Category Archives: Outer Sunset

A True Story of Pastry Paralysis

beachside cafe pastry display san francisco

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On a Saturday in mid-March, I walked 2.6 miles and 42 blocks down Irving Street to Beachside Cafe, and I was hungry.

My hunger grew the longer I walked, and along with it, hungry indecision. In my mind, I could see a pastry, the perfect, tender, sweet, and comforting pastry that would solve my craving, but I couldn’t quite make out what it was. Was it a cookie, a scone, a cinnamon bun or twist? It was impossible to tell.

There was almost no line as I walked into Beachside, and a full display of pastries glowed in the light of hunger and baked good glory. This was the first level of disaster. When faced with a display of pastries in which everything looked good, my mind froze up solid. I was left staring open-mouthed at the pastry display like the first Adam trying to name a billion different orange-colored things. I began to ask the server a series of questions, becoming more dissatisfied with every answer.

“What is your favorite?” “I really like banana nut muffin and the peanut butter cookie.” (boo)

“What’s your most popular pastry?” “The chocolate chip cookie.”(duh)

“What your second most popular pastry?” “Blueberry muffin?” (boring)

“Is the blueberry scone good?” “Yes.” (obvs)

“What’s that thing” “Scallion-bacon scone.” (weird)

“And that?” “Cinnamon apple muffin.” (reminds me too much of oatmeal)

These were the questions of a woman who clearly had no idea how to satisfy her need for a pastry or even what that particular need was. The crux of the issue is that I knew there was a right answer – there was a pastry on the shelf that would satisfy my deepest desires and yearnings, but I didn’t know how to find it, and I was terrified of missing the chance to sample the perfect pastry.

At last I chose the peanut butter cookie, and it was tasty – probably one of the better PB cookies I’ve had, but it didn’t hit the spot, the spot that cannot be named. It’s not the chocolate, pie, or berry spot. It is the pastry spot, and it is left un-hit, a hole in my soul that still seeks to be satisfied.

The quest continues. Who will win? The spot, or the human?

If you liked this, you might also like Experimentation in Pastries at Craftsmen and Wolves, Purchasing and Eating a Sandwich, and Deconstructed Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich.

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The Secret of the Outer Sunset: Hillbilly Hootennany West Side Review at the Riptide

honkey_tonk_san_francisco_outer_sunsetIt was Sunday and I hadn’t eaten anything since brunch when my boyfriend picked me up and we headed out. He didn’t know where we were going since this was going to be part of his Christmas present, and I didn’t really know where we were going either.

I only knew the address and that we were heading to The Riptide, “the bay area’s best little honky-tonk by the beach” for their Hillbilly Hootenanny West Side Review. It happens at the beginning of every month.

The Riptide is buried deep in the Outer Sunset, all the way at 46th and Taraval. Many people from farther in the city aren’t even sure the intersection exists, believing deep down that most of the Sunset is a foggy myth created to scare hipsters of their potential oblivion. But seek and ye shall find, and find we did.

We headed further and further until we reached that dark corner, San Francisco’s last resort before it gives into the ocean.

It’s a clear night and the world was silent as we got out of the car, looking ahead at Taraval Street. A couple of restaurants lit up the sidewalks, but it felt empty and forgotten. The lonely Riptide sign, a blue wave, shone on up the street.

Inside the bar it’s warm, both temperature and atmosphere-wise, and packed with regulars and more people wearing western gear than I could yell yee-haw at. The walls are covered in nautical motifs as well as a moose head and some country paraphernalia. Somewhere, I suspect, there’s a mermaid wearing a cowboy hat.  All around us, people are greeting one another and being friendly-like, excited to get the hootenanny going, or maybe just excited to get blammo’d on a Sunday night. I’m not a sociologist.

Finally, a man in a pearl-button shirt and a cowboy hat takes to the microphone, introducing the musicians, including a man that looks like Johnny Bravo’s cousin and a walking, talking, handle-bar-mustaching caricature of a saloon piano player. The music starts.

The definition of a hootenanny is something like “a gathering at which folksingers entertain, often with the audience joining in.” But what that definition neglects to say is that hootenannies are often spiritual affairs and can cause a deep stirring in the soul. The music was wonderful, country and heartbroken and twangy, sung by people who probably have day jobs and look forward to this all week or all month.

After the first couple of sets, guest musicians started to play and then the fun really began. My favorite performers were a pair of no-nonsense, fun-loving, belt-buckle brandishing women who didn’t just sing and play music. They took it to the next level, becoming the music they played and hamming it up shamelessly. We loved them for it.

Then it was time to go, on a Sunday, and we stepped out of the bar onto a street as silent as ever. But now we knew its secret, the secret of the honky-tonk and the fire inside (both literal and figurative).

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