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    Little Saigon and Tendernob

    Little Saigon and the Tendernob are two Tenderloin neighborhoods that are home to large immigrant populations and some of the best food in the city. Join us as we take you on the only food tour of this district and explore the flavors of Asia, the Middle East, and beyond!
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Tenderloin Blogs

Little Saigon Food Tour

 From San Francisco Locals Guide by Donna Riley

FARMERS MARKET

FARMERS MARKET

Explore SF

Little Saigon
DONNA RILEY on August 1, 2014 at 6:08 pm
Explore SF does the most varied tours of any San Francisco tour company that I’ve seen. When their Living Social special offer came up, I jumped at the opportunity to take their Explore SF Little Saigon tour. Dan Chew was our amazing tour guide. He has his own super website that details $10 or less meals around the world. It’s REALLY good, and Dan and I have a lot in common as we both have restaurant reviews and similar opinions of many restaurants, like Tito’s Tacos in Los Angeles and Bette’s Oceanview Diner in Berkeley. Dan grew up in Chinatown and, in fact, spent the day before on two fully booked tours of the Chinatown community. We were lucky enough to have Dan to ourselves, so he kindly switched up his tour to accommodate the myriad of tastes available in the Little Saigon area. SO, that means you need to take the tour, as Dan will always be changing and adding stuff. If you’re a foodie, you will love Dan as he is so knowledgeable about San Francisco food.

Officially designated in 2004, the two blocks of Little Saigon are Larkin St. between Eddy and O’Farrell. However, our amazing tour guide, Dan advised that, unofficially, the community goes from Polk to Leavenworth and Golden Gate and Geary. This is NOT a good neighborhood. There are homeless people and beggars and a fair bit of crime. Dan was able to navigate us away from the worst parts, but still, you’re going to see poverty and other unsightly activities. Be forewarned. Makes me wonder where the $25K per year that the city spends really goes.

Zen Yai Thai

Zen Yai Thai

Inside Zen Yai Thai

Inside Zen Yai Thai

Our first stop was Zen Yai where we ate Thai Boat Noodles. Their noodles are my featured image for this posting. Quoting Dan from his kind recap of our time together – “Zen Yai Thai – (771 Ellis Street). Thai Boat Noodles (off menu). Named after the many vendors who sell their noodles from boats plying their trade in the many waterways in Thailand. We had the thick rice noodles with sliced pork, meatballs, Chinese water spinach (Ong Chow in Chinese/Phak Bung in Thai/ Rau Muong in Vietnamese) and pork cracklings in a rich, dark broth made with beef stock, chiles, cinnamon, star anise and thickened with beef blood.” Site of the original United Nations Building.” And people, the bowl of this dish you see in my gallery was $2.50 – two-fifty!!!! The large size is $5!!!!! The soup is just amazing with a unique, spicy flavor. I had never heard of water spinach before. The stems are tubes – very nice texture and a little stronger taste than regular spinach. I’m going back to this and every place we stopped in our Explore SF tour of the Little Saigon area. Please note though, that the clientele is mostly Thai, and the specials on the wall are in Thai, not English.

We walked by Burmese Kitchen where Dan says the food is much better than Burma

Burmese Kitchen

Burmese Kitchen

Superstar, a place in the Richmond district that is impossible to get in to. Try the tea leaf salad when you go. (This is why I liked Dan so much – not only did we taste, but he was so forthcoming on his knowledge of spots we didn’t stop at. I was curious how someone who grew up in Chinatown would have such a knowledge of this neighborhood. Turns out that Dan worked at The Art Institute of California nearby, and he and his colleagues decided to try a different restaurant every day that they ventured out for lunch. And, by the way, there’s now a culinary program at The Art Institute of California where you can go to sample the students’ food on the top floor.) How cool that the Tenderloin Peoples’ Garden is so close by and apparently being fully utilized.

FARMERS MARKET

FARMERS MARKET

FARMERS MARKET

FARMERS MARKET

We went to the Civic Center Farmers Market which I keep forgetting is there. I also thought, with the homeless people so prevalent in this area, that the market would be depressing.

 

However, this isn’t at all the case. The produce is beautiful with a mostly Asian focus. Things like yam leaves, Opo squash that Dan says is great grilled with spinach and ground pork, Indian bitter melon – Indians add these more bitter melons to their stews, and lemon basil – all quite unusual products that I didn’t know about before.

We then proceeded to Saigon Sandwich, a place I’ve been wanting to try for the longest time as it is rated one of the best Banh Mi places in San Francisco. There’s always a line there. They are open seven days a week from 7am to 5pm. Those three women work really hard. According to Dan – “Saigon Sandwiches (560 Larkin Street) Special combination banh mi. Steam pork, roast pork and fanci pork pate (sic) on a crusty roll smeared with a fish sauce/soy sauce/mayo spread then topped with pickled daikon and carrots, fresh cilantro and sliced jalapeños.” This sandwich was $4.25. Their other sandwiches, not combos, are $3.25. No wonder there’s such a line!!!

 

I just loved Lee’s Sandwiches down the street,

FARMERS MARKET

Yam Greens


although we didn’t eat anything there. Filled with sandwiches and buffet items, they also have a large selection of Vietnamese and Asian products as you can see by the myriad of pictures I took when there. It turns out that they’re the largest banh mi chain in the world with over 55 stores and counting.

Dan pointed out Turtle Tower and says to order their Bun Bull Hanoi and the Cha Ha Hoi which is ground and sliced pork over vermicelli with fish sauce. In case I got that wrong and you’re going, it’s the #12 and it costs $8.50. I’m pretty sure that Turtle Tower is one of the highest rated Vietnamese restaurants in SF, at least for this Larkin location. Lers Ros is another highly rated Thai restaurant that’s close by.

Not only did we get a foodie tour, Dan was great about pointing out beautiful old buildings and classic architecture. Among them was, per Dan, “Alhambra Apartments (860 Geary Street). Built in 1913 in the Moorish style by native SF architect James Francis Dunn, the romantic penthouse and dome are where the legendary Rudolph Valentino reputedly entertained his paramours.”

Hai Ki Mi Gia is known for their braised duck leg with wonton egg noodle is well known to those in the know, now including you and me. I’ve added their storefront sign and a cloudy picture of this featured soup.

Then, it was on to A La Turca on Geary near Larkin. From Dan – “Ala Turca (869 Geary Street) Grilled kofte plate: ground meat with seasonings and spices made into patties and grilled. Served with rice and salad.” It was superb. The freshly baked bread had just come out of the oven. As it turns out, when we approached the restaurant, we ran into our old neighbor when we lived in Diamond Heights. He is Turkish, AND his wife owns the business with a partner after several years looking for good Turkish food in the city. Amazing coincidence. Jerry (as we Americans call him) is now working part time in Turkey and part time here in SF. He is truly the entrepreneur. We hadn’t seen him in 11 years. His son is now 15! Jerry kindly treated us to a wonderful a Ravani (sp?) which is not on the online menu. It’s made of corn and semolina flour with coconut and honey and a pistachio topping. It was delicious, especially when paired with the Turkish tea that Jerry gave to us.

Dan pointed out Kim Thanh for garlic roasted crab. I’ve always gone to Thanh Long way out in the Sunset district, but Dan says Kim Thanh’s garlic crab is better and way less expensive.

Castle Apartments
Other sites that one might not otherwise notice in such a strange neighborhood were, again per Dan, “Castle Apartments (823-829 Geary Street) Built in 1926, supposedly designed by Bernard Maybeck, architect of the Palace of Fine Arts. Alcazar Theatre (650 Geary Street). This Moorish/Byzantine masterpiece was originally built as a Shriner’s temple in 1917 by architect T.Patterson Ross.

Gaylord Apartments (620 Jones Street). Designed by architect H.C.Baumann, the ornate pillared Spanish Colonial Revival facade, colorful tiled steps and wrought iron covered windows look as elegant today as it did when built in 1929.”

Dan showed us this completely awesome Jones Bar rooftop spot at 620 Jones Street that one might not normally even both to look up off the street. Hard to see the entrance, this is a really cool place, especially for the younger crowd.

HIP JONES BAR

HIP JONES BAR

ALCAZAR

ALCAZAR

Our last stop was a place that you would NEVER walk into without the knowledge and advice of someone like Dan. Shalimar at 532 Jones is excellent Indian food at very reasonable prices. Dan tells us we were served “Tandoori lamb chops- Lamb chops marinated in yogurt sauce and cooked in the Tandoori oven. Shalimar chawal- basmati rice cooked in a rich stock with savory spices, brown onions and saffron. Garlic Naan”. Oh man was it good, but by this time, we could barely manage small tastes of the three. We left with a to go bag to enjoy at our Giants game that night. And, in just looking up their website, they have four locations, two in SF, one in Fremont and one in Dublin. Maybe that’s why their sign outside says they’re one of the best 50 restaurants in the country???

Go to Explore SF and book a tour. Ask for Dan if you can. I think they’re just super tours, and can’t wait for my next one!!

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This Sunday, come Explore San Francisco and create some wonderful Mother’s Day memories to last a long time.

Take Mom out for a food tour and a cruise on the Bay for only $64!
Choose any of these food tours:

  • North Beach at Night
  • Mission Vegetarian
  • Little Saigon
  • Mission District South (24th Street)
  • The Real Chinatown

Paired with a Bay Cruise on San Francisco Bay!


To make reservations or for more information, please call:415.504.3636 x 102 or email: reservations@exploresf.bizLimited number of spots available
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While making memories to last a lifetime

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Prague flower shop

Prague flower shop (Photo credit: jafsegal)

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Tech Industry, Activists Talk Past Each Other At The Crunchies

Protesters outside of the Crunchies Awards, hold mock awards gala, dubbed, “The Crappies”.

Inside San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall was a packed hall with hundreds of tech’s well-to-do in ties, slacks and cocktail dresses for the so-bad-it’s-good awards show, The Crunchies.

crappies

The Crappies outside of the Crunchies

Outside, there were about 50 protesters, beating drums and awarding toilet plungers as trophies to activists posing as Ron “The Con” Conway and Marissa Mayer for “The Crappies,” their own unofficial version of the event.

While both sides called for solutions, it seemed like the activists and the tech community were largely talking past each other, not with each other.

Here’s what each had to say:

The Tech Side

Ron Conway, the hyper-connected angel investor and “Godfather of Silicon Valley” who has delved into politics recently by founding advocacy non-profit sf.citi, pull out a call to action.

1392105029-the-crappies-protest-tech-outside-the-crunchies-in-san-francisco_3898010

Leslie Dreyer holds a sign with Angel investor Ron Conway who won at the Crappies. Mayor Ed Lee also won as biggest tech fan. Conway spoke at the Crunchies at Davies Symphony Hall and his sf. Citi was a sponsor.

“I want to make sure every person in our region has an opportunity to be part of the new economy. We may not agree with everything the protesters outside have to say, but they do represent anxiety over a widening income gap. My message tonight is that we — that means all of us — must be leaders in tackling the challenges of housing, transportation and education.”

He went on, “We are in this together. Our entire city is in this together.”

Conway had a couple big goals for the tech community this year.

First, he wants tech companies to donate 1 million hours of community service to the region. (Salesforce is already projecting 125,000 hours of service this year.)

He also wanted 1,000 companies to join Marc Benioff’s 1-1-1 effort, where they donate 1 percent of their equity to form a foundation by the time they IPO, 1 percent of their employee hours to community service and 1 percent of their product (if applicable).

He also mentioned two new efforts where tech companies will able to “adopt” a school, and respond to requests for help from the principal or teachers. ”We’ll let the educators tell us what to do,” he said. There are already non-profits around like DonorsChoose, which lets donors respond to specific requests from teachers for help with funding trips or materials, and MissionBit, where developers can teach free after-school programming classes to San Francisco high school and middle school students.

Another effort from Sf.Citi is a matching program where tech companies can donate their extra office space to local San Francisco non-profits.

crappies

Marissa Mayer is named best CEO at the Crappies in part because of her role on Walmart’s Board of Directors. Inside Mayer lost best CEO at the Crunchies to Dick Costolo of twitter.

“Many non-profits are being pushed out of their offices because of costs,” Conway said.In a report last year from the city’s budget and legislative analyst, there are about 6,000 non-profits in the city of San Francisco. In the last two years alone, commercial rental rates have risen by 32.8 percent per square foot, according to the report. About one-third of the non-profits the city surveyed last fall said their leases would be up at the end of 2013,meaning that rising commercial rents would likely eat into their budgets or they would have to move.

The Activists’ Side

Meanwhile, the protesters outside focused on two issues: 1) displacement of longtime San Francisco residents because of rising rents and Ellis Act evictions and 2) a call for tech companies to pay more in taxes to the city.

Tony Robles, who came from San Francisco’s Senior & Disability Action and whose family has lived in the city for five generations, wanted help from the tech community to overturn the Ellis Act at the state level.

“My family has lived through many waves of displacement. We’re from communities that are under attack,” he said. “If you’re an elder living on a fixed income, and you’re evicted, you’ll have nowhere to go.”

The Ellis Act was originally designed for landlords to go out of business, but housing activists say it is being abused in San Francisco by real estate interests who evict longtime rent-controlled tenants in favor of bringing in new, more affluent tenants at higher market rates or turning these units into tenancies-in-common or condominiums.

Ellis Act evictions rose 170 percent to 116 in 2013, from 43 in 2010, according to an October report to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. Activists say that case numbers might be four or five times higher because tenants with little ability to protect themselves like illegal immigrants get pressured into taking under-the-table Ellis buyouts.

Overturning or amending the law is a politically challenging task, however, because it only drastically affects two rent-controlled markets in the state: San Francisco and Santa Monica. That may not create enough political will to overcome the powerful real estate lobby in Sacramento. Nevertheless, state senator Mark Leno is introducing a bill this year to amend the law by allowing cities more flexibility to regulate Ellis Act evictions.

Robles’ wife Lisa Gray-Garcia, an editor at Poor Magazine, also had a long list of suggestionsfor people in the tech community, including: taking public transportation instead of the private shuttle buses, urging employers like Google, Apple and Facebook to stop offering the buses and spending a percentage of their wealth to buy back housing for the elderly and low-income residents who have been evicted.

The second issue frustrating activists was the Twitter tax roll break, which protesters claimed cost the city as much as $600 million in foregone revenues, according to a flyer they passed out.1392105033-the-crappies-protest-tech-outside-the-crunchies-in-san-francisco_3898061-1

In 2011, the city’s Board of Supervisors voted to offer companies with at least $1 million in payroll taxes a partial exemption from the city’s tax if they moved to the Mid-Market area. Twitter and other tech companies like Spotify, One King’s Lane and Zendesk took the deal. At the time, Twitter was threatening to leave the city, in part because payroll tax was the only one of its kind for a city in the state of California (especially the part where the city taxed employee stock options).

The city subsequently reformed the tax to focus on a business’ gross receipts, instead of their payroll size. That new tax structure will be eased in over the next few years.

Opponents of the tax exemption say the city has potentially foregone tens of millions of dollars in revenue from those employee stock options.

But proponents of the exemption say Twitter and other growth-stage tech companies could have moved slightly south, meaning San Francisco would have missed out on these business taxes entirely. (Many of their employees probably would have continued living in San Francisco too, which means there would still be pressure on the city’s housing market.)

San Francisco’s chief economist Ted Egan told the San Francisco Chronicle that the initial deal preserved at least $10 million in base revenue from the company for the city over six years. With unemployment also dropping by half from 2010, San Francisco was able to close a $124 million budget deficit last year, thanks in part to $55 million more from business payrolls and property taxes.

But activists still took issue with taxes, saying that the tech industry has to do more to preserve the city’s socioeconomic diversity and combat a widening income gap.

“There’s a new industry in town and it’s got a lot of money. We have to work for new possibilities in closing the wealth gap,” said Kathy Lipscomb, a Noe Valley resident who has lived in San Francisco for 22 years. “There were 1,600 millionaires created by Twitter. We need money for low-income housing and teachers.”

Lipscomb added that she didn’t necessarily blame individual tech workers.

“Many people in the tech community are very sincere,” she said, adding that she has a nephew-in-law who works for Salesforce. “It’s very nice to give computers. It’s very nice to give time. But what we need is for CEOs to pay their taxes.”
Posted  by  (@kimmaicutler) techcrunch.com

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