MetroBlogging San Francisco

  Locations of visitors to this page
be notified of website changes? subscribe


SF home


The Castro


West Portal

Randall Kids Museum

May's Coffee Shop


MetroBlogging San Francisco

This is my local archive of my contributions to MetroBlogging SF. Enjoy.

 Tuesday 26 July 2005
Ask not for whom the bell tolls...

There really is more to my life than food, but that's what seems to motivate me to blog right now. Perhaps it's because I'm planning an overseas trip (more details to follow) and I recall all those wonderful café moments in Paris, Rome, Ibiza, Münster, Amsterdam, London, ...

I've mentioned Orphan Andy's before, but here I am again, fueling up in the wee hours of the morning. I'm working on a bunch of projects and hunger strikes without mercy. It's diner time. What to choose? Crispy fries, juicy hamburgers (or even veggie burgers), pancakes, bacon or sausage and eggs? Maybe the chicken-fried steak, or the pork chops? There's also soups, fish, and other dishes my eyes skip over.

Orphan Andy's, Castro, San Francisco

And the coffee, ohhhhh, the coffee. Pleasantly strong without being burnt or acidic. The milkshakes are a bit pricey, but deeply satisfying.

I did mention that it's open around-the-clock? This is a great place for people-watching. All colors of the Castro's cultural rainbow gather here. (It's similar to The Pork Store in the Haight, but with guppies instead of hippies.) The staffers are cool and confident; they've seen it all, and then some. The décor is traditional vinyl booths, each with their own jukebox. The view of the flow of the crowds and the terminus of the MUNI 'F' streetcar line can be seen through the front windows.

Orphan Andy's / 3991 17th Street at Castro & Market / +1.415.864.9795


When is Chinese food not Chinese food?

Okay, on with the food parade. The first thing one notices upon arriving at Taiwan Restaurant is the cooks, folding dumplings in the storefront window. That's your first clue that you're in for a treat. Sticking with the house speciality there's the steamed and pan-friend dumplings, pot stickers, and a variety of won ton soups. (Pretty much all stuff folded into a wrapper, be it thin pasta or thicker dough.)

Taiwan Restaurant, Clement Street, San Francisco

Is this Chinese cooking? I'm never sure which groups and nation-states enjoy being considered part of the People's Republic. Taiwan is *another* China, and I tell friends and visitors that we're going out for Taiwanese food (much as I try to remember which places prefer to be thought of as Pakistani rather than Indian).

The dry braised string beans was pretty wonderful, and the more traditional Chinese restaurant fare (ordered by the relatives) was satisfying, mildly spiced when asked. For better or worse, nothing made it to the doggy bag.

The staff are friendly and helpful. Even so, I need to go with a native-speaker; between the dishes I don't recognise and the scribbled items offered on the walls I think I might be missing something.

Taiwan Restaurant / 445 Clement St. @ 6th Ave. / +1.415.387.1789


 Friday 22 July 2005
One cannot live by sushi alone (theoretically)

Yesterday I prattled on and on about sushi, one of my favorite foods. There's so much good food in our fair city that some days it's really hard to decide what to eat. So today I'll mentally re-visit some of the places that are so good that I take visiting tourist friends when I want them to be so impressed...

enjoying the food

  • Mom is Cooking (1166 Geneva Ave., 586-7000) - Abigail whips up some of the most amazing, authentic Mexican food while brother Richard lovingly tends bar. Try the pork boquitos.

  • Truly Mediterranean (3109 16th St. @ Valencia, 252-7482) - This hallway-sized dive serves falafel and shawarma (in a spectacular grill-toasted lavosh bread) like I remember from Jerusalem. Oh, and don't leave without trying the home-made garlic yoghurt drink (it's way better than it sounds).

  • Sliders (449 Castro St. @ Market), 431-3288) - Despite its incredibly unimpressive décor and pleasant, unpretentious staff, this is my favorite hamburger-and-fries place in the city. I've tried every up-market place as I come across them, or am told about them, but for deep satisfaction, this is where I take 'em.

  • Red Grill (4063 18th St. @ Castro, 255-2733) - When a visitor mentions they want a good cut of meat I head right over to Red Grill. Their filet mignon is the best I've had in most cities (with perhaps the Old Homestead in Manhattan being better). Meat? Here!

  • Old Krakow (385 West Portal Ave., 564-4848) - When all the Thai, Japanese, pizza, and Chinese have been done, it's time for something seriously different. The (New) Old Krakow has been serving great Eastern European food for a long time, this latest incarnation is still great. And this place is very parent-friendly.

  • Picaro (3120 16th St. @ Valencia, 431-4089) - Please don't stop reading because I say the word 'tapas', no really, Picaro was there first. Long before the Mission Liberation Front (or was that the JPF, or the FPJ?) there used to be Café Picaro, a hotbed of radicals and socialists. It morphed into the best place for Iberian foods, the tapas and paellas I've grown to love on my trips to Spain and the Canary Islands). Their gazpacho pleases me.

  • B44 (44 Belden Place, 986.6287) - A Catalan bisto, this is the place for arroz negro, a paella tinted with octopus ink. Oh, so tasty. The romaine hearts salad, drizzled with romesco dressing and Idiazabal chees; ahhhh. Actually, everything here is a win, and this one-block bit of Europe transplanted downtown is an oasis from the office world.

  • King Charcoal (3741 Geary Blvd @ Arguello, 387-9655) - This is always a crowd-pleaser: sit under an air vent, a brazier is set in the middle of the table with very thin strips of tasty pork and beef cooking, the staff bringing several dozen condiment plates and lettuce leaves in which you wrap the whole thing.

I guess it's not much of a surprise that I'm now hungry. Sigh. Where do you take friends and visitors when you want to impress and be remembered?

 Thursday 21 July 2005
sashimi, nigiri sushi, maki, and temaki

San Francisco is certainly the city of restaurants. It's often said that we have more eateries per capita than elsewhere, but to my mind that only means that we have more bad places to confound the hungry. It's still a talent to unearth the tasty and the price-worthy.

Yokoso Nippon

Sushi is one of my favorite vices. While I've had damn good sushi in weird places like Minneapolis and Phoenix (really!) there's only two cities with the twisted verve to have satisfied my sushi needs: San Francisco and Manhattan. (I've not yet been to Japan; anyone wanting to sponsor a sushi research trip should immediately contact this blogger....)

Right away I want to stress that there is a great variety of what we gaijin call sushi. I don't presume to dictate what is and what isn't proper. It just is. That's also part of the fun of it all.

There are many top-notch well-known places. Perhaps too well-known. Ebisu (1283 Ninth Ave., 566-1770), Blowfish (2170 Bryant, 285-3848), Tokyo-a-Go-Go (3174 16th St., 864-2288), and Grandeho's Kamekyo (943 Cole St., 759 8428). You know the kind of place. Really good sushi, but discovered, so that there's always a line, a crowd, and it's become unpleasant to get in and pressure to be in.

There are some fantastic sushi places in the city which aren't crammed full of those people (fill in your mental image of those people; thanks).

Here are some of my fav raw fish digs; what are yours?

  • Hama-Ko (108-B Carl St., 753-6808) - We've been calling this place "Grandpa's Place" for almost two decades. A couple have run this with love and fervor for ages. Right on the 'N' Judah MUNI line.

  • Deep Sushi (1740 Church St @ 30th St., 970-3337) - We were able to carry out our tradition of eating here on opening night. The chef is an artist! Everything which came to our places on the sushi bar was as incredible to look at as to eat.

  • Yokoso Nippon (314 Church St., no phone) - Most people know this as "No Name", the home of the incredibly filling and inexpensive don buri (on rice) bowls. Right on the 'J' Church MUNI line. Across the street from:

  • Warakubune (307 Church St., 252-8383) - One can drive by this place for ages and not realize there's a working restaurant here, it's so cleverly camouflaged. Some of the offerings inside are just incredible, especially the house roll, with a sublime mix of mayo and spicy, umm, spices.

  • Fune Ya (354 Clement St. @ 4th Ave., 386-2788) - For that sushi hit when the kids are on your back, here's an inexpensive sushi boat place with an impressive menu of to-order rolls and other things like soba. If you can afford to have your kids ordering the chefs around at Blowfish, go for it, but when the bills pile up, head on over to Fune Ya.

We have a lot of sushiyas in our fair city. Here's what purports to be a complete list:

so there's no excuse not to pick something close to where you are or where you'll be and try something you've not had before. Mmmmmmm, sushi.

(Disclaimer: I take it as understood that I have no financial incentive to recommend one place over another. If you, owner of a fine restaurant, wish to attempt to sway my impartial journalistic advice with a liberal dose of complementary tasty treats, you're more than welcome to try... :-)

 Wednesday 13 July 2005
More about free WiFi in San Francisco

I just got a phone call from someone at AnchorFree about my postings last week. Evidently I was accurate (and that's always a good thing). They are interested in how we like the service, where it needs improvements, and suggestions for other neighborhoods that would benefit from free WiFi. I suggested West Portal and Noe Valley. What do you think?

Le Bon Gateau, Castro, San Francisco

(I take it as self-evident that I have no financial arrangement with AnchorFree, but if it isn't let me clearly state that I will *never* post about a client or employer without explicitly mentioning it in a prominent place.)

Ubiquitious, free, and high-quality WiFi is central to my urban existence. Without it I'd be sitting in an office every day, rather than enjoying my fair city whilst being connected via VPN. This issue is near and dear to my heart.

What about problems with AnchorFree? Well, coverage is spotty, probably having to do with geometry of radio signals, the inherent radio-opaqueness of old buildings, landlords and shop owners who don't want to be bothered hosting AnchorFree, and AnchorFree not knowing about the problems. So tell them.

Their certificate expired about a year ago, and it's owned by a parent company, so your web browser will squawk when you visit; ignore it. Sometimes their "sign up for free so you can access our service" web page gets into a brain-damaged loop, never letting you access their network. But it's free, and if you let them know how and where you use it, we'll all have better, free, WiFi.

And that can't be too bad :-)

What other WiFi in the city? Do you have any suggestions? Good spots to sit and sip?

 Monday 11 July 2005
Is that the sound of four horsemen running across the playa...?

First thing this morning my wife calls the home office: "honey," she says, "you're not going to believe the gas price at the place on the corner. It's more than twice the cost than the one across the street!"

insane gas prices, the Castro

Now that doesn't sound right, does it? What ever happened to letting the market determine an item's cost? So I picked up my camera and strolled around the corner. Sure enough, across the street the regular grade of gas was $2.799; this side, $3.439. Across the street premium was $2.969; this side, $6.159! What?!?

Who knows? I mean, this is the same place that cut down their neighbor's trees because they didn't like the leaves falling. I'm guessing the owner of the Arco on the corner of Market and Castro doesn't mind the customers staying far away. (In the comments to one of Courtney's columns several months ago a reader noticed similar shenanigans at this very station.)

But why am I even ranting about gasoline prices, the bane of every San Franciscan with a car? Because I've just come back from a long road trip. There's nothing like seeing the high prices of gas (for us in the USA, I mean) and thinking how it all winds up pointing to a scorched earth.

Black Rock Desert playa

I can hardly wait for something greener to power my wheels. But I didn't plan on talking environmentalism either. This is a blog about San Francisco, and the plain truth of the matter is than in 53 days a good portion of this city will not be here, but far away, on the alkali remains of an ancient lake bed.

Black Rock Desert

This is what the Black Rock Desert looked like this past weekend. In a few weeks 35,000 people will inhabit a temporary autonomous zone of art, music, and other treats. It's probably too late for a well-planned trip to Burning Man, but it's a good time to perk up your ears, listen to the last-minute plans of those going, hear the stories after the Man burns on Labor Day weekend, and make your own plans for 2006.

 Friday 8 July 2005
Man cannot live by espresso alone...

The time has come, the urbanite said, to speak of many things. Of time away from cities, of sleeping bags and things...

Ranger Mickey in dust storm, Black Rock City, 2002

Burning Man 2005 is not far off; just at the other end of summer. And the event doesn't build itself, it requires participation. To that end I'm leaving our beloved city - gasp - for the annual required dose of synchronization with a rapidly-evolving event. Usually I attend a Black Rock Ranger orientation meeting the SF headquarters (near the ballpark), but this year I get to see the playa in a pristine, post-winter weather state. I'm excited. The camaraderie and esprit de corps of long-time Rangers on a two-night sleepover can't be beat either.

When I return I'll have photos, as usual, and urban thoughts.

And you? If you're unfamiliar with the event, there's always the official site, the ePlaya community, and lots of photos around the 'net.

Playa dust - both a food group and a condiment! See you on Monday!

 Thursday 7 July 2005
A momentary pause for our fellow urbanites in London

Near-simultaneous explosions rocked the London Underground a short while ago during their rush hour. Some buses may also have targeted. Fatalities caused. The entire transit network in London is shut down. Constables are reporting to Edgware Road, Kings Cross, Liverpool Street, Russell Square, Aldgate East, Tavistock, and Moorgate stations (for those of you who know London). Here's the report at Al Jazeera.

London Underground

Whatever the cause, let's all take a moment to empathize with our fellow urbanites in London. It's one of my favorite towns, and I'm pained to think how frightened many of our brethren (and sisteren) are going through right now. (Use news websites to follow this; the Tube homepage is down at the moment.)

Perhaps it'll be that we may be able to help in some way later, but for the moment a nice thought would be great.


It's a small world after all...

One of the ramifications of the London Transport bombings is that many information providers got swamped, and will certainly be checking the "scalability" sections of their implementation plans.

London Underground after bombing Honorable mentions for staying up and running in the face of the tsunami of requests go to CNN, which has been running a free audio-video stream, and the really magnificent BBC Five Live audio stream.

I have been up for much of the last 24 hours, working, and have been able to notice the increased load as news of the event occurred in the early morning hours, then as the East Coast came awake and online, and three hours later, as the West Coast arrived. Interesting.

But that's only half of what I wanted to share.

I've been keeping track of what's going on, and chatting with friends in Londontown, via AnchorFree's new free WiFi coverage of the Castro. Since our last post on the matter, coverage has been extended to from the Fillmore and Castro to include Chestnut Street, Union Street, Union Square, and University Avenue in Palo Alto. (Geek note: all ports seem open: I can get and send email, audio, and VPN.)

If this doesn't help, check out, which covers lots and lots of cities and displays them with Google maps.

Share and enjoy.


Chuck Squatriglia and Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writers, have written an interesting view of our reaction, Bay Area on alert as U.S. raises terror warning.

The San Francisco Office of Emergency Services have nothing interesting to share with us. I'd think this would be something they would do to show basic competence.

San Francisco earthquake

While we're all in a disaster frame of mind, may I recommend that each and everyone of you undergo Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) training? It's as useful in an earthquake as a man-made disaster. (Remember, folks, it's not *if* an earthquake will hit, but *when*.)

A good overview of personal emergency preparation, courtesy of theEpicenter. If you're not part of the solution, you're really part of the problem. Ensure that you can survive without any outside resources for at least three days, try for five. Include things for children and pets. Medicine. Imagine no power, no water, and no gas stoves (it's a long story, but San Francisco really screwed that way.)

Getting back to Londontown, they seem to be dealing with this very well. EMS is using a new response plan, and the locals have it in hand. Good for them.

 Wednesday 6 July 2005
An open letter to the San Francisco Public Library

The San Francisco Public Libraries are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they've got books, CDs, and DVDs that one may borrow. On the other hand, they seem to seriously dislike spending money on current releases or keeping old acquisitions. In short, for a bunch of people tasked with lending items to the public, they seem surprisingly hostile to said items.

San Francisco Public Library branches

Hit the online library catalog or head out to your local branch library, or to the Main, and try to find something on your favorite topic. Don't be surprised by the low number of items you find, or their age. It's rather unimpressive for a library which purports to be "world-class", and I say this with my own experiences with the Boston, New York City, and London libraries. We suck.

There's money in the budget for branch upgrades, which needs to be spent before our muscle-bound governator snatches it away. The branches are rushing to get started, with West Portal already gutted and the Eureka Valley (Castro) branch feeling the rush of construction foreplay. And the big questions they're asking are how much do we want more free WiFi?

Hey, I like WiFi, and think it's a no-brainer for a place of knowledge. But I have other requests:

Spend some of that money on the online library catalog. It's embarassing. Spend some money on a programmer. Expose the standard collection info - I'm not asking you to do anything complicated here - and let us do a simple search. Give us a Google interface:

"seemore hersh enemies"

Did you mean: seymour hersh enemies

Hersh, Seymour M. Against all enemies: Gulf War syndrome, the war between America's ailing veterans and their government. 1998, 103p. See also the audio DVD.

Oh, and let's get a bit more aggressive in getting new books. A long time ago, at the old Main, there was an alcove full of the new acquisitions. It was a pleasure to visit and pick things new to the library. The pathetic section with the "new books" moniker at the new Main and my local branch has books gotten in the last few years, not days or weeks.

So very, very sad. Please remember, librarians and bureaucrats, it's all about the books.

 Tuesday 5 July 2005
All dressed up and nowhere to go (on BART)

Whereas the strike actions threatened by AC Transit and SamTrans seem to be all but averted (by signed contracts and impending votes) the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) logjam seems as imminent.

SFO Airport BART station

A fan of Utah Phillips, you won't get any yuppie polemics about the evils of collective action from me. Take a deep breath, work from home, or don't work at all. Blame BART and clean out your closets, have an espresso, and go for a long walk.

But what to do if you're one of the 310,000 daily passengers of BART and you really have to be somewhere? Well, first of all, think flex: in 1997, during the last BART strike, things just got slower on the bridges, rather than stopping entirely. Get to work an hour early or two hours late. Or don't use your own vehicle at all, but visit to create or join a carpool, see traffic conditions, and see other public transit options. BART hopes to have up to 37 buses running back and forth the Bay Bridge, if that helps you.

All this will pass. Be here now. And don't forget to have a small glass of water with your caffè macchiato caldo.

 Monday 4 July 2005
Kid-friendly SF: Happy Independence Day!

What a beautiful day we're having, here in the Pearl of the Pacific, in the Baghdad by the Bay. There's so much to do today, for children and adults alike. There's the Marin Fair on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, events at the Berkeley Marina, Jack London Square (Oakland), the Todos Santos Plaza (Concord), and parades and such in Novato, Rohnert Park, El Granada, Mountain View, and of course on the USS Hornet (Alameda). SFGate has a list with details.

San Francisco panorama

San Francisco panorama

San Francisco panorama

But from where to enjoy the fireworks this evening? Especially if you have kids?

In the old days I'd get some to-go fare from Pancho Villa Tacqueria (16th @ Valencia) and then head up to Twin Peaks at 6pm for fireworks around 9pm (or so). Fireworks from all over the Bay Area can be seen from up there. That's my favorite spot. Since it's hard to have kids hanging out for several hours, I'd suggest bringing the coloring books, toys, and other things to play with in the car. (The breeze can be daunting, and if the fog rolls in it's time to give it up for another year. Don't forget the layers and - especially for kids - the earplugs.)

Celebrate well! P'raps we'll see you under the fireworks.

 Sunday 3 July 2005
Kid-friendly SF: free concerts at Sigmund Stern Grove

At the intersection of 19th Avenue & Sloat Boulevard lies Sigmund Stern Grove; an outdoor venue recently renovated for a better concert experience. There's limited parking and you'll want to come early to get a good spot. (Remember to layer up against the sun or fog, and consider checking out their survival guide.

Sigmund Stern Grove

Today's entertainment was the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Edwin Outwater. Concertgoers noticed the new huge stage with it's retractible canopy, the terraced concert meadow (with tons of granite shipped in from China), and new amenities and infrastructure, including bathrooms.

The kids love it. It's a soothing place, and the new construction makes it much easier to find a good place to sit.

Here's the remaining concerts for this summer season, each starting at 2pm on the Sunday shown:

July 10 -- Khaled, "King of Rai" / Don Was, Elan Attias, Cheb i Sabbah, Walfredo Reyes, Jr. and special guests

July 17 -- Ladysmith Black Mambazo / Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir

July 24 -- The Funk Brothers / Broun Fellinis

July 31 -- The San Francisco Opera featuring Carol Vaness, Rod Gilfry, and friends

August 7 -- Waldemar Bastos / Maria de Barros

August 14 -- Beausoleil avec Michael Doucet / Dirty Dozen Brass Band

August 21 -- daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra / Youth Speaks Slam Champs

I hope I'll see y'all there!

 Saturday 2 July 2005
After midnight we're going to let it all hang out

I'm a night owl. Most of my best work is done long after others are asleep. I like working from the home office, but sometimes I'm more hungry than industrious. Then I wander out, looking for victuals. But what's open late, here in San Francisco?

There are several all-night restaurants in the Castro; Orphan Andy's (17th St. @ Castro), Sparky's (Church @ Market), and Baghdad Café (Market @ 16th St.). I'm partial to the former, think the middle is quite adequate, and have had some unpleasant meals at the latter. Others, however, would rank them differently. Give 'em all a try.

Over in the Marina, there's Mel's Drive-In (Lombard @ Filmore & Steiner). Think "American Grafitti." Some swear by this chain, I'm unimpressed by the grease.

The Lucky Penny (Masonic @ Geary); think "truck stop." 'nuff said.

The Video Café (Geary @ 21st Ave) does round-the-clock food plus video rentals. Perfect.

Someday I'll undertake in-depth reviews of each of these precious resources, so vital to survival in the city. (If you know of others please let me know.) For the moment, however, know that you're not on your own in the wee hours of the morning.

 Friday 1 July 2005
I'm new here; the kids and I do the Pink Triangle

When I first arrived in the Bay Area, almost twenty years ago, it was a very different place than it is now. Before the last cycle of housing bust and boom. Before the .com thing. Before Golden Gate Park, the disgrace that is central Market Street.

I, of course, am different too. I'm now married, with children. That's a bit of a challenge, given that we have the smallest percentage of children of any American urban center, just 14.5 per cent. (Even a retirement mecca, Palm Beach, FL, has 19 per cent. My birthplace, New York City, has 24 per cent.)

So where am I going with all this? Well, this is my first post at metroblogging SF. The things I'll blog about, in advance and as after-action reports, are generally family sorts of things, although singles are certainly welcome. My wife and I believe in saavy urban kids, not the Chucky Cheese sort of kids. Our kids are veterans of Burning Man, order the sorts of foods we didn't know about until our twenties, and enjoy the heck out of our city.

Pink Triangle, Twin Peaks

This past weekend we participated in Pride Week. We often walk in the parade, listen to the concerts in the Castro, and enjoy the costumes of our neighbors and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Two years ago we came across volunteers taking down the one-acre pink triangle that's placed atop Twin Peaks on Pink Saturday. The heavy winds made it hard to keep the tarps down, and the kids got to sit on the tarps; glorified weights. This year we got 'em up early and helped drive foot-long spikes through the tarps. The kids got exposed to volunteers, who in turn met kids with questions, and a great time was had by all. We do everyone a favor when we treat kids to our adult world.

Have you found errors nontrivial or marginal, factual, analytical and illogical, arithmetical, temporal, or even typographical? Please let me know; drop me email. Thanks!

What's New?  •  Search this Site  •  Website Map
Travel  •  Burning Man  •  San Francisco
Kilts! Kilts! Kilts!  •  Macintosh  •  Technology  •  CU-SeeMe
This page is copyrighted 1993-2010 by Lila, Isaac, Rose, and Mickey Sattler. All rights reserved.