I was on the road for work a couple of weeks ago and the port of call was San Francisco. You can't really get better than San Francisco. Great weather, especially if you like things on the cool side, amazingly interesting city both in terms of the man-made and natural beauty and in my case a lot of old friends who've migrated to the area. I think 1999 was the most recent time I saw one of the folks I visited (Hey Paige!)
I got to eat some great food (more on the ball park fare in a minute) and I also got to go on two great runs. First I ran up, literally, Taylor Street to Fisherman's Wharf. The return trip wound around until I eventually ran through the heart of China Town. After an off day I took the train* to Golden Gate Park. I ran in the park for mile, then for a half mile in historic Kezar Stadium and then straight down Haight back to Union Square. Yes I passed Ashbury and yes I took a picture.
*Like the baseball team, the public transit in San Francisco is much better than Chicago with one terrible exception: The BART doesn't open up until 8:30 on Sunday. Not a good thing when your flight leaves Oakland at 9:15. Get with it Bay Area, the wheels of commerce or transportation don't stop on Sunday morning. After a $76 cab ride, I wonder if there isn't some implicit agreement between the cab companies and the BART.
Of course no trip is complete without a visit to the local baseball park. Everything you've dreamed about the AT&T Park is true. It is as picturesque as the TV networks make it seem. Even in the worst seats in the house, where I'm pretty sure I was, the view still wasn't bad. The park does have a throw-back style, no doubt, but it also has some modern touches to the design as well. One of the features that I wish US Cellular wouldn't have gotten rid of was the absence of a roof. If done right, like AT&T it adds a feeling of openness, of truly being outside. Yet in San Francisco it doesn't feel like a stairway to nowhere, as it kind of did in Chicago. I also liked how the upper deck stairwells were faced at the bottom, allowing standing without obstructing anyone's view. I met a high school friend (Hey Mike!) behind home plate with an absolutely perfect view of the field. We also were threatened by some unruly fans above us, for what I don't exactly know. It's been awhile since I had to leave a stadium by an alternate route. What can I say? Mike always knew how to party.
I'm probably going to catch some flack for this, because I've never met a fan base more proud of their stadium's food than the White Sox, but the food at AT&T was better. I went basic; I went specialty and both were better than their equivalents at US Cellular. First the basic, a hot dog; you can't get more basic than that at the old ball park. The dog was larger than the bun, with a decent snap to it, not as much as say a Smith's Wiener from Erie, PA (still a personal favorite) but more than the mush you get at US Cellular. The bun was soft, not waterlogged from the steam and taken all together an excellent flavor.
The star of the food choices, for me anyway, was the garlic fries. Sorry, I won't be eating a dungeness crab sandwich anytime soon. A pretty basic concept really: french fries smothered in garlic and salt. The key, however, was the crispiness of the fries. My guess is that they are double-fried. A big serving of fries, loads of garlic served with breath mints, just awesome.
Finally, you know those big margarita tanks at US Cellular? They have those at AT&T too, except they are filled with Giardelli's hot chocolate, perfect dessert on a chilly evening, and all of the evenings seem to be chilly in San Francisco.
As far as the actual game went, a bit of snoozer really. Cincinnati beat the Giants pretty handily. A large crowd, something of a rare species on the south side, was nice, even if the home team didn't win. As much as I love a good game, I was there for the experience, the ambiance. AT&T delivered.