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Why San Francisco’s Obsession with Food Has Gone Too Far

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So I just returned from a two-week vacation in New York and Nashville, most of my time was spent imbibing gods’ sweet nectar and eating my weights worth of everything these two great cities had to offer. However, after two booze filled weeks it made me realize something about the service industry in San Francisco and how it is specific to this foggy city.

In San Francisco, pretentious food, arrogant ‘mixologists’ and stoned servers are all part of the experience when dining out. Here you take your life into your own hands when asking to split the check, change tables, sit somewhere with a view, or maybe you wanna change out one spirit with another? You’ll probably be confronted with something like, “If I was to use vodka instead of gin, it’ll become unbalanced and not the drink it was designed to be, can I recommend, that you go fuck yourself leave my bar and find yourself a shitty dive bar from last century, where they will happily make you a lemon drop…”  There is a mentality here in the service industry that suggests it is a privilege that you happen to be dining at their establishment.  Dining experiences start with an obligatory 45 minute wait, followed by condescending greetings by all those in the restaurant; “whadya mean you don’t know how to order French inspired bistro fusion with a Californian twist?”  Asking what foie gras is could get you kicked out of the restaurant (if you were still allowed to eat foie gras here).  The food experience is coupled with increasingly pretentious and obscure wine and cocktail lists with grape varietals you’ve never heard of unless you were a sommelier in a previous life and booze so niche and craft that the bartender can tell you the name of every individual grain that was distilled to make this small batch, hand crafted, single barrel, pot distilled, sherry oak, cask aged rum, that is locally produced despite our complete lack of sugar cane.

It would be unfair to blame this style of service completely on the restaurant, in fact it is merely a reaction to the eruption of “foodie” culture that is sweeping the nation. Guests are more knowledgeable about produce and food than ever before and nowadays are taking an interest in where a restaurant sources their vine-ripened seasonal heirloom tomatoes; they want the latest and greatest in culinary trends and are quite okay with putting up with shitty service, stupid wait times and expensive price tags to experience it.

Now I made mention of this being a comparative study and I hear you naysayers out there, ‘but hang on one goddam pickin’ second, New York is just as bad,’ sure NYC has a long established food culture, they have wait times and expensive price tags. Unlike San Francisco however, those serving in the restaurants are for the most part passionate about what they’re serving or at least feign with much greater precision, excitement and knowledge about the product. The south is a whole different ballgame altogether.  Nashville maintains a small town vibe, and southern hospitality at even their most trendiest, most locally sourced, most farm to mutherflipping table cuisine they have to offer. They’ll tell you about the brisket as if their momma had smoked it herself, and offer to split the check as many ways as you goddam like.

I think San Francisco could learn a thing or two from our country cousins and our brethren back east. Dining isn’t all about the precision of the food, the execution of perfectly balanced cocktails, it’s not about the shitty yelp review you’re going to write when you leave. Eating out is about catching up with old friends, making new ones, flirting with your best friend’s fiancée, enjoying cheap bottles of wine, getting drunk and stuffed at the same time and leaving in a jovial drunken food comatose stupor into another foggy San Francisco eve.


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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.

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