A Day in Dogpatch, Potrero Hill, and Environs – October 2017

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The Grove

Last summer, the fast-casual mini-chain The Grove opened an outlet in a 3,600-square-foot, ground-floor, space at Equity Residential’s 241-unit apartment complex, located at One Henry Adams, on Showplace Square traffic circle’s southeast side. The cafe joins a small fleet of popular locations in Hayes Valley, Yerba Buena, and Pacific Heights.

The Grove’s broad menu of comfort food is as long as an East Coast diner’s, but identifiably Californian, despite spanning dishes as diverse as Steel-Cut Irish Oatmeal, Chinese Chicken, Seasonal Vegetable Lasagna, Traditional Mexican Enchilada, and Chicken Pot Pie. I haven’t sampled enough items yet to make a particular recommendation. It’d be a mistake for a reviewer to linger too long over the food anyway. This isn’t to say that the food isn’t good, but the eatery’s real function is to be hospitable. Serving continuously from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, it has something for everyone – including beer, wine, coffee, and an all-day breakfast – and plenty of room to stretch out, with a huge, heated patio outside and an indoor fireplace with comfortable seating amid eclectic decor. It’s not just a restaurant. It’s a fairly persuasive and inviting hangout.

McRoskey Mattress Company

In Dogpatch, one of the more deeply off-the-beaten-path attractions, and therefore one I knew I had to check out as soon as I learned of its existence, is the factory tour at the McRoskey Mattress Company, 1400 Minnesota Street. McRoskey opened for business in San Francisco in 1899. A hundred years later, it moved its manufacturing operations from its three-story building on Market Street, now a showroom, to a 32,000-square-foot warehouse between 25th and 26th streets. Anyone with an interest in Dogpatch’s still vibrant manufacturing community, or simply in the making of a top-notch American product, can schedule a tour of the facility:  415.874.7521; factorytours@mcroskey.com.

Producing about 40 made-to-order mattresses a week, McRoskey is neither a tiny atelier nor an industrial behemoth. It’s a middle-sized business with 27 employees, including 18 union factory workers, and a proud commitment to its tradition of quality. For instance, while most mattresses today are single-sided so as to reduce manufacturing costs and hasten obsolescence, McRoskey’s are tufted on both sides and can be flipped and rotated for even wear.

My tour was led by Robin Azevedo, the company’s owner, granddaughter of one of its founders. She took me from the sewing and cutting room to the factory floor, where the innerspring coils are shaped, baked in a massive oven at 450 degrees for 25 minutes, and strung together before they’re wrapped in endless layers of combed cotton and recyclable polyester, or wool and natural latex, depending on which product the customer has selected. Some of the machinery is brand-new; others date from the 1940s. I’d never before spent a moment of my life considering what goes into mattresses, but now, captivated, I absorbed terms like “airlet” and “hog ring.” McRoskey’s mattresses cost between $1,000 and $5,000. My own cushion is a cheap piece of junk, but the tour gave me something to think about, in case I become a grownup someday.

Dutchman’s Flat Medical Cannabis Dispensary

For the View’s marijuana issue, it occurred to me that I might want to pay a thematically appropriate visit to Dutchman’s Flat Medical Cannabis Dispensary, 2544 Third Street, but I quickly realized that, without a marijuana prescription, I wouldn’t be able to get in. From opening to closing, the store has a guard posted at the entrance, checking medical identifications. Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with the owner, Robert Watson, a nice guy who’s passionate about cannabis. He let me onto the premises before opening to take a look.

Watson isn’t only a retailer but a grower, determined to learn as much about the plant’s complexities as he can, and to produce organic, sun-grown marijuana with minimal – or, someday, positive, he hopes – environmental impact. He loves sharing his knowledge, and told me that, by harvest time this month, Dutchman Flat’s menu of “flowers” – $9 to $20 per gram; the stuff most of us think of when we contemplate pot – will come entirely from his Sonoma County farm.

Owing to my inexperience, I wasn’t sure whether Dutchman’s Flat would feel like a pharmacy, liquor store, or something else entirely. In fact, on the inside it looks like a high-end boutique with a typically Dogpatch aesthetic. The menu is electronically projected onto a white-painted brick wall below a high ceiling with exposed pipes and ducts. It carries a wide range of products – edibles, vaporizers, oils, hashish – but unlike some dispensaries, it doesn’t have a license to allow marijuana consumption on premises. When recreational sales become legal, the only thing that’ll change will be that the bouncer will be checking identification for age rather than medical cards.

Mission Creek Signs

I was recently strolling along Mission Creek’s south shore, a pleasant walk in and of itself, just above Channel Street, when I stumbled upon Mission Creek Signs, a project undertaken by second-graders at the San Francisco Friends School South-of-Market, with the goal of educating passersby about local wildlife and the perils they face on account of littering and pollution. I’d wager that the signs have been around for a long time. I just didn’t notice them till now; maybe you haven’t seen them either.

The signs are brightly illustrated, admirably informative, and sturdily installed, which may have required some help from teachers or parents. Did you know that sculpins, green crabs, red-tailed hawks, and nudibranchs all live in or around Mission Creek? I wasn’t familiar with what a nudibranch was until one of the signs told me. Apparently, it’s a “delicately colored” type of sea slug that can grow up to 16 inches long and live as long as one year. The “bizarre outgrowths” on its body are called “cerata.”

Khai

The fanciest meal I’ve had in recent memory was at Khai, 655 Townsend Street, a reservations-only Vietnamese restaurant that opened at the end of 2016, serving a 10-course tasting menu for $95. The chef, Khai Duong, previously helmed Ana Mandara, which lasted 12 years in Ghirardelli Square until a rent hike ended operations. Now, Duong is cutting costs and putting the savings back into the cuisine. When Khai opened it shared space with the independently run Bonjour Patisserie in a configuration reminiscent of restaurant-nightclub combinations, with the bakery opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 3 p.m., leaving a two-and-a-half-hour window for Duong to transform the space into a fine-dining establishment before the first seating.

Bonjour Patisserie has since closed permanently, but the interior at 655 Townsend still has a distinctly makeshift quality, with a long black curtain closing off a considerable portion of the small space, leaving diners to occupy a row of tables that line the two narrow, perpendicular corridors alongside the central square of mystery, which I think functions as an extension of what must be a tiny kitchen in back. When I visited, the chef’s affable, tie-wearing, son, who looked to be about 12, was manning the maitre d’ stand. At times during the meal the chef came out to help the wait staff, serving some of the courses himself. It makes for an unusual experience at such a high-end eatery, but it’s sort of a relief to know that what you’re paying for, truly, is the fragrant, beautiful food, which was delicious and varied in a way that sustained my interest over the course of the nearly three-hour occasion. I left feeling neither overstuffed nor underfilled but quite precisely fed. I especially liked the salad of texturally striking white seaweed, imported from Vietnam, and the lamb. Alongside Omakase, Okane, Dumpling Time, and Saap Ver Thai, Khai has helped make the Design District into a surprising new hotspot for high-level Asian cuisine in San Francisco.

Tip: if you’re assigned the table right by the front door – which opens, without a vestibule or barrier, into the cold, windy San Francisco night – don’t worry about it, seriously. I saw two couples bully the host – who, let us not forget, was a child – into giving them better seats when he initially tried to put them by the door. I wondered later whether they’d realized their mistake. Under normal circumstances, sitting near the door at a restaurant is undesirable because people are constantly coming and going. But Khai only has two seatings a night, at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Everyone sits down simultaneously, eats the same ten courses from an ever-changing prix-fixe menu, and leaves around the same time. The normal disadvantage of sitting by the door is negated because no one is using it during your meal; it isn’t letting any cold air in. In fact, it was a little warm inside the restaurant, if anything.