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.

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.

Huckleberry Bicycles opens in Mid-Market

A couple of days ago we were thrilled to discover that Huckleberry Bicycles has opened in Mid-Market to be, as co-owner Jonas Jackel puts it, “a gas station on the freeway”. Meaning that their location at 1073 Market Street (between 6th and 7th streets) is at the heart of the busiest bicycle riding artery in San Francisco. Of course, this location, right across the street from the shamefully ever-abandoned Hibernia Bank Building means that they are in a really interesting intersection — in the thick of the blazing glory of the Tenderloin.

In spite of all the challenges they’ve had to overcome to open in this area, they appear to be off to a good start with a full-service bike shop that carries several brands for all kinds of people — roadies, crosses riders, and city commuters (such as the increasingly popular PUBLIC Bikes). They have also been testing the waters by having a bike repair kiosk on weekdays in one of the unused newsstands along Market Street. Inside, though, they have all kinds of accessories, apparel, parts, and of bike tools and gear. It’s a nice shop that took awhile to find a proper spot given that apparently retail spaces along Market Street tend to run from gigantic caverns to small holes in the wall.

But, above and beyond all of this we’re excited about Huckleberry Bikes is moving here because after talking to Jonas, I quickly realized that he “gets” the neighborhood. He and his business partners are one of the first new retail shops to open up in this particular area in literally years given that the pawn shop/check cashing demographic have been the primary renters as of late. He knows that there are issues in the area and what the actual cause is behind them, but also that it can easily be turned around and made not only more livable, but actually helpful to all those who are being left behind with the city’s current approach.

We welcome Huckleberry to the hood and wish them no end of success in their business and promoting a more bike-friendly Market Street and San Francisco. Go say hi on Twitter or Facebook if you’re as excited as you are.

Getting the edge on Town Cutler

We don’t often cover the goings on up on Bush Street as it really is too far up the hill on the edge of Tenderloin Heights. But with the closing of Razor Sharp down on Polk (pictured above) once the Culinary Academy moved, Town Cutler is really our closest full service knife shop, and an awesome one at that.

This is a knife sales and service shop that was opened about two months ago by former chef Galen Garretson. Naturally, you’re probably thinking, “Whatever, I pick up my knifes at Le marché or maybe even Sur la Table down at the Westfield mall.” Sure, you may enjoy doing that, which is fine if you want basic knives. But, when you want something more serious that’s going to keep on cuttin’, you’ll probably want to head up to Galen’s shop.

Galen is an even-spoken guy who has been a knife geek since his early teens and maybe that’s why he became a professional chef (he’s worked at Wayfare Tavern and Quince). One day he realized he was on his way to burning out of the 15 hour/six days a week kitchen schedule so he made the pretty natural shift into being a knife man.

Sure, he’s got your basic Wüsthof line and those are good (we got a few of them at The Tender HQ), but he’s also got crazy fancy things from Japan and in fact he makes a heavy point to specialize in Japanese knives which he contends are some of the finest being produced these days. They’re light, incredibly true, hold an edge like no one’s business, and some use a metal called VG10 steel which sounds more like an energy drink you’d buy at 24 Hour Fitness, but I’ll go along with it being awesome. Yes, they’re pricey, but you do indeed get what you pay for and if you happen to want to pay even a bit more, Town Cutler stocks Wilburn Forge (pardon the string version of Metallica on the site) knives. These… are not at all cheap, like $900 a knife not at all cheap. Despite this, Galen says that he’s actually already sold a few of them already and truth be told, if I had the money, I’d love to buy one and run that baby all over a raw steak.

But, part of the charm of Town Cutler is that Galen was a chef. He knows what you need in the industry which is why he also sells spoons. Yeah, spoons. They’re not just to eat soup and apparently you need them for a lot of shaping elements in professional kitchens. He’s the guy to go to for them too, as well as several other highly specialized kitchen tools such as herb tweezers. And some of those spoons, tools and even knifes are vintage pieces that he finds through various collectors.

If you happen to have a good set of knives and just want them sharpened, that’s also Galen’s specialty. In fact, he’s a bit fanatical about it. My dad showed my brother and I how to properly sharpen knives when we were growing up (a dull knife is always more dangerous than sharp), but it was light years away from what Galen does. He has this six pass whetstone method that goes through finer and finer sanding grits: 1,000 – 6,000 – 8,000 – 16,000 – 30,000 – 160,000. That last one isn’t actually a grit, but a liquid diamond solution that he uses to hone the edge insanely well. He showed us the process from a previous knife with his high powered microscope and it was impressive. The cost for this? $1.50 per inch of blade, which is pretty damned competitive.

And if all of this got you excited, in a little bit more time once he gets settled, Galen is going to be having knife sharpening classes so you too can learn the secrets of the sharp blade. In the meantime, you can just check out some knife porn on the Town Cutler’s Facebook page.

Alabamboo hit Bamboo Bike Studio

Tonight at Bamboo Bike Studio they had the culmination of Alabamboo’s effort to bike across the US when this gang of four completed their bike ride on bamboo bicycles from Alabama to San Francisco to promote Alabama’s bamboo industry.

I would say that with the Tacos Santana truck there and Tecates all around it looked to be a good time, but I pretty much flat-out missed it as I caught the very end when I was coming back from the gym, glistening in my god-like sweat. Thus the reason for the totally shit photo up top as I only had my iPod given that my Spandex body suit holds nothing but me. I gave Justin a hard time about making sure to get the word out next time as they’ve got a lot of cool things going on there and y’all should hear about them.

If interested, check out the insane pedal route and get sore just thinking about it.

Trader Joe’s replacing Cala “wondermart”

For some time, it’s been known that Cala Foods at Hyde & California was going to depart at the end of December. I’ve never thought of it as a big loss given that if you hold your breath while shopping in Cala late at night, you can actually hear an ambient sadness emanating. And to be honest, despite being cheap looking, it isn’t actually cheap shopping. Whole Foods, just up California is just 5-10% more on basic items, or at least it was when I swore off Cala on the soul my mother.

Today it was announced that Trader Joe’s will be taking over the Cala location in 2012. This, is mighty fine news. I’d rather that they were taking over the old movie theater at the corner of Sutter & Van Ness as it was previously rumored, but I’ll take what I can get and this is apparently what we are to get. And honestly, while my neighbor will heavily disagree with me, I’ve fucking hated that ugly Cala building ever since the first day I bought a bag of flavorless tomatoes there, so I hope it goes as well.

Of course, the question to ask is, “Will this be that almighty Tenderloin grocery store that will allow us all to live in ‘dignity’?” The answer to that is no, that store already exists (in a much smaller scale) the form of California Produce on Polk between Geary & O’Farrell. There you have a nice, neighborhood store where tons of locals shop because they stock good food at good prices for the other five days a week when you can’t get to Heart of the City Farmers’ Market which is now live chicken-shit free.

Will I shop at this new Trader Joe’s? Oh yeah because not only I love their affordable cheese section, but it’s also one of the few places that our loyal commenter, “nutjob” and I can get our ajvar fix short of going out to the Richmond…

Jack’s Rack has closed, the Marina has them now

Jack’s Rack, which used to be at 668 Post, is no longer. As of Monday we’ve lost one more retail shop in the neighborhood. That sucks and just to rub it in how much it sucks, they moved up to the Marina. That’s like kicking me in the groin and then letting your dog scent mark me while I’m rolling around on the ground.

Oh, in case anyone has some designs on opening up something awesome, the space is up for rent.

Second hand fridge market booming

I will not lie to you, my fridge sucks, sucks big. It keeps freezing up and I don’t really know what to do with this ice blocking the cold thing at the top of it. Do I use a hair dryer to fix that? Do I need to unplug it for a day? Any ideas?

I’d just toss this POS except that I don’t really feel like going out and getting my own fridge given that the building owns and thus (in theory) fixes this one. But it appears that for those who are in the market for a fridge, especially a used one, it is your time to shine. Those guys above were hauling that thing off of a 38 all the while giggling “Shit’s gonna be so cold now! No more warm ice cream, brah!” They then high-fived each other, dropped the fridge and started crying (ok, that last part might not be an accurate description of how the scene went…).

On a different, yet most likely related day, a couple of days later we saw this mofo for a mere $10 down at Le Marché. $10! And no, it wasn’t the same fridge the brahs were carrying above. If you were quick to act (really quick), I heard that they would even throw in a set of used pork cutlets to go with it. What a pillar of the free market that Marché!