We’re constantly on the hunt for the perfect outfit that will make it through our daily transition from work serf to night owl. Reversible scarves, tear-away skirts, all black outfits — those work OK. But what about then shoes? What pair of hoofers can glide us from the workbound bike lane to the underground dance floor? Welp, a local company has the solution to our woes: DZR Shoes, an SF-based (though they manufacture overseas) outfit that creates sneakers that can clip to all manners of pedal types, but look fly as all getout. Whether you go for high or low top, fully vegan design or whole grain leather, knee-high lace-up or slip-in, chances are you can find the kicks to complete your Lycra-free lane look in style. Our current favorite? The sleek, all-black Minna, designed by artist-DJ Jeremiah Bal.
Best of the Bay 2013
Bruce Brugmann, Jean Dibble, and Tim Redmond
The San Francisco Bay Guardian — which has had a significant impact on the Bay Area’s cultural and political dynamics and dialogue over the last 47 years — was largely the creation of three people with complementary skills and perspectives, an amalgam that gave the Guardian its voice and longevity.
Although they are no longer involved with running the paper, we’re honoring their contribution and legacy with a form of recognition they created: a Local Hero Award in our Best of the Bay issue, an annual edition that has been adopted by almost every alt-weekly in the country.
Bruce Brugmann and Jean Dibble launched the Guardian in October 1966 after years of planning by the married couple, and they ran it as co-publishers until the paper’s sale to the San Francisco Newspaper Co. last year, with Dibble running the business side and Brugmann in charge of editorial and serving as its most public face.
“We were one of the few husband and wife newspaper teams, a real mom and pop operation,” Brugmann told us. “We couldn’t have done it without the two of us, we needed both of our skill sets.”
They met in 1956 at the University of Nebraska, where Brugmann studied journalism and served as editor of the Daily Nebraskan, starting his long career as journalistic rabble-rouser. Dibble studied business, which she would continue in graduate school at Harvard University’s Radcliffe College while Brugmann got a master’s in journalism at Columbia University.
As graduation neared, they started talking about forming a newspaper together, an idea that percolated while Brugmann served in the US Army, where he wrote for Stars and Stripes, and Dibble moved to San Francisco with their two kids to work in personnel and administrative positions.
After the Army, they settled in Wisconsin, where Brugmann worked as a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal before moving to the Bay Area to work on launching the Guardian while Brugmann supported the family working for the Redwood City Tribune.
“We came out here with the idea of doing it and we immediately started planning. Jean did the prospectus, a damn good prospectus,” Brugmann said.
The Guardian published sporadically in the beginning, but it tapped into a vibrant counterculture that was clashing with the establishment and began publishing important articles highlighting inequities in the Vietnam War draft and exposing local political scandals, including how Pacific Gas & Electric illegally acquired its energy monopoly.
“A lot of it was just keep your head down and keep going,” Dibble said. “We never talked about alternatives, it was just what we were going to do.” The Guardian covered the successful revolts against new freeways in the city and plans to build Manhattan-style skyscrapers, publishing the book The Ultimate Highrise in 1971. In the mid-’70s, the Guardian won a successful unfair competition lawsuit against the Chronicle and the Examiner over their joint operating agreement, allowing the paper to become a free newsweekly. “Eventually, things got better, and we got some large advertisers in the ’80s and they really helped kick us off,” Dibble said. That was also when Tim Redmond, a journalist and activist steeped in radical politics, started writing for the Guardian, going on to serve as the paper’s executive editor and guiding voice for more than 30 years. “Tim was always more radical than I was,” Brugmann said, giving Redmond credit for the Guardian’s groundbreaking coverage of tenant, environmental, and economic justice issues. “Every publisher needs an editor who was more radical than they are to push them.” The two journalists had a prolific partnership, mentoring a string of journalists who would go on to national acclaim, turning the Guardian into a model for alt-weeklies across the country, exposing myriad scandals and emerging arts and cultural trends, and helping to write and pass the nation’s strongest local Sunshine Ordinance. “We always wanted to make things better,” Brugmann said of what drove the Guardian. “Even the battles that we lost, we got major concessions. Yerba Buena is much better because of the stories we did at the time, same thing with Mission Bay…San Francisco is much better that we were here. And we’re really proud and we appreciate the work of the current Guardian staff in keeping the Guardian flame alive.”
LOCAL HEROES: Kate Kendell
The night Proposition 8 passed was one of the hardest of Kate Kendell’s life. She remembers it with startling detail — and she should, because she was one of the most prominent opponents of the measure to overturn marriage equality in California.
“I was hopeful right up until the end that Prop. 8 would be defeated,” she said, speaking slowly as she pulled her thoughts from what sounded like a dark place. “Our initial polling numbers said we’d probably lose, but I really hoped in the deepest heart of my heart that when people got in there that they’d punch their vote in favor of the person they knew.”
But as the voters of California showed in that 2008 election, sometimes the good guys lose.
Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, fought the good fight since she started there in 1994. The NCLR litigates, creates policy, and performs outreach for LGBT civil rights on a national level, with headquarters in San Francisco. After years of anticipation, she poured herself into the campaign against the proposition that would make her marriage illegal, and then the measure passed.
That night she hung her head in disbelief. She felt physically ill, and her mind roiled in grief equaled only by the death of one of her parents. “It felt like that,” she said.
Kendell and her wife, Sandy, went home without speaking a word, and when she got in the door she tried to pull it together. Steeling herself to face her family, Kendell walked out of the bathroom and burst into tears. Her son said simply “this just means we have to fight more.”
So she did, and we all won.
That led to the moment for which Kendell may be remembered for a long time to come. When Prop. 8 was overturned by the US Supreme Court this year, a flock of San Francisco politicians descended the steps inside the rotunda at City Hall. Kendell took to the podium and spoke to the nation.
“My name is Kate Kendell with the National Center for Lesbian Rights,” she said, “and fuck you, Prop. 8!” The crowd erupted into cheers.
She regrets saying it now, but history will likely forgive her for being human. For someone whose own marriage’s validity was threatened and who spent two decades fighting for equality, she earned a moment of embarrassing honesty.
Kendell’s infamous declaration may be how she’s known, but one of her key decisions behind the scenes shaped the LGBT equality movement as well. When then-Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration wanted a couple to be the first in his round of renegade gay marriages in 2004, it was Kendell who suggested Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.
The two were in a relationship since 1953, pioneers of LGBT activism in San Francisco. Kendell said it was only right that they were first to read their vows in the city they helped shape. “Were it not for their contributions, visibility, and courage in the ’50s and ’60s, we wouldn’t be in that room with Newsom contemplating marriage licenses,” she said. “I’m just happy they said yes. It was absolutely appropriate.” And it’s with that sense of history that she herself pioneers forward, pushing in states across the US what Harvey Milk fought for in California — workplace protections for the LGBT community. “In 38 states, you can be fired from your job or being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. That has to change,” she said. “When the next chapter of history is written, it will be about a nation that treats the LGBT community as equals.”
Last year, when San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee floated the idea of implementing stop-and-frisk, a practice that many civil rights advocates say amounts to racial profiling, Theo Ellington stepped up to create a Change.org petition to oppose the idea — and won.
The policy would have given San Francisco police officers the authority to stop and search any individual who “looks suspicious,” in an effort to get guns off the streets.
“I found it was basically a predatory policing practice that didn’t belong in a city like San Francisco,” Ellington told us. His petition garnered a little more than 2,300 signatures, “enough to show policymakers we were paying attention,” he guesses. Faced with mounting pressure and a community outcry, Lee ultimately abandoned the idea.
“That was a win, I think, for everyone fighting for what’s really a civil right,” the 25-year-old, native San Franciscan told us in a recent phone interview. “It’s not a black issue or a white issue,” but it did strike a nerve and provide Ellington with some momentum for coalition building.
Ellington was born and raised in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, home to a significant portion of the city’s dwindling black population. The campaign against stop-and-frisk helped catalyze his still-evolving political organization, the Black Young Democrats of San Francisco, of which he is president.
Go to BYDSF’s website and you’re confronted with some startling statistics about the experience of black San Franciscans: In the last 20 years, the African American community has dwindled to only 6 percent of the city’s population; meanwhile, the high school dropout rate stands at 38 percent, the unemployment rate is 18 percent, and the level of poverty stands at a disheartening 20 percent.
To tackle these looming challenges, BYDSF now faces the hurdle of getting local elected officials to care. “Since then, we have been trying to build our membership and figure out where we fit in the political climate of SF,” Ellington says.
His group’s chief concerns include closing the achievement gap in San Francisco public schools, doing something about the escalating cost of housing, and finding better solutions for public transit. “There’s the housing need, obviously. It’s a need that working class folks in general are facing,” he said.
He’s pursing a master’s degree in urban affairs at the University of San Francisco, and says he’s taken it upon himself to learn everything he can about how cities operate. To that end, he often ponders vexing questions: “How do you figure out a way to give those same opportunities to everyone? How do you provide opportunities for all income levels?”
His successful opposition campaign to stop-and-frisk didn’t stop Mayor Lee from appointing him to the Commission on Community Investment and Infrastructure, which oversees the successor to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. A major project under that body’s purview is the Hunters Point Shipyard development, a massive undertaking led by construction firm Lennar Urban, practically in Ellington’s backyard. Having grown up in the neighborhood, he sees himself as being in a unique position to ensure that the developers are providing jobs for local residents as required under the agreement. “It allows me to speak to both sides — on the community level, and in City Hall,” he said. “There are certain social dynamics you won’t understand unless you have lived in the community.” Ultimately, Ellington says, his goal is to push local politicians to find ways of making San Francisco a place where people of all income levels can find their way. “There’s a lot more work to do,” he said. “I think San Francisco is at a real pivotal point, where we can choose to go in the right direction … or we can choose the opposite.”
LOCAL HEROES: Shanell Williams
Shanell Williams is a chameleon activist, spearheading the effort to save City College of San Francisco from many fronts.
When City College fought off a statewide initiative to save money by stigmatizing struggling students, she defended the school as an Occupy activist. With a banner raised high, she faced down the California Community College Board of Governors, shouting their wrongs aloud at a meeting attended by hundreds. The board was stunned but her fellow activists were not, because that’s who Williams is: an uncompromising defender of San Francisco.
Now, as City College faces a fight for its existence, Williams is defending it again, this time as a duly elected CCSF student trustee.
Williams is at the forefront of Save CCSF, an Occupy-inspired group publicly protesting the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges, the body trying to shut down City College. San Francisco is holding its breath until next July to hear if the accrediting commission will close the city’s only community college — and Williams was one of the key organizers helping students’ voices rise up to decry the decision to close the school.
She has reason to fight hard, growing up watching her community ravaged by those in power who purported to do good. She is a black woman and San Francisco native raised in the Fillmore and the long history of redevelopment and its role in the flight of The City’s African American population shaped her ethos. To Williams, there are forces that care about money at the expense of communities and those forces need to be fought.
“How are we supporting people to have a decent quality of life?” she said, and that’s the way she’s approached saving her community since a young age.
In 2003, while in high school, Williams got a taste of politicking as a member of San Francisco’s Youth Commission, appointed by then-Mayor Willie Brown. “I think he’s a very interesting character with a lot of influence over the city,” she said, with just an edge of steel to her voice.
As a teenaged politician, she discovered the work of the Human Rights Commission and was inspired. While a student of Washington High School and then Wallenberg High, she had a tough home life and entered the foster care system, getting a firsthand look at how the state takes care of its youth.
It galvanized her, honed her, and made her yearn for change. “I just innately had a sense of wanting to see justice and fairness,” she said.
Energized, she joined the Center for Young Women’s Development, the Youth Treatment Education Court, Urban Services YMCA, the Youth Leadership Institute, and more. She joined so many organizations and taught so many youth and government officials that even she can’t remember all of them off the top of her head.
At one point, she even taught judges across the country about cultural competency. “We had this whole spoken word performance thing we did,” she said, laughing.
In 2010, as Williams took classes at City College, she waved the banner defending San Francisco’s community college students. She pushed for city-level minimum wage requirements for City College workers, who earned dollars less. She also pushed back against state requirements to cut off priority registrations to those who took too long in the community college system — because she’s been there herself.
“They need a few chances to get it right and become a good student,” she said. When the struggle to save City College is done, win or lose, Williams sees herself remaining an advocate for students for years to come. At 29 years old, she’s still a student herself, and she eagerly awaits the day she’ll transfer to Cal or Stanford as an Urban Studies major. It all comes back to defending her city. “We have to broaden the movement,” she said. “The enemy is not about color, it’s about wealth inequality. It’s not just about City College either. It’s about the austerity regime that doesn’t care about working class people and poor folks.”
San Franciscans for Healthcare, Jobs, and Justice
When the San Francisco Mayor’s Office cut a deal with Sutter Health and its California Pacific Medical Center affiliate for an ambitious rebuild of hospital facilities — which would shape healthcare services in San Francisco for years to come — community activists began to find serious flaws in the proposal.
So they organized and banded together into a coalition to challenge the powerful players pushing the plan, eventually helping to hash out a better agreement that would benefit all San Franciscans. Representing an alliance between labor and community advocates, the coalition was called San Franciscans for Healthcare, Jobs, and Justice.
When the whole affair began, it seemed as if the CPMC rebuild would incorporate a host of community benefits — but those promises evaporated after the healthcare provider walked away from the negotiating table, unhappy with the terms.
Then a second agreement, with much weaker public benefits, came out of a second round of talks between CPMC and the Mayor’s Office. But by then, so much had been given up that “we were stunned,” said Calvin Welch, who joined the coalition on behalf of the Council of Community Housing Organizations. “We met with [Mayor Ed Lee] and told him, this is absolutely unacceptable.”
But the mayor wasn’t willing to address their concerns at that time. When the deal failed to win approval after a series of hearings at the Board of Supervisors, however, “the unacceptable deal that the mayor created melted in the sun of full disclosure,” Welch said.
That plan would have allowed St. Luke’s Hospital, a critically important facility for low-income patients, to shrink to just 80 beds with no guarantee that it would stay open in the long run. CPMC’s commitment to providing charitable care to the uninsured was disappointingly low. And while the project was expected to create 1,500 permanent jobs in San Francisco, the deal only guaranteed that 5 percent of those positions would go to existing San Francisco residents.
Enter the movers and shakers with San Franciscans for Healthcare, Housing, Jobs, and Justice. The coalition took its place at the negotiating table, along with CPMC, a mediator, and an unlikely trio of supervisors that included Board President David Chiu and Sups. David Campos and Mark Farrell. Over several months, the coalition put in some serious time and energy to push for a more equitable outcome.
“We pushed so hard for a smaller Cathedral Hill [Hospital] and a larger St. Luke’s,” Welch said, describing their strategy to safeguard against the closure of St. Luke’s. They also pushed for CPMC to make a better funding contribution toward affordable housing, a stronger guarantee for hiring San Franciscans at the new medical center, and improvements to transit and pedestrian safety measures as conditions of the deal.
Under the terms that were ultimately approved, St. Luke’s will remain a full-service hospital, and CPMC will commit to providing services to 30,000 “charity care” patients and 5,400 Medi-Cal patients per year.
CPMC also agreed to contribute $36.5 million to the city’s affordable housing fund, and promised to pay $4.1 million to replace homes it displaces on Cathedral Hill. Under the revised deal, 30 percent of construction jobs and 40 percent of permanent entry-level positions in the new facilities would be promised to San Francisco residents.
One of the greatest victories of all, Welch said, was how well coalition members worked together. “This was the most straight-up equal collaboration with labor and community people, equally supporting one another, that I’ve ever been involved with,” Welch said. Even though they were motivated to participate by different sets of concerns, the two sides remained mutually supportive, Welch said. During the long, grueling hearings, “The nurses never left,” he noted in amazement. “The nurses stuck around for all the community stuff.”
Photos by Evan Ducharme
Get that paper, paper, paper — printed. Holed up in a cozy garage with a cute dog and a hunky Vandercock proof press (a rare specimen last produced in the 1960s), the letterpress-loving ladies of Western Editions create and design paper goods for all occasions and situations, from badass business cards with handmade charm to colorful and direct wedding invites that may just get your flaky San Franciscan friends to actually attend the soirée. “Letterpress is magic,” is the motto of Western Addition residents Taylor Reid and Erin Fong, two friends turned business partners who are down to customize and open to suggestions, meaning you can make all the cute shit your ambitious heart desires, or purchase some one else’s great idea from their online store. Oh, hey, and they offer supercool DIY workshops, too — just in time for the holidays.
555 Rose, SF. www.westerneditions.com
Friends, we have eaten gold leaf. That’s what they’re serving these days at the new digs of the most lauded restaurant in SF, Saison: a voluptuous dish of sea urchin over grilled root custard in a handmade Japanese ceramic bowl, topped with a generous skin of melted gold. (Let’s settle one question right away: no, our toilet wasn’t gilded the next morning. Nor did we use the leaf to fake a grill.) It’s part of the $248 tasting menu, $396 with insane wine pairing, at this two-star Michelin hotspot. Don’t worry, there’s a bar menu featuring reserve caviar dolloped over corn pudding and grilled Australian black truffle stew, both at $88, cough. Look, we have to hand it to renegade chef Joshua Skenes and sommelier and co-owner Mark Bright — if you ever can/want to shell out $400 for a meal (ours was a press comp), this is the absolutely perfect one. Fourteen courses of the best the world has to offer, served in jaw-dropping ways. Yet it was the metaphorical combination of the dish mentioned above — gold smothering an urchin — that rang particularly true of this moment in San Francisco history. The delicious, flashy rush. And then what lies beneath it, left behind.
178 Townsend, SF. (415) 828-7990, www.saisonsf.com
Watch live flamenco and Arabian fusion music while you dance with a side of papas bravas and plantains. Take in the All-Star Latin Band on weekly Cuban and world music nights while munching Andean fresh corn tamales and yuca frita with cashew cream. Yes, North Beach’s intimate cultural center and restaurant Peña Pachamama (“on a little side street in San Francisco’s old Latin Quarter somewhere between Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and endless Italian late-night cafes”) offers up such startlingly refreshing culinary-auditory pairings, nearly every night of the week. The friendly South American restaurant and performance venue offers an exceptional range of cultural treats for your tummy and mind, and begs this simple question: why is it so damn hard to find vegan, gluten free, and/or deliciously organic cuisine at other music venues in veg-friendly San Francisco? No matter — Peña Pachamama has already delivered the goods, and they are spicy.
1630 Powell, SF. (415) 646-0018, pachamamacenter.org
Spurn the crowds across the street at ever-popular Taqueria Cancun’s Bernal-side outpost. You, a seasoned Missionite, have had your fill of what one of our dear ones likes to call “the Mexican death log.” Burrito fiend you are not — which is why in your wisdom your tummy’s late night call has led you to a late-night Salvadorean restaurant, sounding thusly: “pupusa…” They’re no baby-sized gut bomb, the pupusas at El Zocalo. These traditional steaming pocket-like snacks come stuffed with cheese (of course), but also zucchini, loroco, feta even for those sick of stringy quesos. And lucky you, the family joint stays open until three in the morning, so it’s ready for whenever you graduate to the next level with San Francisco snacking.
3230 Mission, SF. (415) 282-2572
An invention that seems perfect for the busy-yet-locavore-obsessed Bay Area (though test markets are popping up in Brooklyn, New Orleans, and LA) sustainable ready-to-eat delivery service Good Eggs seems to have it all. But for our money — and yes, it’s not exactly cheap — there is one among Eggs’ many intriguing, locally produced offerings that intrigues the most: caterer Max Pouvreau’s Petit Pot. Did you know that everything tastes better in a Weck jar? This is the height of Bay food trendiness on the go: Try jarred lamb shoulder and spring onion tagine with prunes and roasted almonds, followed by a jarred dark chocolate buttermilk cake with coffee whipped cream and cocoa nibs. All delivered to your door! Bonus: $3 deposits on your round glass meal carriers means return customers get a sweet (savory?) discount.
You may see Rocky Yazzie at the best live venues around town doing one of two things. Either he’s rocking coveralls and slinging authentic Native American fry bread, or banging it out with his self-described “pow wow punk” band, Sweat Lodge. Either way, you’ll be glad to have stumbled into his special Rocky bubble. A few words on his Rocky’s Fry Bread snacks, perhaps the better known of the two projects. The New Mexico native and member of the Diné tribe makes deliciously deep-fried taco-like handheld meals, stuffed with beans and fresh veggies (there are non-veg versions as well), behind his own pop-up stand. There’s something about that fry bread that just perfectly soaks up all the boozing without landing like a log in your tummy. As the friendly slinger once explained it to Scoutmob, “I love life and it shows in the food.”
Appropriately, the Chapel opened last year with a string of concerts by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a group named for its origin point at NOLA’s Preservation Hall jazz venue. That’s the spot Valencia Street’s new place for music worship (officially known as Preservation Hall West at the Chapel) is modeled after, and endlessly inspired by, be it in in the form of design, live music, or eats. This year, the well-crafted, multilevel, many-roomed Chapel has expanded its musical offerings, dabbling in folk, rock’n’roll, and indie bands like La Sera, Magic Trick, and Weekend, along with more traditional jazz acts, and what-the-hell randomly awesome offerings like Sparks or actor-musician John C. Reilly with Lavender Diamond. It also opened the attached Vestry Restaurant, which offers a full menu leaning more on the SF gourmet side, with items like the duck confit flatbread or seared scallops with beet risotto. During shows, patrons can peep live acts from the open upstairs balcony, from the dramatic main room down below, or perched on a bar stool in the shiny wooded lounge with closed-circuit flat screens, high-end cocktails like the Old Overholt rye-based Ward Eight, and yummy bar bites like shrimp po’ boys that subtly wink at NOLA pride.
777 Valencia, SF. (415) 551-5157, www.thechapelsf.com
It is with good reason that Hella Vegan Eats’ doughnut burger was the runaway star of the San Francisco Street Food Festival this year. No false modesty here: the Bay Guardian had already been praising that sticky delicious beet burger for months, even giving it top billing in our “Vegan Junk Food” feature. But no matter who broke the story; the real scoop here is that special dish, lovingly crafted by couple-founders Tiffany and Sylvee Esquivel, and showing up regularly at places like Dear Mom, Timeless Coffee in Oakland, and Dolores Park through La Cocina. Dig its moist-yet-crunchy patty fashioned from freekah (an ancient cereal) and beets and plopped between two (vegan) sugar donuts, piled high with pickled veggies, and laced with a tangy secret sauce. So wrong that it’s right.
When the sound system at your restaurant outstrips the food when it comes to rave reviews, you might have a problem. But the folks at Berkeleys’s elegant, spare, and forward-thinking Comal are confident enough in their menu to take us to the next level of sensual experience. The haute-Mexican cuisine, emphasizing deep flavors and grilled textures, speaks for itself. But the sound of the place speaks volumes. In order to better control the sonic ambiance of the place — and perhaps to diffuse the persnicketiness of SF’s most prominent food critic, whose aversion to dining room noise is legendary — Comal’s owner John Paluska installed a new, state-of-the-art Libra acoustic image system and complementary Constellation active acoustic system from Meyer Sound. Through a series of unobstrusive iPad-controlled speakers and acoustic absorption tiles, managers can control the “buzz” levels of the place, “washing” and basically “whitening” the noise as needed to quiet things down. The can even turn up the buzz around the bar — although with several flights of tequila on the menu, there’s probably enough buzz already.
2020 Shattuck, SF. (510) 926.6300, www.comalberkeley.com
Light fare it is not, but are we ever glad to have come around to the gravy-like consistency and rich, complex flavors of Japanese curry. Nothing seems more homey or satisfying than when the comforting heft of a curry-laden lunch plate — chicken or pork katsu, tender cubed beef, steaming veggie, etc. versions available — is directed toward your waiting mouth, a feat made possible at the Financial District’s Muracci’s (a joint that now has a sister location in Los Altos.) Venture here for some of the best Japanese curry that we’ve found in town, served up in a small, no-frills space with less than a dozen seats. Plus: sides of pickles! Be not afraid of the line, an apt indicator of the number of J-curry fans in this town — thanks to Muracci’s efficient express plates, the queue moves fast enough to satisfy even our most ravenous lunchtime cravings.
307 Kearny, SF. (415) 773-1101, www.muraccis.com
You’re welcome to play it safe tastewise in Willy Wonka-like soda paradise The Fizzary. Pop a familiar bottle of orange into the joint’s charming quick chill device, crack, and glug. But even amid that flavor’s designated shelf of sodas you’ll find intriguing variations — a bottle flown in from the Phillipines, a blood orange variation innocuously lounging, a five-gallon jug of your childhood favorite fizz to take your sugar highs to new altitudes. Venture out of the known soda universe — that seems to be what local bubble bottlers Taylor’s Tonics wanted when they opened up this quirky shop selling theirs and other carbonated treats — plus retro and hard-to-find candies — in the Mission. A quick listing of the other flavors you may encounter on the shelves and your tastebuds quiver. Chocolate, lavender, clove, bacon, spruce, amaretto, and cucumber from manufacturers the world over.
2949 Mission, SF. (877) 368-4608, www.thefizzary.com
Oh, the end of a long night in North Beach. There you are, mercifully relieved of your singles after oh-so-lovely times watching the ladies of the Penthouse Club clack their mega-heels all up and down the two-story stripper poles. You’re satiated in the “make it rain” department … but damn, are you hungry. Enter Taqueria Zorro’s Zorro burrito, there to stuff your belly and slash “satisfied” across your chest. What’s in the Zorro, you ask? Well, all the same things you’ve come to expect from a burrito, except instead of using traditional rice and beans they stuff the burrito with French fries. This so-called “California burrito” version, supposedly hailing from San Diego in the ’80s is all the carb-filled rage these days — GQ even claimed last month that it would soon replace the ramenburger (see above) in hip factor. And yeah, you can spot it soaking through menus across the Mission. But Zorro got there first and left its greasy, irresistible mark.
308 Columbus, SF. (415) 392-1299, www.taqueriazorro.com
“Rich and creamy, baked with love, and served chilled for the California heat” — did Schulzies Bread Pudding sound intriguing until that “chilled” part? Open your mind, bread pudding snob: Sarah Schulz’s Venice Beach-born, super-moist dessert sensation, which added a Hayes Valley location last year, is too delicious to deny (and the shop has warm options to balance out the cold, FYI). Who needs a cupcake or a cronut when you can spoon up fresh-made flavors such as Maple Bacon Lovers (tasty with optional add-ins like whiskey sauce and chocolate chips), Blissed Out Blueberry, or Salted Caramel Charisma? Seriously — who needs to eat any other type of food, ever again?
364 Hayes, SF. (415) 565-7336, www.schulziesbreadpudding.com
Back in 1992, inmate counselor Catherine Sneed started pioneering programs for former offenders that eventually led to the implementation of the San Francisco Jail’s Garden Project. This in-jail option gives inmates the time and space to plant and tend their own organically grown food gardens at the Jail’s San Bruno complex as a healthy add-in to their rehabilitation. The program has recently been expanded under Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who pushed for and won a new food service contract to ensure more of this yummy nutrition ends up on the plates of inmates who have traditionally had to endure less than wholesome fare. Soon, if the program catches on, jails might have more shared garden space than San Francisco itself.
The Mexican-Italian house of Juan Gutierrez opened The Sandwich Place in 1979 when Gutierrez was only 14 years old. A tiny shop that just fits its refrigerator cases full of bevs and counter, the shop sits a stone’s throw from the 16th Street BART station in a bustling milieu of commuters, street preachers, and the occasional demonstration or spoken word open mic. In such a space, one would expect strict utilitarianism. But Gutierrez would scoff at such assumptions — quickly, in his exuberantly bilingual manner. One look at the Place’s vast menu reveals everything from chicken milanesas and bacon-wrapped hot dogs to a superb Portobello-and-balsamic sando from an impressive veggie section, all served on his fresh homemade breads in standard and gluten-free varieties. Better than the chain stores? By a million miles. And chances are, you won’t have to travel even one to find out.
2029 Mission, SF. (415) 431-3811
Houses in the Sunset may be built on dunes, but make no mistake, the neighborhood is no food desert. The flagship of the snacktastic stretch of outer Judah Street (see also: locavore haven Outerlands, beloved Mexican resto Celia’s by the Beach) is without a doubt grocery co-op Other Avenues, about to round the bend on year 40 in the western neighborhood. This is world-class healthy food: happy-making bulk bins, raw milk, vivacious produce, with a thoughtful wine selection and holistic med shelves so complete you’ll never have to trek into neighborhoods that look down on wearing sandals to re-up on herbs and tonics. Plus it’s cute, friendly, and neatly crammed into a smallish storefront, you’ll never lose the gist of your shopping list after giving your neighborhood a hearty “howdy.”
3930 Judah, SF. (415) 661-7475, www.otheravenues.coop
Perhaps it is, as the official line of the newly renovated Dogpatch Saloon goes, high time for a 100-year-old bar to undergo a facelift. The bar’s new ownership headed by Christopher Barry, the mind behind downtown’s 83 Proof, seemed like it had its heart in the right place, but the neighborhood bar’s clientele had a right to be worried about the integrity of its comfy watering hole in a rapidly evolving area. Lo and behold: the change was good. Fresh new cocktails lubricate a complete (but not drastic) rehash of the age-old interior, and the characters assembled around the bar continue to convey the scruffy ragtagliness of the dockside ‘hood. We like it when well-loved institutions move smoothly with the times, especially when that motion involves a cocktail shaker.
2496 Third St., SF. (415) 643-8592, www.dogpatchsaloon.com
Ramen is a staple of many an SF diet — especially in the chilly summer months laced with our trademark fog. But the dish almost always includes meat, or at the very least those so-called vegetarian noodles and veggies are floating in warm fish broth. It can seem particularly rude to dissect each element of the noodle bowl at a traditional spot, causing headaches for servers and hungry vegans alike. Enter Ken Ken Ramen, a popular Mission brick-and-mortar location that started as a pop-up. It proudly serves both the traditional stuff, unique nightly specials, and the noodle bowl of vegan dreams. No guessing, it’s labeled clearly on the menu: “Miso Vegan Ramen.” Ah, such a relief filling your belly with warm, tender noodles. And that sizzling bowl includes vegan broth, vegan noodles, and “veggies galore.” Vegans rejoice!
3378 18th St., SF. (415) 967-2636, www.eatkenkenramen.com
Certainly, you can visit this Marina bakeshop without ordering Le Marais Bakery’s Volcan, but this is foolhardy. On your last island getaway did you dither about in the airport gift shop, fretting over gaudy short-sleeve button-downs and plastic leis, tempting as they may be? Of course not, you went straight to the top of Kilauea and delighted in its heart-racing flows and crispy geological crusts. And so you will, bold one, at Le Marais. You’ll save that baguette for later and dive straight into a Volcan, one of the shop’s deep dishes of light and flakey crust, molten ricotta, and some kind of something — Llano Seco pork perhaps, or a smattering of sharp Parmesan. But be warned: any tummy rumblings after this first taste of paradise may signal another trip to Chestnut Street for a buttery, savory baked eruption.
2066 Chestnut, SF. (415) 359-9801, www.lemaraisbakery.com
Hayes Valley is a neighborhood in constant flux — witness the condo complex that’s rising where the Hayes Valley Farm’s beehives and veggie rows once stood. Just across Fell Street from this construction is year-old specialty market Nosa Ria (speaking of change, the space was previously a hair salon), selling what its sandwich-board sign dubs “quintessential Spanish foods” — and we dub indubitably delicious. Its list of unique, hard-to-find imports includes grocery staples (cured meats, cheese, olive oils, etc.), wines and sherry, and treats (chocolate! Chupa Chups!). Oh yes, there is that ever-elusive jamon serrano in the house, as well as squid in ink, thick and sweety turron, and all the paella fixings you need, including tha pans. That trip to Galicia and/or Andalusia may be still in the planning stages, but you can start refining your palate ahora.
500 Laguna, SF. (415) 529-1506, www.nosaria.com
A cozy bar with unbeatable drink deals, a genre-spanning variety of DJ nights (soul! Classic country! Brazilian! 1950s mod!), undiscovered by the mouth-breathing masses, yet conveniently located just a few meatball-lengths away from the Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack? What is this magical establishment? Look no further than the spot so friendly it’s named El Amigo — offering late-night drink specials and stocking 40 kinds of tequila. Hi! The joint is owned by the same team behind the ever-popular Emmy’s, providing a great perch for drinking away your wait for a table. And join us there for a cheap beer and a shot at midnight, you might become our BFF.
3355 Mission, SF. Facebook: El Amigo Bar