Tom and I thought we knew most of the neighborhoods in San Francisco but this week someone mentioned Dogpatch to me. Curious to know about it, I asked Tom. He had heard of it but didn’t quite know where it was situated. We googled the name and discovered it was south of Market and close to the Bay. We had to go and see for ourselves so, at the first opportunity, we set off to check it out.
(Click on the photos for larger versions)
It’s great to be back on the road again after a long spell of traveling back and forth to Fresno most weekends to see family. Our wandering the highways and byways of Northern California will be limited for a short while yet. It was a clear day in San Jose when we left but a blanket of fog shrouded San Francisco. We drove 101 to 280 and exited on Cesar Chavez and then turned right towards the Port of San Francisco. At 3rd we took a left and wanted to turn left on 22nd but there no left turn so turned right and did a U turn.
Dogpatch is not in the best part of town but things are changing. In its heyday, it was both an industrial and a residential area. Shipbuilding and other related industries were at the heart of the activity but the living areas were close by. The area suffered very little damage in the 1906 earthquake and, in fact, some of the oldest buildings in San Francisco can be found there. After World War II, Dogpatch went into decline but the community spirit survived. Now the area south of Market is being revitalized and Dogpatch is beginning to change too. Slowly new shops and restaurants are opening up, artists are moving in and some of the old houses are being spruced up.
We parked under a beautiful Jacaranda tree on Minnesota in the heart of the historic downtown area. It was chilly when we got out of the car and needed something hot to warm us up. The first place we spotted as we turned onto 22nd was the Piccino Cafe, so we made a beeline for it. It has a very small coffee bar, which is open fronted, attached to the Piccino Restaurant. There were just a couple of tables inside. Apart from the normal range of coffees, expressos and lattes, they had some amazing pastries – cinnamon rolls, ham and gruyere brioche, ricotta torte, prune muffins and ginger snaps. Tom had a coffee and one of their ginger scones (which was yummy) and I had a latte which came with a leaf motif crafted onto the foam. We sat at one of the tables and were the only people to stay and drink our coffee. It was an interesting place with a concrete floor but the open front made it a bit chilly. Above the bar was a big, old red and white sign advertising Allright auto parts.
We really wanted breakfast and just across the way was the Just for You Cafe but it didn’t open until 8. To work up an appetite we took a stroll along 22nd St. On the corner of 22nd and Tennessee is a blue painted, wooden building which houses the Recchiuti Chocolate Lab. According to notices on the window, they will be opening a dessert cafe in September this year. Recchiuti is a delicious locally made chocolate so I can imagine what marvelous dishes they would serve. On the side of the building is a sign which says the building is called the Swan Building and was built in 1886 by Ship Carpenter John Swan.
We turned right onto Tennessee and were immediately on a residential street. The houses were old Victorians which looked a little run down. They were all of different sizes and styles, with small gaps between them and are amazing. Some are three or four stories high and narrow. There is no space wasted with little pathways leading to side doors. There were some concrete steps down to a slightly lower level and a beautiful trumpet vine in full flower framed the steps. The road dead ends in a car park and there we were surprised to see the headquarters of the San Francisco chapter of Hells Angels.
It was time for breakfast so we ambled back to 22nd St. to the Just for You Cafe but there was a problem. A notice on the door said there would be a delay in opening. We decided to hang around for a while and chatted to a few of the people waiting outside. One of the servers came out with coffee to apologize for the late opening and then five minutes later came out to say that unfortunately it would be about two hours before they could open. The exhaust hood was not working and they could not open until it had been fixed as it was a fire hazard. People started to drift away and a young couple with their baby, who we had been chatting with, said that there was a good place for breakfast on Potrero Hill. As it was close by, we took their advice and headed for it on 18th and Texas (we’ll talk about this in the next post).
After breakfast and a little side tour, we returned to Dogpatch and parked on Tennessee St. this time and set off to walk the neighborhood. On the corner of Tennessee and 22nd we noticed a lot of chalk writing on the sidewalk. None of it made sense at all. There were some small crossword grids but also, I guess, some profound statements but I failed to understand their meaning. Some were normal words but the majority I had never heard of. Being me, I wrote down some of the words and looked them up when I got home. Here’s what I discovered – ‘Bodhidharma’ was a Buddhist monk from the 5th/6th century; ‘Fick ‘ could be related to Fick’s laws of diffusion and ‘Shree’ could refer to a Hindu language soap opera. After that mind bending experience we turned our attention to the shops and businesses along the way.
Apart from Piccino Cafe (which I understand serves mighty good pizza) and the Just For You Cafe, there are some other interesting places to try. Fancy Italian? Then try out Marcella’s Lasagneria & Cucino. For a bit of southern cooking visit the Hard Knox Cafe or for home grown Californian cooking, the Serpentine (which doesn’t really look like a restaurant from the outside) serves, I quote, ‘produce & meat from farms & ranches that practice ecologically sound agriculture, whenever possible’. Glancing at their menu I saw they have a cheese board as a starter and that would be enough to get me to go in if I were ready to eat dinner. For something lighter, the Cup of Blues is a coffee shop not too far from where we had coffee this morning or, for a cool treat, then Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous offer an awesome range of ice cream which is made on the premies. Several people this morning have recommended it but it was just not the right time of the day to eat ice cream.
As Dogpatch has become a haven for artists, we simply had to check out what there was to see. There is Rickshaw Bagworks but bags do not interest either of us but we did venture inside The Workshop Residence. Here we saw on display work by various artists – Aurore Thibout’s slip cast porcelain necklaces, bowls and plates; Lauren DiCioccio’s tote bags that are made out of chiffon with embroidered slogans; Jennifer Morla’s felt rugs, partition screens and cushion covers and Martha Davis’ leather and wooden shoes. Everything I saw was unusual, original and available to be bought on the spot.
All this walking and culture made us thirsty so we rounded off the day with a cool drink at the Dogpatch Saloon. Inside it is your typical saloon with a long bar and several television screens silently showing various sports. There were three people sitting at the bar and a couple at one of the tables. We sat at the bar and ordered our drinks – a pint of Guinness for Tom and a pint of Shandy (which is three quarters draught beer and one quarter 7 Up) for me. One of the guys sitting at the bar was a character and very chatty. The Dogpatch Saloon looks as though it has been in business for ages but it has not been a bar for all that long. In a previous existence it was a cafe and behind the bar the old stove and cooking hood can still be seen.
It was time to wend our way home and it has been a very interesting day. We have met and chatted with a variety of very interesting people and enjoyed visiting this remote corner of San Francisco and will certainly come back again. Just got to have a meal at the Serpentine and try out some of that ice cream at Mr. and Mrs Miscellaneous.