A San Francisco Street Transformed by Food

Once an area many avoided, a long-decaying stretch of Market Street is undergoing a revitalization, owing to culinary, tech and real estate interests.

Comments: 49

  1. Where is Herb Caen when we need him?

  2. Herb Caen is dead.....along with the myth that surrounds his legacy. Take it from this former San Franciscan, Herb Caen injured countless people in his column by revealing private information he received from countless snitches who betrayed the confidence of their "friends".

    Lost jobs, unnecessary divorces, and public humiliation ensued from Caen's column. May he not rest in peace!

  3. Herb Caen was to San Francisco what Truman Capote was to New York-- a talented writer, an "icon" to many, but underneath he was a gossip fiend and a very bitter man. I agree with Mr. Kittle as I was there, too.

  4. No doubt rolling in his grave. I think it almost a good thing that he went before he saw San Francisco morph into the parody of itself that it has become. The food not withstanding.

  5. Just spent a month in San Francisco. One day I walked from the corner of Dolores Street to the Ferry Building by way of Market Street. It was truly a walk of sociological significance. Each block seemed to have a a distinct flavor all of its own.

  6. Larkin Street is definitely dirtier that that stretch of Market. I also think Division is pretty filthy. Come to think of it, O'Farrell is also pretty gross. What were we talking about again?

  7. Many of us have personally 'written off' San Francisco as any daytime destination to travel or commute to, despite it's 'easy' geographic proximity. Years ago the traffic was brutal and now today one can just forget parking. So we have left it to 'tourists' with $$$$ and those in technology who likewise have the means, at least a brief period of time. I feel queasy and ill at ease typing this, however most of the Bay Area is like this now. Needless to say, all of the artists, writers, and thinkers, have left long ago and were priced out.
    We just read the needs feeds online that report weekly if not daily on the new bizarre cost of a small 'studio apartment' there in the thousands of dollars. We ( Americans ) just never ever seem to do anything right or in balance or with a sense of the 'whole' or community being center focus. I hate mean streets, fouled community spaces just as I do eight ( 8 ) lanes of gridlocked traffic, stratospheric housing prices, and short-term small minded corporations buying up the entire City. No way do I desire to go there!

  8. This puff piece on San Francisco may help the tourist industry but does nothing for the sake of balanced journalism. The current high tech boom in The City has forced up rents and property values inciting a frenzy of greed in the real estate market forcing thousands out of their homes.

    Another victory for capitalism and the 1% who control everything!

  9. This is the most accurate comment thus far.
    When Hurricane Katrina rolled over New Orleans, it cleared out all the poor people overnight, gentrification does it over several years but the outcome is the same. Without housing for the poor, the poor can't stick around to cook for, serve and clean up behind the rich.

    We saw exactly how miserable life is without the working poor that the rich depend on and exploit. It was years before there were enough workers in New Orleans to reopen all the restaurants, shops, bars, tourist attractions etc. because there were no places for them to live in the area.

    The same thing happens on a slower scale when the rich are raking in millions but paying the ones who do all the real work, the hard work, the dirty work, the soul crushing work in a city are only paid crumbs, not enough to even live in the cities where they work.

    The article talks about the urine in the streets and many commenters echoed the observation but no one mentioned that many of those homeless people urinating in the streets have jobs in the area that do not pay enough to be able to afford a place to live with a bathroom!

    $8,000 a month rent for a 2 bedroom? That is piracy, usury, corruption, greed, inhumanity! Time to put a limit on greed in this country because the greed of the few is what causes poverty for the masses.

  10. Sure, the poor go out to restaurantes at least 2 times a week. Who is kidding whom. It's painful to watch as The Mission becomes gentrified and now that stretch of Market Street. The digital worms have infested San Francisco, the Lower-East Side of Manhattan and they're coming to the Bronx.

  11. Lovely obit piece for Market Street

  12. I take a walk down Market St most every morning I am in SF to get coffee and rabanada at Dallesio and dine at Zuni at least once. Sometimes I am with my husband or son, most of the time solo. There were always a few really seedy blocks which were a little scary, especially when windy but I could always hop on the F, take a cab or now Uber if I feel unsafe or my feet hurt. But that is my choice as a visitor now to a city I love. The twitterization cannot be underestimated. One man's blight is another man's SRO. How many SROs have been leveled or gentrified in the past decade? Another oligarchy.

  13. "How many SROs have been leveled or gentrified in the past decade? Another oligarchy." None, actually. They're protected by SF's ludicrous rent control ordinance.

  14. writing from SF right now - used to live there and work close to this section of Market. Even with all these upgrades, the area is still pretty creepy IMHO, with drugged out people congregating, sleeping, and, sadly, using the streets for bodily functions. It's hard to see why SF is still such a mess with all the money pouring in, the gentrification, the RENTS.

  15. Food is the mother of invention. Everyone is becoming a foodie, including the tech elites since they have way too much DI (Discretionary Income), and can fuel whatever trend is HOT in SF.
    The center of tech has been very much the center of food innovations.

  16. The article mentions $100k salary range. But let's be realistic about it. Just a $100k salary is not going to get you very far in the SF neighborhoods. One would have to make more, WAY more, than that in order to afford all the overpriced restaurants and markets springing up in the area. All of which leads one to wonder how many of those are just keeping up with the joneses. Just because someone is charging you a lot for a sitdown does not mean the food is good. The article talks about the various new restaurant choices in this erstwhile blighted area, but does the food really live up to the prices? This is a food column, I was expecting far more than how much I'm charged, but how good the food really is.

  17. [[Even the marketing material for the new Nema towers, a 754-unit luxury apartment complex with monthly rents topping out at close to $8,000 for a two-bedroom, uses food as a selling point.]]

    A hundred thousand a year for a rental?

    Wow!

  18. I work in the hood. Been to some of the places mentioned in the article including The Market. It and some of the others mentioned are certainly in-places for the herd that confuses wildly overpriced eats with good food.

  19. As a SF resident, the changes along Market Street are welcome; but they have come with a price. If the trend continues, the Tenderloin - which is adjacent to Market St - is going to be transformed and sooner rather than later. This isn't to argue that the drug and crime infested area could not use transformation but to note that the change will take place at the expense of the City's poorest residents. Of course, many do not care what happens to the TL, as they (and I to a certain extent) view the Tenderloin as a blight on the City. But for a city that prides itself on its self-proclaimed "San Francisco values" this transformation will come as an emotional wrench; but not too much of a wrench, I think, as increased tax revenues will soothe the pain.

  20. City-subsidized low income housing options for the displaced local residents on some of vacant or otherwise available development sites in the TL may be one option to consider. Do any of the prosperous capitalists moving in want to lobby for that?

  21. That stretch of Market Street is a true urban blight. I am not a fan of the displacement caused by gentrification generally, but any objection to this is too little too late. Where was the opposition when working people were priced out of almost every other liveable neighborhood in SF? Market Street is literally a latrine (literally) and the addicts and homeless who live there need help and relocation, not protection from displacement.

  22. The negative comments regarding my former home town, San Francisco (1971-1977) all ring true.

    There seem to be many Americans who are so disenchanted with living in the United States they may be ready for a change of venue. Moving to Provence 12 years ago was the best decision of my life.

    For like minded people, I suggest you try staying 90 days in a country of your choice and see if you would like a fresh start in life.

    Young people just finishing high school or college can work or study one year in a foreign country before they commit to a career in America.

    This article about upscale San Francisco does not speak to many people's lives. If you think your dream may lie in another culture, don't wait any longer to find out. Bonne chance!

  23. A shout out to Zuni Café. The first place I ever tasted black bean soup, eons ago, and I've never had any that tasted better since. I adored everything about the place and never gave the location a second thought.

  24. This idyllic description only lacks the sight of homeless people, the clutter of trash, and the scent of urine in the air.

  25. Let them eat cake says Suvir Saran. The only thing he got right was comparing the TL to Mumbai or Delhi: the fragrance of raw sewage, the rich obliviously sidestepping the multitude living on the sidewalk and food fit for royalty.

  26. It's worth pointing out that this neighborhood (where I work) is essentially being designed for the use and enjoyment of the wealthy.

    The Market, the food store located in Twitter's building, is a high-end super-fancy organic-only joint that makes Whole Foods look like a bargain ($12 sandwiches that don't include cheese or any fixings, a hot bar where you can easily drop $20 on a soup and salad); the city is crowing about how the neighborhood now has "the supermarket it needs," but this is shockingly tone deaf.

    The restaurants in the area are much the same. As long as I've worked here, I've complained about the lack of decent sandwich joints, but at least now we have lots and lots and LOTS of fancy sit-down establishments where I can spend 90 minutes and $45 on my lunch. You know, if I'm not in the mood for a $12 sandwich.

    I'm glad the tech workers who work IN THAT VERY BUILDING enjoy having a high-end market and a bunch of high-end restaurants. Now they don't have to worry about tripping over any homeless people on their way outside (where, by the way, the sidewalk still stinks overwhelmingly like urine and hosts a dozen panhandlers at any given time.)

  27. Suvir Saran is living in an alternate reality when he states that food is a powerful tool to help develop the neighborhood, home to some of S.F.'s poorest residents and the wealthy tech employees who work there. Mr. Saran says that "food can bring these sides together in ways that are very important."

    Really, Mr. Saran? Please enlighten us how the poor are being served in an area that only caters to the wealthy? Does improved dumpster diving count?

  28. You missed this part?

    "About 15 percent of its employees are referred by the Office of Economic Workforce Development here, and another 10 percent are hired through Goodwill Industries International, said Grace Cha, the human resources manager for the company."

    And these establishments are now paying higher taxes to city coffers which can in turn fund more services for those who need them.

  29. Yep. It's ok if you're a billionaire, as a middle class academic who recently left the Bay Area because it's unlivable below about a $300,000 per year salary, plus the wealthy are not good neighbors.

  30. How do you know that the taxes will be used to fund more services for those in need?

  31. Most of the people who live in the Tenderloin are minimum wage workers who serve some of the wealthiest parts of SF including Union Square and Nob Hill.
    They live in SROs (Single Resident Occupancy) units. Basically a single room for a couple or family with a shared bathroom down the hall and dinner cooked on a hot plate that does not require first, last and a deposit.
    These buildings were meant to house transient construction workers who helped rebuild following the 1906 fire and earthquake. Now they also house some our most fragile citizens including those with severe mental illness who depend on the state of California for support and don't have the tools to advocate for themselves.
    Maybe one day instead of avoiding eye contact with those who find their community on the sidewalk on your way to dining at the Market, try serving lunch at St Anthony's then sit down and share a meal there with the local residents. You'll learn something about that person, the neighborhood and maybe yourself.

  32. If San Francisco had anything resembling sensible land use policy then there wouldn't be ubiquitous gentrification and housing would be far more affordable. When a city grows it can expand two ways: up or out. San Francisco has chosen the latter by making it near impossible to build anything more than a 4 story apartment or a loft conversion. It turns out it's hard to fit the thousands of new people coming to SF into existing housing and when you constrict supply prices go through the roof.

    When you have 1/4 the population density of Manhattan and pay more in rent, you know you're doing something wrong....

  33. Not so true about the 4 story limitation. Right across the street from Twitter is a new gazillion story residential building. It's probably unaffordable for working class folk, but perfect for Twitterati. In fact, new residential units are being built on every vacant plot or abandoned gas station from Van Ness Avenue to the Castro. The no-man's land in which Twitter resides is truly changing. It's sad that it's so expensive there though.

  34. In my lifetime, San Francisco has always been impressed with itself and indeed for that reason drew me there often as both a guest and resident. But, "dining out" today? Sadly, the inward personal nature of "technology" has changed much of that: look your further than the ubiquitous and signature hard chairs, wooden table-tops, and everyone staring at their devices. One could be anywhere other than "Baghdad by the Bay" ~ indeed just any third-world country would do as well. So far, though, the clones of Steve Jobs haven't destroyed the view outside . . .

  35. As far back as I can remember, (late 70's), SF has always had a significantly large homeless population, an essence of Eau de Urine in many public places and way overpriced just about everything, especially housing. Trendy restaurants, cafes and bars were mushrooming in SOMA and along Market St. decades ago. Other districts such as the Mission, the Haight and Potrero Hill were bustling with Bohemian silver spooners and yuppies, (remember them?) long ago. These last hold outs, the Tenderloin district and Mid-Market were bound to be gentrified sooner or later. The current crop of techie workers are doing just that and will someday move on and out to other locations when they have a family or get aged or H1B'd out of their jobs. BTW this is happening in every desirable city coast to coast. SF is usually just ahead of the curve in many ways.

  36. True that it is happening in many places. There was an article recently lamenting the trend - cities becoming nothing more than tourist destinations, with the local heart and soul being sucked out (or purchased away) by too much money (not infrequently foreign money at that). I recall New York, London and Paris being mentioned. San Francisco is clearly in the mix, and probably Boston. I was recently in Amsterdam where a cab driver lamented the trend there as well.

  37. Are we sure this isn't just people lamenting how things used to be cooler?

  38. Yeah, living in the Bay Area from '57-'90 with the last 5 years in San Francisco was incredible. But, after helping pave over the Bay Area working as a union journeyman carpenter building tract homes for 14 years, I got tired of the increasing commute time, not to mention the road rage. I "journeyed" across the country to Ohio to save my wife's family farm and help take care of my mother-in-law with her onset of Alzheimer's disease. Eventually moved to the "big" city of Dayton, OH to also shorten commute time. Best move I ever made. Own 3 homes and one year round lakefront vacation home. Home prices here are one quarter of that in the SF Bay Area. 5th Street in the Oregon District of Dayton was just named one of the "5 Great Streets in America":https://www.planning.org/greatplaces/streets/2015/fifthstreet.htm. We're shooting next for Great Neighborhood category and after that the Great City category. We are no longer a "rust belt" destination. We are a happening place baby with award winning distilleries, breweries and restaurants. Check us out at http://www.downtowndayton.org/

  39. I knew as soon as I glanced at this column it would bring out the haters. Face it: This is a foodie column written for foodies. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn't purport to be nor aspire to be a comment on the larger socioeconomic issues surrounding the area or the effects of the culinary herein described.

  40. but the column contends the area discussed was transformed by the opening of new expensive food outlets. Believe me that isn't the case . Other commenters who know San Francisco and particularly that part of the city are simply telling the truth about the paradoxes involved in the opening of new businesses catering to the wealthy when the homeless, sick, and drug-addicted are still rampant in the area

  41. If it's still there, Tu Lan at 6th and Market was my favorite Vietnamese restaurant. I'm sure that all of "Skid Row" has been sanitized now due to Googleite complaints, but there are/were excellent ethnic restaurants in the "Mid-Market :)" area.

  42. Andrew H wrote: I'm sure that all of "Skid Row" has been sanitized...

    Believe me, Andrew, this is not the case yet. If you want scruffy and gritty you still have time to visit The City By The Bay.

  43. Tu Lan IS still there, surprisingly! And as delicious as ever.

  44. Yes, Tu Lan is still there, Julia Child’s favorite and a place I was introduced to on a first date 17 years ago. “It looks shabby, but it’s delicious & cheap,” he assured me. I’m happy every time I look up and realize that some of the old neighborhood is still alive and kicking. Stop by when you visit, FYI it’s cash only. http://www.tulan-vn-restaurant.com/about.html

  45. "...it is worth noting that in Twitter’s free cafeteria, pigs are roasted whole and wild king salmon is served on avocado toast."

    Is this really the same Twitter we know in the stockmarket, that dog of a stock that fails to turn much of a profit, all while serving whole pig roast and wild king salmon for free? It's another compelling reason to avoid TWTR at all costs. I don't feel THAT charitable today, pouring my portfolio funds to serve up free lunches to some technies for no good reasons.

  46. 336 layoffs announced today. Still think they need to abandon the roast pig.

  47. I live here and I've always loved eating out. But these days I cook, eat-in and drink-in most of the time. I feel I'm not missing much. Thanks to the easy access to great food ingredients and beverages. I save most of my money for eating out when I travel. Believe me, every place outside SF is so much cheaper.

  48. It's been long over due for Market Street to have a face lift. However, this face lift is well designed, and the bigger picture has arrived. The poor will not reap any rewards for this boom, nor will they get to eat the wild king salmon; unless they accept EBT (food stamps). The poor kept Market Street strong, thete are great people living in this seedy part of the T.L. This is by design, the poor people did not make Market Street dilapidated. If the people had a choice to accommodating housing, they would not be paying 50 to 75% of rent for an SRO... As a case manager in the T.L.hears it time & time again, 'my rent is increasing, where can I go' and all one can do is offer another SRO, infested with everything none to what's considered a seedy area. Centification is alive and well. if there's any sollise, at least the common folks no the terminology 'gentification' but it won't help, the poor can use this fine word in their conversation at the shelters. I hope the new establishments use very good extermination companies, they'll need it, since they're surrounded by the owners of the SRO. Seedy & poor is synonymous with infestation.

  49. For decades, I've wondered why the city didn't turn that stretch of empty buildings into housing for the poor.

    Guess they knew something was going to happen eventually that would make more money to pocket rather than be decent human beings.