There's no doubt that San Francisco is one of the top cities for restaurants, so I was looking forward to seeing Tony's picks for dining in his San Francisco Layover. Interestingly enough, it was the drinking that really took over the episode (which is also a good thing, indeed).
As Tony checks in to the President's Club at the Fairmont Hotel (keeping it real), he admits he's a hotel whore. By the way, a nice room at the Fairmont will cost you about $500 a night (I checked). If that's too high end, our friend suggests the Unabomber suite at the Hotel Des Arts, where rooms start under $100.
As Tony sets off to meet his friend, chef Ronald Passot, owner of Left Bank, he notes that if Los Angeles is the king of low end eateries and New York dominates
high end, San Francisco is king of the middle. Which means you can get a good meal and still afford the mortgage on your $500,000 one-bedroom condo, apparently.
Tony and Roland go to Swan Oyster Depot, which has
20 stools at the counter and a first come first served policy. In the morning there's isn't a seat to be had for a breakfast of oysters. As Tony tucks into a mix of crab fat and crab roe (the stuff most restaurants throw to the waiting cats), he notes, "If god made anything better he kept it for himself." It's interesting to note that most of the oysters aren't local.
Now that we have a solid base of shellfish, it's time to start drinking...and not stop until the clock runs out. Daytime drinking in San Francisco is a tradition as it is in any great city, so Tony heads to Toronado Pub in lower Haight. With 50 microbrews, 100 bottles, and a no-Greatful Dead policy on the jukebox, it sounds like someplace I'd want to spend my unemployment check at.
As the sun sets, Tony meets chef Chris Cosentino, who is wearing one of the most politically incorrect shirts ever (it reads I Love Foie Gras). They stop at To Hyang for some fish head curry, a mound of pork belly and some home made hooch and house fermented fish. Even Tony asks if that's legal, something he'll ask more than once in this episode. For someone who drank snake blood in Vietnam, it's interesting to note that San Francisco makes our host curious about food safety rules and regulations.
Girl in black: "If I have one tip for tourists, it's never say Frisco or San Fran".
Gee, that makes me want to call the city Frisco from now on. So I will. Tony takes a taxi in Frisco and the cab driver notes that gay people eat and drink in different restaurants and bars..in Frisco. Then he suggests Tony wear a bikini....in Frisco.
They arrive back at The Fairmont (in Frisco), where they go to the awesome Tonga Room, a subterranean Tiki bar built around the original pool. This place has everything...a buffet, a floating stage, and fake thunderstorms. It looks like the bastard child of Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale and Rainforest Cafe...with better drinks. After Tony and his friend Chris polish off a Lava Bowl for two, Tony orders a Bora Bora Horror and a Zombie. Yes..both. He also says "cowabunga," which is something you only say in a cartoon or when you're halfway to shit-faced. Tony slurs a toast to Don Ho..."Hawaiian Elvis, gentle warrior", and starts cursing, so technically the next five minutes of dialogue is....(bleep)! "If you don't love this place, you're sick, twisted, and have too many cats", is basically the only thing that gets past the censors.
Tony leaves drunk,sticky, and reeking of coconut and cherries, which is how I spent my vacation, by the way.
He heads to a pop-up restaurant called Rice, Paper, Scissors, run by Katy Quad and Valerie Lieu, and a bunch of hipster volunteers who don't get paid. Tony notes a few things...first, the pop-up is in an abandoned factory and in New York (or Miami) they would be shut down in a heartbeat. Secondly, there are people working for free. When he questions them on that (and asks whether this is a a restaurant or performance art), the girls counter by asking if he already had a book deal in place when he wrote his first book, Kitchen Confidential. I hear Tony first say that he wrote it as an article (which he did), then he admitted that he didn't think anyone would actually want to read it.
20 hours left. It gets ugly from here.
More drinking is in order, as Tony heads to Li Po Bar in Chinatown, where he downs a few lethal Mai Tais and plays liar's dice (which is the same as liar's poker).
Tony is drunk. And cursing. We hear, "holy shit these things are f**king lethal" and "I'm really glad I don't live in San Francisco because I would be f**king drinking here every night."
Well, we really hear (bleep) ... but I can read lips.
A few bars later, Tony disses food bloggers, noting that they're too intense and too foodie. Couldn't agree more, my intrepid friend and traveler. I personally would choose a dive bar and some street food any day.
With 15 hours left, Tony is totally drunk and needs something to soak up the alcohol. Sam's Burgers fits the bill. Tony orders the double cheeseburger and says its awesome in the same way you say your friends are awesome when you're really drunk. Only difference is that Tony eats his new best friend the cheeseburger.
It's morning in San Francisco, full of possibilities. Pan to Anthony Bourdain passed out on the street. Now, I know that's staged, but somewhere in my heart, I wish to God it really happened. A little food truck Mexican and our fallen hero is awake again, just in time to head back to the hotel on a streetcar and pack for the airport.
Follow Short Order on Facebook and Twitter @Short_Order.