After we moved to San Francisco in 2009, neither my wife nor I would have imagined that we’d find a home in this wonderfully unique city. It didn’t have the driveways and lawns of the South Bay neighborhoods of our youth, it didn’t have the warm beaches of our college and med school years in San Diego, and it wasn’t quite as walkable as our residency home in Washington, D.C. But, we became enamored with this packed seven by seven mile space—a city with a diversity of parks, vistas, activities, food, and people that matches its colorful politics and microclimates. Here are a handful of itineraries that are a short walk or bus/train/BART ride away and, in my honest opinion, provide a taste (often literally) of the historic and contemporary communities of San Francisco.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 41 – No 09 – September 2022
Kick off your weekend with a rapid-fire contrast in topics and personalities, both of whom with which I’ve been fortunate to have worked. First, one of my residency program’s favorite attendings, Rita Manfredi-Shutler, MD, FACEP, discusses the evolution of telemedicine in emergency medicine, and then EM-Critical Care-trained Jennifer Wilson, MD, FACEP, advises on the management of cardiac tamponade.
Speaking of contrasts, when you’re ready to explore San Francisco, start with the quintessential pair of contrasting neighbors: Chinatown and North Beach.
If you choose to explore the east side of Columbus Street, you’ll venture into the old Italian neighborhood of North Beach and its iconic sites. Pick up a sandwich from Molinari Delicatessen or The Italian Homemade Company, focaccia from Liguria Bakery, and a slice of tiramisu or sacripantina from Stella Bakery. Enjoy a leisurely lunch in Washington Square or hike up to Coit Tower. You can browse City Lights Bookstore on your way back. Dinner options include the venerable Original Joe’s or Café Jacqueline, known for its souffles (but it is closed Mondays and Tuesdays).
If you chose the west side of Columbus St., you’ll enter the oldest and largest Chinatown in the United States. While still home to a multi-generational Cantonese community, its businesses are largely targeted toward tourists or families looking for low-cost groceries. Many would argue that better quality Chinese food is found on Clement Street (Marvel superhero Shang-Chi rented an unwarranted garage space in that neighborhood, after all), but there are still gems to be found.
Check out my go-to place for take-out dim sum at Good Mong Kok Bakery (cash only), Chong Qing Xiao Mian, R&G Lounge (visited by President Obama), and Golden Gate Bakery (known for its dan tat—a Cantonese pastry with an egg custard). It is plenty enjoyable to take in the energy of the weekend crowds, and browse the produce markets, traditional medicine shops, and occasional live chicken shop. Don’t blink, however, or you may miss the newly renovated Chinese Hospital which was created to serve Chinatown’s segregated community and opened in 1925.
On the second day of the conference, start your productive day with a lecture on productivity—Christian Rose, MD, shows you that you don’t have to be a TikTok star to leverage mobile devices—learn which phone applications are must-have items. In the same spirit, make time for the James D. Mills Jr. Memorial Lecture by one of my first mentors (and ACEP Now Associate Editor), Catherine Marco, MD, FACEP. She was (and is) an inspirational model of personal productivity—being both a present spouse and parent, successful and satisfied professional, and triathlon beast.
In the spirit of self-improvement, visit the newest San Francisco neighborhood of Mission Bay, built on reclaimed industrial and dock lands. There are plenty to see here, beginning at the South Beach Marina with Oracle Park, the home of the San Francisco Giants who will be in town playing series against foes from Colorado and Arizona. At the adjacent Mission Creek, you can book leisure time in the water at City Kayak. As you walk through the new residence towers, for morbidly fun detective work, you can identify the longest standing structures by the degree of landfill sinkage on their adjacent sidewalks. Enjoy the scattered art pieces, including my favorite, the dual monoliths Ballast. Take advantage of the Mission Bay sunshine by eating lunch at the SPARK Social SF food truck park, and playing a round of mini-golf at Stagecoach Greens.
If you really need to put your body to work, pack your climbing shoes, and head into the traditionally blue-collar Dogpatch neighborhood for rock climbing at Dogpatch Boulders. Immediately replace those hard-lost calories by gorging on a take on chicken and waffles across the street at the Hard Knox Café, started by a former Vietnamese-Houstonian family.
If you feel the need to exercise your soul, head further south into the heart of the Bayview neighborhood to eat dinner at one of our beloved charity organizations, Old Skool Café. This jazz themed supper club is run by at-risk, formerly incarcerated and foster care youth. Some of our first friends in the city helped start this program that provides loving mentorship and job training for these wonderful kids.
Conference day three can push us to orient our perspective outside of ourselves. Nancy J. Auer lecture, Climate Fever, presented by Renee Salas, MD, addresses how climate change touches our daily work. Nanveet Cheema, MD, (one half of the fabulous Cheema doctor sisters) gives afternoon lecture on electrical injuries discussing what happens when climate (yes, I know, it’s technically “weather”) literally touches you.
To match this outward-gazing state of reflection, the following itineraries land you in the neighborhood that might most palpably reflect the ongoing socio-economic and cultural movements in the state of California. Gifted with a rare pocket of warmth and sunshine in San Francisco, The Mission continually draws new waves of both Latin American immigrants, and young professionals and entrepreneurs, with all the expected creative and disruptive tensions such a collision inevitably creates.
The Mission, West
Start your excursion at the indefatigable Senator Feinstein’s old, after-school hangout, the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (her father was once chief of surgery). On campus, all three generations of the hospital are still standing. Then head south a few blocks and walk east through the commercial corridor of 24th, where there is a plethora of Mexican panaderias, carnicerias, mercados, and joyerias. Take time to breathe in the innumerable murals that ornate the neighborhood (hot tip: you may be able to find a free SF walking tour of the murals organized by the SF Library). Try some of the amazing culinary patchwork that has evolved here. If you need a jolt, get a hand-poured coffee from Philz Coffee. Go to Dynamo Donut & Coffee for their famous Maple Glazed Bacon Apple donut. For lunch, try my old toxicology fellowship hangout El Metate at 22nd and Bryant, or eat at Taqueria El Farolito or El Patron, typically in the conversation for best Mexican food in the city. Weirdly, one of the best sushi values in the city is at Basa Seafood Express. Finish your walk with Secret Breakfast ice cream at Humphry Slocombe.
The Mission, East
From the 24th street BART station, walk east and head up Valencia for my favorite corridor of the Mission. Here you will find all manner of business and human. Super hungry? Grab a pastry and coffee from Arizmendi Bakery. Turn west on 18th street and pick up a picnic lunch at Tartine Bakery or the Bi-Rite market, or just ice cream from the Bi-Rite Creamery. After gathering your picnic lunch, join locals and tourists alike at Mission Dolores Park for some of best views of the city. Nearby is the park’s namesake, Mission Dolores. On the way back to the BART station, zig zag through the street grid to pick up a treat either at Boba Guys or Garden Creamery.
Tuesday’s schedule includes speakers from emergency medicine stalwarts in the East Bay and Central Valley. From a hospital that needs little introduction, Highland Hospital’s Charlotte Page Wills, MD, shares up-to-date advances in trauma care. From UCSF-Fresno, one of the pillars of Wilderness Medicine, Danielle D. Campagne, MD, FACEP, gives new life to an “old” topic in Secrets of the Chest Imaging Masters.
As you expand your conference connections outside of San Francisco, expand your tourism to get a taste of the richness of the rest of San Francisco and the greater SF Bay Area.
Clearly, there’s an immense richness to the SF Bay Area, that even we, as natives, have only experienced a tiny fraction. But, I’m glad for this chance to share a little of our life with you. And, in the end, even if you’ll be too busy (or lazy!) to go anywhere else besides the Westfield mall food court, I hope you have a satisfying conference and enjoy our city.