Not 24 hours after my epic Gary Danko meal, I found myself just two blocks away at the Buena Vista cafe for a (solo) lunch. I took the day off from work to celebrate… myself. My criteria: classic San Francisco, somewhere I’d never been, and good old fashioned junk food. The Buena Vista Cafe fit the bill.
I walked in around 1pm on a Friday expecting to pull up a chair at the bar, open my iPad, maybe chit chat with the bartender, and have some quiet time to myself. So did every other tourist in the world, apparently. I sipped their world famous Irish Coffee standing up while I waited for a single counter chair to open. The bartenders/servers – who look like they’ve been there since Day One in 1952 – barely had time to breathe, much less chat, in between pouring Irish Coffee after Irish Coffee. Speaking of which, those suckers pack a punch! I took a giant gulp and almost hit the ground. Luckily, they’re small; not luckily, they’re expensive ($7.75) and I could see where it’d be easy to fly through a few. I see why the drink is legendary: it’s hot and boozy, but has a nice layer of cream at the top to cool the coffee as it passes your lips while also (sort of) disguising the whiskey. The place opens at 9am, which could be dangerous…
Once I found a seat (appropriately wedged between two sets of tourists), the decision-making process began. This is your classic diner menu with a fish bent – appropriate given the glorious views of the Wharf just outside. I ended up with the crab salad sandwich and French fries. The sandwich arrived in under two minutes and sadly, was fairly mediocre. The salad didn’t have anything special going for it; it was your standard combination of crab, mayo, celery bits. It was scooped onto a dry bun. Most of the salad fell out the side when I took a bite, so I ended up eating most of it like toast. I wish it could have been a little more cohesive. Or with bacon. The fries were standard. Not terrible but nothing out of the ordinary.
On my way in, I had spotted bread pudding in the dessert window so what happens next is about as obvious as the Titanic sinking. I was very pleasantly surprised; they heat up the piece, douse it in whip cream, and place it in a pool of butter. Their rendition is marked by a strong presence of cinnamon and enormous pieces of raisins. It’s a hot, moist, flavorful winner.