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  • Little Saigon

    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!
  • The Mission

    The Mission District

    San Francisco's 1st neighborhood, The Mission District is still the heart & soul of this vibrant city. This area is so rich in culture, that we have 4 Mission food tours & 2 neighborhood walks.
  • North Beach

    North Beach

    North Beach is that rare thing -- a neighborhood that manages to be a perennial hit with tourists, and also to remain beloved by San Franciscans. It's San Francisco's Little Italy and the home of the beatniks.
  • Scenic Running

    Scenic Running

    Just a short run from the urban landscape of San Francisco's busy city streets you will find numerous trails and parks offering phenomenal views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the City Skyline and other gems.
  • Chinatown

    Chinatown

    Established in the 1840s, San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. Our food and walking tours are 2nd to none.
  • Parrots!

    Parrots!

    Wild Parrots in San Francisco? Yes there are officially at least two flocks of wild Parrots here. These Parrots have evolved into a brand new species of parrot indigenous to San Francisco.

Walking Tour 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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EXPLORE San Francisco: The Folsom District

Folsom District Walking Tour- Free Event…

Public Event · By Explore San Francisco

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  • Sunday July 1st 2012
  • 1:15pm until 3:00pm
  • Meet on Mission Street at 4th
  • Adults only
  • Sign up on Facebook

We’ll start in the heart of the old SOMA District, “South Of the Slot”. See this blue collar neighborhood
as it used to be, before re-development.

Then we will travel to a former gay entertainment strip, the area
is now commonly called, “Crack Alley”.

Before it is destroyed forever, see the fantastic Hugo Hotel and
the world famous art installation known as, “Defenestration”. Watch out for falling furniture…

Next up, we’ll cruise the 1970′s “Miracle Mile” of the Folsom District. This area was Mecca for the Gay Leather community
and withstood re-development and thrived for a couple decades until the AIDS crisis of the
1980′s decimated much of the population, leaving the
community weakened and vulnerable.
The Folsom Street Fair was created
out of this crisis, and is the largest leather/fetish event in the
world and the third largest, single-day outdoor event in California.

English: Folsom Street Fair banner (simplified...

Folsom Street Fair banner

We will see the Fairgrounds but we are really here to celebrate the Folsom’s heyday. During that time this area bosted over 30 gay bars and bathhouses, as well as lesbian bars, shops, hotels, retail, private sex clubs, eateries and motorcycle clubs. This was called the “Valley of the Kings”, and you will see why.

We will stop at Wicked Grounds ‘kink” coffee shop for refreshments and snacks.
Shopping stops are at Mr. S Leather and Good Vibrations.
Many more stops and places of interest are included on this “one of a kind” tour.

This tour ticket does not include the Armory. Please see The Folsom District & The Armory listing if you would like to attend this tour.

For further information please call 415.793.1104 or email info@exploresf.biz.

This is a free event but guides will gladly accept tips.

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http://exploresf.biz/folsom.html


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“Explore Pride Tours 2012”

 

Pride 2012

Gay owned and operated,Explore San Francisco is pleased to announce Pride Tours 2012. Want to see the city above and beyond the parade, festival and the clubs? We offer the GLBT community tours and sightseeing within our community but outside of the box. Food tours, walking tours, running tours, 1970s Folsom District walk, or even porn studio tours. We accomodate groups and we offer sightseeing with transport provided by van service, SUV or town car. You may find the perfect choice from our regular itinerary or let us create something special for you. Please call the Pride Desk at 415.793.1104 or email pride@exploresf.biz

Scenic Running

Scenic RunningSan Francisco is the perfect city for running, incomparable scenery, varied terrain and mild temperatures. Take one of our scheduled runs or let us lead you on a custom run.

 

North Beach & Chinatown

North Beach & Chinatown at NightThis tour is very social, we have fun and friendships are made. Maybe its the wine or exotic teas, good food, the company or the vibrant area, but if youre looking for a great evening, you cant go wrong with this fun event.This is part of our regular line up, 4 or more and well have a GLBT outing.

 

Neighborhood Tours

Side StreetsSan Francisco, California is one of the most walkable cities in the country. We have walking tours all over the city. Choose from our regular line up of tours, or let us design something for you. 415.793.1104

 

Folsom- Armory

Folsom DistrictRelive the 1970s Miracle Mile and The Folsom District in all of its glory. See just the Folsom or combine this with a tour of the SF Armory, home of Kink.com. Select tours go to Treasure Island MediaUpon Request

 

Upon Request

Anniversary or birthday celebration, Pride Party to never forget, personal milestone, marriage proposal, business proposal, romantic evening or just something new and different. Give us your vision and let us expertly and meticulously make your extraordinary event a lifetime memory. 415.793.1104

Shuttle, Van, Towncar

Shuttle, Van or Town CarANapa, The Russian River, Black Sand Beach, or San Gregorio are all popular GLBT destinations within driving distance. We have transportation for any size group. Please call the Pride Desk for these spots or anywhere else you might like to see! 415.793.110

via “Explore Pride Tours 2012”.

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