Tartine Bakery ***/*****
600 Guerrero St,
San Francisco, CA 94110
If it was mid-September 2013, and if you were looking out for me in Los Angeles — up early/red-in-the-eyes/hunting for coffee/food/love/money/fame — well you’d have a tough time finding me, because actually, I was in San Francisco.
I had been invited to take part in wedding festivities for a lovely couple that had met in Pacific Heights, at a dog park (yes, with their dogs in tow), and I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to start a love story. It’s perfect, just like the Bay City. The place where the winds blow in that crisp, chilling fashion, from off the choppy cobalt saltwater, and the fog glides through the cityscape like a harmless, lost soul (or like me searching for my next burrito). SF is THE destination, and it knows. Its inhabitants know. You know. I know. We all know. San Francisco is better than all of us. Every venture up North, out of the hot, rocky, dusty, hellishness that is SoCal, I’ve often wondered when I could call this place my home.
… A Sunday morning – post-wedding and nearing the end of my 4-day stint in the magical metropolis. It was an uncharacteristically hot and sunny start, and of course, I was wearing sweatpants and a jacket, soaking through both, and by all means a human sponge. I hobbled as best I could along Market Street towards the Mission neighborhood, set to meet with an old friend from L.A. that had since moved to Oregon. Randomly, through the powers of social media, we uncovered that we were both in the city on the same weekend.
The lovely gal pal I was reuniting with — Christine B (follow her twitter here: @tinewilltweet or her tumblr: tinewillfind) is the quintessential hot Asian hip girl with impeccable style, an art history degree (Lord, hear our prayers), motivation, confidence, and one of few Aquarians I’ll even tolerate without having homicidal thoughts. Trusting her fine taste in threads and culture, I didn’t hesitate when she suggested linking up at the famed TARTINE Bakery. Not only that, after briefly grazing the location’s Yelp page, I noted the numerous awards (they even put out cookbooks), and their solid fan-base with their gushing reviews – especially about their so called “morning buns”.
DELETED JOKE: About the kind of ‘morning buns’ that I’ve experienced. Cause for omission? Feared for reputation.
On my way, I had to deal with classic San Francisco obstacles like dodging hobos screaming while pissing acid, rabid zombie pigeons with gimpy wings, and my own personal hangover demons.
As always my ~lifestyle~ had gotten in the way of my punctuality.
INSERT 8mm FLASHBACKS:
– TWO NIGHTS BEFORE – throwing back glass after glass of sauvignon blanc at a pre-wedding cocktail (the bartender just let me pour my own after the third).
– THAT SAME NIGHT: declaring to the wedding photographer that I also considered myself a “professional photographer”, and to see my “catalog” she could just check out my “Instagram”.
– TWO HOURS LATER – Passing out in the hotel room after exclaiming I’d be heading out for a night on the town.
– THE NIGHT PRIOR — Me leading a rousing dance circle at the wedding party with an array of women, twisting and grinding to Daft Punk (apparently, they’re wedding DJ fodder now), meanwhile dousing my throat with champagne between every whiskey drink and Pacifico.
So, with all that still lingering, I was definitely feeling a whole lot less “Get Lucky” and way more “Get Pukey” — but I persevered.
Stepping around a mother and child who were letting the expletives fly amid “hella “ this and “hella” that, I finally reached the renowned bakery. I could barely see the polished black-painted, wooden exterior since there was a SWARM OF HUMANITY spewing out the entrance, along the side of the place, and then AROUND the corner. My heart stopped. I couldn’t dare stand in line with the rest of these San Francisco hipsters, who have always had a Pop-eye The Sailor Man aesthetic pre-Spinach. So, these men are not that exciting, but you could see the potential if they could ever graphically design their ass to a gym or something.
Amidst my panic, Christine poked her head out of the front door and waived with a big grin. I happily nodded at the mass indie masses, before slipping myself ahead of them in line.
Once inside, the intoxicating aroma of sweet, baked goods filled my nostrils, and sparkled my brain — display cases adorned with sinful cinnamon buns, crusty croissants, flagrantly flakey pastries cascaded in chocolate, chewy tarts swirled with cream and topped with shingles of cocoa. If you’re a dessert psycho, then this is your spot. For me though, choosing sweets have recently gone the way of the West African Rhino (dead and extinct forever).
As I reached the counter to order, a hot, dreaded white boy (a thing I have, I know it’s weird, and probably offensive to most of you) was impatiently waiting my decision. I ultimately went with a savory choice, the croquet-monsieur – a traditional cheesy, open faced sandwich with ham and the mother sauce, béchamel.
“WE ONLY GOT TURKEY.” He yelled to my face. I don’t know why he was yelling. And the turkey option wasn’t exactly thrilling, so maybe he was just as disappointed about it as I was. Flustered with all these menu items since they were in French (curse my lack of worldliness!), I gave up and went with turkey. And because I’ve no regard for my gut or butt, I ordered one Morning Bun – essentially a cinnamon bun, but with hint of orange. Oh, and a larged iced coffee (durrhurr). Upon being mischarged $37 for my three items, then recharged $20 (still steep), I joined Christine and her rather tall (6’7?) ginger boof outside on some lazy patio dining arrangement.
I dug into my Croque. It was fine. Nothing special. A little creamy, and the béchamel was slightly bland. The bread was also TOO crisp, where the roof of your mouth gets cut the fuck up like you bit into some tainted razor blade apple on Halloween night. It didn’t matter though, because ‘Tine and I were wrapped in conversation, so much so that I didn’t touch my sweet bun. I boxed it to go. As we left the bakery, I looked back at the enormous line still feeding into the establishment – impressive set up and clientele, but overall, overrated. Maybe it was the turkey, and I was sure I’d need to give it another go, but as for now: TARTINE, you say? Well, I say, more like, FART-INE.
As if fate was leading me to erase the sad meal I just had from my brain, we walked to their friends row house, where I was introduced to “the dab”. The dab is the ultimo way to make use of cannabis oil — by flaming a metal plate, stabbing the needle of oil into it, and inhaling the vapor. Considering there was a blowtorch involved, it was a little too complex (and crack-headish) for me (these Frisco techies and their weed devices tho). However, my Morning Bun trade-in for a couple dots was completely worth it. Besides, what’s the point of swaying around the Mission if you ain’t slightly strung-out? Everyone else damn sure is. Besides, I AM ON VACATION. And to celebrate that, I also bought a Harley Davidson tank at this well-curated vintage spot, Afterlife.
When I departed Christine, sharing hugs and farewells, I took my expanded worldview to Dolores Park, scaling the grassy hill, passing picnickers (cute), kids giggling and playing tag (awww), loving couples doing drugs together (sort of cute? idk), and found a dry patch to sit on. It over-looked the park, and San Francisco unfurled in the distance — the Transamerica Pyramid poking out of the cityscape.
As I stared off at the congregation of shirtless, gay men sunning themselves nearby, a cooling breeze swirled by, rattling me. It reminded me I had to leave soon, to go back to the real world, back to L.A. But I wasn’t disappointed, rather I was relieved. For some reason, at this moment, I decided San Francisco wasn’t a tangible place for me. At least, not at that very instant, and not in the near future. It was a paradise, for sure, but like paradise, only a dream. The essence of SF sticks with you, much like when you’ve just woken from that deep sleep, trying to remember the images that flashed across your mind’s eye during the slumber. Yet all you’ve held onto is an indescribable feeling. A literal je nai sais quoi. It’s never real enough to grasp — much like the fog itself that stretches through and consumes the city — so thick, seemingly solid, but ultimately, unable to be embraced.
And much like Tartine and that croque-of-shit-monsieur… to me San Francisco just looked better than it actually tasted.