Monday, November 29, 2010

San Francisco Fryday

I took no small amount of shit from my friends when I recently admitted to never having visited San Francisco.  Some even said they lost a little respect for me.  (Why they held any in the first place is anybody's guess.)

So when my beer hiking comrade The Beer Retard told me of his plans for a trip to the Golden Gate City, I barely hesitated to invite myself along.  The way our plans worked out, however, I got there a day before he did and was on my own to explore a little.  I wasn't planning to do a beer hike on my first day, just walk around and explore a little.  The real drinking expeditions were going to come later in the weekend.

I got into my downtown hotel around 3:30pm Friday, changed into shorts, and almost immediately set off to do walks 7 and 8 from Adah Bakalinsky's cool little tome, Stairway Walks In San Francisco.  I hadn't had anything to eat since an early breakfast in Seattle, but I figured that, being in a big city, I'd find food on every corner.

What a moron.

Fry Francisco
Walk #7 / Pacific Heights Market / Walk #8 (partial) / Pier 23 Café / S.F. Brewing / Nob Hille Grille; about 11 miles

View San Francisco Fryday in a larger map

It was an absolutely perfect fall afternoon in the city.  It wasn't long after I got off the bus in Pacific Heights that I got my first taste of the hills that are so famous in this city.  Walk #7 in Bakalinsky's book starts almost immediately with a steep descension down a Baker Street stairway to Vallejo Street.  There were some school children climbing up the other side (a gym class?) and almost all of them were complaining and stopping to rest.  I had no doubt that I would feel the same way before too long.

One of many

Walk #7 is a nice tour of the wealthy neighborhood of Pacific Heights.  About halfway through, I came to the Pacific Heights Market and went in to buy a bottle of water.  There was a line at the counter, so I went to the rear of the store to take a peek at their beer selection, not expecting --  Wow!  A totally unexpected treasure trove of Belgian beer, just about every quality craft brew from Northern California, and more!  I quietly wondered if the people in the neighborhood knew about this little hidden gem right in their backyard.  I grabbed a bottle of Russian River Redemption (against my better judgment -- I'd still not eaten anything and had a lot of walking still to do before dinner) and a bag of potato chips.  I was informed that it needed to be in a paper sack if I was to drink it outside at one of their little tables.

And so this was to be a beer hike after all.  I was fine with that.  Why else was I here?

After the Market, I continued on, finishing walk #7 and going right into #8, which goes along the east side of The Presidio.  It was getting late in the day by this point, so I decided to veer off the guide book's route and check out something that my Garmin GPS called "Yoda Statue", located near one of the buildings in the Presidio.  When I got there, I found...  Well...

A Statue of Yoda
It was definitely time to find food now.  I was set on finding a good piece of deep fried fish, like I'd seen on TV some years back while watching something shot at San Francisco's Waterfront.  I knew it would be touristy, but I was a tourist after all, so I was fine with going up there on a busy Friday night.

It was a typical touristy shit-show, not unlike Seattle's Waterfront.  A lot of junk shops, street performers, rickshaw bikes, and chain restaurants.  All I could find for food though, was fish and chips.  But I wanted a real fish fry, so I kept walking along The Embarcadero.  Eventually it became apparent that I was going to have to settle for fish 'n chips after all, so when I happened upon the Pier 23 Cafe, I decided to duck in and check out their menu.

The Presidio.  Beautiful view, crappy picture.
I had a pint of Speakeasy's Big Daddy while I looked around on the internet.  I came across a review that claimed that San Francisco Brewing had really good fish 'n chips and it looked to be well within walking distance.  I was already pretty tired and hungry, but the Big Daddy gave me a the needed energy to climb the Filbert Street Steps and Telegraph Hill to my destination.

Which turned out to be closed.  Fuck.  I needed to eat.  A couple of Twitter mates informed me that San Francisco Brewing closed a year or so ago.  I had a plan B, though:  Piccadilly, about 1.3 miles away.

So on I marched.  Through Chinatown and down to Pine St.  This isn't quite how I wanted to see Chinatown for the first time, but it was still pretty cool.

When I was just a block or so away from Piccadilly, I came across a little restaurant called Nob Hill Grille at Hyde & Pine.  I peeked at the menu in the window and that was that.  I would go no further.  This is where I would finally sup.  The NHG is more of a wine-centric place, but the bottled beer selections were first-rate.  I blessed the bartender when he brought me a bottle of North Coast Pranqster and ordered some bruschetta, wild mushroom risotto, and the Old McDonald burger (goat cheese, house-cured bacon, fried egg).  The look on my face as I ate and drank must have been somewhere between hilarious and unnerving.  The food was simply perfect and I enjoyed talking to the bartender and one of the cooks about Assassin's Creed II, which I was currently playing at home.  What could be better?

After this glorious meal, I really started to feel the almost ten miles I'd walked (and climbed) since 4pm.  I was ready to get a shower and hit the sack.  There was a long weekend of touring and drinking ahead.

The last leg of the walk, back to The Mosser Hotel, took me through the destitution of Ellis Street and past a couple of intriguing bars, but I couldn't bring myself to stop into any of them.  There would be plenty more opportunities in the next couple of nights for prolonging the debauchery.

UP NEXT:  Saturday evening urban beer hike with some San Francisco locals.

Get all that?

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