San Francisco Trip Day 4

Mustachioed Car

After confirming with Danielle that her family didn’t want breakfast, I went out for breakfast and saw the above mustachioed car. They’re for a service called Lyft that uses regular people as cab drivers. More about that here. The first time I learned about the way taxis are regulated was when I was at Cornell. In my experience, the taxis there were horrible. They were often late when they came at all and they charged per person rather than distance like most cabs. I wondered why someone didn’t come along and compete against them with better service. Well, because in most (if not all) jurisdictions Taxis are a regulated monopoly. The thing about monopolies is that not only do they not have an incentive to provide good customer service, they also don’t have an incentive to innovate. That’s part of why Lyft and Uber are so awesome – they have features like being able to track where your ride is – via your cell phone. You know how far they are and when to actually go outside. (Not like the many times I was freezing outside at Cornell waiting for the cabs, since they refused to call when they arrived) Then again, you’re putting your life into the hands of a random Joe. I know Taxis aren’t perfect and the ones in big cities sometimes drive like maniacs, but this nascent movement will probably die on the vine the first time someone gets kidnapped or murdered or something.

Anyway, breakfast. Diners three days in a row – not good. I ate someone that wasn’t Lori’s and it sucked – the pancakes were rubbery, the eggs didn’t taste good. But I was also sick and tired of this kind of food. After I was done eating, I found out that minds had been changed and we’d be going out for breakfast after all. So we were off to Pho 2000.

Pho Breakfast at Pho 2000

I wasn’t all that hungry – having just eaten pancakes, eggs, bacon, and sausage, but after all that grease I needed something to settle my stomach. So I ordered Gỏi Cuốn (Vietnamese Summer rolls). Most Vietnamese restaurants I’ve been to try to go cheap when you order spring or summer rolls. That was not the case with Pho 2000. They gave me plump rolls with nice fresh ingredients. It was exactly what my stomach needed!

Pho Breakfast at Pho 2000 2

Interestingly enough, the night before Danielle had remarked that it was strange there weren’t more Vietnamese restaurants in San Francisco. I told her we probably just hadn’t found the Vietnamese section, but she thought it’d probably be near Chinatown if it existed. Turned out that I was right as Pho 2000 is in San Francisco’s Little Saigon neighborhood. (More on that a little later in this post)

Little Saigon

After that we were finally able to meet up with Dave and Kendra at the Golden Gate Bridge. Danielle and I had made the decision to take advantage of Duc having a car in the city to get out to the bridge. Since we didn’t have enough room in the van to also take Dave and Kendra, they went via public transportation and had ended up there before us. Since they were done with the bridge we made plans to meet up in The Mission for lunch afterwards. They were using public transportation so they headed out right away.

Golden Gate Bridge and Purple Plants

To my non-architecture eye it appears that the Golden Gate Bridge is the same type of bridge as the The Brooklyn Bridge. While walking over the bridge I came to the conclusion that the Brooklyn Bridge is the prettier bridge. It’s stone work just looks amazing. See:

The Brooklyn Bridge

vs

3 Generations at the Golden Gate Bridge

Also the Brooklyn Bridge lets you walk through the middle:

Brooklyn Side Brooklyn Bridge Tower

while the Golden Gate Bridge has you walk on the side:

Duc and Mai at the Golden Gate Bridge

However, the Golden Gate Bridge has the prettier scenery:

Boats at the Golden Gate Bridge

Don’t get me wrong, there’s something pretty amazing about the scale of human endeavors to create the skyscrapers of Manhattan.

New NYC Skyline

(and Brooklyn side)

All Roads Lead to Manhattan

But it’s not as nice-looking as the Golden Gate scenery. Because Scarlett was napping we didn’t explore much of the surrounding area or parks. We took off towards The Mission. I had two culinary goals while San Francisco. I wanted authentic Asian food and authentic Mexican food. I was particularly excited about the latter because I can easily get authentic Asian food in NYC. But The Mission is legendary. But how do I find the right place to eat? I tried asked a few people who lived in SF, but got no replies in time. So I turned to Yelp. The highest rated place on there was Taqueria El Farolito.

Taqueria El Farolito in The Mission

We met up with Dave and Kendra there. When Danielle walked in, we had to do an about face to discuss the food outside. The place looked like a (pardon my language) shithole. Were we sure we wanted to eat here, I was asked. All I could do was point to Yelp and hope the ratings hadn’t been artificially inflated. Anyway, the general rule with authentic food is that the more of a dump the place looks like – the more authentic it probably is. So we ordered. Danielle and her parents got steaks. The rest of us got tacos and super burritos.

Food at Taqueria El Farolito 2

Food at Taqueria El Farolito 3

Luckily for me, I was vindicated. Everyone loved it. The portions were huge and filling and very, very tasty. The place definitely deserved its ratings on Yelp. After that we went for a stroll through the mission to digest our food.

Scarlett at The Mission

We didn’t pass by too many of the famous murals, but the ones we did see were pretty amazing-looking.

Eating Chips at the Mural

After that we had to go back to our hotel because Duc and family had to head to Livermore for Mai’s hair appointment. It was time for Scarlett to take a nap, but we didn’t have her swing (that’s how she naps at home). So I took Scarlett out to Union Square in her stroller and strolled around until she fell asleep. Then I took her back to the hotel so I could have a nap. When we all awoke I told Danielle about the art show they were having on Union Square so we decided to go hang out there until it was time for dinner. Scarlett had a blast chasing pigeons and walking up to people with dogs.

What's that paper?

It was a public place full of strangers so she mostly wanted to walk holding one of our hands rather than walking independently. The pigeons there are used to humans, so it took Scarlett getting very close to cause them to fly away. She always jumped when they did that and she was up close. Makes sense, her baby brain hasn’t seen too much of that yet so it must have come as a surprise move.

Peaking out from Behind Daddy

In the end, Danielle wanted to eat at Pho 2000 again for dinner since she really liked the breakfast there and knew the food was good. So we set off to Little Saigon again.

Pho 2000

I was told before that Little Saigon (which, unless I’m misremembering, is somewhat near the Tenderloin District) was in a seedy part of town. I thought I’d seen seedy before – parts of Baltimore, parts of Miami, etc. But this was something else. There was a zombie-apocalypse level of homeless people shambling around; At least a dozen per block. There were signs on the buildings saying things like “do not buy drugs on this block”. And all kinds of stuff that made me pick up my pace. Now, I just heard a story on Marketplace that a lot of tech companies like Yelp and others are starting to buy up or rent buildings in this area because the rent is cheap. Gentrification may be controversial and it may be complicated, but this area definitely needs all the polishing it can get. As I passed by lots of Asian businesses – book stores, massage parlors, restaurants – I just thought that these business owners would probably love to see a little revitalization as well. Because I’d have a hard time recommending someone go to the place we were headed to even though the food was so great.

Going back to Pho 2000, it’s always a good sign when a restaurant has their kitchen out in the open. Not only does it promote better hygeine (your customers can see you wipe your nose on your hands and touch the food), but it also shows how fresh the ingredients going into the food are.

Back to Pho 2000 for dinner

After dinner it was back to the hotel to sleep and get ready for the next day when we’d be headed to Livermore to get ready for the wedding.

Author: Eric Mesa

To find out a little more about me, see About Me

8 thoughts on “San Francisco Trip Day 4”

  1. Re: Lyft and Uber, SF also has Homobiles. It says it operates because of safety and comfort concerns. http://www.homobiles.org/

    Re: the Tenderloin. I doubt that Yelp or other companies moving in will gentrify the Tenderloin. People don’t move to their jobs in the bay area the way you might elsewhere. It might help gentrify parts of Oakland, however, as *people* have been moving there for cheap rent.

    1. You make good points about gentrification being much more tightly coupled with where people live rather than where they work. However, given all the tax incentives the city is giving these businesses to relocate there vs the traditional Silicon Valley locations, I’d find it hard to believe that if the businesses called for a cleanup of that area that the city wouldn’t oblige. After all, who wants to work in a “bad” neighborhood?

  2. Re: Taxis – My two complaints wtih SF taxis is 1) there aren’t enough of them (it’s almost impossible to even get an Uber at bar closing on a Saturday night) and 2) they give you a hard time about credit cards. I think Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar were all getting hit with fines from the Public Utilities Commission for operating like taxis.

    Re: Tenderloin – I’d also doubt how much gentrification will happen since these companies are often like little bubbles. It’d be different if their employees left the office during the day. But assuming they’re like others and offer food/drink/recreation at the office – and then if it’s late, taxi home – you’re hardly seeing the bad neighborhood at all.

    1. As for the taxis – I heard of similar experiences of people unable to get one during peak time. The problem with a volunteer taxi service is that those people are probably also partying at that time.

      As for the tenderloin – I agree for the most part although I’d hope that people wouldn’t want the lack of safety as they go into and out of work.

  3. You’re crazy for thinking the Brooklyn Bridge is better looking than the Golden Gate Bridge. Insane! Stockholm syndrome, probably…

    Props to holes in the wall. Shitholes tend to have the best ethnic food.

    1. Maybe it’s just the aesthetic – the Brooklyn Bridge reminds me more of Cornell. The Golden Gate is so – look at my girders and “bones”

  4. It’s true. Eric can no longer think for himself and figure out what his likes and dislikes are. It’s all about the pussy now.

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