Indian Summer in the Tenderloin

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When you reach that point of saturation in San Francisco wherein waking thoughts become sleeping thoughts and most are centered on, “Enough fucking sirens!” you realize that it’s time to get the hell outta Frisco because, once you decide to leave, San Francisco does indeed become Frisco once again. The question to answer in all of this is, when do you go back? As it turns out, somewhere around two years.

Two years allows you to do things like I’ve been doing which are living in Spain, writing books and generally writing about wine. During the summer last year, my wallet got picked in Barcelona and I found out that the only way to get a new driver’s license from California is to do that shit in person. After a year of sticking my head up my ass on the subject and realizing I had some expiring airline miles, my meager family, and good friends all reminded me that maybe I should head back to Baghdad by the Bay (I expect none of the current residents to know that reference) and see what was up.

After adventures with Air France striking (because France can strike the shit out of anything) I finally arrived and breathed in the fresh, robust smell that can only be described as wall-to-wall poo carpet on the BART. I was back home.

Crashing with friends at the top of the Loin more or less in Academy Hills, I went out to my old joints, sucking down a super burrito to find that even in the Loin, a super burrito is $8.50. When the hell did that happen? I mean this place has an 86 rating from the health department which is how I like it, but this price was not at all how I loved it. I suppose it’s lack of supply given that my other less good burrito joint on Sutter closed and is now a Papa Murphy’s which needs no comment.

Waking up and enjoying the aftermath of having thoroughly spicy and greasy food for the first time in two years, I headed down to Hooker’s. Thank god nothing there has changed and if anything, Hooker’s just keeps going with a new and geniusier selection of treats to build upon the classic, Third Nut, and Party Girl. I’m a bit pissed with David that out of all the new treats, my favorite had to be the “Curious Boyfriend”.

Fully caffeinated and sexuality thoroughly questioned I made a straight shot for Mid-Market. Does anyone even call it Mid-Market anymore? Honestly, while everyone went on at length about how much it changed, it looked much the same to me. Sure, there are some new buildings there which I realize is a fucking miracle to happen given SF’s Planning Commission and the Society of Those Who Fear All That Is New but otherwise, Market is still as filthy as my grandmother’s mouth after she’s had three Martinis. The amount of human shit on the street is exactly the same and some dude was ripping out a crazy potent deuce between two parked cars just to say, “Welcome home, bitch! OCs?”

Of course as anyone knows, nights are when things get “interesting” in the TL and it was great to see a few new places opening like Tender which brings a wine bar to the inner bowels of the Loin. Although the companion space next door, Huxley didn’t do so much to tingle my business as it just looks like you typical, “farm fresh, wholesome ingredients” yabba yabba whatever for the last 15 years.

I was quite pissed off to see that Big had closed as that was something truly novel and the last time I as in SF, I hit it up often. Sure, it was expensive at $15 a cocktail or whatever it was, but they were made to order and it was a damned cool space.

Also on the pissed off list is the fact that Minx (and previously the Red Room for those who are older) is now a fucking pilates and yoga studio? I’ve never had gentrification rammed up my butthole that hard before but yeah, it hurts. It was surprising to see how much space there is there once you tear out that wonderful thing called, a bar.

I had read about the Nitecap closing and I was never a huge fan of the place as I like shit that’s kinda in mid-dive. But, while in Hooker’s I met the new owners and got a tour. I also got to overhear the conversation they were having which went something like, “dude, there was so much ass” and “whoa, that place was full of ass” and “fuck, I’m a total ass”. The last part I threw in mainly because after seeing what they’re planning for the place, I just have say, take Rye, up the douche factor by 20 and reduce any originality by the same amount. Basically, from what I gathered, it’s going to The Royale but smaller and probably just a touch less class. Sure, prove me wrong, but I’ve seen it before.

Just to give some “original” source material to Curbed, it was nice to see something happening at 907 Post which is the photo above. As to what it is, no clue, although I’m sure that NIMBY warlord David Overdorf is strongly against whatever it may be give that this building is right next to his house and private alley.

But that’s about the most of it. Some good, some bad, some just Loin. I can tell you that after not being around it for so long, the old problems of the Loin are either exactly the same or slightly worse. This is of course no surprise as the neighborhood is San Francisco’s homeless and addict dumping crowd. Will that be changing anytime soon? Mayor Mustache needs to go ask Willie Brown and get back to you on that one but while you’re waiting, vote Jane Kim, she’s super!

A very tender update

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Greetings all, we’ve been enjoying the view of San Francisco from the peanut gallery and it’s a strange fucking sight with all the Google rage, tech blow up (again), and crazy rents. At least some things never change. Oh, that and Nevius pimping Shaw’s museum thing. That, much like the OCs, is eternal and like a Kardashian/HPV, will never go away.

It’s a bit bittersweet to not be in San Francisco anymore. We passed through a little while ago, enjoyed New Koko’s or as the tech newbies know it, Hi-Lo. It was good to see that finally come about. Not so good to see was that people still do enjoy the space between two cars, or Civic Center escalators as their personal toilets. The Thai and Vietnamese food is still awesome in the Loin as is the shop, The Loin. But Jesus SF is expensive now. It’s never been a cheap town, but how the hell can any of you still afford to live there? Even if you have rent control $30 toast still puts a dent in the wallet.

Anyways, back to downloading the latest Game of Thrones because my ass ain’t got HBO although I’m really waiting for the eventual battle between the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and the Academy of Art. That, unlike Mexican food in Europe, will be epic.

Meet the Tenderlocals: Akira Beard

In case you haven’t heard, the two Leftovers stores that used to be on Sutter & Polk and Polk & Bush were consolidated in one huge awesome space on Van Ness a couple of months ago. It seems somebody already took over their former store on Sutter, but the one on Polk remains vacant. Vacant but not empty, since the Space/Lopo Galleries guys had the genius idea of setting up a temporary gallery annex there under the name ‘Vacancy‘. We quite enjoyed it when we checked it out last month, and on top of that we scored a free print of the piece above by Akira Beard.

Akira Beard is an artist based in the Tenderloin, but that we’ve somehow never met. He is best known for painting layered portraits of pop culture icons with text around them, and awesome images of altered American currency. He teaches at the Academy of Art University and at an art center for elders, and we first saw his work at a show he had last year at the Shooting Gallery. We quite obviously quite liked this piece because the message could very well be our own motto about the Tenderloin, “it drives some people crazy, others can see the beauty in it”. Apparently he even made some t-shirts with it, in collaboration with Bayfitted on Ellis & Leavenworth (we’ll have to investigate that).

While we like the pieces where he uses the portrait of a historical figure or of a celebrity as a base (such as this one or this one), we really like his art with elders series and the sketches he takes of people sitting in cafés.

By the way, do you recognize the person in this portrait? (hint)

Enjoy Small Business Saturday in the Tenderloin

New York-based PAPER Magazine has just published a guide to enjoy Small Business Saturday in San Francisco. This day, which was apparently declared to be the Saturday after Thanksgiving last year by American Express, is a day to support small businesses around the country. This is how they described the guide in the first page:

San Francisco’s diverse neighborhoods are all packed to the brim with a wonderful and eclectic mix of local owner-operated businesses. It’s these family-run bars and cafés, the chef-run artisanal food shops and the designer-owned fashion emporiums that are at the core of what defines the communities in this world-class city.

Small Business Saturday, held on November 26, 2011, is a day to support independent business owners, help fuel the economy and invigorate communities across the country. It’s in this spirit that we celebrate “small” in a big way with this fun guide to our favorite local spots that make San Francisco what it is. So, put this pamphlet in your back pocket, refill your BART Card and hop around to some of these wonderful restaurants, bars and shops on Small Business Saturday, for exclusive offers—everything from discounts to special gifts.

The guide is interesting because the businesses included in it are offering special discounts or freebies this coming Saturday, and several of those businesses are based in the Tenderloin/TenderNob. We’ll let you browse through the whole guide yourself, but for example you’ll find that farm:table is offering a free 8oz coffee with any purchase, Jones is doing a buy-one-get-one deal between 5-9pm, Kare-Ken is taking 10% off all purchases, and Mike Page Style Lab is taking 20% all products and services, while Public Barber Salon is doing a 15% cut and color.

Dottie’s finally getting their move on

As we mentioned back in July, beloved breakfast joint Dottie’s True Blue had to move, it just wasn’t known where or when exactly. Kurt, the owner, was trying to stay in the greater neighborhood which would make natural sense given that every guidebook under our sun and the nearest adjoining solar system has listed Dottie’s as basically the only breakfast spot in all of San Francisco. Well, it appears that the new spot will be Passion Cafe at 6th & Market (or actually Stevenson). The move should be happening as early as the beginning of December, although it seems it’s been hard to completely verify this. We can understand as everyone has probably been hounding Kurt about it for the last five months while the man has just been trying to find a new space and keep his business going.

Some of you might be thinking, “Passion Cafe, why have I heard that name before?” That would be because it’s been in the news a bit, and not in a good way. A little while back, the owner was attacked for no apparent reason, in spite of how he’s been tirelessly trying to be a positive force in the neighborhood and resisting to move to another location. This obviously does not bode well and while some people think that chunk of 6th is just an extension of the Loin, I’d take the old Dottie’s location over 6th Street there any day. Still, given the cool rooftop terrace and the huge increase in seating, with a little more security they could possibly do extremely well. Especially with the new 94 room hotel opening soon just a block up at 7th & Market in the old Grant building.

Undoubtedly, this is just another piece in the puzzle of redeveloping Mid-Market.

Photo of Passion Cafe’s rooftop terrace by bobbydejesus

Canteen gradually updates its interior, limits brunch to Sundays

Neighborhood stalwart and original keystone in the Dennis Leary empire, Canteen has been around for… what, 6 1/2 years already? Apparently Leary decided that it was time to dust off the old green counter and other interior elements. He’s now shifted it to a red counter with plywood paneling and this red light setup you see in the photo above. This has all been done without any closure to the restaurant though as it has been worked on during the day when they’re not serving and on Mondays when they’re not open. Just yesterday when we walked by we saw a lot of activity with several workers busy finishing up some more remodelling.

With all his other ventures going on, you do feel it when Leary isn’t in the kitchen, but it’s good to see that they’re still in business with a packed house just about every night. According to the Inside Scoop, though, Leary is sometimes in the kitchen on Tuesdays and Saturdays when the restaurant serves a prix-fix dinner instead of their usual a la carte menu. Also, as of this week the restaurant will now be serving brunch only on Sundays albeit with extended hours (8-3pm).

Tenderloin spots getting national media love

It appears the national media lens has descended on our lovely neighborhood. The first business to get no end of attention this holiday season is Hooker’s Sweet Treats. He’s been featured in gift guides in Food & Wine as well as Martha Stewart (yeah, Martha Stewart in the Loin). Then, on top of that he was filmed for the Cooking Channel’s Unique Sweets (shoot pictured above, from Hooker’s Facebook Page).

As they were apparently in the neighborhood, the Cooking Channel hopped a couple of blocks over to cover the newly remodelled Brenda’s as well. Apparently they were on a Southern deliciousness binge.

The episode(s) featuring these two will be airing at some point in February, so stay tuned.

The end of Cala Foods

Yes, it is here, the end of Cala Foods which will be December 3rd at 10PM. So, get your 3AM munchie runs in beforehand. We covered this back in June with the fact that a Trader Joe’s is looking to open in the spot. Of course, out front there are public hearing signs for the 15th of December in case anyone was looking to NIMBY shit up.

It’s important to note that they’re gradually selling out of inventory and have already closed off several barren aisles. For the gourmets out there though, if you didn’t get in on the Specialty Mustard section earlier, you’re shit outta luck now.

Special photo sale to help ‘Up from the deep’

We just got word that Tender friend and neighborhood documentarian Mark Ellinger of Up from the Deep may be evicted from his Tenderloin Housing Clinic low-income studio. In order to avoid finding himself homeless again, he’s doing some fundraising to remain in his current home. So he’s having a special sale of some of his photographs of the Tenderloin and Mid-Market for $100 each. All prints are museum-quality gicleé prints, printed on 13″x19″ fine art paper. There are a lot of great prints prints to choose from (such as the one below), so contact him at tobemarx@gmail.com to purchase or for further details.

Mr. Lew’s in the new

Last night we stumbled upon not only the newly renovated and fully finished Brenda’s, but also the new half of Mister Lew’s Win Win Bar & Sazerac Emporium. As we mentioned when they first opened back in March, the bar was a temporary incarnation until they renovated the space next door and decided on a concept for the two spaces that they planned to fully link together.

On November 5th they closed down the space at 441 Jones that we all knew, and a few days later opened the space next door that they had been renovating for the last few months and you can see below. Meanwhile the work is continuing in the original space, which is now closed, and hopefully at the beginning of the next year both spaces will be finished and ready to be fully enjoyed.

So the new Mister Lew’s looks much like the old one, with the same red walls and paintings, but without the pool table, jukebox, or the TV for the Wednesday movie nights. You’ll also note that there are a lot of blank spots for fixtures as the space is still quite stripped down. According to the bartender last night, they haven’t decided on the final concept yet, but it will definitely have a different name and a different look. As to there being a wealth of Sazeracs on the menu? That remains to be seen as well.