After our tour of Santa Cruz, it was on to the city by the bay. BK rousted me out of bed with the lure of coffee and just before 9 a.m., we were on the road to drop little Ruby Tuesday off for a “play date” and then head north. E & A had an early morning flight out of SF scheduled for Monday morning so they’d booked a night in a hotel in Millbrae for Sunday. BK and I decided we’d spend the day in SF and had originally planned to go home ourselves, but I decided we should just spend the night.
I’d forgotten it was the 75th anniversary celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge so we were anticipating really horrendous traffic. BK wanted to get an extra early start to avoid this.
We dropped off the suitcases in Millbrae and then drove the rest of the way into the city, hitting no traffic whatsoever, which was a nice surprise. Our first stop was the beautiful Lands End park, where you can take in a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Very lovely. We also got to show them the old Sutro Baths and visit the new Lookout Visitors Center.
Next we drove around Golden Gate Park, found parking and dropped off my bag at the Red Victorian in Haight-Ashbury. While in this ‘hood, we did a little shopping and then went to the Alembic, a gastropub I’ve been wanting to try. I really, really liked this place even if the menu wasn’t the most gluten-free friendly. The Alembic has everything I like in a place — thoughtful, creative cocktails, a tight menu and a very cool sort of post-industrial/speakeasy kind of vibe. Despite all of the amazing-sounding cocktails on the menu, I decided to try a sloe gin fizz because I’d never had one. Yum. Why haven’t I been drinking these all along?
Food-wise, BK and I had the sumac potato chips with garlic lemon yogurt and zaataar, the jerk-spiced duck hearts with pickled pineapple and the shishito peppers with sea salt. He also had the poached egg with bacon dashi and tempura mushrooms, while E & A had the bacon-studded hot dog with fennel kraut and the pork belly slider with kim chee. I couldn’t indulge in any of these but I was assured it was all delicious.
Next up? We caught the bus downtown to show off Union Square….. I also wanted to check out the going-out-of-business sale at Betsey Johnson. After a quick jaunt here, it was on to Chinatown. After lots of meandering a surprisingly uncrowded Chinatown, we stopped for a drink at Buddha Lounge. The house special was, of course, Lucky beer, which comes in a Buddha-shaped bottle, but I just had a cran-orange juice, which the proprietor referred to as “a baby drink.” Pretty much everything that occurred here was hilarious….It’s a little bit of a hole in the wall, but I think it’s definitely an experience worth having.
Here’s where we started to lose some steam. We had dinner reservations for this awesome sushi place called Okoze in Russian Hill/Nob Hill but we still had a few hours to kill before that. In retrospect, I should have insisted we go try to find the parrots, but I did not. Instead, we spent some time wandering around North Beach and grabbing a quick, non-remarkable taco to fill my growling tummy. I also stumbled upon an awesome little gourmet foods shop called Little Vine. I could have easily spent a fortune in there but somehow I resisted. Some more gawking at the beautiful architecture and old-school “gentleman’s clubs” led us to Dell’Uva for a little vino. BK and I shared a decanter of a decent Spanish garnache. At $10, this was totally a bargain.
More walking and we stumbled upon Campanula Kitchen and Bar. BK’s always jonesing for more food and drinks, so in we went. I wasn’t hungry at this point so I just had a lovely French 75 while he noshed on bone marrow with red onion jam and E&A shared some shoestring fries with a spicy aioli. I’d like to go back when I have more of an appetite. The sausage-stuffed olives are intriguing, as is some of the mains. There aren’t a ton of GF options on the menu but there are enough that I could certainly do okay here.
And after all that? A visit to Lombard Street and our much-awaited sushi dinner. Whew! We all trekked over to the Powell Street Bart Station to see our guests off and then BK and I caught the bus back to our b&b, where we were super-boring and just read for awhile before nodding off. Though I’m a big fan of the Red Vic, a crazy hippie hotel run by a woman named Sami Sunchild, I don’t think BK found it suitable. Each room has a theme and so do the bathrooms, most of which are shared. We had the Summer of Love room, but were disappointed that the lava light no longer worked. In general, the Red Vic is looking in need of a spruce-up since I was there 10 years ago, but there’s a quality about it I still like….though the breakfast options don’t really have anything gluten-free. It’s almost all breakfast sandwiches. Ooops. I think it’s also very disappointing that the amazing Red Vic theater down the street is no longer in business. That was definitely one of the perks of the b&b.
All in all, I really wish we had done more sightseeing. I was insistent on wandering Golden Gate Park but was shot down, and I definitely regret our decision not to double-back and go to the Mission. Despite all of the fervent warnings, traffic ended up not being an issue at all, which was pretty amazing.