Though it's fashionable to hate tourists in this town, I have a secret love for them. They make me feel better just knowing they're around. They wear incredibly ugly clothes, making me feel fashionable. They're usually really fat, making me feel healthy. And as evident from what I overhear from my office window, they're pretty unhappy. The chorus of regular complaints including, but not limited to: "I'm hungry," "I'm cold," and the timeless "I don't want to walk anymore."
What's even better about San Francisco tourists is that, if you live here, you don't have to interact with them much. They're confined to the Wharf and Union Square and Chinatown. They have all that space to eat up the sidewalk, take pictures in front of chain restaurants and spend $50 on San Francisco sweatshirts. They boost the economy and stay out of the way. We get the rest of the city, which is pretty damn nice, unless you're in the market for a souvenir mug with your name on it or anything that references the existence of Alcatraz.
But after a year of living in San Francisco and a good two months after starting work near Fisherman's Wharf, I finally decided to venture into hostile territory to get a bowl of clam chowder in a sourdough bowl. I did it in the name of craving. In the spirit of kitch. I did it because my office is just 100 ft from Pier 39 and it seems almost ridiculous not to.
So I went. I made the unprecedented right turn out of the office building, was soon wading through a sea of pre-teens making their way back to their tour bus, nearly got hip-checked by some gull-gazing German tourists and had my image captured for eternity in the background of a number of vacation photos before I made it to Boudin, the birthplace of the clam chowder bread bowl.
I don't know the history of the bread as bowl phenomenon. I like to imagine that there was some devastating war-time crockery shortage, and the people were at a loss at how to enjoy their soup. Plates were out of the question and there were untold number of palms burned as people attempted to ladle soup directly into their hands. Then there would be the one genius who, spying a round loaf of bread, quietly began carving in, tunneling to create a vessel that seemed almost made for soup. Thus, in my head at least, the bread bowl was born.
Stepping up to the counter, I feel an urge to set myself apart from the tourist population. I remember that there's a discount for people who work in the area, and with the slickness of passing along a secret code, I get my 10% off. Before I have a chance to claim my table with a copy of 7x7 my number is called. My bread bowl is ready.
I was prepared to hate it. I was in a chain restaurant eating tourist fare off a black plastic tray. But I didn't. The bread is good and the chowder, besides being a fun word to say, is comforting and tasty. As someone in the office said before I headed out, "There's a reason it's famous." The bread to soup ratio is way, way off and I feel a bit guilty throwing away almost an entire loaf of perfectly good bread.
Heading out from the cafe into the belly of Pier 39, I considered hitting the taffy shop or picking up an Oyster With a Real Pearl Inside, but I resisted. I made my pilgrimage to the tourist mecca and I could leave in peace, my only souvenir a nice lunch and a moderate stomachache.
Posted by canolive at 1:43 PM