Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Ocean to The Mission

The third of my four days in San Francisco was the most ambitious.  My hiking partner Chris and I had pegged this day from the start where we would do nothing but hike and drink beer.  We were both in surprisingly good shape when we met in the lobby of my hotel around 9:30am.  After such a fun-filled Saturday, I half-expected one or both of us to be a little green, but not so.  And that was good because we both knew this day was going to be a marathon.

After grabbing some excellent breakfast at Park Chow, we headed west on the N-Judah line to the end.  By the time we got to the coast, it was raining pretty hard and we had to navigate some gigantic puddles on the sidewalk to get to our jumping off beers at the Beach Chalet.

The Ocean to The Mission:
Beach Chalet / Hockey Haven / Social Kitchen & Brewery / Kilowatt / Sycamore / Pi / Doc's Clock / Shotwell's / Zeitgeist; about 8 miles.

View The Ocean to The Mission in a larger map
(Special thanks to The Beer Retard, Chris, for planning and leading this hike.  I would have been lost without him.)

1. The Beach Chalet 
The Beach Chalet is housed in a unique old building, right above the Golden Gate Park Visitors Center.  I figured that a swanky place like this would be crowded around brunch time on a Sunday and rightly so.  The giant west-facing windows provide a spectacular view of the ocean.  I imagine that this is a prime spot for sunset dinners.  Today there wasn't much to look at, though.  We planned only to sit at the bar and have a beer before moving on.  My first of the the day was the current Brewer's Special, an altbier, and I didn't like it much.  If we'd been able to stay longer, I would have likely tried some of the other offerings.

My view for much of the early afternoon.

As we left the Chalet, the sky was showing hints of clearing up -- or at least, letting up on the rain. It's only about a mile walk through the Richmond neighborhood to Hockey Haven.

2. Hockey Haven
This which wasn't on my original "to visit" list, but when I heard the name, I had to check it out.  HH isn't much of a haven of hockey (there was an Oakland Raiders game that day, so that dominated all the TVs), but it is a pretty cool neighborhood bar.  There is a good amount of hockey shit on the walls and my pint glass of Firestone Walker DBA had a San Jose Sharks logo on it, so I'm betting that once football season is over, it turns into more of a hockey bar.  (Until baseball season starts, probably.)  It was here that we were joined by our friend and fellow beer hiker, Catherine.  After a beer and a half and some good conversation with the bartender and a local, we headed out the door and southeast to Golden Gate Park.

Outer Richmond

While we walked through the park, the sky cleared and the sun came out.  This was easily our longest leg of the hike (2.5 mi.).  Everything after this would just be a pub crawl.

3. Social Kitchen & Brewery
Social is a fairly new place in town from what I gathered.  I didn't like the feel of it when we first arrived -- too quiet and sterile.  I seem to remember the walls being empty, but there might have been some forgettable art or something and the whole place seemed very new and...  I don't know.  Angular.  I don't think there was any music playing either.  Social really won me over, however, with a delicious glass of their L'enfant Terrible Belgian-style dark ale and an above average pile of chicken wings.  I would definitely like to visit here again on my next trip to SF and try some of the other beers and food.  I think with a little time and weathering, it will become a very comfortable spot.

Our next stop would be Kilowatt, and we originally planned to hike there, but Catherine had a dinner engagement coming up and she wanted to join us for one or two more beers before splitting up, so we hopped on the eastbound N line and took a short cut.  Before hitting Kilowatt, we dashed across the street to Truly Mediterranean for a falafel sandwich.

4.  Kilowatt
Chris apparently used to come here after work when he lived in San Francisco.  It's a pretty average dimly-lit rock/punk bar with a great selection of beers and years of history on the walls, floor and ceiling.  (Top-notch bathroom graffiti, too.)  I also appreciated that they let me eat my sandwich in there while enjoying a pint of Anderson Valley Winter Solstice.  After our beer, we were in full "pub crawl" mode.   There were 5 more places to go and they're all pretty close together.

5. The Sycamore
The Sycamore is just around the corner from Kilowatt, right in the heart of the Mission District.  I immediately liked the feel of the place when we walked in, but it wasn't until we saw the small back patio area that I really became enamored.  It was mostly covered, but still outdoors and there were some easy chairs, a couch and some picnic tables.  Some pretty cool art on the walls, odd trinkets here and there, and the way it muffled the city noise all gave this little area a feeling of sanctuary.  I sipped on a glass of Allagash's Dubbel and we ordered some snacks from their menu.  The chili roasted peanuts were too spicy for me, but the pork belly donuts with maple Maker's Mark glaze were unbelievable.  We would be talking about them for weeks to come.  If you visit The Sycamore and don't try them, you're missing out.  This was one of my favorite joints of the weekend.

6. Pi
After bidding farewell to Catherine, we headed about a mile down to Pi (or Pi Bar, as I also heard it called.)  There was a very familiar air to the place and when we arrived, we were treated to meet up with the brains behind BeerByBART.com, Gail and Steve.  It's always a little weird to me at first when I meet people I've only chatted with on Twitter, but we broke the ice pretty easily with a round of Russian River Blind Pig.  After another pint of Death & Taxes from Moonlight Brewing, it was time move on.  Still three more stops to make.

Opens at 3:14 every day.

All the pie being pumped out at Pi made me crave pizza again even though I had stuffed myself at Golden Boy the previous night. Luckily, on our way to the next bar, we happened by Escape from NY, a New York style pizzeria offering big slices and lots of wacky crap on the walls.  It hit the spot perfectly and I was ready to move again.

7. Doc's Clock
It's kind of hard to describe Doc's Clock, and I suppose that's a good thing.  It's a unique cocktail bar with a goofy name and good beer on tap.  The atmosphere is dark, but not shady, and there's a bunch of pinball machines in the back.  I have no idea what I had to drink here, but I enjoyed looking around the place.  (NOTE:  I just found a notepad in my shoulder bag telling me that I drank a Payback Porter from Speakeasy.  I'm sure it was outstanding.)

8.  Shotwell's
It was approaching midnight by now and that meant that I was about to have a birthday.  We'd heard that Shotwell's was worth a visit, so we dropped in for a pint and some pool.  I had my beer hiking buddy on the ropes a couple of times, but his skills proved to be superior each time.  (Couldn't he let me win one fucking game on my birthday?  Dick.)  Near the end of our pints the famous Tamale Lady made an appearance.  She's a celebrity in the Mission District, but we were just too damn full to eat anything by this point.  Too bad.  I've taken a lot of shit from people since then for missing out on her food.  I didn't take any pictures here -- I was too busy getting my ass kicked at billiards -- but these drunks did HERE.

The only pic I got inside Zeitgeist.
9. Zeitgeist
For our final stop, we hit one of the best beer bars on the west coast, Zeitgeist.  It's too bad that we didn't get here sooner because it was pretty dead this late on a Sunday night.  We grabbed a couple pints of Moonlight's Bony Fingers (another dark lager) and chatted up the bartender.  He regaled stories about the insanity that ensued in the city just a week before when the Giants won the World Series.  I took a snapshot of the bar's logo on the door, but was promptly informed by the bouncer that picture-taking was not allowed (wtf?) so that was the only shot I got of the interior.  She might have been giving me shit out of sheer boredom -- and I can relate to that, actually.  We ended up talking for a while, though.  Turns out she's about as big a fan of Seattle as I am of San Francisco.

We finished up our final beers right about closing time and made our way back to our downtown hotels.  I stopped into Dave's again to retrieve my credit card that I'd left there the night before, but resisted to the temptation to have one last beer.  I couldn't believe that the day had come and gone already.  I'd walked almost 30 miles in three days, but in my mind, I was only beginning to explore San Francisco.  I'd spent more than 1/3 of the day in the Mission District and didn't even have a burrito.  Dammit.

Tomorrow we would fly out, but not before one more abbreviated hike and finally, a visit to the fabled Toronado.


  1. Bravo! That's some cool stuff in the Mission that wasn't on my radar at all. I didn't get to go to SF last week when I thought I was, but I'm going to consult this on my next trip.

  2. Thanks man. Most of the credit goes to Chris, my hiking partner that weekend. He knows his way around the beer scene pretty well down there and pretty much single-handedly planned and led the tour. Can't wait to hear about your next visit down there.