Tag Archives: soma

Hey You. Yeah, You. I Smell Your Sandwich.

imageSo it looks like we both got on the same MUNI stop – 4th and King, near AT&T Park in San Francisco. I don’t know about you, but I was just leeching off of Panera’s free wi-fi for a couple hours and enjoying the sunlight in SoMa before heading back into the fog that’s now spilling over Twin Peaks like a fleece blanket made of water droplets from hell.

It also appears that you sat directly behind me and that you brought a little snacky-poo. Because here’s what you don’t know: I’m starving right now and as a result, I have olfactory abilities that rival most predatory animals. In this moment, cheetah snouts ain’t got nothing on this nose. I can’t see you but I can smell you. I can smell you and that mesquite turkey sandwich on ciabatta bread and local provolone cheese with house-made chipotle aioli, crunchy romaine lettuce and thinly sliced red onion to boot. No tomatoes.

I can smell it all. I can smell that you’re wearing the hoodie your startup gave you, the human version of cattle branding, and I can smell your straight cut dark jeans, your thick-rimmed glasses and your sneakers – the popular kind. I smell your haircut, your five o’clock shadow, and the guilt you have for not keeping in better touch with your college roommates.

I smell your insecurity, your fear of failure, and your desire to be accepted. I smell the nervousness that you feel when you enter a room full of people who expect something from you and the fact you hit your snooze button twice this morning and that earlier this week, you cracked the screen of your iPhone when you dropped it on the sidewalk in front of Philz coffee.

I smell your doubt and the creeping sensation that you’re somehow missing the point of it all and the embarrassment you felt earlier today when you thought a cute girl was checking you out but it turned out she was just looking to see if the bus was coming. It wasn’t coming, but that didn’t matter because it wasn’t your bus. I know that because I can smell the numbers of the buses you usually ride wafting off your breath as you exhale the sweet scent of fresh bread and chipotle mayo, because that’s all aioli is. It’s mayonnaise.

And I can smell that you know that. You know that aioli is just mayo. You learned about aioli shortly after you moved here from Wisconsin, and shortly after that you learned the two condiments are essentially one in the same but you still say aioli whenever you can because you want to believe that you’re different now, and that despite the fact you might be missing the point of it all and despite the fact that girl didn’t even see you or your fancy haircut, despite all of it you want to believe that you’ve made something more of yourself.

So it’s aioli, not mayo, because this is San Francisco and this is the MUNI and this is your evening meal on your commute home.

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The Weird, Offbeat and Wonderful Breakfasts in San Francisco

I ate breakfast at 78 different places in the Bay Area last year.* I’ve written about the best of them and the worst of them, but there are some that deserve to be mentioned for other reasons, ones with some special sauce. Check it out.

Wolfe's Lunch

Wolfe’s Lunch

Most Surreal

Wolfe’s Lunch – Portrero Hill – $

I ate at Wolfe’s Lunch – a name that sounds like something out of a Grimm fairy tale – on a day when the sky was a gunmetal gray and the restaurant was completely empty. I got my coffee, pancakes, eggs, meat and potatoes for less than $10. When my food was ready, the woman at the counter used a microphone to call me to the counter which was about 10 feet away. I obeyed the voice and retrieved my breakfast, which I ate while staring at the sky and noting that this part of town is very boxy. It was one of those days where reality seemed a little thinner than others.

Best Hidden Treasure
Bechelli’s Flower Market – $$ – SoMa

In this part of SoMa, the streets are lined with old warehouses and car shops. It’s not especially beautiful unless you’re into that sort of thing. I thought Bechelli’s Flower Market was just a cute name to attract patrons in this industrial area of town, but sure enough fresh flowers adorned every table. The food was good and right on par with expectations. On a whim, I exited out the back way and discovered an alley lined with flower shops – pinks and reds and oranges bursting into the street – and the name of the cafe made more sense.

Oldest Head Cook
Olympic Flame Cafe – Tenderloin – $ 

The day I ate here was the day a 90-yr-old Greek man made my breakfast. Despite the terrible reviews on Yelp, I loved this place, which goes to show that most people on the internet don’t know what I like.

Credit: Afar Media

It’s Tops

Most Dream-Like
It’s Tops Coffee Shop – Mission – $$ 

I wandered here in a dense angst haze after barely making it through the Upper Market area alive, assaulted on all sides by the worst of what people can become due to illness, abuse, and life on the streets. I walked into It’s Tops and felt like I was back in a perfect version of my childhood, wood walls and cozy booths and I sat down and ordered a breakfast feast to take away the pain of not knowing what I was doing or where I was going in life or how to get what I wanted. I ordered everything to help that pain go away and sat in a time capsule for a little bit while the world raged on outside. It was delicious.

Best Breakfast for a Sailor
Red’s Java House – Embarcadero / SoMa – $ 

An outpost of a time gone by, built out of cinderblocks and plywood and clinging to the pier while glassy office buildings rise up around it – Red’s is somewhere you can let your hair down and talk shop about how to get them ropes on your ship working properly. I got pancakes and other stuff and sat and looked out at the street and the water. They said I could come back for refills of coffee all day if I wanted to. I didn’t take them up on it, but maybe next time. Maybe next time.

Best story
Toast Eatery – Noe Valley – $ 

The food here was average, but as I was walking to BART after eating I saw two men carrying a mattress. One of them was very tall and this information was filed somewhere in my brain. But mostly I forgot all about this and months later, I’m going to get a drink at an event called Nerd Nite, and I see someone who’s very tall and we make eye contact and he says “You look familiar…” and I say “You look familiar!” And so we dig through our activities and where we live and our connections and he mentions he lives in Noe Valley and then it hits me, “Wait, were you recently moving a mattress on the street?

As it turns out, we didn’t know each other at all but had merely seen one another on the street early on a Friday morning. San Francisco is so small.

bashful-bull-tooMost heart and soul

The Bashful Bull Too – Parkside – $ 

This place is run by people who are not of midwestern descent, but they have made this restaurant into a veritable paragon of everything most midwestern eateries wish they could be. The amount of love they have for Americana of old is enough to grant them the Heart and Soul award plus the fact they have a dish that includes: hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, biscuits + gravy and pancakes. Amen, hallelujah and praise the Lord.

*Full list here: Breakfasts in the Bay Area

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Places to Think about Life in Downtown San Francisco

Bay Bridge from the Embarcadero in San FranciscoYou are responsible for managing your career/life. No one will do this for you, and it certainly doesn’t just happen. If you don’t wake up excited about your job or what you’re about to do all day, feeling like a lovely flower blooming in the sunlight of opportunity, it’s your job to fix something. Read this Onion article for a little more clarity on why doing anything else is pretty dumb.

At the same time, it’s not easy to switch careers or even understand where to begin, and time goes by so fast, all the sudden the weekened’s here but then it’s gone and all those things you wanted to think about are pushed to next week, again. So, where do you get the time to think about life? How do you find the correct patch of time-space fabric in which to plot your career, or any other kinds of goals you may have.

First off, make this a priority. Take your lunch break, and get out of the office, the hospital, the restaurant, or the mine. Removal is key, otherwise someone will probably ask you to do something. If your mine shaft, office building, or restaurant happens to be close to or in downtown San Francisco, I have some ideas for places you can escape to.

1. The Embarcadero

This is the street/boardwalk that borders the bay. Take some time to walk here and look out over the water and watch the sailboats doing their thing or look at the bridge, which is pretty cool. Stare at the people that stroll, business walk, or jog by you, some of them tourists trying to suck the marrow out of the city, others of them citizens getting their heart rates up or eating. The transience in the midst of such a broad landscape will help you as you try to decipher, “Where am I going in this wide world, and what do I need to do to get there?”

2. The Marriott on 2nd and Folsom

This Marriott has a huge lobby with ample seating and is a popular place for biz types to gather and discuss things they care about business-wise. Your first reaction might be, “How the heck am I supposed to think when I’m surrounded by people who are talking about business and holding meetings.” You’re right, there are people doing those things here, but look closer, and you’ll find people just checking in to their rooms and passing through the city. Think about them and their experience compared to yours. Boom. Your world just got bigger. Imagine the web of their relationships and watch it stretch over the entire globe. Boom. Your world just got bigger again. Then think about the person you want to be in 5 years and how to get there. It’s as simple as that.

3. The picnic area on 2nd and Folsom, south side

Come, sit in the sun, watch other people eat, and maybe enjoy something yourself. Look at the water in the fountain, the substance most critical to our very existence. Look at the trees, doing their all-important and only work of transforming sunlight into food, then think about what you’re doing that’s critical for well-being, either for others or for yourself. Are you contributing to the essential activities of the earth or adding to them in a positive way?

4. Find a tree and look at it for a long time

If you’re not in downtown San Francisco and have no idea what the places I just named are, go back and reconnect with nature, then extrapolate out and see the bigger picture. How can you be like that tree, fulfiling your purpose every day, during the day, and not relegating it to the nights and weekeneds. When you figure that out, please please please let me know how you’re doing it.

For more on finding your purpose and doing what you love, see “How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love” from brainpickings.org, Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, and Stop Everything and Think about This by yours truly. 

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