint was that I had to wait for about 20 minutes outside the theater until they opened at 12:45pm (which seemed a little late to me) but the wait was certainly worse considering the fact that I really just needed to pee. 

It’s getting hard for me to keep track, but I imagine the prices were at least reasonable in comparison to theaters in most major cities, at about 9$ for a weekday matinee.

 

 

 

 

Good “Eats” in The Richmond

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In my first two days in San Francisco staying in the Richmond neighborhood, I’ve eaten the majority of my meals on Clement St. 

I can’t complain about this though, because I’ve had two tremendous meals so far. I arrived last night and after not eating much throughout the day, I was starving and probably would’ve eaten just about anything. After the Sushi place we planned to visit was closed (they’re weirdly only open 3 days a week), we headed down to Clement where we could see a handful of restaurants within a two block span. We decided upon a Ramen noodle house (I was a little skeptical at first thinking of this type of Ramen, a major staple of my and most folks’ college diets), but it turned out better than I could have imagined. The dish we were served turned out to be much more like this-

 

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and came filled with delicious and tender braised beef, spinach and a wonderful broth. 

Anyway, back to Eats. When I asked my buddy where I should grab breakfast, he sent me right back down to Clement. 

Luckily the place was close and the recommendation turned out to be a good one. 

I strayed from my typical ordering habits and went with an “employee favorite,” (as listed on the chalk board), ‘Zoe’s Bacon & Fried Egg Sandwich’: Arugula, cheddar, tomatoes, spicy aioli, ciabatta and a side of potatoes.  I probably could have done without the Arugula and had them hold the cheddar, but the spicy aioli and deliciously soft and chewy ciabatta were excellent. Image

Also, the bacon was quite good, and it actually made me wish I had gotten a sandwich with sausage on it instead (I got some chicken sausage on the side) and then had the bacon as my side so I could have enjoyed it separately.

Other than the bread, the best part of the meal (other than the expectedly hipster vibe) was probably the side of potatoes. I had to travel all the way to San Francisco to find them, but I think they were the closest thing I’ve found to the amazing home-fries at the Pantry in New Haven (where I’m from, a restaurant I worked at briefly, and probably one of my favorite brunch spots anywhere). I thought I had done a post about it in my previous blog, but I guess not ( I should probably do one here at eventually). 

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The key elements to the pantry’s home-fries (and also those elements that the potatoes at Eats had in common) were the scallions, the small chunks of potato, and probably most importantly the crispy finish. Something about the home-fries at Eats were still lacking in comparison, but it was hard to place. I think it may have been a slight absence of seasoning, but all in all they were pretty great and a welcome reminder of days spent working at the pantry. While there, in order to make up for the rather boring task of peeling potatoes and the other less than glorious tasks required to prepare breakfast foods, the chefs would serve the staff as many potatoes they could eat.

Overall, my second trip down to Clement was well worth it. My only slight complaint might have been the priciness (something just over $20 for breakfast), but I guess that’s SF for you and since I’m on vacation I’m not going to worry about it (at least not until I realized that my next paycheck may be the last one for at least a little while…)