Given the wealth of City Guide tour options available, we had wanted to fit at least one more in – I was hoping the second go-around might erase the disappointment of our Chinatown experience. We ended up choosing the City Scapes and Public Places tour, mostly because the meeting location was only a few blocks away from our hotel.
Thankfully, our guide Paul seemed better informed than our previous escort, but as a whole, the tour still seemed less packed with information than the walks we partook in both New York and DC.
It was really interesting to learn about POPOS, however: privately-owned, public open spaces. It is specified in San Francisco’s building code that the trade-off for the construction of a high-rise building is the creation of some sort of usable public space on the land – whether that is a square, a balcony, or park.
Atop the Crocker Galleria
In the two hours, we toured nearly a dozen of the spaces (there are sixty all together in San Francisco). Some of them, such as the one located on the fifteenth floor of a building, were like little hidden gems, that only those “in the know” would be cognizant of (you can check out a map here).
The gem at 343 Sansome Street
There were others – such as the redwood park (which was my personal favourite of the bunch), that could easily be mistaken to simply be a green space amidst towers.
Life imitates art
Some of the POPOS, such as the greenhouse in Citigroup Centre, featured seating, as well as food service – fantastic for the business crowd at lunch.
The only downside to the open spaces, however, is that the regulations specify that POPOS only need to be accessible during weekday business hours – so anyone wishing to take advantage of them in the evenings or weekends are out of luck (we tried to access Citigroup Centre on a Saturday, but the gates were locked up tight).
During the tour, we had passed by the San Buena Taco Truck parked on the street. Given that it was the first food truck we had stumbled upon in San Francisco, we made sure to remember where it was so we could hit it up for lunch.
San Buena Taco Truck
The line was steady, and given it was made up mostly of the area’s office workers, we knew we had probably made a good choice. The menu included burritos, tacos and tortas, but from the orders made around us, we knew a burrito was the way to go.
Mack hearts burritos
For just $7, each of us received a wrap absolutely packed with chicken (though carnitas and beef were meat options as well). It had been expertly bound – the perfect kind of street food – and with moist, flavourful chicken interspersed with beans, rice and heat to taste – it was without a doubt the best thing we ate in San Francisco.
The only thing I really remember from my previous visit to San Francisco was walking across the Golden Gate Bridge with my family, but it isn’t exactly a pleasant memory. It had been one of those drizzly, blustery days, cold and miserable for any tourist, but particularly for us, given the night before, we had been in the +40 climes of Asia. Fortunately, the weather on the day that Mack and I chose to visit the bridge was perfect, and did much to ensure my future associations with the Golden Gate were positive ones.
Misty, but bright
A quick bus ride got us to the San Francisco side of the bridge. The forty-minute windswept walk across yielded unparalleled views of the city and the activities in the bay.
Mack and the city
Queen of the bridge
The barges just kept on cominng
The traffic on the bridge was also a little unbelievable – the cars did not stop flowing. It was on that day that we christened our version of Punch Buggy – Punch Prius! At some point we had to stop counting because it was getting ridiculous.
We walked the length back to the San Francisco side, and hopped on a bus that took us closer to the city centre. The line terminated at Fort Mason, where we were directed by the driver to transfer to a different bus. Given it was already the dinner hour, the fact that there was a Safeway at the terminal seemed to be a blessing. We picked up some food and headed to the park for a picnic supper, a relaxing way to refuel and rest our weary feet.
Dinner of champions
Residents were out in full force, enjoying the setting sun as we were. And like so many other parts of the city, it was picturesque without even trying.
Satisfied, before heading back to the hotel, we thought we should explore the area. Peeking over the hill side drop, we encountered a gaggle of people down below in the Fort Mason parking lot – what was going on?
So many people!
It turned out we had stumbled upon the first Off the Grid, a “roaming mobile food extravaganza.” This was the largest of their weekly events, and sees thirty food trucks gather alongside a full-service bar and music.
Music amongst the madness
That night, the twenty food trucks offered food ranging from cupcakes to empanadas to ramen. But it was challenging to even browse the offerings – the line-ups were massive (and really, too large for the space), with the longest gathering centered around Chairman Bao, a truck offering, among other things, pork belly buns.
Just some of the food trucks
The line at Chairman Bao
It was really unfortunate that we had already eaten our meal – what better way to sample food trucks than at such an event? We made room for a few things though – a trio of dumplings we purchased for $2 were hand-rolled in the tent, and were very tasty.
I was also swayed into buying a dulce de leche creme brulee. It was okay, but not worth the $5.
Though we didn’t eat much, Off the Grid was amazing to see. Everyone there was just so darn excited about food, and that energy was contagious. It’s crazy to imagine that something like that happens on a weekly basis, but in a city like San Francisco, food trucks aren’t a fad, but a core of their food culture. Look for it if you’re travelling to SF!
Off the Grid
We ended our evening back on a bus, ready for a good night’s sleep at the hotel. Gearing up for a Saturday trip to the Ferry Market, we would need it.