musings about food, travel, creativity and life

What a City!

What a City!

Every time I return to my hometown of San Francisco, I feel good.  As we drive by my childhood home, I am transported back in time.  I reminisce about feeding squirrels in Golden Gate Park with my dad, walking along Ocean Beach watching the sea gulls, and going to North Beach to visit relatives and eat wonderful Italian food.

When we go to The City for an overnight or two, one of our favorite places to stay is the Marina Motel on Lombard Street. Built in 1939, it has many of the same architectural and landscape features of my family home which was built around the same time. Some of the Motel’s rooms have a mini-kitchen, so we can really feel at home, as if we’re “living in the city.”

The motel is a block off Chestnut Street, a popular shopping street which becomes the center of our go-to neighborhood.  That’s where we buy breakfast cereal and yogurt at the local Marina Supermarket, peruse books and magazines at Books Inc.,  enjoy cappuccinos at one of the many coffee establishments, do lasagne take-out from Lucca Delicatessen, search for art supplies and inspiration at Paper Source, and pick up ideas about our cell phones at the Apple Store. There are banks, cleaners, clothing stores, even a movie theater running current films.  And of course, there are many restaurants of many cuisines and price ranges–like Tacolicious for Mexican fare or Delarosa for pizza and Mediterranean small plates (and long communal tables) and the list goes on–so food lovers can relax, pick and choose, and enjoy.  The “vibe” is active, alive and fun, and many restaurants have outdoor tables, good for people-watching and dog companionship.

We had our first night dinner at casual Pacific Catch, where we sat at the counter, watching and listening to the cooks prepare our fresh fish bowls.  Then, as we walked down Chestnut toward our motel, we spotted Smitten, an ice cream shop where “Brrr” machines use flash-frozen nitrogen to make your personal ice cream on-the-spot.  The foggy mist overflowing from the machines provided a rather unique atmosphere. The flavor we chose was Meyer Lemon Ginger Cookies (with toasted sliced almonds.) and it was good, creamy and with no preservatives. Other flavors included Earl Grey with Milk Chocolate Chips, Vietnamese Coffee and more. The fascinating story of the creation of the company and its ice cream making process can be found at We will return!  How can we not when they proclaim:  “We believe ice cream=joy.”

Thankfully, one can walk off all the food in many locales in the City.  The day after being “Smitten,” we walked 15000 steps.  It all started at nearby Crissy Fields with its path and beach along the bay.  Following that, we tackled one of the stairway walks from the book Stairway Walks in San Francisco by Adah Bakalinsky.  Up the Lyon Street Walkway we went, all 254 steps of it, with landscaped landings (thank goodness!) that allowed us to pause and marvel at the views of the bay, the Palace of Fine Arts, the forests of the Presidio… and the man running up and down the stairs repeatedly!

Capping off that robust walking day was dinner at Greens, a premier farm-to-table San Francisco restaurant, first opened in 1979 ( How long this restaurant, and its chefs and cookbooks, have given all of us culinary inspiration! Greens provides fine vegetarian food, gracious service, and sweet views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge.

Thank you, San Francisco, for continuing to make me smile. What a gift to have you as my hometown– a place of natural beauty, distinct neighborhoods, varied walking possibilities, and such fine food.

                      “One day if I do go to heaven…I’ll look around and say, ‘It ain’t bad but it ain’t San Francisco.”–Herb Caen


P.S. For those who read my last post, the casserole I decided to fix was the Portobello Mushroom and Herb one; it was good!

8 thoughts on “What a City!”

    • It really is. And it’s not only the location that appeals to us; it’s also the kind people who work at the motel so that it feels very welcoming and homey.
      The only “challenge,” at times, is the Lombard Street car noise, but earplugs can help with that!

  • This one really hit home! Born into the Haight Ashbury, all my childhood memories are in and around the places you mention. When I relieve this time with my grandsons, I still see my dad waving to me as I went round and round on the zoo merry-go-round or sat on the steps listening to Sunday band concerts in golden gate park.
    Thank you for sharing your experience and stirring these special memories. San Francisco is not only my beginning but it is bringiing my life full circle. It wraps around me like the fog .

    • Oh, my Kathy, what wonderful memories you bring up for me, too. How lucky we are to have San Francisco as our hometown, and now to
      have it to come back to us with new heart experiences to bring us joy. I love your last line…”it wraps around me like the fog”–wow.
      Thank you!

  • Ah yes, Chestnut Street. Great neighborhood. My son lived on Union Street for years and when we visited we were often walking along Chestnut.
    It does have a hometown feel and great offerings of food and shopping. You have done a wonderful job sharing your favorites. Sounds like you had a magical time.
    Over the years my husband and I have enjoyed many stairway walks, runs near Chrissy Field, visits to the theatre, and riding trolleys around town. We are so lucky to have such a magnificent place to visit and feel at home. In an age where big box stores and chain stores all look alike, it is refreshing to see a neighborhood with unique shops, owner owned vibrant and inviting. You can get a manicure and pedicure at Marina Nails for around $40. And just off Chestnut is a place called Plutos. They have fresh soups, baked turkey sandwiches, and amazing salads that they build for you right before your eyes. If you are looking for a good cup of coffee and a bite to eat The Grove is a local favorite. Hard to find a seat sometimes, but it really gives you a taste of the neighborhood. Yes we love Chestnut street too.

    Lynn I love the way you travel. Immersing yourself in the beauty, the food, the music, the books, the arts of the places you choose to travel. Your sharing allows us all to vicarious experience places where we may never go. Now I must run and tell Rich about Smitten Ice Cream Store. He is, after all, an aficionado. Is that word Italian? 🙂

    • How great, Barbara, that you too know Chestnut Street. And thanks for your hints of where we might go the next time we’re
      up for a visit. It is nice to have a neighborhood to return to that has those small shops you mention, some of which have
      been there for a long time. For example, in the Lucca Delicatessen, I saw one of the people who worked there with her t-shirt
      on that said something like “Three Generations, One Location. Since 1929.” I like that! And about Smitten, be aware that they
      have a few other locations in the city so you could do a Smitten Crawl…Enjoy!

  • This post makes me want to visit San Francisco again. It has been so many years. With the news just covering the negative things happening in your City by the Bay, it makes me happy to hear such sweet, positive, joyful antidotes about this beautiful city. Best bread anywhere!!

    • Yes, San Francisco has its challenges now, as many cities do, but it has an ongoing deep magic that always draws me in. Home!

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