photo credit: fling93
Happy weekend, you beautiful Bay Area! What’s that, do I seem like I’m in a particularly good mood? Maybe it’s because October — a.k.a. summer — is finally here, forecasts are in the 80s, and there’s a big old FREE music festival coming to Golden Gate Park.
Here’s the thing. I like Outside Lands and all, but Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is one of those times where San Francisco really comes out in all its weird, wonderful, sometimes smelly lifeforms. And in a city where it’s becoming more and more expensive to breath in and out on a daily basis, a badass, big ol’ festival of FREE becomes something to celebrate (particularly if, full disclosure, you’re super into the brand of Americana rock/country/even sometimes bluegrass tunes that they have on the bill).
Anyway. The recommendations I put together for your Outside Lands attending pleasure still apply, of course, but Hardly Strictly is a whole different ball game for three major reasons: 1. it’s WARM, guys 2. it ends at 7 so you can actually have time to get dinner after at places that aren’t insanely cool Korean chicken joints housed in garages 3. you can bring stuff into the park. You can bring EVERYTHING into the park — food, booze, a camp stove on which to make Irish Coffee should it be unseasonably chilly (been there, done that).
So, that said, this week’s itinerary is more of a guide for how to stock up, and celebrate Hardly Strictly right. My overall tip is to show up early (or know someone who is) to score a spot in front of one of the stages with a spread of blankets. You can roam around and check stuff out, but it’s nice to have a home base to hang out (read: stash your impressive stock of craft beer and fancy cheeses). And if a dude named Wolf offers to trade you a huge handful of ganja candies for a bread and cheese sandwich, proceed with caution (just saying).
photo credit: Eric in DUB
Hardly Strictly is best accessed by bike, but even by foot, public transportation, or car, you end up in the same areas as you would on two wheels. And the route from the eastern part of the city to the park is loaded with great spots to pick up delicious stuff for your day. Bi Rite, on both Divis and in the Mission, is a no-brainer killer sandwiches, gourmet cheese and meat, Josey Baker bread (because the line at The Mill on a weekend is no joke) — throw in some choice beer (only in cans!!) and you’ve got yourself a hell of a day.
Right across the street (from the Divis location) at on the corner at Fell is an unassuming corner store with one of the best beer selections in town. And a block away, on Broderick, you’ll find Faletti’s, another tasty gourmet grocery store with delicious prepared foods (their kale salad, guys!), cheeses, and such. Also near Faletti’s is Nopalito and their well appointed take-away window it’s way too hot for pozole, but an order of totopes, ceviche, and seasonal quesadillas will make you both the bougiest, and maybe smartest person in the park.
photo credit: Gary Soup
A little further west off Fulton is the Arguello Super Market another solid destination for cheese/bread/beer — but more importantly, the best turkey sandwich in the world. The birds are roasted fresh in giant rotisserie ovens, and your sandwich includes a stunning layered masterpiece of dark and white meat. Get it on dutch crunch bread, get it with avocado and pepper jack, and thank me later. In the Inner Sunset, get baked treats (and pizza!) from Arizmendi.
Considering this is a full weekend affair, it’s worth noting that the Grove Street Farmers Market (on Grove off Divisadero) and the Inner Sunset Farmers Market (on 9th and Irving) are both doing down on Sunday. Stock up on tasty fresh fruit and veggies, and less healthy fare like bread, cheese, and pastries (important).
THE COOL DOWN
photo credit: neil conway
It’s not often that you find yourself overheated in the western parts of the city, so seize this opportunity to explore the ice cream scene you’ve (likely) overlooked. In the Inner Sunset, you may have to fight off teenagers to get your turn at the serve-yourself Easy Breezy Frozen Yogurt, but the flavors are creative, the toppings ample, and anyone who claims to not love frozen yogurt is really just lying to themselves.
Over the Inner Richmond, Toy Boat Dessert Cafe is a pretty adorable specimen of ice cream parlour, and they have peppermint ice cream (!) all year round. Screw seasonality — it can taste like Christmas ALL THE TIME!
And then, of course, in the Outer Richmond, you’ll find Polly Ann Ice Cream, a veritable legend in San Francisco ice cream lore. 50+ homemade flavors, in tasty iterations like taro, champagne, and red bean. Try the durian at your own risk (or just don’t).
If you’re feeling safe (boring), and find yourself back through the Panhandle with a hankering for ice cream, the ice cream window at Bi Rite on Divis is now open ‘til 10. Boring, sure, but it’s delicious so we forgive you.
photo credit: su-lin
You’re at the park, you’ve had a fair amount of beer (and who knows what else) and it’s only 7. Dinner time! Lot’s of things are actually still open, and there is a ridiculous amount of delicious food to be found in this part of town. You’ll find a lot of those options in the aforementioned Outside Lands itinerary, but some important additions must be made thanks to the civilized closing time of this festival. Terra Cotta Warrior is our new favorite place for Xi’an-style hand pulled noodles and Shaanxi “burgers,” made with spiced pork and cumin-rich lamb. Yummy Yummy is everyone’s favorite spot for pho, and while it may be warm for a big steaming bowl of awesomeness, it’s good enough to sweat it out (cold beer helps, obviously). Brother’s is well known for their Korean barbecue, but we love Han Il Kwan for their delicious banchan, killer soft tofu stew, and shockingly tasty spicy octopus.
photo credit: pyrogenic
And then, there are the classics. Shanghai Dumpling King is ridiculously good (and BYOB), and few things taste better after a long day of festivaling than dumplings and noodles. San Tung will be packed to the gills, but you may have a chance getting in to San Tun #2 right next door (which is exactly the same). Cassava Cafe is an adorable spot for clever California fare with an Asian influence, and has great sangria, to boot. And Hakka has become legendary for their fried pumpkin, a perfectly appropriate fall indulgence (even if they serve if year-round). If you’re willing to trek a little further, there’s all of Clement Street, including Burma Superstar, B-Star Bar, and Mandalay for your Burmese food needs.
Or, forget all that, get some take-out, and continue hanging in the park. It’s not often that you can get away with al fresco dining without a parka.