The Haight, Sandwiches, and Farmer Brown

I’ll admit it: I was a wanna-be hippie in high school and college. I wore tie-dye and had Jim Morrison posters on my walls. I even have photos to prove it:

My First Dorm Room

Like every kid of my ilk, I had fantasies of packing it in and moving to the Haight, of bathing in patchouli and growing my hair long, of breezy sundresses and good vegetarian cooking. I’ve long since grown out of those dreams, discarded along with the ill fitting tie-dyed t-shirts, the books of Morrison’s poetry, and the nag champa incense (though I did buy A Whiter Shade of Pale on vinyl over the winter), so I’m not sure what I expected when we caught the bus from the Sutro Baths in the direction of the Haight. Lunch, I guess, and to see the sites that I’d imagined had held sway over me at 17.

These days the Haight is kind of like Disneyland for hippies: washed up, sold out, and packed with tourists. The streets are full of shops – ranging from cute boutiques selling lingerie and retro fashions to hip menswear stores to the obligatory headshops – and shoppers, all of whom moved at a glacial pace. We hit Amoeba Music, an epically huge record store near Golden Gate Park, and Shane had a tough time not buying records to bring home. I’m only being minorly hyperbolic when I say that they might have every album released ever. It was intense.

Equally intense the was the bar at The Alembic, our lunch destination, whose awesomeness was matched only by our hunger after a morning of hiking around.

The Alembic

Now THAT is a bar. I ordered a Corpse Reviver #2, partially because it sounded refreshing and partially because it’s what Foursquare told me to do. It did not steer me wrong. Shane ordered a beer which wasn’t memorable enough for me to remember it at the moment, but he enjoyed it. And then lunch: another epic sandwich and two kinds of tasty chips:

Mushroom Bánh mì

Mushroom bánh mì – spicy, nutty, complex flavors tucked in a perfectly crispy baguette – served with cassava chips, also subtly spicy. We neglected to notice that we’d be getting chips with our sandwich, and so shared sumac dusted potato chips with a zesty yogurt dip. San Francisco has seriously spoiled sandwiches for us. There’s not a chance we can go back to the occasional Five Dollar Footlong after this. Not a chance.

After a thoroughly satisfying lunch, we wandered around the Haight for a few hours, picking up a few gifts for ourselves and others, then continued in the direction of Toronado, in the Lower Haight. Shane had committed to at least two trips to Toronado, so this fulfilled the quota. Unfortunately this time it smelled terrible, and I was getting tired and cranky and definitely didn’t want beer – so while Shane got his beer and picked up a fantastic grilled sausage from Rosamunde Sausage Grill next door, I walked down the street for more lemon cookie ice cream from Three Twins.

By the time we finished our snacks, we were both wiped and not feeling motivated to find anything else to do, so we headed back to the hotel and the confines of our very comfortable bed. Shane perused the TV listings, all of which contained curiously concise and helpful descriptions (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: “Boy wins tour”) for a while I napped a bit, waking up hungry at 8pm.

Our late dinner options were limited by the hour and the fact that it was a Sunday night before a Monday holiday, but fortunately Farmer Brown – recommended by Heather – was open and serving up pretty fantastic soul food just a few blocks from our hotel. After a day of walking and talking and shopping and snacking, it was nice to just take a corner table, share a thyme-infused lemon cocktail, and be quiet together. I was craving vegetables – sunny, light, delicious veg – and found them in the form of a summer vegetable succotash served over creamy polenta. Shane had some equally delicious pulled pork sliders on the house made biscuits. I hear their brunch is amazing, and I’d believe it based on the wonderful late night meal that we shared. Definitely one to check out next time we’re in town.

If you go:
The Alembic
1725 Haight St (between Cole & Shrader)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 666-0822

Do yourself a favor and get a cocktail. We split a sandwich, so I can’t vouch for the rest of the menu, but everything we had was delicious.

Amoeba Music
1855 Haight St (between Shrader & Stanyan)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 831-1200

All the records in the history of records. There’s another location in Oakland, I think.

Rosamunde Sausage Grill
545 Haight St (between Fillmore & Steiner)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 437-6851

Limited menu – sausages – but everything smelled amazing, and Shane’s weisswurst was outstanding. Buy a sausage here and take it to Toronado next door. You’ll thank me as long as you aren’t sitting somewhere stinky.

Farmer Brown
25 Mason St (at Market)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 409-3276

Seriously good soul food sandwiched between the Tenderloin and the Financial District. Don’t be skeeved out by the location at night. It was surprisingly delicious.

Toronado and Dress Up in the Lower Haight

We were in a bit of a daze after the farmer’s market, so we took a midday nap, and woke up all discombobulated about time and place and whether or not we were hungry. That’s the problem with naps sometimes – you wake up and have lost all sense of your day. Shane was a bit more awake than I, so he set to work making a plan for the afternoon and evening while I rubbed sleep out of my eyes.

After a frustrating wait for the MUNI (below ground, not above, as we discovered), we headed over to Chow, which Karl recommended as having simple, good food. As we came up out of the MUNI station and oriented ourselves, Shane said “I think I’ve been here before.”

Me: “Really?”

Shane: “Yeah, I came here and had lunch at some place called ‘Eat’ or ‘Grub’…”

Me, now smiling: “Or ‘Chow’?”

Shane: “Yeah……..”

Hilarious. We had a quick lunch on the patio – a cup of French onion soup for me, and a beet salad for Shane. With all the fantastic meat and pasta and pizza on offer, we hadn’t had many vegetables and, not to be gross about it, we were both starting to feel the effects. A light and simple meal really helped.

Next stop was Toronado, a kind of grubby beer bar in the Lower Haight. I feel like this photo conveys everything you need to know about Toronado:

Cool Dog U Guys

As Shane put it, it’s just one of those places that you either get or don’t get. It’s a cheap neighborhood bar with no table service, grumpy bartenders, and an amazing beer list. You can bring outside food – many people had sausages from the place next door – and you can bring your dog. You can sit in the corner and drink your beer undisturbed, but if you make an ordering gaffe, you’re likely to receive gratuitous eye-rolls from the bartenders. You can go there if you’re a tourist, but it’s pretty clear that the bartenders would prefer that you didn’t.

As you might’ve guessed by now, I’m much less into beer than Shane is – so after a while, I excused myself and wandered around Haight Street.  This particular stretch of Haight has a handful of cute shops, though none that stand out as must-see destinations, and I eventually found myself in a very funny game of dress-up at Trunk, a cooperative boutique selling one-of-a-kind items from local designers.  Here’s a thing you might not know about me: I can be convinced to try on just about anything in the right circumstances.  Those circumstances include clothing swaps and being asked by a salesperson: “Do you want to play dress up? I want to see what this looks like on.”  Among other things, I tried on a GIANT shaggy fur parka, a pink corset with pink laces, a pretty fantastic structured jacket made from men’s suits, and a very slinky, very tight top-dress with a bunch of mysterious dangly bits.  Very funny and very fabulous.

At a loss for what else to do with our evening, we headed in the direction of the Mission, stopping at Three Twins for ice cream.  It wasn’t really ice cream weather, but a sample of their lemon cookie called my name, so we split small scoops of it and their chocolate mint.  The flavors were fresh and delicious, and I spent the rest of the trip trying to get lemon cookie out of my head.  Now that I’m blogging about it, I’m craving it all over again.

If you go:

215 Church St (between 15th & Market)
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 552-2469

Simple, good food.  Shane liked their milkshakes, though he didn’t have one this time.

547 Haight St (between Fillmore & Steiner)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 863-2276

Cash only.  You’ll probably have to shark a seat.  Make sure someone hasn’t tied their dog to it, and that it doesn’t smell like barf.  If you’re not put off by these things, you might be in for a fantastic beer-drinking experience

Three Twins
254 Fillmore St (between Laussat & Haight)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 487-8946

A small is two scoops, so I recommend getting lemon cookie and whatever else suits your fancy.  You can buy pints from the  freezer case, or have a pint scooped for you.