Here are two local destinations that will surprise even a longtime SF native


Spring is in the air. It’s time to try something old and something new. So one afternoon I went to lunch at Val’s Restaurant in Daly City, one of the Bay Area’s bastions of traditional style, and the next day I took a brand new ferry to Treasure Island, where a neighborhood is rises from the dust of an abandoned building. Naval base and Universal Exhibition.

Both locations are a bit off the beaten path, but both are only minutes from greater San Francisco.

Val’s is one of those classic places: a large neon sign outside, a perfectly restored fire engine red Pontiac parked on the sidewalk. They don’t make Pontiacs anymore, and places like Val’s have gone out of style.

“Val’s has an old-school atmosphere and service,” said Val’s regular Lex Perillat. There are still a few similar places, neighborhood eateries with flavors from another time, like the Gold Mirror on Taraval Street, Rocco’s on Folsom and 7 Mile House, just above the San Mateo county line in Brisbane. .

Val’s has been around since the early 1950s. “A steak house and saloon with decor and a menu that hasn’t changed since the Johnson administration,” as Daly City historian Bob Calhoun called it.

Val’s has two sections: one a bright, cheerful space with white tablecloths, the other a lounge area, with genuine leatherette booths, a long bar and a fireplace to ward off the Daly City chill. There are paintings of nude women on the walls, in a style reminiscent of the heyday of Domino’s and other financial district institutions in San Francisco.

“You can sit anywhere you want,” host Greg Taylor said, “except this cabin. A group of regulars come every Tuesday and they always sit there.

Val’s dimly lit lounge in Daly City has an early 1950s vibe.

Carl Nolte / The Chronicle

This is the heart of the matter: it is a family place, warm and comfortable. Taylor’s family has owned Val’s since 1975, and some regulars have been coming for longer than that. “I’ve been coming for a long time,” said Marguerite Aguilar, who grew up in San Francisco and was at Val’s for lunch. She nodded to the host. “My father knew his father,” she said.

The enchiladas were on a lunch special that day, so we had them, with a salad and a glass of white wine, all delicious old fashioned. “What would you like for dessert?” asked Christy Sturtevant, the waitress. “We have apple pie,” she said, “it’s fresh, it’s crumbly, and it’s very good.”

She was absolutely right.

The next day, something new. I had heard about the ferry service to Treasure Island which had just started a few days ago. I hadn’t been to the island in years: once or twice when I was a naval base, once to visit the old museum that celebrated the 1939 Golden Gate World’s Fair- 40, rarely since. A new ferry ride is always worth trying.

The Mayor of London Breed hailed the new service when it launched on March 1 as “a significant step forward in realizing the transport vision for Treasure Island”. Joe Kukura, who made one of the maiden voyages and reported for the SFist website, was more succinct. “Oh the ride is a kick…” he posted.

Both were right. The ferry, funded by Treasure Island Community Development and operated by Prop SF, is a key component in transforming TI into a new neighborhood with 8,000 new homes and 300 acres of parks and open space. The boat, a 48-passenger catamaran named Sammy J, only takes about 10 minutes to cross Gate B of the Ferry Building to Treasure Island.

It’s a spectacular trip, even by San Francisco Bay standards, especially towards the end of the day when the setting sun illuminates the city and turns the East Bay hills to gold. There are 17 crossings in each direction on weekdays, 14 on weekends. The fare is $5.

There were only three other passengers when I boarded. Two of them, Jim Baughn and John Bernard, Davis’ cycling buddies, rode the boat to Treasure Island on a “quest,” as they called it, to bike to each branch of library, every fire station and every park in San Francis. Why? “Why not?” said Bernard, “It’s a beautiful city, and we see the 95% of the city’s tourists never see.” Treasure Island was last on their list.

The other passenger was Krissie Hunt, who lives on Treasure Island and was looking for a new way to get to downtown San Francisco. The ferry, she says, “is wonderful. Now I can go to town without using my car.

The other passengers continued on their way when the boat landed. I went exploring. I didn’t go far, as it was late in the day and the wind had picked up. I went to the Island Market and Deli which is kind of a general store, offering groceries and light snacks. I had a piroshki – “a San Francisco tradition since 1956”, the label said. I ate at a picnic table, then returned to the ship, like a tourist returning from a cruise ship.

There are restaurants on the island and other sites, but it was unclear where they were and I couldn’t find them at first. I felt like one of those explorers wandering into a new world, or a San Franciscan discovering San Francisco. I’ll be back.

Carl Nolte’s chronicles are broadcast on Sundays. Email: [email protected]: @Carlnoltesf


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