The San Francisco Diet

SFist’s Brock Keeling Inhales the Mongolian Beef Cheesesteak at HRD, Loves a Good Tastykake

Brock, surveying the S.F. scene, with beer.
Brock, surveying the S.F. scene, with beer. Photo: Darwin Bell

Local blogger and friend of Grub Street Brock Keeling (of SFist fame) has a fond love for many things edible and potable, but he wouldn’t necessarily call himself a foodie. “I’ve been eating food since I sprang forth from my mother’s womb, so I guess I’m technically foodie,” he says. “But it’s such a childish term. It’s like saying ‘fashionista.’” Also, on that note, he points out “the food industry in San Francisco is like the fashion industry in New York… they’re just as vague with regard to explaining anything.” Please join Brock as he takes on a journey of his eating habits over the course of a week in San Francisco, including a rollicking trip to Zero Zero that ends in a blackout, and a late-night Tastykake binge. Take it away, Brock…

Thursday, July 28

We have a bevy of coffee options living/working on Third Street near South Park. Do we head over to Blue Bottle on Ritch Street for a cup of noted artisanal brew? No. Why? Because the people in line are obnoxious and make us want to chews their thumbs off. Also, Blue Bottle seems iffy on making espresso over ice. And I’m not the biggest coffee fan; I’m in it for the drug. I go to the calmer Caffe Centro in South Park for my caffeine instead.

What with payday one long day away, I make due for lunch via a can of organic cannellini beans, a jar of artichoke hearts, one garlic clove, pinch of cayenne pepper, and several gulps of olive oil blitzed in the food processor. Smear the spread on some toasted herb slab. Eat. Not sure where I learned this, exactly. Probably on a cooking show featuring a hostess with ample breasts, à la Giada De Laurentiis or that woman with the large mouth on Five Ingredient Fix.

For dinner, a colleague/friend and I visit The Press Club to sample their offerings. The place is massive, made of concrete and wood, and shoved underground. (Almost like a chic prison bunker, if you will.) A few crab melts, cheese plates, sliders and glasses of rosé later, we find ourselves stumbling down Howard Street, heading to the Powerhouse for Jack-on-the-rocks and popcorn served from a dog dish.

Friday, July 29

Payday, she has arrived. After heading to the my credit union to get some cash (I’ve cut up all ATM/debit cards since they prove too enticing to $20 bill junkies like myself), I head over to HRD Coffee Shop to inhale their Mongolian beef cheesesteak sandwich. If you haven’t tried HRD’s Philly-meets-Chinese concoction, we pity you. The Mongolian beef cheesesteak sandwich involves mounds of Mongolian beef crammed into a toasted roll with mozzarella and — what?! — mayonnaise. Mayonnaise, as you know, is the condiment of the devil. It’s vile. “Nothing but a jar of pus,” my mother used to call it, pointing to it in the supermarket in disgust. But when the mayo in this sandwich mixes with
the meat sauce, it creates something splendid.

After lunch we visit our nearest corner store for a roll of Tums.

Mere steps away from my apartment, I roll into Zero Zero for dinner. This is, without hesitation, my favorite restaurant in San Francisco at the moment. “Can I get two orders of arancini, but would you put them in one bowl, please?” I ask my gorgeous bartender. Really, you should always order two servings for yourself. One is never enough. They’re that good. Two Plum Smashes and one Vesper later, it’s Saturday morning and I find myself in bed fully dressed with crust in my eyes. I also discover a crumpled Comstock Saloon receipt in my jeans. “Oh brother, I don’t remember going to North Beach?,” I groan. Seems that I supped on their pickled egg on rye bread, pigs in a blanket, and numerous brown-liquor cocktails. Hope it was tasty. Because I don’t recall a thing. Anyway.

Saturday, July 30

Showering last night’s hangover away, I hurry across the Bay Bridge and Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (Golden Gate Bridge was closed due to SF Marathon) and into Mill Valley for a birthday party a dear friend’s two-year-old son. There are well over a dozen screaming little boys and girls mainlining sugary snacks. The kids are fun and I play with them for a spell on the jungle gym. While rough-housing with my beautiful godson, he accidentally crams his snot-covered fist inside my mouth. Mucus has protein, yes? I guess that’s some form of breakfast. Anyway, after the snot-fist incident, I dive into a box of Teddy Grahams, grab a juice box, sit on a patch of grass, and pray for noon to arrive.

Lunchtime. I head over to Balboa Cafe with my best friends, Justin and Deborah, and my two godchildren. Lacking an original thought in my head due to aforementioned hangover, I order a Diet Coke and the Balboa Cafe Classic Burger with sautéed mushrooms, bacon and avocado. It cures my pain and any residual mental anguish. Delicious. Say what you will about Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, but I swear that his Plumpjack establishment’s hamburgers have medicinal powers unmatched by another other burger.

Simple dinner: I slice onion bagel into thirds crosswise, toast lightly, smear with cream cheese and top with tissue-thin slices of salted heirloom tomato. Sit in front of TV, eat, shower (I shower twice a day, not that you asked), go to sleep.

Sunday, July 31

Dolores Park weather means it’s a Dolores Park kind of day. Grab a pair of sunglasses and hop on the N-Judah where I meet my pals for some beer and sun on the grass. Speaking of grass, a friendly chocolate-truffle salesman stops by to sell me some of his magic-laced treats. An hour or so later, I find myself inside a bathroom at the Latin American Club where I’ve been taking photos of graffiti for the last 20 to 30 minutes. The bar manager knocks on the door to see if I’m OK. I can no longer feel my teeth. Two margaritas and a deadly serious conversation about the merits of Diana Ross’s “Pieces of Ice” video later, we head over to Phat Philly for a cheesesteak sandwich and a couple of mind-bendingly glorious Tastykakes.

For dinner, we walk over to Reform Club, a pop-up restaurant at Specchio. We feast on salt & vinegar potato chips, tomato and watermelon salad, pressed pork shoulder confit with cherries, and strawberry and plum shortcake.

Monday, August 1

Coffee from Darwin Cafe, peanut butter and toast for breakfast, ramen for lunch (two scallions, baby bok choy, Cook & Lobster fish sauce, lots of pepper, soy sauce, somen noodles, chicken stock, one egg!), homemade arugula pesto for dinner, and Häagen-Dazs peanut butter and chocolate pint for dessert. Sleep.

Tuesday, August 2

Another busy day at SFist. Woke up late. 5-Hour Energy from corner store (don’t judge), toasted onion bagel and cream cheese from Caffe Centro (they forgot the tomato!), turkey and cranberry roll from Hennessy’s Wines & Specialty Foods, potato and leek soup make at home (used far too much heavy cream), no dessert. Sleep.

Wednesday, August 3

Rounding out my week, I check out a discussion at the Commonwealth Club Panel called What Makes a Restaurant Great. (The answer? Innovation and soul without following trends. Which is to say, the food industry in San Francisco is like the fashion industry in New York in that they’re just as vague with regard to explaining anything.) Charles Phan (owner and chef of The Slanted Door) was on the panel. He brought along spring rolls and steamed pork bums for his starving audience. I ate around five of each. Ended the evening at home in bed at a reasonable hour, with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while watching The Fighter on Netflix. Best night of the week thus far.

Earlier SF Diets: Juhu Beach Club Chef and Top Chef Alum Preeti Mistry Loves Sightglass, Can’t Get Enough of Una Pizza
Boz Scaggs Loves Bar Tartine, and Eats Many a Loaf of Acme Bread
Top Chef Alum Jen Biesty Breaks Her Carb Fast, Falls Hard for a Pistachio Truffle
Jonathan Kauffman: ‘It’s a Wonder I Don’t Have Gout.’
How the Tablehopper (a.k.a. Marcia Gagliardi) Works Through Turkey Leftovers, and Everything Else She Ate Last Week
Tasting Table Editor Jessica Battilana Likes Her Wines Gutsy, and Her Cookies at Night
S.F. Drag Star Juanita MORE! Loves Herself Some Four Barrel, and Slanted Door
How Sommelier and Budding Winemaker Rajat Parr Eats and Drinks His Way Through Harvest
Publicist Andrew Freeman Eats Fries With His Steak Tartare, and Popcorn With His Peanut Butter
Bar Star Brian MacGregor Likes a Good Slider, and Occasionally a Cocktail With Lunch
The Cooking Channel’s Aida Mollenkamp Is a Girl Who Can Really Eat
Timothy Hollingsworth Ate Some *Really* Spicy Sh*t in Sydney
Chris Kronner Loves Sebo Almost as Much as Ryan Farr’s Burgers

SFist’s Brock Keeling Inhales the Mongolian Beef Cheesesteak at HRD, Loves