What to see in the SF Bay Area (2010)?
July 19, 2010 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Anything new I should see in the SF Bay Area?

I'm a geeky sort who grew up in the SF Bay Area but haven't lived there since 1989. I keep in touch with family and friends, but I only get out there usually once or twice a year on a long weekend. My yearly is coming up in August this year and last year I asked for and received a number of good suggestions from AskMe. My question is what's changed and what might I be interested in seeing/doing? This time around?

My overall interests are:
- Geeking/Internet/Computing/Science Geeking (Exploratorium is/was one of my favorites & my Dad's a professor emeritus with the UC system)
- Gaming (video more than board) (My first game geeking store: Games of Berkeley)
- Food (gourmet, organic and locovore, but usually not in mass quanitites) (Zuni Cafe, Namu, Kirala, Nopalito, etc.)
- Art/Writing (Museums, Bookstores)
- Chinese & Hispanic culture/food (SF and Oakland Chinatown, Street Food)
- Hot tubbing!
- Attractions should be accessible by public transit (I love BART but, I will also do MUNI, streetcars, commuter rail, whatever)
posted by kalessin to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (21 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Di Young Museum in GG Park. The Embarcadero with the freeway gone, and the revitalized, foodie fave the Ferry Building (and ferry service, which was pretty well dead in 1980s).

And marvel also at how little so many things change here as well...
posted by quarterframer at 9:29 AM on July 19, 2010

Thanks quarterframer. Just a reminder to you and other answerers that I linked to the question from a year ago so we didn't have to retread old suggestions. But I will add the De Young Museum in Golden Gate park to the list of old haunts to revisit. It is almost always a good time. Come to think of it, the Japanese Tea Garden would bring back good memories too.
posted by kalessin at 9:56 AM on July 19, 2010

I believe the SF Underground Farmers Market is newish. I've never been, so I can't vouch for it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:31 AM on July 19, 2010

The De Young is not the one you used to visit. Both Cal Academy and the De Young have been completely redone. It looks like you didn't get to them last year, and they're well worth the time.

There's also the Asian Art Museum, MOAD, Jewish Museum, Mexican Museum, and the Cartoon Art Museum.

For food, don't miss Humphrey Slocombe!
posted by gingerbeer at 10:40 AM on July 19, 2010

Don't know if you'll be here on a Thursday (and sometimes it sells out), but the Cal Academy does a Night Life event on Thursday nights - tickets are cheaper, you can buy drinks, and it's no-kids-allowed, so it's much easier to see the various exhibits.
posted by rtha at 10:46 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's not new, but many people seem to not know about the Musee Mechanique. Go.
posted by brainmouse at 10:49 AM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Similar to you, I visit San Francisco a couple times a year from London. I still have friends there that keep me updated.

That said, for food, I recommend the Chowhound SF Bay Area Digest which covers noteworthy new openings.
posted by vacapinta at 10:57 AM on July 19, 2010

Yes for Humphrey Slocombe! Also for food, street food is picking up in SF. Check Twitter for some of the food carts around: Libasf, CremeBruleeCart, MagicCurryCart and more!
posted by Swisstine at 11:02 AM on July 19, 2010

I was at Humphrey Slocombe when I was in San Francisco in March of 2009, so I know its been around since then at least...

Are you looking for places that have opened in the past year or more broadly, recently opened places that you may not know about? The latter is hard to know, though....
posted by vacapinta at 11:19 AM on July 19, 2010

Eater SF is also a good way to keep on top of new food happenings here, in addition to Chowhound.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:55 AM on July 19, 2010

vacapinta, I'm looking for places that have opened in the past year. :) Thank you for thinking more broadly, but I know the latter is kind of unreasonable to ask for.
posted by kalessin at 1:00 PM on July 19, 2010

Dude. The SF Street Food Fest is that weekend.

posted by kalessin at 1:10 PM on July 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

The "Best of" issue of the East Bay Express just came out. I don't see "Best New-in-the-Last-Year X" categories, but some of the winners are in fact pretty much new, and I'll bet you missed some of the about-to-turn-two attractions last time you visited.
posted by gum at 1:14 PM on July 19, 2010

I'll update this thread later with what I actually did on the trip like I did with the last thread. Thanks all for your suggestions. Keep 'em coming if you like. I'll recheck this thread before I go on the trip too.
posted by kalessin at 6:19 AM on July 20, 2010

Yesterday (arrival day), I felt somewhat oogy from the trip, though the $150 add-on travel package I bought from United Airlines did make the trip much easier.

Anyway, somewhat boringly, all I did yesterday was come home from SFO, drop off bags, walk to Kirala with Mom and had lunch (simple deluxe - as in more - sashimi combo for me and tempura soba for Mom).

We walked back home (near Shattuck and Prince) and I chilled out a little. Later in the evening I got Dad out to walk with me to Kirala again. We had a rather more complicated meal that involved good sake.

We then walked back home and I fell into sleep by 8:30p local time.

And was up at 4:30a.
posted by kalessin at 6:11 AM on August 20, 2010

A more detailed update on my blog (linked in the comment above), but:

Family business at the start of the morning. By 11, I went out to the Wood Tavern on College Ave in Rockridge (very good food, very busy - we arrived at 11:30 without reservations and they could only seat us at the bar, the sandwiches were tasty but had mechanical problems - the sturdy bread pushed the filling out the sides). Wandered College Ave for a while and washed up where my Mom suggested - Ici, a gourmet ice cream shop. Between us, my friend and I tried their Rose Vanilla, Chocolate and Black Pepper-Cardamom flavors. All excellent! My friend and I are old so we then needed a nap and cut short our visit that we were saying we'd make last until 4.

I rested a little, then headed for the Berkeley Bowl, where I signed up to be a card carrying member of the ACLU, then went and got some fresh fruit for breakfast tomorrow.

Dad and I plan to go to La Val's tonight - comfort food for my family.

Tomorrow other friends, my Mom and I plan to get dim sum at Yank Sing on Spear (a party of 12!), then my best friend of that lot and I will wander a bit. I need to go to the Wok Shop and Recchiuti Confectioners in the Ferry Terminal Building tomorrow too.
posted by kalessin at 5:48 PM on August 20, 2010

I'm falling over tired from today, but I figured I should summarize somewhere. Here's probably better than my blog because I don't feel like I can write a novel here, so I won't stay up too late. Also this will serve as good notes for my blog for my family.

After a slow morning, today did indeed start at Yank Sing on Spear (party was 10, including my Mom and mostly my best friend's household). Dim sum was fast and furious and extraordinarily good. Also Yank Sing is really expensive comparatively. But it's well worth it. Highlights: Traditional, precisely executed dry fried long beans; soup dumplings; Peking duck; the Lotus seed paste filled sesame balls were (probably the first time in my life) fried in hot enough oil that they weren't ultra-heavy; Asparagus in scallop-shrimp-fish paste croquettes; spinach dumplings; classic preparation of steamed sea bass but in a big chunk of flakable fish in a dim sum size. There was plenty more food we ordered. Bill for the 10 of us after going to town was about $300. So. VERY expensive for Dim Sum but also very good.

After Dim Sum my friend and I wandered. My goals were still the Wok Shop and Recchiuti, but we walked up to the Wok Shop via Sacramento, I bought a couple of woks and had them shipped, then we wandered around Chinatown for a while. My friend wanted to visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory where you can write your own fortunes but when we got there it was packed. I wanted to make a trip to the Tin How Temple to make some offerings and get some talismans for back home. We found a "bakery" where I could get some take-out Dim Sum for the temple, then went to the temple itself, made offerings and got talismans.

After that adventure, we walked down California back to the Ferry Terminal Building, on the way checking out the Privately Owned Public Spaces on California. (Not that awesome, but kind of cool anyway.)

At the Ferry Terminal Building, we first went to Peet's to get some drinkables (a little dehydrated by then). While enjoying that, we asked our friend's housemates whether we should shop for food for the evening. On receiving affirmation, we did. Highlights:
- Some good cheeses to drink with stouts and red wines at Cowgirl Creamery
- Lardo, ham and capocollo at Boccalone Salumeria (new to me)
- Peach and nectarine varietals at Frog Hollow Farm
- A LOT of chocolates at Recchiuti Confectioners (per my evil plan)

We then journeyed to my friend's home on the N Judah with a side trip to Andronico's (a sort of upscale grocery store) for some good beer (Old Rasputin's Imperial Stout), and I had a smorgasbordy dinner with my friend and her household until I turned into a pumpkin and returned to my parents' home.
posted by kalessin at 10:17 PM on August 21, 2010

Today may be slow or it may not, depending on when Dad gets up. Sometimes he doesn't get up until after noon. We'll see. It does look like I might get out to Berkeley Bowl West today. Maybe I'll go to Humphrey Slocombe by myself.
posted by kalessin at 9:20 AM on August 22, 2010

Today was slow, filled with family business, then an early supper with a friend and her family (pizza from a grill with a pizza stone - many toppings from their garden). For second supper I went to New Gold Medal restaurant (on the site of the former Sun Hong Kong and weirdly, their menus say they are Sun Hong Kong still) in Oakland Chinatown.

Whatever the name, this is an old standby for my family and my father likes it very much.

- Salt Fish steamed with Pork - this is a pork patty with slices of salt fish and sprinkled with shredded ginger and scallions and the whole lot steamed. The salt fish is definitely a pungent acquired taste but one both Dad and I like.
- Prawns with egg. Prawns with scrambled egg. I added chili oil and soy and it was magnifique!

To get to New Gold Medal and back we took BART which may not have been that wise from a risk-of-mugging perspective but we had no problems or harassment to deal with.

Tomorrow: Family business in the morning. Lunch with Mom and friends at home. Family business in the afternoon, then dinner with a friend in the Mission district as well as a visit to Humphrey Slocombe.
posted by kalessin at 10:50 PM on August 22, 2010

Yesterday's comment was in fact about the day before, but I posted it near midnight so the date may be confusing. So this comment's about 8/23.

A lot more family business and most of the activities skewed toward the afternoon, but.

Started out with a lunch at home with my Mom and some of her friends. Since most of you will not be able to have lunch with my Mom, I'll just say that the food and the company was also charming.

For the early supper meal, I met my friend N in the Mission in SFO with a goal of going to a Mission taqeuria. Based on Yelp reviews, we thought we would go to El Farolito. N's housemates offered an alternative (which I'll mention because they said it was better): El Metate. We ended up going for it and going to El Farolito.

And it was good. I think some of the Yelp reviews that said it was on the greasy side were accurate. But as we foodies know, grease makes the taste go 'round.

Anyway,I had three tacos:
- Sesos (beef brains)
Sort of taste like oysters, mildly. Server with lots of citrus and lots of spiciness. Texture is also oyster-like, so I'd rate it challenging. It was tasty though and my first time eating this organ.
- Lengua (beef tongue)
Had it before in other venues. It wasn't peeled, so it was both chewy and soft. I prefer it peeled (where it's only soft), but that is not the default way of prepping it. Also served citrusy/spicy.
- Chorizo (spicy sausage)
Good. The heaviest/greasiest, but prepped well - cooked so it's more crispy than fatty.

My friend had enchiladas which she also enjoyed. We also both had the cantaloupe aguas fresca, which was very cantaloupey but also very sugar sweet. Not sure I'd recommend that.

We went on a side trip to walk it off and visit a gallery/sales place my friend's housemate works at/creates for across from the Safeway near 29th and Mission. Unfortunately it was closed (and I cannot find a link for it so I won't), but it did give us the opportunity for a short walk for digestion and to make room for Humphry Slocombe ice cream.

It WAS wonderful and well worth the effort of getting there. I had a cup with Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee and Secret Breakfast (bourbon and corn flakes). My friend had Candy Capp (a mushroom that tastes like maple) with Balsamic Vinegar candied topping. Both were quite tasty though I agree with N that the vinegar overpowered her ice cream flavors. My cup was interesting in that the combination of the two flavors at the same time was like a wholly different third flavor and it was pretty fantastic. Good combo.

When I got home I had second supper with Dad about 4 hours later, at The Saturn Cafe. Weirdly, though I used to eat there pretty constantly back when I lived in California (21 years ago), I didn't remember that it was a vegetarian joint. This had no impact on my choice of meal: Peach Milkshake and Zucchini fries. It did impact Dad's choice of burger. I think he wanted meat. We're both capable of enjoying vegetarian fare, but neither of us realized that Saturn Cafe was vegetarian. Regardless, the quality was as high as I remember it being. Very good!

Today I will pack up and head over to SFO by BART. Nothing exciting scheduled, but if I do get something yummy from SFO food courts I'll let you know.
posted by kalessin at 8:55 AM on August 24, 2010

To finish up, Tuesday was the day of my journey back to my permanent home, so I did a significant bit more family business, packed up and headed on over to SFO by myself.

On BART, there was some delay at Colma, where I guess they were moving spare trains around, but nothing significant.

I didn't mention it before, but when I bought airline tickets I bought from United because they have a non-stop from BWI to SFO and back. I also bought a $150 package add-on that includes Economy Plus (more leg room), 2 checked bags (otherwise they charge you) and a few other things including a special status, "Premier". I didn't think it would be any great shakes and mostly did it because it cost about as much as Economy Plus, which I usually buy, and the checked bags (I only checked one).

But! It turns out that that special Premier status is worth a lot. You use the special short check-in line reserved for Premier and above travelers (First Class and the rest of the special premium business and frequent flyer groups). The United employees are much more polite - almost deferential. In some airports (SFO certainly - though I'm not sure about BWI) you get a special Security checkpoint you share with First Class and a few other groups - it's very quick, private and polite - the TSA folks are just more polite there. You get seating with group 1, which means you get on the plane early and that is worth something in the peace of mind department, especially if you have a window seat (because you don't have to keep getting up while other folks board). Given all that, I think I may purchase the option again when I fly with United.

Anyway the other thing I got with Premier was less internal worry about running a little late on BART.

In fact, after breezing through the check-in and lines I had some time to have a snack and get provisions for further snacking on board for the 5.5 hour flight.

I wanted to mention Andale in the Food Court Terminal 3 area of SFO, because it was a decent place to get three carnitas tacos. As usual (these days - it even happens around here in the Baltimore/DC susburbs) they were really overstuffed, and provided with additional tortillas, so what I ordered for about $10 could feed a couple of folks. The carnitas were good, the salsas light and fresh, the corn tortillas reasonable. Probably better all around than Baja Fresh and pretty damned good for airport terminal food.

I also picked up a couple of cake slices to console myself on the long flight (and to have with the "complimentary" milk) at Just Desserts in the same area. Chocolate Mousse pie and Lemon Cake. They were both quite good.

The flight home was uneventful though there were some issues with sitting for the very beginning with a financial markets douchebag who would NOT turn off his Blackberry, even while we were taking off. I gave him the stinkeye (while I was considering narcing on him) enough that he found another seat. I didn't narc on him, but I probably should have.
posted by kalessin at 6:27 AM on August 25, 2010

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