Sunday, July 14, 2013

BUS STORY # 349 (MUNI! Part 2)

Untitled by busboy4
Muni bus going uptown..., a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.
You can read Part 1 here.

From the de Young museum in Golden Gate Park, we traveled across town to North Beach, the Italian section of town. Using Google Maps, we were directed to the 5 just outside the museum. It was there in less than five minutes.

We had seats, but as we got closer to Market Street and the Financial District, the bus filled up until there was standing room only. My wife had already been impressed by how well-dressed so many of the riders were on the 28. Here on the 5, the eclectic range of dress reminded us of the audiences at the Santa Fe Opera, except no one was wearing outrageously wonderful costumes. (The natives may be keeping these in reserve for the day of the annual Breakers to Bay.)

We transferred to the 8X downtown -- an articulated bus full to the gills which came almost as soon as we reached the stop. We rode standing up to Columbus Street (What else would the main street of an Italian-American neighborhood be named?) where we got off and began wandering the streets.

The neighborhood is both like and unlike Boston’s North End. There are streets that are nothing but restaurants on one or both sides of the street, but with tables lining the sidewalks outside. Only one of them had a host standing outside with menus, urging pedestrians to come inside and eat.

We went from restaurant to restaurant, looking at the menus posted in the windows or set up on stands outside the doors, until I spotted a menu featuring “Spaghetti Puttanesca.” Long story short: I’d lost my source of Puttanesca when my favorite Italian restaurant in Albuquerque, Vivace, closed last spring. “This is the place,” I urged my wife.

This authentic Italian restaurant turned out to have the unlikely name of “Original U.S. Restaurant.” But the authenticity was beyond question: the place was packed with patrons fixed upon the large screen TV hanging in the back of the restaurant which was broadcasting a soccer game, in Italian. The place reverberated with shouts and groans in what turned out to be an overtime shootout in a semi-final championship game between Italy and Spain.

The Puttanesca was outstanding.

Our plan had been to catch a bus north to the beginning of the F line and take one of the old streetcars along The Embarcadero to the Ferry Building Marketplace. We were planning to shop for a picnic dinner. But my wife wanted some exercise, and she used a pocket-sized street map to plot a course due east.

It turned out to be a pleasant walk. The weather was gorgeous and the streets were flat the whole way. (There are some killer steep climbs in this city.) And: we stumbled across a small sculpture of Georgia O’Keefe, of all people, in a small park about a block away from the wharfs. You can read about it and the park here.

Continued next week.


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