Indian Summer in the Tenderloin


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!

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

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.

Little Bird is closing

We’re sad to report that today is Little Bird’s last day in business. It was one of the few places in the Tenderloin (if not the only one) where you could have a full vegan breakfast, including vegan pastries, as well as the only coffeeshop in the neighborhood carrying Kombuch and Ritual and De la Paz coffee. As shown by the very high scores on review sites, it’s been a popular local business for the amount of time it’s been open at 835 Geary, a little over a year. But nothing lasts forever and today they are saying goodbye to all their faithful customers. they’ll be open until they sell out of everything, including coffee beans. A real shame given all the raging NIMBY bullshit that they had to contend with in the past year to get outdoor seating.

They made the decision to close just last Friday, so it’s been rather sudden and they’re still deciding what to do with the space going forward. There is a chance that the chef, Sam (who many have enjoyed for his vegetarian/vegan items) will try opening a more evening-oriented cafe/restaurant there. So, stay tuned, or better yet, head down there today to get one last cup of coffee like we did this morning. Little Bird, you will be missed.

The elusive kouign-amann lands in the TenderNob

The kouign-amann is this delicious little French pastry from the Brittany region that in the Breton language simply means, “cake” and “butter”. In my language that means, “pornographic gastronomy not fit for children”. Starter Bakery has been making these little flaky bad boys (in addition to croissants) in Oakland for a few months now. Unfortunately it’s only a wholesale bakery that has only been selling to farmers’ markets and cafés in the East Bay. Now they’re finally getting a wider reach, thanks to farm:table‘s connections with the former Blue Bottle Coffee roasting facility where Starter Bakery has their kitchen (as well as Firebrand bread that farm:table also carries). So kouign-amann can now be found at farm:table on weekends (Fri-Sun), the first location in San Francisco. This is great news for my pastry-loving fat ass as it means I don’t have to even think about going to Oakland to get them.

As this is the first weekend that farm:table is carrying these delicious babies, of course we had to go get some (as well as one of their mini-croissants as we’re on a permanent quest for the perfect croissant in San Francisco). The croissant was good, but as we guessed it might be based on all the buzz, the kouign-amann was fantastic. I can still taste all the butter barely pumping through my blood as I write this. The downside (as life always has downsides, dammit) is that they are in no way cheap. That little nugget you see above, which is about 3.5 inches across costs a whopping $4.75. So, if you’re up for sticking down a Lincoln to get some goodness, your day has come.

Update 8/6

Oops, we did it again today. These things are so addictive!

The Tender this weekend: Bye Bye Koko’s, Happy Birthday Hooker’s

  • As announced two weeks ago, tomorrow is Koko Cocktails last business day. So you only have two nights to still enjoy your favorite neighborhood bar, or if for some inexplicable reason you’ve never been there, well, now’s the time before it’s too late and Koko goes Hi Lo (hopefully)!

    Tonight is their last super-popular Bourbon & Bacon from 5 to 9pm. From their Facebook event page:

    It’s been a great ride, but the rollercoaster is coming to an end!
    This Friday, July 29th we invite you to kick off the weekend one last time with some bourbon and bacon!

    …Here’s how it works:
    Order any bourbon (or any other american whiskey) from the Koko’s extensive list and you’ll receive a side of thick sliced applewood smoked bacon cooked that morning!
    So whether you are sticking with the $6 Maker’s Mark, trying out an $8 Four Roses Small Batch or splurging for the $18 Pappy Van Winkle 20yr, you’ll be pairing it with a delicious slice of perfection. Taste all the familiar nuances separately, or drop it in and make a southern soup on the spot!

    Resident DJ KEYBUMPS will be serving up blues, funk & punk from 6 – 9 as well….
    Come and get it, and get there early…..first come first serve til the last piece is gone!
    and don’t forget about our other happy hour specials like:
    $2 PBR & Modelo
    $3 Draft Beers
    $4 Well Drinks

    So go there early, as it’s a first come first served baconfest!

  • Then tomorrow, before Koko’s big farewell party, they’ll be hosting their last Tenderloin Reading Series event from 6 to 8pm. And in between the readings by a great line-up of contributors, they’re asking people (you!) to come up and share stories about Koko’s:

    If you’ve been a regular, a friend, a weekend warrior, an occasional commiserater, or had any kind of meaningful experience at Koko’s in it’s 3 plus years, we want you to share it. It could be a poem, a story, a song, a two sentence recollection, a passing thought, something that moved you about Koko or the people who have kept it afloat, WE WANT YOU TO SHARE IT.

  • Tomorrow’s also Hooker’s Sweet Treats first anniversary party (yes, it’s been already a year since they opened), from 6 to 9pm. They’ll be celebrating with their first art exhibition, featuring Tenderloin-based artist Hollis Rhodes.

And we welcome the Hot Cafe

It appears we have a new spot opening in the neighborhood at 520 Leavenworth called, “Hot Cafe”. If you glance inside through the gated window (as we did to take the crappy picture below), you’ll see an explosion of hot pink which is what we’re guessing makes for the name. We hope they won’t be serving on pink plates as well, although we can’t be certain. When we called them this morning we just asked about their opening date, and they told us they’re hoping for the 19th pending (wait for it, no, seriously, we’ll all be waiting for it) the city health inspection.

This space was Cafe Zoet for a good long time until they closed a couple of years back and has been empty since then. Part of the reason for this is that the building was owned by that large property group which collapsed. During all this time, this really awesome space was checked out by Hooker’s and a number of other would-be tenants including yours truly at The Tender who had designs on a cafe of sorts. The problem is that the property managers wanted the new tenant to pay out about $13,000 in basic space renovation (the electric and plumbing were serious turd). Sure, they would apply that to a rent credit, but that’s a pretty steep sum for a new business to come up with, in addition to all the other new business costs.

Parklets starting to sprout

As we reported here, back in November farm:table applied through the Pavement to Parks program to bring a “parklet” to the front of their establishment after the huge success of the one they had installed for Park(ing) Day. Shortly after that, we learned that Bamboo Bike Studio (also on Post) and Quetzal Coffee on Polk had applied for parklets as well. Now, several months later and after a lot of paperwork, all of them have been granted permits but only one of them has finally seen the light of day.

The parklet in front of Quetzal has now been open to the public for a bit less than a week, after building it over a weekend with prefab sections. It’s nothing amazing, but it still looks pretty cool. And in spite of the ever-changing weather, we’ve seen people enjoying it every time we passed by Polk and Fern.

It may not look like it, but apparently a parklet isn’t exactly cheap. With a price tag of $5,000 minimum, plus maintenance costs, it’s quite an expense. And while the folks over at the Bamboo Bike Studio are planning to do all construction in their workshop, farm:table is in need of doing a little fundraising before getting it out there.

That’s why they’re organizing an Art Auction at Silverman Gallery on Sunday, from 7 to 10pm, hosted by La Monistat. You can score some cool artwork from Tender friends such as Jason Permenter (designer of the Tenderloin Coffee Crawl poster), Rocky Villanueva, Jeremy Novy and many more. Don’t miss out if you’d like to see more parklets in the TenderNob! And hey, no parklet-napping, okay?

And for those wanting to see even more parklets pop up, you can apply for a parklet permit until June 16th via the Pavement to Parks program.

This is what all the fuss was about

We realized that being kind of sloppy lately, we never really followed up on the outdoor seating kerfluffle at Little Bird that even pulled in the Chron to mediate the situation. So, here you go. It was just these two benches. That was what it was all about. So make sure to go sit your ass off there now (preferably after purchasing something).