After a brief hiatus, SFist's Tenderloin correspondent returns with the latest in a series about the finer points of city lore found in individual street corners. Working our way East, we now find ourselves at the corner of Taylor and Golden Gate, indulging in tubesteaks, meeting the locals and basking in the neon light of the Golden Gate Theatre.
Spectaculars. That’s what the displays were called, neon tubes and flashing bulbs, marquees and blade signs that inverted night and day, glamorous and garish. A quaint term for what must have been spectacular, too. Electric light was made for every main street in America, and what was Market Street but Main Street writ big and vulgar? Where Taylor Street meets Market at Golden Gate, it must have been a hell of a show, the stately Warfield and eponymous Golden Gate Theatre standing astride the northbound street like giants. This set of corners offers less symmetry than previous ones--there are but three--but perhaps you'll forgive the opportunity to slack, given it has been a while since we've walked this beat.
Let's get one thing out of the way: some may remember that the flatiron building currently housing Show Dogs was featured in a film we never finished watching. Thanks to possibly autistic tendencies allowing us to spot cinematic missteps, all we remember from Interview with the Vampire was that rogue 33 Stanyan headed East on Market.
Prior to its tubesteak transfusion, this particular corner went through some other kinds of cursed times. There was the questionable diner where we once were served a vegetarian omelette consisting of broken-up bits of garden burger. This was followed by a Korean noodle cafe where the crinkle of a ramen package being torn open belied claims at homestyle cuisine. We won't go into the food poisoning incident, colorful though it was.
Show Dogs opened in 2009 and may have broken the plague of bad memories, wearing its age well despite being located on a stretch of Market not known for wearing much well. That it's part of the cult of 4505 Meats is helpful, as is the level of care in the condiments, most of which, says the proud man at the grill, are made in-house.
"We do it all: Relish, ketchup, mustard, aioli. The aioli is why I wanted to work here,” he proclaims to a mayo-averse patron.
That unholy emulsion is neither here nor there, for there is another bête noire, one that sneaks between buns and lays in dark pools, innocuous, cloying. Ketchup is a wretched product, no match for its namesake kachiap, historically the Sino-Malaysian fish sauce the British turned into treacly tomato paste. And yet, Show Dogs laces theirs with Serrano chiles, thereby nullifying the lesser qualities of conventional Heinz, reminding us that real ketchup ought to be fortified with a bit of brine and bite. It is a good thing to dip your onion rings in, this improved ketchup (or catsup, or whatever).
Currently being developed by the same firm responsible for the Book Concern Building in U.N. Plaza, the Warfield Building is one of Mid-Market's finer jewels. Unsurprisingly, both the Warfield and Golden Gate Theatres were designed by San Francisco-raised architect Gustave Albert Lansburgh--unsurprising owing to a peculiar coincidence of timing.
After working with Bernard Maybeck at U.C. Berkeley, Lansburgh traveled to France, eventually earning his diploma from the École des Beaux-Arts in March of 1906. Upon returning to the ruins of his city, the architect grew into something of a specialist in theaters, thanks to having received an education in the overscaled and ornate. Given the width of Market Street, scale was of paramount importance, and despite being overbuilt with theatres, the presence of grand architecture heralded a prosperous future. In 1906, over-eagerness could be forgiven, as the intersection was a grand disaster.
Ironically, the overbuilding of entertainment palaces would be the eventual source of a new manner of crisis. By the 1970s, most of Market Street’s movie palaces were down-at-the-heels, succumbing to adult urges, either filmic or fleshly. As an object lesson, next door to the Warfield Theatre we find Crazy Horse Gentlemen’s Club, which began its life as a Nickelodeon. Although hey, great for sex workers, right?
It’s doubtful that the City's current trend toward business monoculture will meet reap a similarly oversexed fate, but it’s worth considering the consequences of overpopulating the city with high-rent specialty stores and restaurants. Growth is good, but so is planning for an economically adverse future.
As for entertainment — adult or otherwise — Market Street is a pageant of its own, dancing men and fighting dogs, hustlers and harried tourists, unintentional comedy and the heartbreak of a hard-lived life. More often than not, you'll find you're part of the show.
The price of admission is a snack or a beer. While you're at Show Dogs' counter, notice that across the street SF Camerawork has unified the building's signage. Pantone-specific branding or gentrification? Discuss.
It's next to the the Warfield Building that we meet Raymond, whose nickname is Mouse.
“Because people underestimate me,” he clarifies. Demanding that he's prettier than the buildings we're shooting, he suggests himself as a suitable subject. He’s got a smile three feet wide but insists on something with a bit more swagger, and settles on an imposing stance. Five poses later, he’s pleased with the outcome.
“We'll take more pictures next time. You come back and see me, hear?” Having seen him around the neighborhood, it's a date we intend to keep.
Previously: All Urbane Studies posts on SFist