Running through the park and down along the Great Highway brings us to the end of the N Judah line by design. We're usually too lazy to run back uphill through Golden Gate Park and would rather take MUNI back home. What's great about this area is that in the recent few years a number of quaint little cafes and restaurants have sprung up - Outerlands most distinctively, Trouble Coffee, and, from the owners of the venerable Java Beach Cafe - Beachside Coffe Bar & Kitchen.
My long run one beautiful January Sunday was for 13 miles. Usual course through the park, down Great Highway, but this time with the addition of a loop around Lake Merced and back up the Highway. I remember not feeling good that day. It might have been psychological. I managed to run part of a DSE 10k course and kept getting passed up by too many folks bent on their speedy 10k pace... DD was also not with me, having run his first really intense trail - Steep Ravine - with Owen on Saturday. Though miles 5-7 is when I usually hit my stride and begin to feel comfortable, I was tired and felt sluggish. At around mile 9 (I was looping Lake Merced by then), I needed to stop completely. I took a GU and drank some water and pretty soon got going again. Eventually I made it to 13.01m and headed home on MUNI.
I have to admit being nervous for the Kaiser race. I think it might have been because this was my first “big” race of the season – I hadn’t run an official Half since last November’s Quarry Turkey race. Then, I had jumped from my longest training run of 9 miles to a 13.2+ mile race. I did decently, finishing at 2:11:27 (though I had secretly hoped to come in under or around 2:10).
I had signed up for Surf City initially, which fell on the same date as the Kaiser Half. Though what was distinctive about Surf City was that the website was up and fully-featured in October, and Kaiser's remained blankly, enigmatically silent until sometime in the new year. So, chomping at the bit and wanting to have a goal to strive to match DD's Marathon on March 4th, I signed up for what I thought was going to be my first Half in Southern California on Feb 5th, 2012. And then Kaiser announced itself.
One of my favourite restaurants in town, I’ve been going to Blue Plate since it opened in 1999 and began serving its wonderful, hearty neo-American fare with plays on old classics like Meatloaf and Fried Chicken. Today, it can still pack in a crowd, so that last-minute reservations on a Friday night yielded only a 9:15 opening, but we were able to get seated around 9 or so by arriving around 8:45 and waiting for a couple of the counter seats.
Ok, I’ll admit it, Wakuriya only hit our radar after it received its first Michelin star. I have a horrible fault of usually turning a blind eye (with a few exceptions) to anything south of San Francisco, preferring to focus on wine country or Oakland/ Berkeley instead. DD had tried to get reservations before, but had called too late for a birthday dinner.
We wish we had gotten to Wakuriya sooner. I’d go every month if we could.
flour+water had been popular right out of the gate, spurred by a buzz going even before it opened - with Chef Thomas McNaughton boasting a resume listing La Folie, Quince and Gary Danko; a number of stages at Michelin-starred establishments in Europe, including an artisinal pasta apprenticeship: "...basically Tom and a bunch of old ladies with rolling pins..." according to David White, one of the partners at f+w.
DD and I have been jonesing to go back to flour+water but trying to get a decent online reservation in advance lately has been quite difficult. On 98% of my attempts, I've usually encountered nothing earlier before 10pm. Once in a while, if I looked out far enough, I’d spot a listing for 9:15 or 9:30pm. For a Tuesday or Wednesday. Sheesh! They opened in May of 2009, and 2 months thereafter garnered 3 stars from The Chronicle’s Michael Bauer. Accolades followed from the other local food press, and soon there was even a blurb in the New York Times. The restaurant purportedly holds back 1/2 of their seats for walk-ins, but we've been hesitant to try this tactic, not being from the immediate neighbourhood.
Saison’s website proclaims that there is no dress code, and urges folks to “come as you are.” While the food is elevated, there’s a nice dichotomy between the white-tablecloth cuisine and the service and warmth of the staff. We had finally made it - after a couple of years and one pop-up when Chef Skenes was away.
How to describe Saison with words of praise that have already been said in a style far better than mine? DD and I had a wonderful meal here, full of beautiful and delicious moments. Sometimes, it might be better to just let the food speak for itself.
Along with a plethora Japanese restaurants, we also have a good number of Indian/ Pakistani eateries in my neighborhood. Curry Village’s arrival last year was the latest entry to the Inner Sunset, with stalwarts Naan ‘n Curry and Masala Indian Cuisine holding down in their location for many years. Masala Dosa replaced the Pakistani Tasty Curry on 9th that we never managed to visit; we had tried Curry Village once and found their dishes too sweet; Naan n’ Curry fell out of our favour in recent years.
But Masala Dosa seems like a great addition to our neighborhood, and our lunch there indicated that we’d be returning to it as our Indian place of choice in the future.
Sushi Kazu has got to be one of the more underrated sushi-yas in the tightly packed and well-curated commercial area that is the best part of my neighborhood in the Inner Sunset. Restaurants and shoppes are thickest between 6th and 10th on Irving, and in that radius there are no less than five sushi restaurants, and further down on Irving and 15th, there are exactly three Japanese restaurants (not necessarily sushi, though) located within one block.
In the dark, walking on the sidewalk towards the restaurant, it can be easy to miss Halu's door, if not for the small bench outside, groups of folks milling about, the shoji screens covering up part of the windows, and the numerous items plastered on the door and windows - most are old concert flyers and menu pages, advertising the bill of fare; others are clearly warning notices - unless you're truly, awfully oblivious - you'd see that Halu definitely does not serve any sushi in any form, nohow, nowhere. "No Sushi Today (or Tomorrow)," the signs proclaim; and "Sushi Free Zone" just for good measure.
Halu's popularity a good sign that the lack of sushi is clearly not a problem.
If ever there was a space that could inspire dreaming, it would be the inside of Outerlands.
It’s gorgeous, with walls, chairs and countertops made out of reclaimed wood. A slanting driftwood mosaic covers part of the kitchen counter. Proprietors David Muller and Lana Porcello initially started by feeding friends out of their ocean beach abode; soon the initiative blossomed into a full-fledged restaurant. And indeed, they seemed to have captured the feel of Ocean Beach perfectly. It’s moody, but warm, the grey light from typically overcast Outer Sunset filtering in via only 3 windows. There’s a sense of escaping to the end of the earth, and its distance from the rest of the city out on Judah and 45th may be both curse for some and a boon for those of us who live relatively close by.