When thinking about climate in San Francisco our minds are usually nowhere near as foggy as the layer of of clouds that typifies what we know of the West Bay’s peninsula city. Temperatures in the mid 50s up to the low 70s are the typical highs throughout the year. When visiting the city in late August I was filled with joy in belief that I would get to wear jeans and a hoodie with brisk, mild days. But leave it to me to get the great misfortune of strolling into town and getting to experience a couple of the hottest days on record in the City by the Bay.
Our first couple days were absolutely on point to what we expected from San Francisco’s weather, mid to high 60s during the day and low 50s at night. But as the week went on the mercury began rising. Soon days were in the 80s and by Friday and Saturday the upper 90s — even pushing 100. These types of temperatures are not something new to me. South Florida has gotten me more than acquainted with sweaty days outside but the fact that nearly no building in the city have air conditioning made this heat spell just a tad uncomfortable.
Carrying around bottles of water — and constantly refilling them — was an absolute must. You would judge the best side of the road to walk down based off of shadows from the buildings. You would stop into a stuffy dive bar, that would have every fan turned up to it’s “holy shit this is hot” setting trying to make for more comfort, and order a cold drink only to be on your way after that one. You’re sweaty. You’re tired. You’re feet are burnt from an ill thought of run on the beach. This sounds like utter misery but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world.
San Francisco’s very distinct neighborhoods offer up and seemingly endless supplies of “what’s that over there?” Mexican joints and dive bars — something I would say the city has some of the best — of the Mission. Italian delis, markets and more dive bars of North Beach. Independent shopping and great art in the Haight (they have dive bars too). And more parks than you can shake a stick that you found in a dive bar at. Did I mention that San Francisco has a lot of really good dive bars?
Today I feel like the term dive bar is lost. It has become ironic to hang out in dive bars, mostly by people that have no understanding of what the word ironic even means. People think it means dirty to be dive but this is far from the truth. Dive means to come as you are, no judgments will passed on you. Their motif is typically fuck motif. The walls are decorated how they want usually with something that started off as a joke and just stuck. There is grit but there does not need to be grim. The Phone Booth, Beauty Bar, The Homested, Rite Spot and Vesuvio; all great, all recommended.
Even with the no frills dive bar culture don’t expect that the beer game slouches at all. The famous City Beer Store offers a fantastic tap listing of mostly California brewed beer with a beer geeks wet dream of a bottle selection. Within a short walk of CBC you can be at either Mikkeller SF or Cellarmaker Brewing.
Mikkeller SF, from the Danish gypsy brewer, was their first ever bar outside of Denmark and comes with a taplist that includes many of the famous brewer’s own beers along with an assortment of guest taps from all over the world. It’s state of the art draft system allows for particular styles of beer to be served at certain temperatures for optimal enjoyment.
Right in between CBC and Mikkeller is Cellarmaker Brewing who have quickly become one of the most popular breweries in the city in just 4 years of being open. Known for their IPAs Cellarmaker does not just stop there. They have received high praise for their barrel aged beers as well as their English influenced bitters and pales.
But if I’m going to talk about bitters and pales while in the city of San Francisco then you almost can not utter those words without following them up by saying Magnolia Brewing. With their brewpub located in the Haight, Magnolia has been making beer since 1997 in their corner spot pub and brewery. The look and feel is that of a pub straight out of London and if you had a few too many of their excellent English inspired beers you might even swear you were there. Hey, their both foggy cities right? Honest mistake.
Of course Magnolia is more than just bitters, pales and milds — they brew a wide assortment of beers — but they have certainly found their stroke with beers influenced by the Brits. Want a recommendation? Look at what they have on hand pump, order one, wait for your 20 oz glass of magnificence to arrive, drink, repeat, call Lyft.
As you would expect, food is a big deal in this city. Chinese, Japanese, Mexican (of so much Mexican and the real stuff), Vietnamese, Thai, Italian, French, Ethiopian. If you think it, it probably has a restaurant in San Francisco and it’s probably very good. But if you only have one meal to have I must insist that you go to Mission Chinese Food.
The spot is very unsuspecting on the surface. A yellow sign with red and blue writing saying Lung Shan Restaurant makes it look like your run of the mill Chinese take out spot and about 7 years ago you would have been right. In 2010 Danny Bowien and Anthony Myint formed a partnership with the owners of Lung Shan to where Mission Chinese Food would operate out of their kitchen in the evenings. Their idea was to create unique new dishes inspired by traditional Chinese restaurants. Fast forward to 2017 and Mission Chinese routinely has a wait list hours long for those looking to try their inventive new takes.
We lucked out for a group of 6 and got sat right away around 5 pm. By the time we left around 6:45 the wait was over an hour with people just huddled around outside waiting for their phone call.
The idea with Mission Chinese is to share. Go with your significant other, friend, family, enemies, whoever. Hey, if they want to split the bill with you then how is that person an enemy? Get a few different items and bask in the glorious flavors that will make you rethink your opinion on Chinese food for the remainder of your days. Kung Pao Pastrami, Cumin Lamb, Thrice Baked Bacon and Rice Cakes and Market Greens arrived at our table and were quickly dispensed to plates and straight into mouths.
San Francisco is something else. It is a city with cultures from all over the globe including it’s own country. For every Chinatown and Japantown you have pockets of hippies or tech geeks. You have tree huggers and gas guzzlers — but more of the earlier. There is gentrification along with the push against it. There is poverty and prosperity. Around every corner of it’s long blocks something new and interesting, exciting and scary or just familiar and comforting will exist in this city.
Anthony Bourdain once said, “Anyone who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me.” This is something that my girlfriend, being originally from the Bay area, would probably say as well. It’s safe to say that neither had to put a gun to my head to say I had a good time.
Through 53 miles of walking in 6 days including 1 day with burnt and blistered feet on hills steeper than I’ve ever seen in a city I had a good time. When being mistaken for a homeless person spanging in front of a Safeway in Ocean Beach I still had a good time. With Lyft drivers that ignored your ride request, claimed to pick you up and completed a ride despite still standing in front of Almanac’s Taproom I had a good time. And even despite the 100 degree days and sitting in a steaming hot Smuggler’s Cove that was probably 110 degrees I absolutely had a good time.