An Adventure in the City

…and a swell Mexican restaurant rediscovered.

Our spirits were high as we boarded the 45 Muni bus bound for the Metreon and a San Francisco Film Society 7pm screening of “The Kids are Alright” opening in theaters in about a week.

Creeping through Chinatown on Stockton Street, we were jarred by an announcement, “Sutter Street is the last stop for this bus,” said the woman driver in a loud and clear voice. “When we get to the bus stop at the end of the Stockton Tunnel, get off, go around the corner on Sutter and get on a shuttle bus; the shuttle will complete a detour route to the Caltrain station.”

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There was a buzz among the passengers. President Obama is in town for a fundraiser for Senator Boxer… he’s staying at the Marriott on Fourth Street between Market and Mission and we just happen to be going to the Metreon, on Fourth and Mission. Our bus crept along and into the Stockton tunnel taking 20 minutes to get through the tunnel. I made use of the time, reading the salacious account of Tiger Woods’ mistresses in the current Vanity Fair. Sorry, but the scope of his obsession is beyond the pale; and kind of sad.

When we got off at Sutter it was 6:40. We decided to walk the five blocks, past Union Square and by the Marriott, where the SFPD were out in force in front of the hotel.

At about five-‘til-seven, we joined the end of a long line on the third floor of the Metreon. A couple minutes later, a woman from SFFS, about 30 people ahead of us said, “the theater is nearly full, anyone in line beyond this column has little chance to get in.”

Carol turned to me and said, “We’ll just go to dinner.” As the front of the line moved forward and our end began to disperse, I walked up to Ben, the SFFS Membership Director and said, “What’s up? I got an email this morning that said there were still a few seats available.”

He apologized, “The group we’re sharing the theater with brought many more people than expected. I’m really sorry.”

I said, “No matter. Our bus was held up ‘cause Obama’s in town, but now we’re downtown, we’ll just have dinner or something. I hate the Metreon. I’ll never come here again.” I’ve said that before… nearly every time I’ve come to the Metreon, a four-story shopping center and 14 screen Cineplex. Sony pulled out years ago, half the stores are closed, the theaters are poorly designed and it’s always a hassle. On this night, the main stair was closed and we had to walk to the far end to find our way out. As Bette Davis once famously said, “What a dump!”

Outside, we walked across Mission Street and toward Yerba Buena Lane, a pedestrian lane leading to Market Street. Cops were everywhere, ready to put their portable metal fences into place. It was a fine evening; the air was soft and cool with no wind, wanting to rain, but settling for an almost drizzle. City lights twinkled as we passed Beard Papa, a cream puff emporium. Tropisueno is a Mexican restaurant where we had dined once before, across from the Jewish Museum. I’m not partial to the burrito, taco, and “Mexican” junk food – they do that for the lunch crowd – but for dinner they re-arrange and serve real Mexican food. The last time I had the Albondigas Guisadas, “Traditional meatballs stewed in a velvety tomato sauce with potatoes and carrots.” Lovely and satisfying.

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The room is light colored rustic stucco with sticks of wood forming the high ceiling, properly dim, not too noisy – we could converse – with generous room between the heavy wooden tables and chairs.

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We were seated at a table by the window looking out onto Yerba Buena Lane and settled in with a House Margarita for Carol. I asked Joselito, our waiter, for something not sweet. “You must have the Pepino, tequila with Agave nectar, lime juice and cucumber. It’s very very good.” I must say he was right, and it washed away the sour taste of the Metreon.

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He brought house made chips with a green avocado lime salsa and a traditional salsa. We remembered the portions being large, so we confined or orders to one entrée each, mine the Camarones Tropisueno, Chile Relleno with Beef for Carol. The menu descriptions are true:

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Camarones Tropisueño: Large wild shrimp in an chile de arbol sauce finished with crema, lime juice and cilantro. Spicy!

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Chile Relleno de Picadillo: Mild Poblano chile stuffed with ground beef, green olives, raisins and savory spices.

Joselito brought black beans and refried beans for the table.
We both loved our food. Carol’s chile was mild as advertised… Carol likes mild. My shrimp was spicy enough to make my forehead and cheeks sweat a bit, but without painful heat. After all that – we took home much rice and beans, as well as the two salsas – we needed a Flan to complete the dining experience. Creamy and rich, it left us ready for our walk to find whatever bus we could find on this extraordinary night.

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The night was lovely still as we walked to Market Street and the half-block to the normal bus stop on Kearny, just off Market. Soon a bus marked SHUTTLE came. The driver announced that she would go to the stop on Sutter where we should wait for the 30 or 45. We waited in a soft drizzle. We waited some more. Just as I was ready to look for a taxi, the 45 came around the corner. It was empty when it arrived, so we got a swell seat. Folks on the bus remarked that George W. Bush NEVER came to San Francisco. Carol said as we got off the bus, “We had an adventure in the city… once you start, you just have to go with it.”

I love this city.

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