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San Francisco Institutions We Love… That Also Drive Us Crazy

Golden Gate Bakery, you are so delicious; why must you vacation?


Read more Best of San Francisco 2017 here.


The Rarely Open Golden Gate Bakery
Most every Bay Area dim sum connoisseur knows the Golden Gate Bakery (1029 Grant Ave., near Jackson St., 415-781-2627) for two things: long lines and the best egg tarts in San Francisco. Few Cantonese bakeries can match these egg tarts’ supremely flaky crust, and no one else even comes close to duplicating their quivering, just-set custard filling. But the truth is, the bakery is also known for a third thing, which is that it somehow manages never to be open on the day you make the pilgrimage up Grant Avenue. The owners are notorious for taking weeks-long vacations—often unannounced, except for a note posted in the shop window. In fact, enough would-be egg tart eaters have experienced this singularly exquisite form of heartbreak that someone eventually started a website as a public service. The URL,, speaks for itself. 

Sunday Closures at Fabric Outlet
Descend the stairs to the dark depths of Fabric Outlet’s spacious quarters (2109 Mission St., near 17th St., 415-552-4525) and you’ll find yourself in a crafter’s paradise of burlap, oilcloth, Muppety fur for your Burning Man bike, feathers, googly eyes, and puff paint at beyond-reasonable prices. It’s the perfect place to realize your inner Martha Stewart—which is why the blood boils when inspiration strikes and you realize it’s Sunday, and Fabric Outlet is closed. For creative nine-to-fivers, the weekend is the best time to stock up on supplies and actually make things; it’s frustrating that such a mecca is shuttered exactly 50 percent of your free days. Art store Flax also had this problem, but has rectified it by staying open on Sundays (just with shorter hours). Fabric Outlet should take a note from them—otherwise, we may have to wait another week to make that pom-pom portrait of Dolly Parton a reality.

Free the Municipal Pier!
We know that the National Park Service, which owns the crumbling Municipal Pier at the top of Van Ness, doesn’t have the $68 million needed to repair it. So we have no problem with the fact that ever-larger sections of the pier’s west side have been railed off. But why cut back so drastically on its hours? You used to be able to walk on the pier 24 hours a day. A stroll out on the majestic 1,400-foot pier was one of the great nocturnal city walks. Now it closes at dusk. Spokesman Lynn Cullivan says it’s because the old lights on the pier don’t function. So fix them! We may not be able to foot the bill to repair this civic treasure right now, but at least let’s let people walk on it after the sun goes down.

Why Don’t BART Machines Sell Clipper cards?
BART has its faults, from the maybe-on-maybe-off security cams to the Transbay Tube screech. But the one that rankles week after week is the backwardness of Clipper. Why must riders schlep to a Walgreens or a Whole Foods to buy a card? Adding to the WTF factor: BART machines load cash balances only, sending us all re-schlepping to Walgreens if we need, say, a Muni-BART monthly pass (an errand that can be escaped only by agreeing to an automatic monthly charge online). Why, in the innovation capital of the world, are we stuck with this convoluted system? C’mon, BART, we love you and all, but it’s almost like you don’t want us to use you.


Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco.

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