July 2020


Now that San Francisco is permitting outdoor dining, I’ve been trying some of the places offering it.

My friend Mark has made the transition to working online from home, but he still gets a lunch hour. So today he took me to Willkommen. It’s a relatively new indoor beer garden on Market at 15th that has put a row of tables along the sidewalk for outdoor dining. There’s no sense of being crowded because the tables are well spaced and the sidewalk is downright spacious. It also helps that there is very little foot traffic on this block, so you don’t have folks walking past and breathing down at your plate.

We kept our masks on until the masked waitress had brought our beers, so the whole experience felt quite safe. Hell, even the few passers-by were masked.

Don’t get your hopes up for an extensive menu because Willkommen is no fine restaurant but rather a beer garden that serves some food to eat along with the beer. They have a connection to Black Hammer Brewing and serve a good variety of beers. The food choices are quite limited, mainly ten sausages from Rosamunde, warm potato salad, lentil salad, cheese spaetzle, fries, pretzels, and some green salads. There is also a vegetarian Reuben sandwich that substitutes beets for the corned beef, an intriguing flavor possibility that I’d be willing to try.

This time I had the Nuremberger Bratwurst with the red cabbage and warm potato salad. The brats were quite good, as was the red cabbage. The great surprise was the warm potato salad which was unlike any other of its ilk I’d ever eaten. The potatoes were thin sliced, sprinkled with bacon bits, and lightly dressed in a Dijon vinaigrette. Maybe it was because nowadays I’m starved for potatoes, but it was so delicious that I chased down every last molecule.

It was a pleasant experience, and I’ll go back on a sunny day. For the warm potato salad.

Meanwhile, here’s Mark at our table.


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Yank Sing

I’ll get the vaccine before a haircut.

The first time I ate dim sum was at Yank Sing in the summer of 1974. I was staying in San Francisco while taking UC Berkley’s intensive summer Spanish course; and even though it was definitely intensive, I managed to cram in some recreation. This led to my befriending a Cantonese man, and I got to go along when he took a small group of us to Yank Sing. In those days, Yank Sing was located on Broadway; and the tables were so crammed together that instead of women pushing carts loaded with selections, muscular young Chinese men carried over their heads large platters. They lowered the platters to allow you to choose what you wanted, and you could ask them for items you’d not seen.

It was love at first bite, and the level of love increased throughout the meal; so I started taking groups of friends there immediately afterward. Over the years I discovered other dim sum places, particularly after Yank Sing dropped from their menu my favorite dish, a rich pastry crust molded around a center of minced barbecued pork. The transliteration is Char Siu Sou, the Chinese characters are 叉燒酥, and an English translation would be Barbecued Pork Pastry or something like that. My favorite place to get that treat before the shutdown was the Riverside Seafood Restaurant, but when dear ones were visiting I usually took them to Yank Sing’s spectacular Spear Street location.

Recently, as indicated in my The Vault Garden post, our mayor has OK’d outdoor dining; and when I heard that it would be available at Yank Sing’s Stevenson Street location, I quickly worked a visit into my schedule.

Fearing there would be a queue, I arrived at 49 Stevenson Street forty minutes early, but there was nobody there! A Chinese woman got there right after me and started banging on the door, at first to no avail; but she was relentless and eventually a woman appeared inside and motioned us to the left. There is an alleyway alongside the the patio area at north end of the restaurant, and I waited at the patio entrance.

As opening time approached, a server came out with a placard displaying a QR code and said that we could use it to look at the menu and make our selections. What!!!! I’d seen those things all over and had seen people using them for various purposes, but I’d never been forced to use one. To my great relief, when I browsed through the stuff on my phone, I saw an app that looked right. Clicked on it and sure enough, when I held my phone up to the placard, pop! there was the menu. Wow, might use this function again.

Then an employee came around and took my order, after which I was seated. It felt at first like we were going inside; but no, the whole northwest corner of the building is a covered patio open on two sides to the outdoors. The tables there were placed at a minimum of ten feet from each other, and the air circulated owing to the two open sides. The waiters and staff were all masked, and I noticed that the patrons I could see kept their masks on as they sat down and didn’t remove them until a drink arrived.

There were no young women pushing carts around. You get what you ordered at the door. Part of the charm of dim sum for me is nabbing interesting things off a passing cart, but many dim sum places nowadays have you ordering from menus once you’re seated, and the only difference here is that you order before being seated.

Even though the menu was cruelly truncated, there were enough choices for me to get a variety of dishes; and the quality was fully up to the high Yank Sing standard. As were the prices.

It was a lovely dining experience, and I’m putting out feelers to friends I think might join me there. Among the things that the shutdown has taught me is that for anything other than burritos, a rather large part of my enjoyment is my companion and I being served good food that we can eat right there at a table. Voilá, the outdoor restaurant.

Meanwhile, here’s a pic of the patio dining area.

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