Saturday, November 12, 2011
Red Door Cafe - Eclectic San Francisco, but what did you expect?
I suppose cliches and stereotypes all exist for a reason - a significant number of people who are seen as part of a particular "group" do indeed have similar qualities. San Francisco's stereotype, as a city, is probably hippy, eclectic and gay, so why should one be shocked when they arrive at Red Door Cafe?
Because, "eclectic" as SF might be, you (or at least I) wouldn't expect to encounter those things if you don't go looking. I was looking at it from a foodie perspective, your Cois, Blue Bottles, farmers' markets and Tartines, but I'm so glad I stumbled out of that box and found Red Door.
It was Sunday morning, and we were still jetlagged. I got up at around 6am local time, waiting for nearby cafes to open. I typed "coffee" into Yelp and searched my immediate, walkable area. (The car was parked and I didn't feel like going too far in case my friend (just best-friend-chef-foodie T with me for the first part of this trip) woke up while I was gone.) I zeroed in on Little Bird Coffeehouse and continued to not sleep. Finally, I rolled out of bed and showered, at which time T woke up, so we decided to go get a light breakfast (we had brunch at Zuni booked at noon). Just as we were about to leave, I googled Little Bird just to make sure I got the location right. Up pops the news that it's shuttered. Shoes, hats and scarves were all on. Crap.
Out comes the Yelp app that I so love/hate. Closest to us for brunch and highest rated was Red Door Cafe. So we collected the car (it was a few blocks up a fairly steep hill). We park it and walk across the road to Red Door. There was a crowd waiting. My immediate thought was "f**k it, I'm not lining up" (I swear a bit when I've only slept 4 hours in the past 48). But then we realised that it was because the doors weren't open yet. It was 9.20am, and it was due to open at 9.30 (said the Yelp app, and the crowds). So we waited to see what it was all about.
Soon, a superslim guy with olive skin and bouncy, shiny, shoulder length black curls comes out. Oh, and he's wearing denim shorts (long, like bike-length) that were taut around his tush, a deep v-neck t-shirt and cowboy boots. He's the host, Ahmed. He ushers us into a line of sorts and starts "interviewing" us. We were the sixth group in line, so we watched and learned quick. We had absolutely no idea what was going on. Ahmed was asking questions like, "so, tell me about yourself", "how did you find out about us?" (I was desperately thinking of an answer to that that was not Yelp, but we were never asked, phew). He got to us and asked for our names and where we were from. "Hong Kong" was probably a good enough answer, but just to make sure, he made us repeat "You give love, you get love" after him. This was all in the middle of a sidewalk, surrounded by strangers, mind. We obliged, and Ahmed counted the people in line and rounded us up (we just made it into the first sitting, very lucky because it would've taken ages before the next people would get in).
He disappeared into the cafe then reappeared to give out plastic dolls to everyone who was going in. They were our tickets to entry. We huddled around for a pre-game pep talk. Ahmed is absolutely hilarious and if I try and repeat it here it'll only sound dull, but one thing I will mention is that he says, "I don't do customer service". Ironically, he is all about customer service. Just look at this entire experience. True, he says he "will slit your throat" if you ask him for another napkin, but think about it - service is so much more than how many forks a server can give you. (By the way, is it un-PC to say "waiter"? It seems to be so taboo in the US).
The cafe is tiny, seating 14 people, and the breakfast menu is full of hearty fry-up-ish plates, with a Mexican influence. I went with a pretty trad "Bacon Boogie". Other dishes had names that would make a prim schoolgirl blush, like Two Titties and Big Cock. Speaking of the latter, Ahmed made T and I order through a whistle, which acted as our microphone, that was in the shape of a teeny weeny mmhmm-y'know-what's-down-there.
Anyway, if I say anymore I'm going to ruin the fun when you visit. And you will, when you go to SF - you'd be an idiot not to. (You'd also be an idiot if you went after opening time - you'd be in line until your botox wears out). I might have had fancier, more culinarily sound food elsewhere, but this is one meal that will stay with me and that I'll be blabbering on about if anyone ever dares ask, "did you have fun in San Francisco?"
Red Door Cafe
1608 Bush St
+ 1 415 441 1564
Open: "When I feel like it", says the door. In reality: Mon, Thu, Fri, 10.30am-1pm; Sat-Sun 9.30am-1.30pm.
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