One Sunday in September we took a stroll down Union Street to enjoy the weather and people watching, visit the shops, and get some food.
It was a sunny day, with people mostly dressed in shorts and light shirts or thin long-sleeved tops. After more than a month of terrible humidity (seeing the weather status include 99 percent humidity takes the wind out of you pretty quickly), this was a gift from Mother Nature, and Union Street was an ideal place to enjoy it.
We stopped briefly at Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin, where friendly people graciously welcomed their visitors and let us look at the beautiful courtyard and sanctuary. It’s a wonderful, peaceful oasis in the midst of this crowded, busy city. Then we were off again, passing the Marina Submarine sandwich shop across the street, packed with college students.
A woman passed us, focused solely on whomever she was speaking to on her cell phone, confessing, “I said it’s not them, the problem is you.” There was a line out the door at Perry’s and its sidewalk tables were already filled, so we headed farther up the street. The Hunan Empire restaurant we were hoping to visit turned out to be closed on Sunday — they must have been out enjoying the great weather — so still farther we walked.
We finally stopped at La Boulange, which was already quite busy with a lunch crowd. One of us ordered a premade turkey and cranberry sandwich, the other chose one of the day’s specials: duck confit hash with housemade bread. When it was delivered to our table (two eggs sunny-side-up on top of big chunks of potatoes, some arugula, and hunks of duck meat), the smell was like a fresh country breakfast. It made our cold turkey and cranberry sandwich cry in shame.
After lunch, it was back to Union Street, heading very slowly back toward our parked car. We stopped in to sample the vintage posters at Artisans of San Francisco.
Outside once again, on one side of the street, from Bar None, came the sounds of people cheering for a football game, their cheers alternating with cheers from across the street at The Blue Light. Perhaps they were rooting for different teams.
Walking past Des Amis, we dodged the dogs lying at the feet of the outdoor diners. Stopping in at Contrada Bikes, we saw two men behind the counter animatedly discussing bikes and bike decorations. In the back room, a man was visible quietly working on a bike. A large flat screen TV up on the wall showed an NFL game (not the 49ers), but unlike the sports bars, no one appeared to be paying attention; at Contrada, people are into making their own sports.
A man borrowed a bike for a test drive after being told to ride it on Filbert Street because it’s less busy than Union Street. Afterward, we were back on the street, which was indeed busy with people. The women tended to walk by in twos, the men —mostly young men heading in the direction of the sports bars — were walking by in packs of five or six. Very fit men and women came out of Equinox, looking like they will never have to exercise another day in their lives.
A group of men walked past us outside Lorna Jane at Webster and Union, with one exclaiming, “A year ago, a friend of mine gave me a book on San Francisco history and I read it. I was like ‘No way, that is so cool; I don’t know any of that.'” Walking in the other direction were two women, one of whom asked the other which spot on the street is her favorite.
As we pass Nine West, a woman walked by talking into her phone: “Everyone was so nice. I was like, oh my god. Just so nice.” Your guess is as good as mine.
Past the Bud Store we went, though not without appreciating the cool respite from the increasing heat of the sun provided by the flower store, it’s streetside bouquets and large awnings. But we didn’t stop; we headed into Sur La Table to sample their wares. Upon leaving the store, we checked out the window sign listing cooking classes offered in the streetside demonstration kitchen. Two women walked past, one saying, “Oh, they have cooking classes; I want to take one.”
We went into City Cycle for another look at bikes, then I wandered next door to look at Terzo, the Mediterranean restaurant on Steiner Street. The restaurant is closed on Sundays; however, through the windows was visible a white-coated staffer busy in the kitchen, preparing for the next day’s business.
We stopped briefly at the Saint Vincent De Paul Church for another quick look at the sanctuary. Then we headed up Green Street, a very steep block we had to climb. You can park right at your destination. It made me think back to two women we saw parking their cool black Fiat at a corner spot on Union a few blocks away. One woman got out and started trying to figure out the parking meter, but the other woman said, “Mom, it’s Sunday.”
That’s right; you don’t need to feed the meters on Sunday anymore. We could have parked closer.