The 112th United States Open starts tomorrow at San Francisco’s Olympic Club, a prestigious private club and golf course that almost every San Franciscan has heard of, but very few know where it’s located, and even fewer have ever set foot on the property, your truly included. Far, far away from the tourist circuit, the Giants-Embarcadero area, North Beach, the Financial District, the Mission, Civic Center, and pretty much any well known destinations in the city, Olympic Club lies in the city’s southwest corner with the Zoo, San Francisco State, and Sunset District to the north and Daly City, that vibrant fog covered suburb, to the south. What is around the Olympic Club? The ocean is just across Skyline Boulevard on the western edge of the club and more golf can be played just north of the Olympic Club at the public Harding Park, along Lake Merced, which happens to be one of city’s premier destinations for jogging and walking.
Unlike if you’re going to a Giants game at AT&T Park, dining and drinking options are far from plentiful in and around the tournament. The USGA will be handling concessions, who I am sure outsources those concerns to the likes of Aramark or Sodexho instead of Thomas Keller. Many golfers at the Olympic Club grab the famed Bill Burgers between the 9th and 10th holes, a small shack serving burgers on hot dog buns. There will be no burgers served there during the tournament, sorry Tiger. Instead, you can get a “faux” Bill Burger from the concessions.
Food, drink, and golf are a terrific trio. Can you think of another sport where you can drink beers and eat a hot dog while playing? That is, if you’re not David Wells or Mark Sanchez.
In honor of the 18 holes of golf, here are the 18 destinations to visit over the course of the tournament, for before and after watching golf, before and after if you and your fellow 30,000 golf fans have to park over at Candlestick Park and take the shuttle to the Club, and whether a tourist or local, some terrific choices somewhat near Olympic Club, and then a few that are simply the most exciting right now in quite possibly America’s most exciting dining city. A sequel to this will follow, with the 18 holes of bars. That, sounds like a game I once played at a University of Illinois fraternity.
Hole 1: Sandwiches at Market & Rye, Salumeria, Wise Sons, or Pal’s Takeaway
Food and beverages are forbidden from being brought to the Olympic Club. Then stock up on some salads and sandwiches and eat them beforehand along the coast near the Club. Ryan Scott’s Market & Rye in West Portal is closest, terrific for the homemade falafel sandwich. The Mission is now a treasure chest for sandwiches: Salumeria from the folks behind Flour + Water, Wise Sons, a new Jewish deli with superb pastrami and rye bread (and bagels from Beauty’s Bagels with house cured lox on Saturdays only), or the innovative sandwich of the day offering from Pal’s Takeaway inside Tony’s Market at 24th and Hampshire (closed weekends).
Hole 2: Breakfast at Tselog’s Tapas
Tee times start bright and early: 7 am for Shane Bertsch, Martin Flores, and Tommy Biershenk. That means breakfast is mandatory. Tselog’s Tapas in nearby Daly City opens at 7:30 weekdays, serving Filipino breakfasts known as silogs, where a plate includes garlic fried rice, fried egg, and a meat such as the Filipino chorizo called longganisa. Just to the north in the Sunset, both Park Chow and the greasy spoon Art’s are fine early rise options.
Or you want a more leisurely breakfast, then my advice would be to wait in line for a meal at Plow near Potrero Hill. If it’s the weekend, then have the unofficial meal of the city, brunch, at the trio of top brunches in the city: Foreign Cinema (get the pop tarts), Bar Tartine (smørrebrød), and Nopa (bagel with lox, French toast, and the burger).
Hole 3: Aziza
Continue up Highway 1 to the Richmond for some of the country’s most exciting, innovative Moroccan cuisine from Mourad Lahlou. Cocktails are riveting, as are Melissa Chou’s desserts, but the stand outs are the unique creations by Lahlou alongside the enhanced standards such as basteeya and the spreads with flatbread.
Hole 4: Ice Cream
It will be sunny and warm this weekend. That means the line at Bi-Rite for salted caramel and roasted banana flavors will be two hours long. It’s the best in the city, without question. Other great options are Humphry Slocombe in the Mission for chocolate smoked sea salt and foie gras ice cream sandwich or Mr and Mrs. Miscellaneous for outstanding peanut brittle with Fernet Branca ice cream. Closest would be Joe’s in the Sunset for durian ice cream, Cole Valley’s new retro soda fountain called The Ice Cream Shop, and Mitchell’s in the outer Mission for terrific Filipino flavors like ube.
Hole 5: Radio Africa
The Bayview, near Candlestick Park, is slowly gentrifying from its past as the violence center of the city, with food leading the revitalization. Ethiopia native Eskender Aseged produces some very exciting dishes at his new restaurant there, Radio Africa. Another great choice is the outpost of Limon Rotisserie for reliably excellent pollo a la brasa.
Hole 6: Shanghai Dumpling Shop
Near the airport in Millbrae, a great stop before or after parking at Candlestick, this is the spot for xlb dumplings. The closest thing San Francisco has to Din Tai Fung.
Hole 7: Koi Palace
For dim sum with 500 fellow diners, this is the place in Daly City. Dinners are much more peaceful, full of fresh seafood preparations.
Hole 8: Old Mandarin Islamic
Slowly gaining fame, this Sunset hole in the wall is a superb option for Northern Chinese Islamic specialties, almost all of which feature lamb. Get a thrill from the cumin lamb or warm up after the tournament with the hot pot.
Hole 9: Outerlands
Always with a mile long line, this Sunset institution now is more than just a gourmet secret for surfers. Chef Brett Cooper creates some of the city’s best brunches, dinners, and probably THE best levain bread. Afterwards, grab a coffee or fresh coconut juice from the nearby Trouble Coffee.
Hole 10: Nopa/ Nopalito
Laurence Jossel’s duo created a neighborhood name (NoPa) and remain essential stops of any dining tour. Nopa’s brunch is epic, yet dinners remain fantastic from the burgers to the chicken to the flatbread to the pork chop. If only cocktails could catch up. The Mexican sibling Nopalito does make excellent margaritas, along with terrific carnitas and fish tacos.
Hole 11: Gialina
The best pizza in the city isn’t too far from the Olympic Club. It’s also not even from a brick oven or wood fried oven. The atomica pizza or wild nettle and sausage covered pies created by Sharon Ardiana at Gialina in Glen Park get my vote for tops in this pizza mad city. Everything is perfect: the crust, the crust’s char, the structure, the temperature, the toppings…in the morning, get a pastry at Glen Park’s Destination Bakery. Gialina doesn’t take reservations and is only open for dinner.
Hole 12: Broken Record
Golf viewing means lots of walking. Lots of walking means you need the spruced up bar food at Broken Record near Balboa Park. Get the crawfish grits or cheeseburger with bacon ground with the beef.
Hole 13: Bar Tartine and Tartine
Some of the city’s most exciting food comes from Nick Balla at the Mission’s Bar Tartine. Balla’s family hails from Central Europe and he interprets that region’s heavy cuisine such as langos and chicken paprika into exceptional, more modern preparations, with many Asian influences from his cooking at the izakaya, Nombe. Tartine, the owner of Bar Tartine, would of course be the city’s premier bakery for the famed country bread, perfect brownies, and anything else you may find.
Hole 14: AQ
Bar Tartine and Aziza are innovative with their cuisines you may not find anywhere else. The ideas behind AQ haven’t been found elsewhere either: strictly seasonal to the point the menu, the decor, and the servers’ uniforms change with the seasons. Now is the last chance for spring! For another unique concept, try State Bird Provisions, where dim sum meets the California-New American vision of one of the city’s great chefs, Stuart Brioza.
Hole 15: Arizmendi
In the Sunset near Golden Gate Park, this workers co-op, related to Berkeley’s Cheeseboard Collective, creates one pizza a day, and it always is a stud. Excellent baked goods are always to be found with the pizza, especially the apricot bread known as a Wolverine.
Hole 16: Pascale’s Pizza
Not Gialina, but closest to the Olympic Club for above average pizza. Grab a coffee nearby at Java Beach.
Hole 17: Little Yangon
Daly City’s superb, cute Burmese spot. A good challenger for the best catfish soup and rainbow salad in the area with the always packed Burma Superstar in the Richmond.
Hole 18: Flour + Water
And finally…the vote for the city’s premier dining experience, not of the Coi, Saison, Benu, Quince price category. Reservations exist, but not really here. Now a little over two years old, Flour + Water continues to break the ice on what pasta can truly be, along with consistently outstanding antipasti and pizzas. Chocolate budino with espresso cream and sea salt is the obligatory finish. It’s loud, crammed, and brilliant with everything from the kitchen. Besides, by the time you get to Candlestick Park after the tournament, it’ll be 10 pm and then Flour + Water has no line.