Sam Devine

Wind it up


CULTURE They’re out there in the water at Ocean Beach and Crissy Field, whipping by the toll plaza, sailing giant kites like crescent moons. Those freaky, flying water monkeys — soaring around the bay via kites strong enough to tow cars — are kitesurfers, also called kiteboarders.

Thanks to its ideal mix of geography and weather, the Bay Area is a phenomenal place for the increasingly popular sport. “It’s a world-class kiteboarding destination,” says Jeff Kafka, owner of Burlingame kiteboarding school Wind Over Water. “You might have to wear a wetsuit most of the time, but we have some of the best wind in the world.”

Kitesurfing is a combination of sailing, surfing, and power kiting, in which a large kite is used to pull a rider on any and all types of boards (surfboards, wakeboards) with and without foot straps. The kites range in size from as small as a kitchen table to as big as a bus; smaller kites are used in heavier winds, while bigger kites are used in lighter winds. The most common size is probably 12 meters (about as big as an average parking spot). Almost all kitesurfing kites have inflatable frames that keep them from sinking in the event of a crash.

Most kites have four lines that run to a control bar — letting the rider steer — which is hooked to a body harness that takes most of the pull. Quick release systems have evolved to help reduce the kite’s speed and even disconnect the rigging in the blink of an eye, drastically improving the safety of the sport. Contrast this to the sport’s early-1980s origins, when brothers Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux launched the first water kites off the Atlantic coast of France. In those days, a hunting knife strapped to one’s leg was considered a quick release system.

“A lot of people were getting hurt back then and we needed a safer way to continue the sport,” says Sandy Parker of the Kitopia School of Kiteboarding, in the Sacramento Delta. “That was part of the reason for forming the school.”

While the Bay Area is a hotbed for the sport, there are International Kiteboarding Organization-certified schools all over the world equipped with jet skis and radio helmets, ready to get newbies into the water as safely as possible. Traditionally, students are started with “trainer” kites — two-lined kites with little more power than a toy stunt kite.

“The trainer kite’s a good practice kite,” says Kafka. “You can send somebody off and they can mess around with very little instruction.”

But as safety systems and kites have advanced, some schools have begun putting large, powerful kites in people’s hands sooner.

“I don’t really recommend any trainer kite usage prior to coming out,” says John von Tesmar, with Treasure Island’s KiteTheBay. (His jet boat is named, appropriately, Windseeker.) “I hook the kite to the boat and, right then, you can get someone’s virgin hands on the bar.”

Either way, the next step is learning the safety systems, and how to independently steer a full-size kite. After that comes water maneuvers and then board start, when the student hopefully gets up and riding. This usually takes about four to six hours and is generally broken into two sessions. With lessons averaging around $100 per hour, a lot of people — especially experienced surfers and snowboarders — try to avoid taking lessons.

“Saying that you’re accomplished at boardsports but have zero kite experience is akin to saying you’re excellent at hitting a ball with a mallet but don’t know how to ride a horse, and now you want to play polo,” says Rebbecca Geffert of Boardsports School, which operates around the Bay Area. (Full disclosure: I am an IKO-certified kitesurfing instructor and teach at Boardsports.) “The kite is the horse. It’s all about kite control. Board skills are secondary.”

Adds Royce Vaughn of Emeryville’s KGB Kitesurfing, “At the end of the day, there are a lot of variables in kiteboarding. It’s not just as easy as learning how to fly a kite and jumpin’ on a board. There’s a lot of safety involved.”

Though lessons can be a bit steep, most shops give a discount on gear to students. Some will even throw in free lessons if you buy a complete set-up. And being involved with a school opens up a worldwide network of education, socializing, and employment. There’s more than one globe-trotting telecommuter out there who supplements his or her traveling expenses by teaching kitesurfing. Or perhaps you want to get into snowkiting or racing. The sport is full of possibilities.

“Once you get the basic mechanics, it’s just where you want to take it, what board you want to ride on, what types of tricks you want to do, or if you don’t want to do any tricks at all,” says Kafka. “Maybe you just want to have a nice afternoon ridin’ along in the bay.” *


International Kiteboarding Organization


Boardsports School


KGB Kiteboarding




Live 2 Kite  

Wind over Water

Trunk show: Anchor launches its new IPA


Read Sam Devine’s story on Anchor’s planned waterfront brewery in this week’s paper.

Last week, Anchor Brewing and Distilling launched an IPA to much fanfare at their Mariposa Street brewery. Initially, one may be surprised that Anchor has joined the frenzy of hoppy West Coast beers. But this is not the first IPA it has released. Originally brewed in 1975, its Liberty Ale was the first IPA to be brewed on the West Coast after Prohibition.

So Anchor is not just hopping on the bandwagon. It’s getting back on the wagon that they hopped in the first place — with Cascade hops, and while experimenting with dry-hopping methods.

The new Anchor IPA has a rich copper color and a sweet, hoppy aroma. Mildy bitter to taste, it has a good burst of hop flavor and a grainy, malty back end. It finishes crisp-to-dry and does not have the lingering grapefruit that many an IPA offers. All in all, it’s a well-balanced, easy to drink beverage.

The release party was quite a shindig, cramming a happy throng amidst the copper kettles and in the tap room. “Passport Stations” were set up along the way as a sort of parlor game, educating the crowd on the beer’s rich history and explaining the use of the elephant on the new beer label.

The first kiosk asked party-goers to devise which statement was false: a) IPA stands for India Pale Ale, b) IPAs became popular in the 18th century, c) Production of IPAs expanded with exportation to India.

The answer is b)! India Pale Ales became popular in the 19th century through shipments to that faraway place where elephants roamed.

The next station featured bowls of the of six varieties of hops used in the new beer: cascade, Apollo, Citra, Nelson Sauvin, Haas, and Experimental No. 431. “It smells like weed,” said one party-goer holding a handful of little green buds. And it really does.

Another way-point described the antiquated phrase “See the Elephant,” which was a 19th century term for heading toward adventure: “Tom, I’m off to ‘see the elephant.’ Wish me luck.” “You’re a fool, Jones.” “Go fly a kite, Tom!” The phrase was supposedly bandied about quite a bit during the Gold Rush, tying the elephant label neatly in with Anchor’s late 19th century roots.

Last but not least was a station for the Performing Animal Welfare Society. This non-profit advocates against the use of animals for entertainment and maintains wildlife sanctuaries for “rescued performers.” We learned that, sadly — no matter how well an elephant is treated in captivity — controlling and training an animal of that size requires some unpleasant techniques, leaving the animal with an unhappy childhood.

Doin’ all that-there learnin’ was made easier by confections and freely pouring taps. Boccalone, makers of fine cured meats, sliced up “delicious pig parts,” and Three Twins Ice Cream handed out two specially-made ice creams. One was the flavor of IPA and the other tasted of Bock beer. In addition to those treats, the evening’s caterers, Melon’s, had a surprise hit with their grilled-cheese-and-apple sandwiches.

Much of the staff, from CEO, to brewer, to tour guide were on hand. Alas, no show from Fritz Maytag, but he is officially retired now and immersed in his many hobbies — too occupied to bother donning silly hats in a photo booth while imbibing ales… perhaps wisely so.

Full steam ahead


BEER Just across McCovey Cove from AT&T Park, the San Francisco Giants and Anchor Brewing Company are concocting a beer-filled future for Pier 48. As part of the Mission Rock development project, the new Anchor brewery, slotted to break ground in late 2015, would allow Anchor to quadruple production and remain in San Francisco.

The proposed brewery will eventually contain a restaurant, museum, educational space, and distillery. It’s being designed with giant windows that will offer an unprecedented view of operations. Brewing would be transparent enough to be observed while casually strolling the pier or even from certain seats inside the ballpark.

“As you come in and you look into the brewery, the first thing you’ll see will be one of the cold fermentors,” says architect Olle Lundberg, referring to the large cooling pans or “cool ships” Anchor still uses to chill its boiled beer batches. “The bar for the restaurant will look out over that, so you’ll be looking out over this kind of sea of beer into the brewery. If that doesn’t inspire you to drink, I don’t know what will.”

Anchor has been poised to expand for years. It even has a copper German brewhouse ready to install in the new facility. It’s been sitting in storage since it was purchased in the early 1990s by then-CEO Fritz Maytag. He left the collection of kettles, mash tuns, and fermentors unused when his plans for a new brewery were sidelined by that rarest of business concerns: happiness.

“In 1990 the brewery was doing about 100,000 barrels, which made it the number one craft brewery in the country,” says CEO Keith Greggor in his cheery British accent. “Further expansion was going to be very difficult, very costly. At the same time, [Maytag] got very interested in distilling and he decided, ‘You know what? I’m number one. I don’t need to focus on being the biggest and the baddest. I’m happy with what I’m doing and I’m going to focus on distilling now.’ And he was one of the first in that kind of craft distilling revolution that’s happened.”

This was the second craft revolution that Maytag, the great-grandson of Maytag Appliance founder Frederick Maytag, helped to ignite. In 1965, he was enjoying a “Steam Beer” at a North Beach restaurant when he was told it would be the last he would ever have: the brewery, which had survived Prohibition decades earlier, was closing. Hearing this, he purchased a controlling share of the company, saving from extinction not only a brewery in operation since 1896, but one of the only known styles of beer to have originated in America. “Steam Beer,” technically classified as “California Common Beer,” is a lager fermented at ale temperatures.

But times have changed since 1965. Craft brewing has been revived in America to the point that decorative plastic hops are A Thing. And competition demands more than being the only kid on the block with flavorful barley-pop. So in addition to the new brewery plans, Anchor will be discontinuing its bock beer and Humming Ale, while offering a new saison and an IPA.

“We like to say that we’re resting those beers,” says Greggor of the discontinued lines. “We have to respond to the consumer and retail demand for beer. And the demand for today is: ‘I want new. I want new.'”

And new it will be. Since 2010, when Maytag sold the brewery to the Griffin Group of Novato, most noted for their work with Skyy Vodka, Anchor has introduced several new beers to its regular line, including Brekle’s Brown, California Lager, and Big Leaf Maple. One the most recent is Small Beer, which draws from well-trod brewing techniques, making a lighter, more session-able ale from the mash of Old Foghorn — a more robust, flavorful brew.

And the Mission Rock development hopes to get even more out of those spent grains. As part of a proposed district-wide energy management facility, Anchor’s waste and run-off could be used to create methane for heating, and gray-water for toilets and sprinklers.

“We’re looking at all kinds of crazy, fun ideas for waste recapture,” says Fran Weld, director of real estate for the Giants. (The team, which is partnered with the Port of San Francisco on the project, asked Anchor to be the first tenant.) “The idea of looking at a district-wide solution is you can consolidate all of those chilling towers and boilers that the developers would otherwise build. You can do fewer of them because of the fact that you’re meeting the demands of the site as a whole — so your baseline of required energy is much lower.”

Still awaiting final approval from city agencies, the Mission Rock plan also includes mixed-use office, retail, restaurant, and manufacturing spaces, as well as affordable housing. But perhaps most remarkable is the development will enable San Francisco’s oldest and largest manufacturer to remain within the city, though at no small cost.

“You can imagine there are much, much cheaper places for them to build this facility,” says Lundberg, whose design firm is joint-venturing the project with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. “They could just keep Potrero Hill as a kind of, you know, boutique signature facility and then make most of their product in Chico or somewhere. But instead they’ve decided that they really want to be here and they want to do it all here and there’s a big number attached to that.”

When asked if he has considered a opening an additional brewery elsewhere (as Petaluma-based Lagunitas has done in Chicago), Greggor is almost offended.

“I believe that Anchor belongs in San Francisco. That’s our history, that’s our heritage,” says Greggor. “People have an affinity to us, whether they drink beer or not, they like us being part of the city. They applaud our efforts to stay on in the city and make beer here even though it’s a very expensive environment to do so. And we ourselves are all committed personally and passionately to the city. And we don’t want to go anywhere else! We’ll make less money and live here, please.” *

Thirsty for more? Check out all the sudsy goings-on at SF Beer Week (, including events featuring Anchor beers, now through Sun/16.


They came, they saw, they burned: scenes from the 2013 Dirtbag Challenge


This is a follow-up to Keep Choppin’. You probably wanna check that (and this blog post) out first.

The go-to joke is that Alex “Koshka” Verbitsky claimed the Dirtbag Challenge — held Sun/13 at the end of Quesada Ave. — for Moldova. His 1969 CB 450 build took home not only the Coolest Bike title as voted by the fellow builders, but also the People’s Choice Award. His build was inspired by old-fashioned board-track racers, taking chopping back to its roots in the 1910s and ’20s.

Builder brothers Chris and Dan Faulkner came with two very cool bikes. Chris’ bike, the cleverly titled “Cherry Pauper,” was made from a 1976 Kawasaki for about $130. The bike completed the run to and from Pescadero, and did reliable burn-outs well into the evening. Dan’s bike made tricky use of flag colors. With its blue frame and red-and-white tank and fender, it looked like the Captain America bike from one side, but could be seen clearly as the Rising Sun flag of military Japan from the other.

Nick Murphy, from Portland, Ore., chopped a rare, automatic-transmission bike called a Hondamatic. In Pescadero, Murphy presumed his throttle cable would snap before the ride was over. But the bike held out, making it to Alice’s Restaurant and back, even though it behaved sporadically, chugging along at a snail’s pace one moment, ripping and snorting ahead the next. “There was no plan,” said Murphy. “Those carbs are doing their own thing.”

Builder Mike Finley brought a plywood-clad monstrosity all the way from San Diego. Built from a 1989 Suzuki “500 something” that had been sitting around, it looked akin to a cardboard rocket ship. Fishtailing precariously at high-speeds, the bike won the coveted Gulu Award for most lunatic bike.

Kyle Cannon showed up on a heavily chopped Kawasaki that was unrecognizable from the large sport bike it once was. The bike his son started with friends didn’t quite make it. “I wasn’t going to do it for them,” said Cannon, still proud of the young group. “We’ll finish it, though.”

Josh Stine’s bike developed electric issues on the ride but still received the Founder’s Choice Award.

Casey Anderson showed up with a picture of the bike he was working on. Oddly, he dropped out for the opposite reason of most: his build went too well. Not wanting to mess anything up, he decided not to rush things. (After looking at the photo, I couldn’t blame him.)

Julian Farnam’s futuristic bike earned the title of Craftiest, evoking compliments of symmetry, welding, and cohesive design. Turk’s thick-wheeled, sidecar “Death Racer” would have given Farnam a run for his welding, if not for one small issue. “It won’t go straight,” said Turk. “I pitched it just leaving the shop. I haven’t got to wring it out, yet.”

Brian Wright took home the Too Fuckin’ Pretty award with his sparkly, green 1981 Kawasaki KZ 650. “I’ve got an unfair advantage,” admitted Wright. “I’m retired.”

Emily Wakeman and company earned themselves “The Jake” prize for a bike that should never have set out, yet somehow completed the ride. You could tell if you were catching up to Wakeman on the ride because the smoke got thicker. She was well protected from all but the most cancer-seeking and masochistic of tailgaters.

In between the burnouts, volunteer rock bands played in the blistering sun. Butt Problems thrashed out a song about GG Allin’s dick. It was fairly well received and yielded comments from the other bands. “Butt Problems stole our idea,” said Baroness Eva Von Slut.

“I love playing the Dirtbag,” said Nate von Wahnsinn of the White Barons. “I get to play outside while people fuck around with motorcycles? Are you kidding me?”

The event was capped by “Mini Mad” Mike Cook, a stuntman from Oklahoma. He rode through two flaming walls on a mini dirtbike or pitbike.

Poll Brown led the ride in his signature black-and-white striped sweater. He and Dirtbag doc director Paolo Asuncion were hanging out, talking and filming. “We’ve got other things going on,” said Brown. “I can’t tell you about them just now though.”

We shall see what the Dirtbag hath wrought.

Live Shots: Prepping for the Dirtbag Challenge!


A look behind the scenes of the recently released Dirtbag by Vargas Films, and a sneak peak at the bikes being built for this year’s Dirtbag Challenge. Check out the full article on the Challenge, coming up Sun/13, here.

UPDATE: Check out Sam Devine’s report back and photos from Dirtbag 2013 here!

Keep choppin’


CULTURE It’s 6:35pm in Hunters Point and Poll Brown is about to be late to a documentary about himself. The puckish man from South End, Essex, and a small crew of bikers are scrambling to fix a snapped throttle cable. This is a way of life for them: always under the gun, always fixing things, always a little behind. Like a rag-tag task force, they rip a cable out of one bike and marry it to another. There’s not enough time.

At 7pm, after a hairy ride up the 101, lane-splitting between Google buses on Van Ness, Poll is inside the Opera Plaza Cinema for the premiere of Dirtbag.

“We had a bet — just between four buddies,” Brown says in the film, with his gravelly English accent. “It got to be who could build a custom motorcycle for the least money.”

And thus was born the Dirtbag Challenge, which marks its 10th year this Sunday with more rock music, BBQ, and custom motorcycles doing burnouts than is healthy for any person’s ears, lungs, cholesterol, or psyche. The rules have changed a bit since 2003, but here’s the way they currently stand: 1) build a motorcycle in one month; 2) spend less than $1,000; 3) no Harley-Davidsons; 4) the bike must complete a 60- to 100-mile ride.

The restrictions are designed to bring out the creativity and ingenuity of the builders. The first few years without the 100-mile ride rule attracted several very artistic bikes — some more sculpture than road-ready. (One year, a bike with a partially wooden frame went home in splinters.) As for the no-Harley rule, “the quintessential chopper will always be a Harley-Davidson,” explains Poll. “No matter how bad, if a Harley shows up, it still might win.”

Director Paolo Asuncion’s doc chronicles the 2009 Dirtbag Challenge. “When we started, we were going to do ‘This is about the industry’,” he says. He went so far as to interview bike-building royalty like Arlen Ness. “But by the end of filming, all those high-dollar guys didn’t really belong to the story we were trying to tell.”

Overall, the film is a fun look at a unique subculture of motorcycling. By its end, you get a sense that the Dirtbag is more than just a biker build-off — it’s an idea with a spirit behind it. Asuncion drives the point home with the final word of the film, which was met with roars of approval from the crowd: “This documentary was edited in under a month. And making this entire film cost under a thousand dollars.”

After the screening, Brown says, “I’m blown away. It’s interesting to watch something you’ve created have such a positive influence on so many people.”

Pinky McQueen, longtime organizer of the event, has one honest critique. “I realize the movie was spotlighting the builders in particular, but as far as the [Dirtbag Challenge] party goes, there are so many people who selflessly put in countless hours for free to make sure the event [goes] off without a hitch.”

A few days later, one such volunteer, Emily Wakeman, says, “The movie inspired me to just go with our skill set.” With 16 days to go until this year’s event, she and her friends have a running bike and are getting ready to mount a brake light in an old, mud-filled trombone — donated from the Great Guerneville Flood of ’86.

“We’ve spent more money on beer than we have on parts,” confesses fellow builder Shannon Jones.

In Bayview, master fabricator Turk is exactly $521 into his Yamaha-powered, side-car equipped dragster bike. He enjoys the educational side of the Dirtbag Challenge. “It shows that if you want to build a motorcycle, you can,” he says. “If you don’t know how, you can get help.”

Jason Pate is working against the clock in Fremont. Having spent around $800, he has a running bike constructed from no less than six different motorcycles. His son, Jason Pate II, says Brown was here yesterday and showed him how to clean out carburetors. Meanwhile, San Jose resident Alex “Koska” Verbisky — originally from Moldova — is at exactly $1,000. His 1969 Honda CB450 has a wacky new set of handlebars made from Suzuki shock parts and a Volkswagen camshaft.

Up in Orland, Casey Anderson, a professional chopper builder featured in the film, is about $580 into his build, converting a 1979 Honda touring bike to look like a 1928 BMW R62. Thirty minutes south through walnut and olive orchards, in Willows, Kyle Cannon’s son Michael is building a bike for credit in shop class with his pals Joseph and Jake Martin. And down the road, Josh Stine is overcoming his muscular dystrophy, building a bike he hopes he will sell to supplement his Social Security check.

It’s inspiring — a quality that’s fitting for a volunteer-run event that promotes creativity, self-expression, and self-reliance, and encourages learning and community. Participants build strange, mutant vehicles. And it all started as a small gathering of friends near the waters of San Francisco. Sound like any other event you know?

“At first begrudgingly and now gratefully, I accept comparisons to Burning Man,” says Brown.

Of course, that doesn’t mean he likes it. The biggest difference between the Burn and the Dirtbag is that there’s simply no way to throw money at the Dirtbag. Ten years in, the event is still free and no one is getting paid. Brown even recently sold his van to finance a cross-country motorcycle trip.

“If I did want to make this a money-making enterprise, the potential is there,” says Brown toward the end of the film. “[But] I’m not sure if I’m ever gonna actually do that, because that might remove the soul from it.” *


Sun/13, 2pm, free

End of Quesada St, SF

Feast: 9 breakfasts to go


Going without breakfast can turn your brain into a fritzing light bulb that repeatedly buzzes: "Eat something … zzz … Eat something." But who wants to take the time for a real meal when you can press snooze another 10 times? Which is why, when in a rush, many of us settle for microwavable crap made from pasteurized American cheese and unpronounceable chemical substrates, or maybe a pastry and giant cup of coffee that steadily converts the cerebral cortex into a vapid hummingbird.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

For a hearty, quality alternative route to keeping your blood sugar up, try these handy local breakfast spots. They prepare eggs and bacon for a couple bucks and a few minutes of your time. All these brekkies travel well in a messenger bag without leaking, and they are available all day. (Take note, fast-food restaurants. As it turns out, breakfast time comes between waking and going to work — not just before 11 a.m.).


The fastest of the bunch is Metro Crepes in the Financial District. Inside the picturesque atrium of the Citigroup building, its little walk-up windows serve stuffed mini-pancakes in about the same time it takes to put cream and sugar in a cup of coffee. The Oakland Crepe, packed with egg, bacon, and cheese, is filling, yet light enough to avoid that big-breakfast food coma. And at $2.95 it won’t cramp your finances, either.

1 Sansome, SF. (415) 217-7060,


The crispiest bacon in town might be on the open-faced breakfast bagel at the Blue Danube in the Richmond District. Crunchy slices sit on top of tomato, egg, and cheddar that’s melted to perfection. The eggs are steamed, which keeps them from being too greasy and means that even when wrapped in a bulky box, the sandwich isn’t too sloppy to throw in a bag.

306 Clement, SF. (415) 221-9041


Although known for its many varieties of excellent java, the folks here should be famous for the delicious Irish breakfast roll — a fluffy sandwich roll accented with Irish sausage, bacon, cheese, and your choice of HP Sauce (a popular English and Irish condiment that tastes like bland A-1, and whose initials stand for "House of Parliament") or ketchup. The $5 sandwich doesn’t come with egg, but it can be added for 75 cents — and the sucker’s served all day.

1618 Noriega, SF. (415) 681-9363


You can also try a version of House of Coffee’s specialty, minus cheese, at this comfy eatery. These rolls don’t come with HP sauce either, but if you’re feeling worldly, you can add it yourself — there’s a bottle on each table of the homey restaurant.

2240 Taraval, SF. (415) 731-8818


This Sunset District outpost of the chain store may be the second-fastest breakfast game in town. Yes, eggs are microwaved and bacon’s precooked, but the resulting sandwiches are quick and tasty, if a tad oily.

742 Irving, SF. (415) 566-2761


At Katz’s Lower Haight location, the egg-mit-bagel thing has been worked out to a science. Order tags with all the possible fixings wait for the hungry crowd, and cooks pump breakfast out like a well-greased pan. Their bagels are fluffy, chewy, fresh, and quick — plus, omelets are served in a matter of minutes. Try the wheat bagel, with its faint hint of cinnamon. I like these dedicated desayuno demigods who serve breakfast all day — but don’t forget Katz ends its day at 2 p.m.

663 Haight, SF. (415) 863-1382


No matter where you live or work in the city, the Boulangeries are there for you. Born of a perfectionism that only the French can muster, this mini-chain is especially good for its delicious quiches. The chorizo quiche at Boulange De Cole wins the Goldilocks award for being not-too-spicy and not-too-bland, with sausage that’s not-too-oily, making it one clean, neat, tasty little egg pie.

1000 Cole, SF. (415) 242-2442,


It’s a safe bet that half the police, thieves, judges, and trial lawyers in this city already know about the taco truck across from the San Francisco courthouse. Try the hefty breakfast burrito with a choice of chorizo, bacon, ham, or potatoes any time of day: cashiers don’t bat an eye when one’s ordered at 2 p.m. They just start frying them eggs ‘n’ bakey and get it out in about six minutes. And hey, if you’ve got to go up the river — don’t do it on an empty stomach.

Harriet and Bryant streets, SF


For those morning ferry commuters, stop by this little shop in the Ferry Building. Featuring some of the recipes from Lulu, its big sister on Folsom, the menu includes two fancy-pants baked egg sandwiches with fontina cheese and heirloom tomatoes. One comes with roasted peppers and scallions, the other with sausage. Since both are served on levain bread, you’re sure to remember the complex flavor of this sandwich no matter how quickly you eat it.

Ferry Building, SF.

>>More Feast: The Guardian Guide to Bay Area Dining and Drinking

Careers & Ed: Paid by Pandora



Before Tim Westergren founded the Music Genome Project and Pandora, an online radio station–music recommendation site that’s developed a cultlike following, he had no idea what he was going to do for a living. After all, how do you prepare for a job that doesn’t exist yet?

He wasn’t like the scores of people who go through school with specific goals in mind — for instance, major in computer science or business administration, get an entry-level position, start climbing the corporate ladder to become an engineer or manager, and acquire a 401(k).

No, for the venture capitalist, for the entrepreneur, life is more abstract. Westergren’s career path was blazed on a hunch and an intense passion for music, which he’d loved ever since learning to play piano in the suburbs of Paris as a child.

"It’s more, kind of, personal instinct," Westergren said when asked how he found his niche. "Looking around thinking, ‘OK, the problem that I have and that all my friends and everyone I know has is that they love music but they have a hard time finding new stuff.’ That’s the problem that just about every single adult faces. I also knew, as a musician, that there was an awful lot of really great music around that nobody was hearing because it was all buried. And so I figured, ‘Gosh, there’s got to be an opportunity in there of connecting those two.’<0x2009>"


If you don’t happen to be one of the many people who have already pledged their allegiance to Pandora’s wide selection of music and uncanny ability to predict what other artists you might like, let me explain.

At its simplest, Pandora is Internet radio with a brain. Signing up is free and surprisingly quick. Then you choose an artist or song as your "station," and music begins to play. Each successive song is chosen by Pandora, creating a customized streaming playlist based on the attributes of the songs you’ve chosen (and on whether or not you like the songs the site chooses for you). If you like Manu Chao, Pandora might play Los Cafres next. If you start a station around Weezer, Pandora might recommend a song by Jimmy Eat World. If you like Prince, you’ll probably soon be jamming to the Time. And if your Nine Inch Nails station is playing too much hard, dark Marilyn Manson, you can give feedback that’ll lead the station toward a more melodic NIN relative, like Tool.

It’s this system — the combination of radio station and the Music Genome Project, which offers carefully crafted music recommendations based on your tastes — that sets Pandora’s suggestions apart from those of other music sites.

"We’ve created a taxonomy of musical attributes that kind of collectively describe a song," Westergren said, sitting in the main room of Pandora’s headquarters, which looks like a computer lab crossed with a record store thanks to rows of computer stations backdropped by stacks of CDs. He showed me an example, clicking on a tune by Chet Baker at one of the stations. A form popped up on the flat screen, filled with about 40 drop-down menu fields rating musical characteristics. One, for example, says "Fixed to Improvised" and lets the user rate a song from 1 to 10 on that scale. A graphic at the bottom of the screen shows that this is the first of seven pages.

"An analyst goes through and scores each one of these, one by one," Westergren said. Around him the stations were speckled with sleepy-eyed musicians clutching Monday-morning coffee cups, while downtown Oakland glistened through large windows. "So in the end, they have a collection of about 400 individual pieces of musical information about the song. Everything about melody and harmony, rhythm and instrumentation, etc. And it’s this sort of musical DNA that connects songs on Pandora. So when you type a song in, it’s using this information to create playlists."

The criteria for these selections, much like Westergren’s qualifications for steering this funky music boat across the World Wide Web, have been gathered from scratch.


Born in Minneapolis, Westergren moved to France with his family when he was six years old. He went to high school in England, where he sang in a choir and learned a smattering of instruments: clarinet, bassoon, drums, and the recorder. But school in Europe was too tracked for his tastes, and by age 16 he knew he wanted to return to the United States. In college he majored in political science but kept finding himself drawn further into music.

"I tried a bunch of things out. The last couple of years, though, I really got deep into music and recording technology," Westergren said. With his tousled hair and green sweater, the 41-year-old has the clean-cut but cool appearance you’d expect of an Internet executive. "I went to Stanford as an undergrad, and there’s a place there called the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. It’s a place where science and music come together. There’s a lot of study of sound and sound creation and sound recording, and I [practically] lived there my senior year."

After graduating in ’88 and working as a nanny for several years, he began practicing piano eight hours a day, studying with jazz pianist Mark Levine in Berkeley, and performing at the Palo Alto Holiday Inn. But he always played in rock bands, which he says aren’t that different from start-up companies, and moved to San Francisco to be closer to the nightlife. He began writing jingles for radio ads; it was a short step from there to composing soundtracks for student films.

"The idea for the Music Genome Project, the whole sort of foundation for Pandora, actually was really hatched when I was a film composer. Because when you’re a film composer your job is to figure out someone else’s taste. So you’ll sit down with a film director with a stack of CDs and play stuff for them and try and learn what they like about music," Westergren said. "Then, as a composer, you’ve got to go back to your recording studio and write a piece of music they’ll like. So what you’re doing is, you’re transutf8g that feedback into musicological information."

But this was all just pointing in the right direction. There was still no road map, no clear way of making a musical-taste machine profitable. About this time, Westergren read an article about Aimee Mann, the singer-songwriter you may remember for sacrificing her toe in The Big Lebowski or for covering Harry Nilsson’s "One" for Magnolia. Mann had a decent fan base from her success with the band ‘Til Tuesday, but her record company had shelved her because it didn’t think she could sell enough records.

"It was really that article that prompted me to think, ‘Wow, if there was a way to let people who like her kind of music know that she had a new album coming out, then maybe she’d release her albums, because you could find the fan base.’ That was the original idea: to help connect artists with their audience," Westergren said.

In 1999 he started developing that idea. He sought the business advice of Jon Kraft, a friend from college. Kraft tapped Will Glaser for his computer expertise, and the trio began moving forward with the Music Genome Project, forming Savage Beast Technologies, the name still emblazoned on Pandora’s software today.

"We weren’t originally a radio station. In the beginning we were actually a recommendation tool," Westergren said. "You know how Amazon has ‘If you buy this book, you should also read these books?’ We thought we were going to be that kind of a recommendation tool used on other sites to help people find stuff."

The company got its first push in January 2000, when a few angel investors, or wealthy individuals, loaned it enough money to start developing software. It was on its way, but there was still no clear moneymaking mechanism, and for years the company ran on faith and credit cards. After a while cofounders Glaser and Kraft decided they had to move on. Westergren stuck with the project and kept looking for investors.

"I had been pitching venture funds for a couple of years. I had pitched over 300 times to different venture firms. I didn’t get a yes until 2004," Westergren said.

That was when was created, the Music Genome Project was plugged into personalized radio stations, ad space started selling, and revenue began to flow. It’s also when Westergren’s idea was paired with the shift the Internet has taken toward interactive marketing. Today Pandora has offices in Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York and sells ads connected to sounds that consumers like — and therefore products to consumers. The field of interactive marketing is booming, and Westergren says anyone looking to break into Internet radio should first look into a background in advertising.

Then again, you could just follow his example: use your instincts and see what develops.

Tim Westergren is traveling the country promoting Pandora with town hall meetings. See for information.

Summertime … and the swimmin’ is easy


By Sam Devine


It just doesn’t feel like summer without a trip to the pool. Marco Polo, chips and soda, suntan lotion on your face, pushing your brother in the deep end — it’s all a part of your balanced, nutritious summertime experience. But don’t fret if you don’t happen to have a lap pool on the roof of your railroad apartment. If you’re looking to splash it up, get the kids some swim lessons, or just do a few laps, there are plenty of great, inexpensive opportunities at one of your municipal aquatic chill spots — made by the people, for the people. Here are some of our favorites.

San Francisco

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department’s Aquatic/Swimming Programs ( have a life’s worth of swimming activities just waiting for you. The city’s nine pools offer pregnant and senior swim programs, lessons for infants, competitive workouts, and even synchronized swimming lessons with the SF Merionettes. And SF community pools are cheap: $1 for children 17 and under, $4 for adults, and $20 for a 10-swim scrip ticket for seniors and those in economic need.


If you’re using public transit, Balboa Pool is the most easily accessible. It’s walking distance from Balboa BART, the J line, and the 26 Valencia, 9 San Bruno, and 43 bus lines.

51 Havelock, SF. (415) 337-4701


Families going for the first time may be tempted to stop by the hugely popular (and busiest) Rossi or Sava pools. But we like Garfield best — it’s not as crowded as those two, and parking is easy.

1271 Treat, SF. (415) 695-5001


Little known to most folks, Mission Pool is the last outdoor community pool in San Francisco. This is the place to get that stereotypical pool day: swim in the open air, grill BBQ in the park, and soak up the Mission District sun. The pool is only open during the summer, but last year Supervisor Bevan Dufty was able to get a grant that extended operations through October.

19th St. and Linda, SF. (415) 695-5002


North Beach Pool, near the Joe DiMaggio Playground, actually has two pools: one cold (for lap swim only) and one heated to 85 degrees for recreational swimming.

651 Lombard, SF. (415) 391-0407

Bay Area


Berkeley’s Aquatics Program ( runs four community swim centers, with rates similar to those of San Francisco’s pools (except kids cost $2). Of them, King Pool is recommended for public transit riders. It’s just a short AC Transit No. 7 or No. 9 ride from Downtown Berkeley BART. Wondering why a city slicker would want to cross the bay for a pool? King offers one thing SF pools don’t: a five-day junior lifeguard program, which teaches kids first aid, CPR, and life-saving rescue techniques for $68.

1700 Hopkins, Berk. (510) 644-8518


If you’ve got young tots, though, and can drive to Palo Alto, the misty water play area at Rinconada is what you want. There’s a waterslide, squirting toys, fountains, and several kiddie pools, plus a blissfully ho-hum adult pool for when you need to escape the color and excitement.

777 Embarcadero, Palo Alto. (650) 463-4914

More pools

BHS Warm Pool 2246 Milvia, Berk; (510) 644-6843
King Swim Center 1700 Hopkins, Berk; (510) 644-8518
West Campus Swim Center 2100 Browning, Berk; (510) 644-8520. Closed until April 30. Outdoors.
Willard Swim Center 2701 Telegraph, Berk; (510) 644-8519. $3-5. Closed until April 30. Outdoors.


Castlemont Pool 8601 MacArthur Blvd, Oakl; (510) 879-3642. Outdoors.
deFremery Pool 1269 18th St, Oakl; (510) 238-2205
Fremont Pool 4550 Foothill Blvd, Oakl; (510) 535-5614
Lions Pool 3860 Hanly Rd, Oakl; (510) 482-7852. Outdoors.
Live Oak Pool 1055 MacArthur Blvd, Oakl; (510) 238-2292
McClymonds Pool2607 Myrtle St, Oakl; (510) 879-8050. Outdoors.
Temescal Pool 371 45th St, Oakl; (510) 597-5013. $3-5.


Brisbane Community Swimming Pool 2 Solano Street, Brisbane; (415) 657-4321, . $4-6. Outdoors.
Emeryville Community Pool 1100 47th St, Emeryville; (510) 596-4395, . $5 passes ($1/rec swim, $3/lap swim). Details may change – call for updates.
Mill Valley Communitty Center 180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley; (415) 383-1370, . $3-8.
Terra Linda Community Pool 670 Del Ganado Rd, San Rafael; (415) 485-3346. $4-9.
Kennedy High School 4300 Cutting Blvd, Richmond; (510) 235-2291. Richmond’s natatorium, the Plunge, just received $2 million grant from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment and is therefore being refurbished.Swims and classes have been moved to Kennedy High School. For more info, call the Richmond Swim Center at 510-620-6654 or the Richmond Recreation Division office at 510-620-6793.

Locals only?


BOOK REVIEW Not for Tourists Guidebooks has just released the fourth edition of its Not for Tourists Guide to San Francisco. Besides having a mad grip of inaccuracies, the title is problematic: this tome is definitely not not for tourists.

The first thing I found wrong with the book was its only foldout map. It’s a highway map, which is weird, since most city dwellers tend to stay clear of the damn things. They’re for the bridge-and-tunnel crowd and, uh, the tourists. And the map isn’t even detailed enough for you to see where on- and off-ramps are or tell which is which. And with San Francisco’s grand total of four highways, it’s hard to imagine why the NFT folks didn’t devote their largest page to a Muni map – just one of many things this book doesn’t have.

In all fairness, Muni routes are included in the 120 minimaps that comprise most of the book. But the layout is incredibly daunting! To follow one bus route, you might have to flip back and forth 20 times to see where the line will take you – shit most locals just don’t have friggin’ time for. I became further discouraged by the decision to devote pages to Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Pier 39. (If not for tourists, for whom?) But despite this and despite noticing an ad for Segway Tours of the Marina Green (insert sound of me retching here), I still gave the rest of the guide a whirl, determined to get some practical use out of it.

I attempted to find a liquor store when I was trapped in SoMa without rolling papers – only to discover the intersection I was at, Fourth Street and Mission, was on the corner of three maps. The bar I was in (my favorite) was nowhere to be found. I was in minimap limbo. Next I tried to wax nostalgic with the maps of neighborhoods where I used to live – only to discover that some bars listed on the neighborhood directories weren’t dotted on the maps.

So I tried using the guide to call my neighborhood grocery store, Eight-Twenty-Eight Irving Market, to see if it carried printer paper. Apparently, it falls somewhere between liquor store and supermarket, because it’s not in the book. (BTW: it carries college rule but not printer paper.) Finally, I called the Hotel Utah – only to lose an eardrum when that killer "bee-doo-eet!" sound alerted me to the fact that the number listed in the guide was disconnected.

Maybe, maybe buy the Not for Tourists Guide for first-year college students or other new SF transplants. But if you’ve been here for longer than six months, just hang on to your Muni map and your BART schedule and save the $14.95 (suggested retail) for 411 charges.

A law school of their own



In today’s "I’m gonna sue you" world, in which lawyers are called sharks (and often rightly so), getting a law degree from a school that offers the class "Education for a Just, Sacred and Sustainable World" might seem a little backward. However, since the ’70s a number of schools have been encouraging students to study law as a tool for practicing social advocacy — not just for lining corporate pockets (or their own).

One of the Bay Area’s banner examples is the New College of California, which — founded in 1975 out of the civil rights movement — has the oldest public interest law program in the country. But there are other stops for those with lawyerly aspirations. Golden Gate University not only offers certification in public interest law but also gives a number of incentives for students interested in helping local communities. UC Hastings College of the Law has the in-house Civil Justice Clinic, which gives students a chance to add an activist bent to their education. And most other nearby schools — from UC Berkeley’s School of Law to the University of San Francisco — now offer some kind of public interest law specialty.

So what are these programs like? Is this law lite?

Certainly not, Civil Justice Clinic director Mark Aaronson says. For example, clinic courses — which deal with employment law, housing law, and disability benefits among other areas of social interest — are very serious. In fact, students handle real cases and are advised by professional lawyers. As part of the course work in Aaronson’s Community Economic Development Clinic, students may survey community needs or translate court documents for neighborhood residents. The school is even more rigorous thanks to the fact that the yearlong program is limited to just eight students, giving them plenty of firsthand experience handling real-life legal situations. "Lawyers have to learn to lawyer in context, dealing with real problems as they occur — not just hypotheticals in a classroom," Aaronson says.

And UC Hastings’s dedication to this program goes beyond classes and course work. A number of student-led organizations offer a chance for community involvement: one group volunteers at outreach centers in SoMa along with UCSF medical students to provide medical care and legal advice to the underserved.

So where do graduates of these social justice law programs go? Some join private law firms, of course, or find government jobs serving communities in need. But others, such as Paul Hogarth, use their education to do something else entirely.

Hogarth is now the managing editor for, a daily news site produced by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic that tries to raise awareness about the Ellis Act and tenant housing rights. But first he attended Golden Gate University with help from its Public Interest Law Scholars Program, a scholarship fund that gives up to $15,000 in tuition aid and a $5,000 internship stipend to five students a year. He says the skills he gained at Golden Gate are integral to his job now.

"Sometimes I’ll write a story about a court case, and I’ll do a legal analysis of it," Hogarth says. "I also cover City Hall, and I can read legislation that’s going through and then say, ‘Well, this is what the law will do.’ "

Had Hogarth chosen to work for a nonprofit or as a public defender or prosecutor, he would’ve been eligible for a generous tuition repayment assistance grant from Golden Gate University.

It seems one of the greatest benefits of joining these programs, though, is being surrounded by like-minded people passionate about social change. For example, Antonia Jushasz, a teacher in the Activism and Social Change masters program at New College, spoke at a protest rally against the Iraqi Oil Law at Chevron Corp. headquarters March 19 with four of her students looking on — making up an impromptu class.

It’s not exactly what most of us think of when we imagine a law education. And graduates from these programs don’t exactly fit the stereotype of one of the world’s most hated professions. But it just proves as there’s more than one way to be a lawyer, there’s also more than one way to become one. So if you imagine your lawyer self as more of a dolphin (or an otter or maybe a sea lion) than a shark, don’t worry. There’s a place for you too. *


School of Law

50 Fell, SF

(415) 241-1300


536 Mission, SF



Civil Justice Clinic

100 McAllister, suite 300, SF

(415) 557-7887


2130 Fulton, SF

(415) 422-6307


Center for Social Justice

785 Simon Hall

Piedmont and Bancroft, Berk.

(510) 642-4474


Superlist No. 823: Antique SF bars



San Francisco was crazy during the ’60s — the 1860s, that is. Back then the city’s beer halls and saloons were fueled by the gold-lined pockets and salty tongues of sailors, pimps, con artists, and whores. The city is actually pretty tame compared with how it used to be. Prostitutes no longer hang naked from windows, and bartenders have stopped drugging clients and selling them into indentured servitude on the high seas. About all that’s left from those early dens of debauchery are a few brass rails and some nice pieces of carved mahogany, to be found in the city’s oldest bars. Although many of the original bars at these establishments perished in fires, as soon as the ashes settled, people picked up the pieces and got right back to boozin’. The Saloon, Buena Vista, and Little Shamrock are your best bets for wetting your whistle above the same wooden counters where gold miners and shanghaiing sailors once drank.

The Buena Vista (2765 Hyde, SF. 415-474-5044,, which concocted the first Irish coffee, rates as San Francisco’s second oldest bar. An 1889 photo of the business shows its former location, across the street. When that building was damaged by the 1906 earthquake and fire, the café moved to its present spot, taking its rich mahogany bar with it.

Proud to have been a speakeasy during prohibition, Cafe du Nord (2170 Market, SF. 415-861-5016, — which opened its doors in 1907, before hooch was outlawed — retains its scary escape tunnel, now dead-ended, and has the nicest original, hand-carved bar you’ll find in any Bay Area basement.

A local historian from E Clampus Vitus, a secret SF historical society, scoured old city directories and traced boozing on the corner of 16th and Guerrero streets, where Elixir (3200 16th St., SF. 415-552-1633, currently hangs its sign, back to 1858. The place has gone through a number of hands — it was called Swede’s from 1865 to 1885 — and was leveled with the rest of the hood in the fire of ’06, but it’s always been a bar. Of course, during Prohibition it was officially know as a soft drink parlor.

The Hotel Utah (500 Fourth St., SF. 415-546-6300, — which was once called Al’s Transbay Tavern, appeared in Dirty Hairy, and served President Richard Nixon, Joe DiMaggio, and Marilyn Monroe — has been a bar since 1908. Its back bar, obtained through a Fitchburg Brewery promotion, was shipped around Cape Horn in 1913 from Belgium and is thought to date back to the 1850s.

The wood booths and paneled ceiling at House of Shields (39 New Montgomery, SF. 415-975-8651, have been there since 1908, when the watering hole first opened for business. A tunnel, left over from Prohibition, connects the place to Maxfield’s. And the men’s room has a urinal roughly the size of a refrigerator — they don’t seem to make ’em that big anymore.

Last year the Little Shamrock (807 Lincoln Way, SF. 415-661-0060), an Inner Sunset bar established in 1893, put up a sign reading, "We’ve been here for 113 years and our prices prove it!" It’s true: a shot of Jameson goes for just four bucks at the cozy tavern. Its Victorian-era atmosphere, with broken velvet-upholstered parlor chairs and a potbellied stove in the dart room, will take you back in time.

Maxfield’s (Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery, SF. 415-512-1111, is named for Maxwell Parrish, the artist of the vibrant realist depiction of a man and his flute hanging above the back of the bar since 1909. Back in 1875 it was called the Pied Piper, and in 1906 it was gutted by the fire, along with the rest of the Palace Hotel. The owners turned it into an ice cream parlor during Prohibition — one with a gentlemen’s-only club in the back.

Turns out people have been drinking for 158 years at the corner of Pacific and Battery, where the Old Ship Saloon (298 Pacific, SF. 415-788-2222, now stands. The plaque posted there by E Clampus Vitus tells you so. As the story goes, in 1849 the ship Arkansas crash-landed on Alcatraz Island. (UC Berkeley has a journal from one of the passengers.) The ship was towed to the shore of Yerba Buena Cove and, as the bay filled in, became landlocked on what became Pacific Street. In 1851, Joe Anthony, a Brit, cut a hole in the ship and posted a sign reading, "Gud, Bad and Indif’rent Spirits Sold Here! At 25 cents Each!" The ship was dismantled as a brick building was constructed around it. That burned down and was rebuilt in 1906. The east side of the building still proclaims the name of the business and its owner from that time: "Old Ship Saloon, Henry Klee Prop."

Everyone seems to agree that the stinky dive know as the Saloon (1232 Grant, SF. 415-989-7666, holds San Francisco’s oldest bar. The place also boasts the city’s first water-installation request on record — dated Oct. 8, 1861, made by Ferdinand E. Wagner, and fulfilled by the Spring Valley Water Co. In the 1850s, Wagner ran a fruit stand in the building, selling German toys and Christmas ornaments on the side. In 1861 he turned the shop into Wagner’s Beer Hall. Strong timbers and the volunteer firefighters who went out of their way to protect the scarlet women living upstairs saved the building from the 1906 earthquake and fire.

With its ornate bar dating back 100 years, belt-driven ceiling fans, and tiled floor, the San Francisco Brewing Co. (155 Columbus, SF. 415-434-3344, is the salooniest spot around. Drinks first flowed over the bar in 1907, when the place was known as the Andromeda Saloon, according to a member of E Clampus Vitus.

The dinky alley spot known as Spec’s 12 Adler Museum (12 Saroyan Place, SF. 415-421-4112) first became a bar in 1919, but it’s been in operation on and off since then. The current owner has filled the place to the gills with historical memorabilia — well, junk — to immerse you in the city’s past.

Established just before the Volstead Act in 1919, Tosca Cafe (242 Columbus, SF. 415-986-9651) moved to its current location in 1946. During Prohibition it operated as a restaurant, but the owners continued cooking brandy in the basement, which they served on the sly to customers as the — wink, wink — house cappuccino. You can still order it by that name today. *

Mission: fresh-air beer


› a&

Listen up, troops: Spring is here and decent weather may be on the radar. It’s time to escape from the barracks and attack life with a blitzkrieg of beer and BBQ. Below is a list of checkpoints that are reported to condone and encourage the outdoor consumption of alcohol.

Good luck, soldier. Now get out there and knock ’em back!

Big guns


The HQ of patio bars — the grand pooh-bah, the big cheese. Hands down the biggest, baddest patio west of the bay. Although owing to the line of porta-potties, it’s probably one of the stinkiest. This is your safe station, no matter what company you’re signed up with. Zeitgeist’s commissary will stock you up on burgers and fries, and its Bloody Marys will keep you flying.

199 Valencia, SF. (415) 255-7505,


Outer Mission hideaway El Rio is big enough for large outfits but romantic enough for a date while on leave. A portion of the yard is sheltered by a tent for rainy-day ops — and there’s nothing to stop you from lighting up. Mmmm — gotta love the smell of cigarettes in the midafternoon.

3158 Mission, SF. (415) 282-3325


Few cantinas can muster as many features as the Pilsner Inn. Twenty-four beers on tap, two pool leagues, and a lush, landscaped garden patio with two koi ponds should be enough to make anyone stand at attention. A strong contingent here flies the rainbow flag, but the Pilsner welcomes troops from all outfits to its relaxed environs.

225 Church, SF. (415) 621-7058,

Smaller outposts


This little Mission spot will flash you back to life as a guerrilla fighter in Cuba or Guatemala. A beer and wine café with a secluded backwoods feel and a heated streetside patio, Papa Toby’s Revolution Café offers a variety of troop entertainment, from free trade to tango lessons. With enough alcohol here, you may be able to brainwash your copilot into believing he or she is the reincarnation of Che Guevara.

3248 22nd St., SF. (415) 642-0474


An enclave of Cole Valley regulars is keeping Finnegan’s Wake top secret. The back patio is a mini-Zeitgeist, equipped with a grill and picnic tables. Surrounded by apartments, this little retreat goes on lockdown after 21:00 hours, making this site good for daytime expeditions only.

937 Cole, SF. (415) 731-6119


The patio of this Haight Street joint has a nicely elevated rear portion — high ground, easy to defend from marauding tourists and the like. And if you can’t successfully pilot your hand-rolled smokable through the crowd, you’ve no business flying so high, soldier.

1569 Haight, SF. (415) 626-1112


Bright red and green paint often makes the Mad Dog in the Fog’s vibrant little patio hard to handle without a pint or two. Local hostiles have managed to shut down maneuvers here after 22:00, so your best bet is to set up a happy-hour camp during the soccer off-season — around World Cup time, soccer insurgents outfitted in reversible jerseys and knee-high socks seize the position.

530 Haight, SF. (415) 626-7279


Taken together, Flippers restaurant and Marlena’s bar in Hayes Valley can provide a prime afternoon drinking and lounging target. Flippers serves burgers, beer, and wine. Its patio is outfitted with a variety of flora: lilies, trees, and lawn. Right next door, with a full bar, Marlena’s has a minimal cagelike smoking facility with just three benches gated off from the street.

Flippers Gourmet Burgers, 482 Hayes, SF. (415) 552-8880

Marlena’s, 488 Hayes, SF. (415) 864-6672


A secluded SoMa bar and restaurant often overrun by hordes of concertgoers and workers from the neighboring Concourse Exhibition Center in the evening, Mars Bar and Restaurant makes for an excellent outdoor lunch break. Late at night you’ll often locate barkeeps from other watering holes gathered here to blow their tips.

798 Brannan, SF. (415) 621-6277,

Coast Guard


This waterfront bar and restaurant features live music most nights of the week. Its outdoor area is an expansive field of patio furniture flanked by the bay. A popular evening destination for locals, Pier 23 Cafe just underwent a complete remodel, now ready for inspection.

Pier 23, SF. (415) 362-5125


Little more than a kitchen shed up front and a tent with bar in back, Red’s Java House is nestled beneath the Bay Bridge on Pier 30. The only thing that might obstruct your skyward reconnaissance is the occasional SUV parked next to the fenced-off, bare-bones patio. There’s a widescreen TV for sports fans in the tent and a menu of burgers, dogs, and fish and chips.

Pier 30, SF. (415) 777-5626


Right next to PhoneCompany Park, Momo’s has a limited view — the baseball stadium and a massive apartment complex obstruct most of the horizon. The bar is incredibly well equipped, but Momo’s is a restaurant, which may impair smoking operations. While there, enrich yourself with the art installation in the front garden box: a giant heart-shaped olive. Enriching!

760 Second St., SF. (415) 227-8660,

Eastern Theater


Just a short flight east of San Francisco, Jupiter is the majordomo outdoor operation of the East Bay. This two-story brewpub and pizza restaurant in downtown Berkeley is attached to a giant compound replete with heating lamps and ivy. You’ll have to stow those stogies, though: this place is a restaurant and doesn’t take kindly to smoking.

2181 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 843-8277,


The two-story Irish pub is equipped with two fireplaces and two functional bars. Its patio is a small balcony above a cobblestone alleyway — the perfect size for an elite task force to secure a position and commence a-blazing.

2271 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 647-1790,


Deep into East Bay territory is the Oasis Restaurant and Bar. By day this Oakland position operates as a Nigerian restaurant; at night it becomes a grooving outdoor lounge with DJs and two dance floors. A staggering canyon of cement surrounds the small rear patio. The heated paradise has multiple tables and chairs, a stage, a massive sound system, and a wraparound grass-covered overhang.

135 12th St., Oakland.



Carmen’s, Pier 40, SF. (415) 495-5140

Cinch, 1723 Polk, SF. (415) 776-4162,

Connecticut Yankee, 100 Connecticut, SF. (415) 552-4440,

Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF. (415) 626-0880,

Jay ‘n Bee Club, 2736 20th St., SF. (415) 824-4190

Kennedy’s Irish Pub and Curry House, 1040 Columbus, SF. (415) 441-8855,

Lone Star Saloon, 1354 Harrison, SF. (415) 863-9999,

Lucky 13, 2140 Market, SF. (415) 487-1313

Medjool, 2522 Mission, SF. (415) 550-9055,

Mix, 4086 18th St., SF. (415) 431-8616

Parkside, 1600 17th St., SF. (415) 503-0393,

Il Pirata, 2007 16th St., SF. (415) 626-2626

Ramp, 885 Terry Francois, SF. (415) 621-2378

Red Jack Saloon, 131 Bay, SF. (415) 989-0700

Rosewood, 732 Broadway, SF. (415) 951-4886,

Wild Side West, 424 Cortland, SF. (415) 647-3099


Valentine’s Day date ideas

Putting together a good date can be like planning a bank robbery. You’re investing time, you’re fronting a bunch of money, and you’re coordinating complicated logistics — all in hopes of breaking the law. In this case, Murphy’s Law. I mean, let’s face it, half the time Valentine’s Day dates carry so much nervous tension and promptitude that we should all consider ourselves lucky if we wake up on February 15 with all our fingers — never mind whether we wake up alone!

There is no foolproof plan for a good date, but there is one factor that can be almost impossible for even the most lethargic lothario to mess up: the view. A nice view is always a nice view, even if you’re enjoying it with a person you think you just might hate.

So sure, you might leave the tickets at home, lock the keys in your cars, tear your inseam, spill wine on your date, or find out that she’s allergic to shellfish after you’ve made her try your seafood bisque. But at least your date might still gasp out, “The… moon… looks… pretty…” before the EMT places an oxygen mask over her mouth and wheels her out of your life forever.


These are the places where either the views or the reservations are guaranteed. The rest (ahem) is up to you.

Buena Vista Café
This place is a good bet. Get a classic Irish coffee at the place that invented it while looking out at romantic sailing ships on the Hyde street pier. They don’t take reservations, and Valentine’s is no different, so call to see how long the wait is. (Since it’ll be a Wednesday, the wait could be as good as 15 minutes.)
2765 Hyde St, SF; (415) 474-5044, Mon-Fri 9am-2am, Sat-Sun 8am-2am

This vegetarian restaurant offers views of the Fort Mason marina. Two can eat for less than $100. And if your special friend is a veggie, forget the windows — they’ll be blown away just looking at all their options on the menu.
Building A, Fort Mason Center, SF; (415) 771-6222. Mon-Fri 5:30pm-9pm

Fishermen’s Grotto
This restaurant is sunk deep into the kitsch and tourism of the wharf. Since Valentine’s Day is on a Wednesday this year, you might still be able to get reservations as late as a couple days in advance.
9 Fishermen’s Wharf, SF; (415) 673-7025, Mon-Sun 11am-11pm

Cliff House — Sutro’s Restaurant
So yeah, the new exterior looks horrible, but the views from inside are just as good as ever. The bistro section doesn’t take reservations, so look for a good spot at the bar — they have three cocktail lounges — and enjoy the scenery and a drink while waiting for your table.
1090 Point Lobos Ave, SF; (415) 386-3330, Mon-Sun 9am-10pm


Feeling adventurous? Try an out-of-the-ordinary option to impress your one-of-a-kind date.

Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant
This art deco dinner option is tucked inside Golden Gate Park, overlooking Ocean Beach. Reservations are recommended, though walk-ins may be able to find seats too. (Call to see if tables are available). At the very least, their bar is first come, first served — and hey, they’re a brewpub. The view isn’t as breathtaking as some (about half of it is parking lot), but it does have the clearest views of ocean waves.
1000 Great Hwy, SF; (415) 386-8439, Sun-Thur 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm.

Tower Market
Weather permitting, you could get some food a la carte from their deli and have yourselves a picnic on Twin Peaks while the sun goes down. Throw in a bottle of wine —perhaps Sebastiani’s 2003 Merlot, buttery with a smoky finish — and a blanket, and you just might get to miss the moonrise.
635 Portola Drive, SF; (415) 664-1609. Mon-Sat 8am-8:30pm, Sun 8am-8pm

Poncho Villa’s
Well, not the most romantic – or is it? If you’ve got just the right ruca, bonding with burritos by the Bay Bridge, sipping tallboy Tecates out of paper bags, and watching boats glide by the docks could be the perfect evening.
Pier 1, SF; (415) 982-2182, Open until 10pm


Everything here’s going to be a bit pricier. But Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge have your back, so it just might be worth it.

Hog Island Oyster Company
This oyster bar is first come, first served, but they’re only open until 8pm.
1 Ferry Plaza, SF; (415) 391-7117, Mon-Fri 11:30am-8pm, Sat-Sun 11:30am-6pm

Slanted Door
Showing up at 5:00 might get you seated, and, as always, the bar is first come, first served.
1 Ferry Plaza Bldg 270, SF; (415) 861-8032, Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm

This old-school seafood restaurant is a classic standby. As an added bonus, their menu —including the lobster thermidor — is priced competitively. Call ahead to see if you can still get a table.
Pier 2 Embarcadero, SF; (415) 781-2555. Mon-Sun 10am-11pm

If you can swing it, take the ferry across the bay and cab it to this waterside Mexican seafood restaurant. It’s never been busy in the past, but they’re advertising a special prix fixe menu for the first time, so call about getting seated.
5 Main St, Tiburon; (415) 435-6300. Mon-Thurs 11:30am-10pm

Liquor and Love

Ok. You made it through dinner without bleeding. Congratulations. Now what? Sweep that special someone off their feet and into bed with another great view — and plenty o’ booze. These bars all offer the best moon-wedge garnish for your cocktail.

The View Lounge
The city seems a thousand miles away (and 36 floors down) as jazz flows through the cavernous rooms of The View Lounge. This sky-high bar is open to the public and features shell-shaped windows big enough to make you feel like a boardroom exec. The drinks are pricey, but the jazz is free. And they don’t take reservations, so you’ve got just as good a shot at a seat as anyone else.
Inside the Marriott, 55 4th St, SF; (415) 896-1600

Harry Denton’s Starlight Room
Denton’s place is having a special Valentine’s version of its weekly Indulgence club night, run by Sebastien Entertainment (415-979-3031). Starting at 8pm, there’ll be DJs, chocolate vodka truffles, champagne, and dancing. The cover is only $15, but the place will be busy. Call Sebastien Entertainment to see if they’re packed. Or reserve a booth or bottle service, if you roll like that.
Inside the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, 450 Powell, SF; (415) 395-8595

Orbit Room Café
This art-deco bar also has café fare (bagels and pastries) and features a rare first-story view of downtown from high up on Market Street.
1900 Market St, SF; (415) 252-9525. Mon-Thurs 7am-12am, Fri-Sat 7am-2am

Bloom’s Saloon
Bloom’s is kind of a grimy sports bar. But perched on the north slope of Potrero Hill, it has the best view of downtown east of Twin Peaks.
1318 18th Street, SF; (415) 861-9467


Wow. You woke up with company. Now pull out the hat trick with View Number Three and get mom’s grandkids on lockdown — or at least get laid again…

Seal Rock Inn
This hotel and breakfast spot is perched on the cliff above the Cliff House.
545 Point Lobos Ave, SF; (415) 752-8000,

Louis’ Restaurant
Greasy spoon style! Dig the orange tile inside and the ruins of the Sutro Baths outside.
902 Point Lobos Ave, SF; (415) 387-6330


Unless you’re a high roller, or the restaurant’s owner, these places won’t be worth the trouble.

Pier 23 Café
This come one, come all waterfront restaurant and bar would be a great bet, except they will be CLOSED FOR REMODELING!
23 The Embarcadero, SF; (415) 362-5125,

Julius’ Castle
Don’t bother with this Telegraph Hill restaurant either. It’s also closed for renovations.
1541 Montgomery, SF; (415) 392-2222

Top of the Mark
The Mark is having a special Valentine’s Day dinner and no one will be seated without reservations.
1 Nob Hill Circle, SF; (415) 616-6916,

It’s healthy to be wary of revolving restaurants in general, but they’re also having a special prix fixe V-day menu.
Hyatt Regency, Embarcadero 5, SF; (415) 291-6619

Their prix fixe menu is $75 per person, plus 18% gratuity. And there’s no mention of champagne being included; so if you just drink water, you’ll get out of there for $177.
Pier 33, The Embarcadero, SF; (415) 864-8999