I purposely cut back on my Saturday night alcohol intake to prepare for what I knew would be an epic Sunday marathon. My wife and I had plans to meet friends in the city for an early brunch, then wander our way around San Francisco, eating and drinking until one of us said "mercy." It had been a while since we had experienced one of the most insane debauchery sessions in recent memory – a day that we had thought was winding down, only to kick back up into a hazy memory of speed cocktailing and late-night Tacolicious. This time I had vowed to maintain more control throughout the day and end the evening in a more subdued frame of mind. Would I be able to follow through on my campaign promise? I needed to be steadfast.
We began in the Tenderloin with brunch at Brenda's – another in a long line of trendy breakfast locales with a line out the door and at least an hour's wait for a table. I had gone through this debacle a few weekends back and had left many city hot spots both haughty and hungry when I decided I was too cool to wait that long for food. This time, however, armed with coffee-to-go and a banana I was ready to exercise my legs and my patience. Let me tell you that of all the brunch places I've so far dined at in the Bay Area, Brenda's by far takes the cake. Waiting an hour for eggs and mimosas is pointless. You can get eggs and a mimosa at dozens of other places in San Francisco. However, waiting an hour for fried oyster omelets, chedder cheese grits, fried hash, fluffy cream biscuits and decadent beignets (New Orleans-style doughnuts stuffed with chocolate, apples, crawfish, or just pastry) is an entirely different story. Washing all that down with a Cajun Bloody Mary doesn't hurt either. It was incredible. Unique, down-home, and a refreshing change of pace from our usual breakfast routine. Best of all, my stomach was properly fortified against the onslaught that awaited it. As Charles Bukowski would've said, "I've got fuel."
While we had planned on Brenda's far in advance, we had no idea that Sunday was also the date of the Tenderloin Street Fair – a fortuitous event that allowed us to walk freely through the colorful neighborhood without any traffic. We didn't need to wander far, however, because next on the list was a new bar called Emperor Norton's Boozeland, a new pub on Larkin between Eddy and Turk that features a remodled backroom with shuffleboard and pool tables, along with a bitchin' outdoor patio where you might stumble upon Thor – the absolutely gigantic pitbull who hangs out there with his local owner. I had a Chartreuse and tonic (I know it sounds weird, but try it) followed by a whisky and soda while we chatted, threw a few pucks down the salted table, and watched Thor bite a hole through the bar owner's jeans. It was a love bite, but a love bite from Thor could take your arm off. If you're in the Loin, I'd highly recommend dropping by Boozeland. It's got a relaxed, unpretentious vibe and a fun atmosphere with one of the most eclectic jukebox selections around (lots of Ween).
Three drinks into the day, we decided to mosey towards Union Square and the new Golden Gate Tap Room – a massive spot on Sutter street close to Powell with huge televisions, lots of pool, and even skeeball – Chuck E Cheese style! They've got a good amount of beer on tap and so much space that I can't imagine it ever being full. My wife and I spend a decent amount of time shopping between Powell and Stockton, so it's nice to know there's a fun spot to get a drink and maybe eat a grilled cheese sandwich. I killed two Anchor Steams while my friend and I shared stories about our Hollywood experiences at the Scientology Celebrity Center. Apparently he had also tried to break into the Franklin location while intoxicated. He made it all the way in, however. I was utterly captivated.
Since I had used up my four hours of potential parking on Polk, we had to walk back through the Tenderloin celebration, dancing with all kinds of folk along the way, taking in the numerous live music acts, before piling into my VW and heading south towards Trick Dog – the newest cocktail darling in the Mission District. We posted up along the backwall, received our cocktail menus (with the drink written on EP vinyl where the name of the artist would normally be), and combed through the pages to see what we wanted. To be honest, the whole experience feels a little forced, as if they're so worried about being hipster credible that they just went all the way. If you really want to be hip, why not just tattoo the menu on the inside of the bartender's wrist next to the cross section of a pig and a butcher's knife? Better yet, why not force me to bring my own mini vitrola and listen to the menu audibly? I kid Trick Dog. While I was honestly confused by the menu, the drinks we had were very well done. They were out of a few ingredients so I was forced to switch up my first choice into a Hangar One-based concoction with lime. We were all very impressed, but we couldn't stay for seconds because our stomachs were starting to grumble.
We tried hitting up the nearby Flour & Water but we had just missed the last table at opening, meaning we were looking at an hour or more before getting seated. We decided to wing it and headed west towards Mission St. where our gut told us that such a beautiful evening deserved a rooftop setting with lots of small plate options. We walked up the stairs to Lolinda's outdoor, latin-inspired El Techo patio and found an absolutely packed house. People were talking, drinks were flying, snacks were being nibbled, the sun was going down, and we were pumped. I had never even heard of Lolinda, but apparently I was the only one. The first drink I ordered (pictured above) was the El Presidente – something with white rum, Luxardo, and curacao that went down too easily. My second drink was a cold beer because I knew I could have put down dos Presidentes más even quicker. I was really impressed with Lolinda. The drinks were top notch. The food, even better. We had steak quesadillas with real Oaxacan cheese stretching like gooey mozzarella between a thick, hand-made corn tortilla. We had chorizo sticks, big fat chips with fresh guacamole, beef empanadas with flaky fried crusts, and a gigantic Cuban-style sausage sandwich with picked jalepeños and a fried egg on top. That was all before the monster plate of pork chicharones appeared with more tortillas and tangy salsa. I gorged. I gorged some more. Meanwhile I watched the show unfold before me, both on the patio and on the horizon. You need to go here if you haven't been.
After dinner we headed north to 16th, then back behind Dalva to the Hideout for a nightcap of Amaro di Santa Maria al Monte. It helped digest the mound of food still sitting in my stomach and it was the perfect way to wind down the evening. We walked the long way down Valencia, eventually heading back to our car on 20th near Alabama before calling it a night. The cool air refreshed my body and my head, and by the time I got behind the wheel I was completely fine. I had paced myself successfully and managed to enjoy a long, lasting, extremely delightful day full of food, booze, friends, new experiences and conversation. We even got home in time to watch the new Breaking Bad before hitting the hay.
I treasure days like this. Who wants to come with me next time?