Let me tell you a little story about my first ever date.
We both attended SFSU at the time, met at the M bus stop in front, and ran on down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Gleaning from his profile that he gamed, I suggested the Musée Mécanique, an antique arcade games museum with the oldest pieces dating to the 1800s. On the way we talked philosophy and personal interests, bussing to the Embarcadero and walking the rest. The ocean was absolutely gorgeous and Laughing Sal as terrifying as ever.
He annihilated me at Skeeball, the only arcade game I’m even passable at, and nostalgically explained the influence of the 80s and 90s games on the modern scene. I quite easily touched on one of his passions; he greatly enhanced my love for city exploration. Very suddenly, a lot of affection was floating around.
We walked through North Beach to Chinatown, talked about our families and our shared love for four letter words, got dinner, and made out at the Powell Street stop. If I recall correctly, the food didn’t sit right with either of us…
…but I might not. Four and a half years later, we’re sitting in opposite rooms of our one bedroom in Sunset, both of us too currently loaded on cold medicine to be bothered with that. Needless to say, it went well.
If that story’s too corny for you, I recommend planning out your day like mine (but with less Dayquil, probably): hold your loved one tight and play some more modern games. The passion hasn’t ebbed for boyfriend, who is now a games journalist; last night we played a new-to-us version of Tetris Attack until we unlocked all the characters. I’m still terrible with most games but decent with 90s nostalgia: lately this Jazz Jackrabbit emulator has been doing the trick for me.
The city is as magical as you make it, friends. I hope you feel as blessed as I do today. ❤
Don’t eat dairy? Hayes Valley has you covered! Patxi’s Pizza offers Daiya cheeze and allergen menus on request. (They do normie pizzas, too, including some impressive lasagna-deep deep dishes.) Smitten Ice Cream has somehow created dulce de leche popsicles from coconut milk that taste pretty close to the real thing. They pride themselves on a technique involving liquid nitrogen that minimizes ice crystals in the treats, and you can definitely taste the difference: they’re unbelievably thick. Hayes and Octavia.
The Valley’s honorable mention: Hayes Market, two blocks up on Buchanan, sells Earth Balance boxed macaroni (so does Amazon, never fear!). It’s about as close to Kraft as the nondairy population can get. Mix up a box and think about all the cows you’re helping!
If you’re into natural history- and who isn’t?- head straight for the best science museum in town, the California Academy of Sciences. Features include a dedicated research room (!), a four story replica of a rainforest canopy with free range butterflies, and an enormous underground aquarium with cute little fishies from most parts of the globe. Music Concourse Dr.; nearest cross street outside the park: 9th.
Pro tip: Golden Gate Park is just close enough to the Haight to bounce between the two for food, and there’s plenty of open seating outside the museum. Treat yourself to a crunchy picnic while the nice weather holds, and chase it with some hot jasmine tea at the Japanese Tea Garden right across the street!
What moves the Academy from the best science museum in town to the best science museum ever? Livestreams. If you want to see penguin feedings without navigating a small army of strollers, they’ve got you covered. Like fish but don’t like feeling claustro in a basement? Boom. Kind of skeeved by the concept of sharks swimming underneath your walkway? Rest assured that they definitely can’t get you here.
No, really… that’s their aesthetic. Butter offers a variety of saucily named drinks consisting of hard liquor mixed with things you could pick up at Walgreens, generously offered free popcorn and jello shots, and two food menus: Microwave and Deep Fried. Ambiance includes the back end of an RV as decor, a live DJ (mostly mixing 80s standards while I was there), and two separate projections of extreme sports wipeouts. Sunday night karaoke is always on the calendar! Small cover charge; 11th between Folsom and Harrison.
For better or for worse, Butter is extremely open about their choice of ingredients; you can replicate the look and feel at home very easily. Simply throw out some luau lights, turn up the Oak Ridge Boys really loud, and buy drink ingredients that will make your paleo friends cringe! Or check out some slightly more dignified, probably better-for-you locally made booze: I can’t recommend Sonoma Hatchet highly enough.
If hot sauce is your thing, you’re in for an excellent time at Hot Licks, offering both a tasting bar and a wide variety of local brands. I’d recommend Palo Alto Firefighters’: donates to a good cause and pairs with almost everything. And right downstairs is a perfect view of the sea lions! Pier 39, upper left.
Pro tip: Pier 39 isn’t for everybody, but the slow, packed F line is definitely the worst thing about it. Catch the 8 or the 47 instead: both will drop you closer to Fisherman’s Wharf, only about four blocks away.
The Hot Licks website is a little smaller in scope, but their customer service is excellent: I’ve never waited more than a week for a package and have never received a damaged bottle. Or why not try cooking something that compliments your hot sauce collection perfectly? This is my household’s go-to pulled pork recipe; the only catch is that you have to keep an eye on it for a solid eight hour stretch. Heaven forbid.