San Francisco 2018 diary, day 2

Saturday, 27 January, 2018. 22:29

It’s been a busy day! We got up around 08:00 after M. had a good night’s sleep, however I’m not sure I slept at all, as I was lying awake all night and trying to fall asleep unsuccessfully. We had breakfast of the Special K we bought last night, and then I had the sesame seed ball from Golden Gate Bakery, which had a sweet black bean paste filling, although it was mostly hollow, which is a good thing really as it was the size of a softball. The dough was chewy and crunchy from the sesame seeds and it tasted really good.

After walking across to Blue Bottle coffee for M. to get a morning coffee, we walked down Market Street to the Ferry Building. At the craft market in front of the building we saw the man who I’d bought M.’s silver bracelet from a few years ago, and M. got to thank him for making it. He was pleased to see us after she showed it to him and we explained the story. There were a lot fewer stalls there today than I remember usually being there, and the guy told us not to hang around here too long because there was a big protest march down Market Street planned for later in the day, and that he’d probably pack up and leave early himself.

We went across to the Ferry Building and looked at the farmer’s market there. I’d seen part of this before, in front of the building, but now it spilled around the southern end and into the space behind the building too, with dozens of stalls. Many were giving free tastings of their wares, and we got to taste falafels, hummus, three different types of nashi pears (which they call “Asian pears” here), and citrus fruit including sweet lemons, which were interesting.

Farmer's market
Farmer’s market behind the Ferry Building

Inside the Ferry Building, M. decided we should try the Cowgirl Creamery grilled cheese sandwich of the day, splitting one with a tomato soup as an early half-lunch, since by now it was around 11:30. Afterwards we walked past a guy selling hand made potato chips, and he was offering a taste of four different flavours for a dollar. I decided to try them, and got a classic sea salt chip, a lemon pepper chip, a California barbecue chip (which was somewhat spicy), and a jalapeño chip (which was very spicy, leaving me wanting some water to cool my mouth down). I really liked the lemon pepper, but didn’t want to buy a whole bag of them.

Grilled cheese of the day
Grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup from Cowgirl Creamery

Then we left to walk back down Market Street, past our hotel, and to the Hayes Valley neighbourhood. As we approached Powell Street near Union Square and then the Civic Centre Plaza, we noticed lots of police everywhere, getting ready for the march. Signs around the place indicated it was an anti-abortion rally, and there were also people getting ready to counter protest along the route. We bypassed things by going around the south side of the Civic Centre plaza and turning onto Hayes Street from Market Street, though we saw the crowd gathering there.

The area between Powell Street and Civic Centre was much more run down looking and filled with sketchy looking people than the rest of Market Street, but once we turned on to Hayes and walked another block, suddenly we were in a more upmarket area full of boutiques and cafes and things. M. said this was where she’d walked alone one day on the last trip she’d been here on, and that it was a nice area.

We stopped in a place called La Boulangerie and sat so M. could get a coffee. I also had a “leek and feta and dill croissant”, which was actually more like a danish. After M. returned to the table with a number, a woman appeared and said, “cappuccino,” and deposited a large bowl on the table in front of M. We were both amazed… but yes, the coffee came in a bowl. After a while we saw some other people getting their coffee served the same way. The croissant/danish was very nice, with good flaky pastry.

Table 13
Inside La Boulangerie de San Francisco

We continued walking along Hayes Street, popping into various shops to look at things. After the shops ran out we continued in the same direction until we reached Alamo Square, where we looked at the famous view of the city over the Painted Ladies Victorian houses. The park was full of people enjoying the view and the sun on the grassy hillside.

Postcard view of San Francisco
Alamo Square view over San Francisco

From here, we walked back a block to Fillmore Street and then turned north to walk along this street through the Fillmore District, famous for its early era jazz clubs. The first parts were run down, slowly transforming as we moved north. We stopped in a bagel shop just before Geary Boulevard so M. could get a late lunch snack of a bagel with almond butter. We just got in in time, as we were sitting in there when they closed at 15:00.

Jazz on Fillmore
Jazz themed street art on Fillmore Street

Continuing north, we crossed Geary Boulevard, and a block north found 1712 Fillmore Street, which is a house featured in Gary Kamiya’s book Cool Gray City of Love because of its storied history. It’s a three-storey Victorian house built around 1895, though it was built over on Post Street, a couple of blocks east. After the 1906 earthquake, the middle class families moved out of the neighbourhood, and Japanese immigrants came in, dividing the houses into apartments. The Nippon Drug Company opened business on the ground floor, run by a Mr Hatsuto Yamada. After Pearl Harbour, Japanese Americans were rounded up and placed in internment camps for the duration of World War II, and black people moved into the neighbourhood. The house became a jazz club named Vout City, run by Slim Gaillard, but soon went out of business. John “Jimbo” Edwards opened a café named Jimbo’s Waffle Shop in the building, then converted a disused back room into an impromptu jazz jam room. This soon became more popular than the café, and Jimbo converted the place into the famous jazz club Bop City. In the 1960s and 70s, the city made an urban renewal push in the Fillmore area, razing buildings and installing higher density apartments. 2,500 Victorian houses were demolished, but in the late 70s someone decided to save a row of six houses, by moving them from Post Street to Fillmore, where they stand to this day. 1712 became home to Marcus Books, the oldest African-American bookstore in the USA, but that was evicted in 2014 when the owners fell foul of a predatory mortgage. Now it houses a beauty salon, and one would never guess the rich history and the ghosts of injustices past that haunt it.

1712 Fillmore
1712 Fillmore Street, which used to house Nippon Drug, Vout City, Bop City, and Marcus Books

From here on, suddenly Fillmore Street became hip and trendy, full of fashionable boutiques and other hipster establishments. We stopped in a few places, and in one M. got a silver and turquoise ring at 50% off. Most places seemed to be having big discount sales on some of their stock. Presumably it’s the season for getting in new stock or something.

Street jazz
Fillmore Street scene with trumpet busker

Fillmore eventually intersects Union Street after a patch of residential houses, and here we encountered the shopping strip of Cow Hollow, where we’d been before. We walked up and down here, finding a Starbucks to use the toilets along the way. One shop was a doggy bakery, which looked like a full on cake bakery, with delicious looking cookies and cakes in a glass display case. I asked the guy if anything was human edible, but he said no, they were just for dogs.

Heading down Fillmore Street towards Cow Hollow

After the Union Street diversion, we continued north on Fillmore. I didn’t expect to come across anything else, but a few blocks later we hit the Marina shopping area, with another row of shops and restaurants along Chestnut Street perpendicular to Fillmore. We explored this for a few minutes, but then had to get moving to make it to Greens Restaurant in time for dinner. We walked there through the residential Marina district, which was very quiet compared to most other places in the city.

Hark! Cocktails
Chestnut Street, Marina District

At Greens, we arrived right on time for our 18:00 reservation, and were shown to one of very few empty tables. The place opens at 17:00 and it looked like a lot of people started having dinner from that time. The sun had just set and the sky was orange turning to dark towards the west over the Golden Gate Bridge, which the windows of the restaurant face, so presumably everyone dining earlier had a great view of the sunset.

Sampler platter
Sampler platter appetiser at Greens

To start we had drinks, M. choosing a sparkling rosé wine, while I tried the rosemary and pomegranate gimlet. For a first course we shared a “winter sampler” platter, which had pita bread, hummus, black lentils, olives, and marinated cauliflower rosettes and chunks of yellow beetroot, with a spicy dipping sauce. For mains, we got the broccoli and feta pizza and the butternut and sweet potato gratin, which also had mild chilli peppers in it and came with grilled polenta and spinach with pumpkin seeds. We shared those as well, and had some Pinot noir wine with it. There was also sourdough bread and butter. It was all very good and delicious. The portions were good sizes, not too much, but plenty to be filling. I decided to skip dessert as nothing particularly grabbed me right away, and we left a bit before 20:00.

Mains at Greens
Main meals at Greens

We decided to walk all the way back to the hotel rather than catch transport, and on the way I realised how full I was. We considered stopping for gelato as we walked through North Beach, but I didn’t really feel like it. We began by walking from Fort Mason across towards Ghirardelli Square, through the park. It was very dark though, and we didn’t want to head down to the waterfront side which looked completely dark, so stayed up on the hill in the light of the city, eventually emerging a block behind Ghirardelli Square. From there we walked east until we hit Columbus Avenue and then along that through North Beach to Grant Avenue and then through Chinatown back to Market Street, thus avoiding the worst of the hills.

We got in around 21:30 and then turned in for the night.

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