Well, let’s just say there are currently no little cable cars climbing halfway to the stars. Tony Bennett may have to sing a new tune about that city by the Bay.
After the relaxed and almost festive atmosphere of Paso Robles, San Francisco seemed almost dystopian in contrast. Union Square was virtually empty. The neighborhood restaurants we remember are all closed down. The usually bustling hotel lobby at the Westin St. Francis, where we stayed, was completely empty. The main entrance is blocked off. The few guests in the hotel are required to enter and exit through the hotel garage and, oh, by the way, there is no luggage valet. It’s a non-contact world.
We haven’t ventured beyond our neighborhood at home much during the plague, and this was our first urban experience. It’s not hard to see why, according to news reports, people are “fleeing” San Francisco. And even with the draconian lockdown measures, The San Francisco Chronicle reported today that “the Bay Area is experiencing a gradual but pronounced uptick in coronavirus cases.”
My unpopular opinion: I don’t see how “outwaiting the virus” is a viable long-term plan because it can so easily outwait us. But, whatever.
SF is probably not on anyone’s go-to list right now, but it was at the top of ours because we hadn’t seen Taylor since we were last there in January and we wanted to visit him and see his new apartment.
The solitary staffer at the hotel reception desk thrust a sheet of paper toward us at check-in with a paltry list of restaurants open for take-out and a very few available for dine-in.
Were we going to starve in San Francisco?
Well, at least we were set for dinner that night, with plans to meet up at Harris’ steakhouse. You can see why it’s Taylor’s favorite restaurant:
A good steak is one way to get a smile out of him:
Next day we consulted the restaurant handout we’d been given and walked over to the Financial District in search of lunch and we discovered the Wayfare Tavern on Sacramento Street. Comfortable outdoor seating with a view of the Transamerica Building. And it started to become clear that we were not going to starve.
We ordered picnic food – deviled eggs, fried chicken and Brussels sprouts.
The tricky part about dining out in SF these days is mask management. It’s more mask on than mask off at table, with strict protocols requiring masks on when a server approaches and any time you are not actually eating or drinking. For the uninitiated, this is not as easy as it seems. My mask looked more like a used napkin by the time we were done with lunch. A veritable petri dish, really. And, while I looked at it, wondering just how hygienic it was, a young man came storming angrily through the area snapping photos of every patron who did not have their mask up. Did I already use the word dystopian?
The mood that evening along the Embarcadero was a bit less severe. Everyone masked but lots of people out with their dogs and, of course, dogs make everything better. You could actually sense a few smiles behind the masks.
And, there was another masked, but hearty, meal. We met up with Taylor at at the Waterbar restaurant. This time there was a new wrinkle to the protocols – a pre-dining interview during which we answered a litany of questions regarding our recent health. Slathered with hand sanitizer, we were eventually permitted to sit down and the patio was sufficiently sheltered from the breeze to make outdoor dining comfortable. We’ll always remember the Green Apple Mousse, which I enjoyed with a glass of Inniskillin Ice Wine. Perfect!
Oh, and we’ll always remember the Bay Bridge view, too:
Next day we were treated to a rare sighting of the elusive Mingston trio!
And after a (again, no starving) tasty lunch al fresco at Atwater Tavern
we walked over to Taylor’s new place. Such a fun nabe!
And he finally found a place with ceilings high enough for a tall guy like him!
It was so good to spend time with our T. He has weathered the plague storm admirably, maybe because being told you can’t go out and can’t socialize is, well, pretty much his cup of tea anyway. Put a mask on your face so no one can see your expression or who you are? He’s like yes, absolutely, sign me up!
For dinner that night, we found an unexpectedly charming little Italian place on 3rd Street where the mood was light and the food was great, especially the panna cotta for dessert.
It was hard to say goodbye to Taylor, but at least we left knowing he had been well fed for a few days. And, while SF may not currently be quite the way we remember it, as long as Taylor is there, we’ve left our hearts in San Francisco.