San Francisco

joescableexerior.jpg Joe’s Cable Car Restaurant in San Francisco is where “Joe Grinds His Own Fresh Chuck Daily”. A large sign on the outside of the restaurant declares this in bold type. Joe’s has been around since 1965. It is a charming place on Mission Street just south of highway 280. You can’t miss it driving down Mission. Windows are loaded with neon signs of the Golden Gate Bridge, a cable car and other San Francisco landmarks. Joe obviously likes signs. There must be 30 signs in the parking lot warning you not to park without permission.

Entering the restaurant one is struck by its cleanliness and nostalgia. Christmas lights with little Santas are still strung neatly from the ceiling. Fake flowers adorn the room, but somehow they work because they haven’t become a dusty relic, but are clean and new looking. The floor shines bright. One of three energetic waitresses greets and escorts a diner to a seat.

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redrumsign.jpgRedrum Burger in Davis, CA sits catty-corner to an In-N-Out Burger just off the freeway. Redrum was there long before In-N-Out and judging from the line at lunch time on a recent Thursday, they will be there for a while longer. Originally called Murder Burger when it was established in 1986, Murder changed to Redrum (murder spelled backwards) when a contest determined the winning name in 2001.

The place feels a little shabby when you walk in, but it seems comfortable like an old sweatshirt. I went to the counter to choose between burgers. 1/4 lb. $4.29, 1/3 lb. $5.49, 1 lb. $11.49 or my choice 1/2 lb. $6.49. They have Buffalo too. The burger comes with cheese, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. I ordered fries ($1.49), onion rings ($4.99) and on the recommendation of the counter-minder a strawberry shake ($3.99). They have various combo specials to save you money. “Twelve minutes”, he told me when he handed me my change.

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ImageSpork in San Francisco is my new favorite restaurant. Pat and I went there for dinner after a lovely day in the Mission, checking out all the vintage stores and eating Dymano Donuts. Spork is a place serving old-school classics in a new-school fashion. They have sustainable-this and local-that versions of slow-food takes on old classics. And despite the political correctness of their offerings, everything tastes like it was pan-fried in lard in a steel skillet by my grandmother. That's a very good thing!

The In-Side-Out Burger ($14) screamed "eat me" from the menu. The beef is fresh from Sun Marin Farms. Two patties griddle-fried, peppery and crispy on the outside. Moist and pink on the inside. The concoction towers over the plate. It is a stack of ingredients as follows starting at the plate: Butter lettuce, tomato slice, beef patty, bun circle, special sauce, beef patty, tillamook chedder and a grilled onion topping so sweet it could be applesauce. The special sauce reminded me of the spicy thousand-island type I make at home, only no islands. You have to eat this with a fork and knife, but it doesn't diminish the burger experience.

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tartinecroissantMy first day in San Francisco—and much of my whole trip—was rainy. But despite the unusually rainy weather, the best part of my first day was having breakfast at Tartine Bakery. Located in the Mission District, Tartine has been a neighborhood standby since it was opened by the husband and wife team of Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt in 2002.

Both trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and traveled throughout France before settling in Northern California. Prueitt is the pastry chef and Robertson is the baker. You can find Robertson baking daily at the bakery and Prueitt running the sister restaurant Bar Tartine, which is just a street away.

Every morning at the bakery is a busy one. There is always a steady line wrapping outside the doors rain or shine, literally. Two weeks ago I stood in line with my friends under umbrellas to taste Tartine's sweet confections. The smell wafting from within was enough to convince any one of us to patiently wait for a morning bite and a cup of Joe.

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Scream SorbetIf you've never been to San Francisco you need to know our Summer starts NOW. Yes, in September. Not only is it pretty and warm and sunny but Summer produce--tomatoes, corn, pepper, and peaches are all ripe and delicious at the moment. It's easy to roll your eyes at our "sustainable, local, organic" mantra, but while you're here, be sure to try some of these bites of Summer.

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