Sam’s Diner

Sam’s Diner is on Market Street between 8th and 9th, which is like, boom! strike one.   Not exactly a dining destination, not exactly the most picturesque stretch of road in San Francisco.  And from the outside you’d have no reason to think that Sam’s wouldn’t be gross. 

The fact is,  Sam’s is pretty inoffensive.  Nothing to get all excited about, but there’s an ok chance you won’t walk away unsatisfied.  Steve and I met Sarah there for a sort of brunch. 

We sat in a booth in a sunny, high ceiling-ed dining room.  It was busy and service was a little tepid, but, like I said, it’s not fine dining so that sort of thing is to be expected.  The menu was pretty standard San Francisco diner; Benedict specials, loco moco and terriyaki, but extensive.  Also, a little pricier than I expected.  It didn’t occur to me at the time, but it makes sense now that they cater to the theater crowd (the Orpheum is just down the block).  Also, tourists.  Which I should have realized, but me, I’m so dumb I saw this place with the tables all packed and thought, “this place must be good!”  Instead of thinking, “tourists.” 

Well, whatever, it may be a tourist spot, but I thought their chili cheese omelet (they call it a Texas omelet) was mighty tasty.  And their menu states all cheese in the omelets is American unless specified, but they were happy to use cheddar instead when I asked.   Hashbrowns were good too, a little less done than what I prefer, but that wasn’t enough to stop me from stuffing them in my face.

I was so busy wolfing down my food that I failed to notice my companions were less impressed with their meals.

Sarah seemed to be pretty blah about her burger.  Though she was impressed by how bloody it was and made me take this picture of the jus soaking into the bun:

As they say, nom nom.

Steve was even more unenthused by his wedge salad and club sandwich.  So it seems I made a prudent choice in selecting breakfast over lunch.  I win again, ha ha!

I think the main deterrent that will keep me from returning to Sam’s is the price.  My omelet was over ten bucks, c’mon!  The sandwiches were a bit cheaper than that, but there’s better food for less.  Also, there’s better food for more, but it’s a lot better.  See what I mean?  Sam’s is middle of the road tourist food.  Certainly an oasis in the area, and if you’re a tourist at one of the local hotels I don’t fault you for choosing Sam’s over Carl’s Jr or All Star Donuts.  If you’re a local, you can do better. 

Sam’s Diner

1220 Market St

Mel’s Drive-In

My visit to Mel’s Drive-In was pretty useful in that it reminded me why I don’t go to Mel’s Drive-Ins anymore.  I’ve been delaying this post because I kind of hate Mel’s.  The food is mediocre and overpriced.  Anyway, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  I was optimistic when Sarah and I walked in to the restaurant.

It was pretty festive.  Lights and decorations and all that are my favorite thing about the Holidays.  Everything else…not so much.  Well, holiday cocktails,  I like those.  The actual Holidays though, those I could take or leave. 

Mel’s was pretty empty when we got there.  It’s one of those places that is depressing when you’re there alone.  It’s so big, there are lots of booths and tiny jukeboxes at every table…this is a place that is supposed to be full of groups of young people scrounging for change to pay for their fries and families of tourists with screaming babies.  That’s the Mel’s I remember from my youth.  When we were about finished with our meal a group of about 6 or 7 kids came in, but they only depressed me more.  They looked like babies to me, but the odds are they were 18, 19 or 20.  One of them was wearing a Furby backpack.  They caused me to reflect on my past in a severely unpleasant way. 

I don’t want to depress you, and I don’t want you to think I was crying into my curly fries the whole time I was there.  It’s not like that.  Sarah and I were having a pretty good time.  We had a laugh over the food prices;

It’s weird how they end in such unround numbers.  There’s nothing for $3.99, it’s $3.41, or $10.24.  Also, I’ve never really understood why Mel’s puts those mini menus inside of their larger menus.  It makes everything more difficult to read. 

Is it stupid to say that I only just read Fast Food Nation, even though it’s been nearly a decade since it was published?  Well, I can’t help it, and I can’t help that that book put me off ground beef for about a week.  A week which I happened to be smack in the middle of when I went to Mel’s.  That’s how I ended up with the No-Name chicken sandwich

Which turned out to be a very dry chicken breast with gloopy “swiss” cheese melted on top.  It wasn’t worth the 10 whatever bucks I paid for it, but it didn’t make me puke or anything.  The curly fries were exceptional.  Very very crispy.  If I ever go to Mel’s again I’m not even going to try to have a semblance of a real meal.  It’s going to be french fries and ice cream all the way (probably in the form wet fries, which are fries with gravy, and a milkshake, probably coffee).  If I were smart or clever, I would have ordered a grilled cheese like Sarah did

It’s really really hard to fuck up a grilled cheese sandwich.

So, what it boils down to is, if you find yourself at Mel’s diner, I suggest you get fries and dessert.  Ice cream is good, pie could also be ok.  A better suggestion though; don’t go to Mel’s.

Mel’s Drive-In

1050 Van Ness Ave


As I was reminiscing on my visit to Moulin, trying to come up with something witty and interesting to say about it, I started to ruminate on this blog as a whole, and what my brain spit out after all this work is that I think if you were to sum up Goldentooth in two words, they would be “pleasantly surprised.”  In the cases of most of the restaurants I’ve visited for the blog that I hadn’t frequented before I was apprehensive and/or pre-convinced that they would suck.  But again and again my assumptions are coming back to bite me in the backside when I am served another delicious meal.  This all occurred to me especially with Moulin because I went there with the lowest of expectations. 

I had actually been planning to go to Brenda’s because it was a rare weekday off for me and I thought that the wait would be less on a late Monday morning.  Turns out I was wrong, as usual.  Moulin was a third choice after I decided I didn’t have time to walk the extra couple blocks it would take to check out the line at Dottie’s.  I’ve been aware of Moulin for some time, I’ve passed by hundreds of times and I’ve heard people talk about it like they used to go there and it was good, but they stopped going.  It is kind of weird that I’d never been there, considering that I live barely 4 blocks away, but in terms of breakfast greasy spoon spots, I’ve been pretty loyal to New Village on Polk.  I’ve been eating farmer omelets and hash browns there for going on 7 years.  That’s why it pains me a bit to say that I want to go to Moulin for breakfast now and forever. 

My preconceived ideas about Moulin started to change as soon as I walked in.  I had been expecting something dingier and dirtier with more booths.  Instead, the interior was neat, though a bit cramped, and it was bright in the front and shadowy in the back.  It looked a bit like a chalet or some sort of Disney version of Scandinavia.  I kept thinking that it felt more like a diner in Southern California than one in San Francisco.  It was easy to forget that the Tenderloin was bustling right outside.

The food at Moulin is cheap.  Not astoundingly cheap, not especially cheaper than other diners, but cheap enough.  I ordered my coffee and I ordered the French toast breakfast, which came with sausage and an egg, which I asked for scrambled.  As I drank my coffee and found it being refilled at an astonishing clip, I noticed that there were only two people working in the restaurant.  An older Asian man who was taking orders, serving food and coffee and running the register and an older Asian woman who was doing the cooking and picking up the slack on the other tasks when her partner got busy.  Only two people in a restaurant that was fairly full of customers, and my coffee never got more than three-quarters empty.  Also, nobody entered or exited without getting a sincere and cheery greeting or farewell.  Several customers they seemed to know and they would stop and chat with them for a moment or two.  And still my coffee and water stayed full and my food came out in a reasonable amount of time considering there was only one cook.

I was astounded by the efficiency of the proprietors, but I was most astounded when my breakfast arrived.  It was GOOD.  And I don’t mean “good” like, “oh yeah, it was pretty good.”  This was one of the more delicious breakfasts I’ve had in a while.  The french toast was eggy and light and sweet after I drenched it in syrup.  The sausage was cooked in such a way that a crust formed on the outside of the link that you crunched through to reveal a juicy interior, yet the usual slime of grease you find with your breakfast sausage was absent from the plate.  And the egg…this was the highlight of the meal for me.  So many times you get scrambled eggs at a diner and they seem kind of like a throwaway; almost always they are cooked incorrectly, either they’re too dry or too runny.  These eggs were cooked absolutely perfectly, they were soft without being wet, they were fluffy and moist.  And to think that this level of perfection was achieved in a kitchen with just one cook.  My loyalty switched as soon as I put the first bite of egg in my mouth.  And everything was served on pretty fiestaware!  Moulin forever. 

Can I say more good things about Moulin?  As I mentioned before, the people working there were so so nice.  The cook, Janet I assume, cleared my empty plate from my table and remarked “you finished everything!  good for you!”  Too adorable.  As I paid (I think my bill ended up being about 9 bucks) and walked out of the restaurant, I was escorted by a chorus of “goodbye, thank you, have a nice day!”  I could still hear it as the door closed behind me and I was back in the world.  Luckily, morning is the nicest time to be on Geary Street.  The streets are cool and quiet, the odors are relatively non-offensive, and everybody on the sidewalks seem to be in a better mood than they are in the afternoon, when the street denizens seem not as happy to be alive.  I walked back up the hill home with a spring in my step, already looking forward to my next trip to Moulin.


887 Geary

Their Yelp page

Original Perfect Hamburger

Sorry it’s been so long between posts.  I have been a busy busy bee!  And now I am so behind on restaurants!  It seems like I’ve been out millions of times since I went to farm:table.  So I guess I better hop to it, eh?

Steve and I slept in late one Sunday and I suggested we go out for some breakfast to get our strength up.  I knew Steve wanted to go to Perfect Hamburger, we’d thought about going another time but had not been brave enough.  I was still a little skeeved out by the thought of actually eating there, so I said “why don’t we walk by Dottie’s, see how the line is, and if it’s too crazy we’ll do Perfect Hamburger.”  I don’t know how I could have thought that that plan might work out in my favor.  Of course the line at Dottie’s was off the fucking hook.  I am a little concerned about having to eat at Dottie’s, anyone have any suggestions about their off time?  I will go crazy if I have to wait on that line.  So, back to the story, we made our way to Original Perfect Hamburger.

The outside was scary as ever.  They have the weird raw meat looking hamburger photos in the windows and the promise of Chinese AND American food.  I have found that to never be a good combo outside of Chinatown.  When we went inside things were a bit better.  At first…

This place is full of retro kitsch goodness.  If we were rating restaurants on decor alone, Perfect Hamburger would be my new favorite spot.  Everything in there looks to be about a million years old.   I doubt much has changed since the grand opening, save for the addition of the paper plates.  I was cheered considerably by the atmosphere, and by the menu.

Shit was cheap.  And you could get pancakes with a scoop of ice cream!  Insanity.  I decided ice cream was a little too much for my first meal of the day, but I definitely wanted pancakes.  I ordered two with scrambled eggs and sausage.  The waiter/owner asked if I wanted cheese on my eggs.  What?!?  I don’t think I’ve ever been offered gratis cheese on my scrambled eggs in a restaurant.  Of course I wanted cheese!  Steve ordered a mushroom cheeseburger and a strawberry milkshake.  I was super stoked and my feelings about this meal had shifted.  I was encouraged and optimistic.  Steve’s milkshake came;

More positivity.  It was rich and sweet but not overly syrupy sweet like a McDonald’s milkshake.  This was a bona fide ice cream milk shake.  Very creamy with bits of strawberry flesh and seeds.  I was a little weirded out that it came in one of those plastic cups with the pebbly texture, but whatever.  We watched the wife/co-owner work the griddle and soon enough Steve’s burger arrived.

It looked promising.  Lots of vibrant veggies, nicely toasted bun.  Smallish patty but it smelled good.  Then came my pancakes.

Looks pretty right?  So everything looks good, let’s get down to the nitty gritty:  how’s it taste?

Eh.  It was all right.  My pancakes weren’t too heavy and were cooked correctly, no wet spots, no spots where the batter wasn’t mixed well enough.  They were served with butter instead of margarine, which is always appreciated.  I had to ask for syrup 2 or 3 times and they seemed to have only one bottle, which seemed weird for a spot that devotes a lot of its menu to breakfast.  So the pancakes were fine, but after eating about half of my first one I found myself wishing I had ordered hashbrowns instead.  My eggs with cheese were a real bust, they were a sort of mini American cheese omelet, but the cheese was oddly watery and very cheap tasting.  The sausage was perfectly standard cheap diner sausage.  Satisfying.  Steve’s burger was pretty standard as well.  Nothing to write home about, but not a total loss either.  The worst thing about Perfect Hamburger, and why I wouldn’t want to return, is the service.  Usually I am really forgiving when it comes to service issues at restaurants; I’m not a demanding diner and I don’t want to browbeat someone because my food’s not letter perfect, but Perfect Hamburger was a little too much for me.  There was the aforementioned syrup issue, and I had the same issue trying to get milk for my coffee (which, by the way, was some of the worst coffee I’ve ever had, beaten probably only by the gas station coffee I got in Santa Cruz).  When the waitress/wife/co-owner brought me my mug she asked if I needed cream, I answered yes and she nodded and walked away.  She passed by our table a couple times, taking the orders from the table behind us, but I never got my cream.  I had to ask twice more.  I can forgive even these sorts of things, but the proprietors have to be nice, or at least benign.  The people here were pretty offputting, very gruff, obviously disinterested in their customers, upselling…when you ask for water they ask if you want bottled water, which is really strange in a place like this.  It took me a second to piece together that they are probably usually frequented by tourists from the many hotels nearby and that’s why they offer the bottled stuff, but I was taken aback.  It kind of takes away from what I’m looking for in a greasy spoon.

So, unless unstoppable forces compel me, I will not be going back to Original Perfect Hamburger.  No, the Chinese food portion of the menu does not entice me.

At least it was cheap.

Original Perfect Hamburger

601 Geary

Their Yelp Page