On Sunday October 9th 2005, I spent the early part of the afternoon at the Clement Street Festival in the (inner / east) Richmond district of San Francisco. The fair itself was less than thrilling; similar to the San Bruno Avenue festival, it had a single musical stage, a passably-sized selection of vendors (many of which I saw already at the North Berkeley festival), the same identical very sad looking petting/riding zoo, and the same assortment of kids stuff (inflatable castles, slides, climbing wall, etc.). While I didn't expect much, I had gone hoping for a little more. In particular, the web page claimed:
For the 2005 Festival we will be featuring this diverse cuisine with a "Taste of Clement Street". A number of restaurants within the Festival site will be offering a variety of samples that represent their particular type of food.
But this didn't exist. I didn't see a single food sample or food vendor.
All that being said, all was not lost. I still had a good time because the Richmond district is such a fantastic place with its wide diversity of cultures. I had thought Geary Street was the focus of the district, with a few blocks of Balboa also being intriguing. Little did I know one block over from Geary was Clement, another street as lively and varying as Geary and in fact with probably a greater density of restaurants and shops.
Wandering around Clement was great. It has at least as wide a selection of cuisines as Berkeley, ranging from Irish and Polish to Indonesia, Japanese, Burmese, and, of course, Chinese. (The area is sometimes called new chinatown.) The area of Clement Street between 6th and 8th has many Chinese bakeries and take-out Dim Sum places. Before heading home, I stopped by some of these and picked up some bakery items (sesame balls and a few different moon cakes, and a steamed black bean bun to eat right then). Lunch itself, however, since I couldn't find any of the samples, was at Burma Superstar, a restaurant I'd previously heard positive reviews of. I had a pork and potato curry over rice that came with satisfying chunks of meat and potatoes. The dish was heavy but not rich (like, say, Indian dishes), much like a decent brisket with a little Indian curry mixed in. Nothing that special, but I saw many diners with other tempting dishes and, after reading other reviews of this place online, I definitely want to go back. Along with lunch I had a refreshing slightly alcoholic drink that tasted of lemon and ginger (but didn't go well with the entree at all).
The whole trip confirmed my previous inclination that if I was going to live in San Francisco, the Richmond district would probably be my preferred place. Sadly, it's not close to BART or many highways.
Getting there from Berkeley was a bit of a pain; westbound bay bridge traffic was slow -- it took me an hour to arrive. Returning was easier, with a nice adventure along the way: During the whole fair, we'd occasionally hear the sound barrier broken as the blue angels practiced overhead. (Usually I wasn't able to spot them.) But, on the way home, I heard them once again, then saw the shadow of a plan literally drive down the street toward me and past me! The wingspan of the shadow was almost four lanes.
After crossing the bay bridge (eastbound, to home), I noticed the westbound traffic was at a standstill. No movement. Suddenly I felt better about the slow traffic I had to wade through when I drove west earlier.
Incidentally, the fair was actually organized by the same people that organize the San Bruno Avenue one and the North Berkeley Spice of Life one. Attending, one can see the similarities, but the contrast between the sheer quantity of booths and performers at the Spice of Life versus the other two was staggering. I guess there are simply more people selling hand-made items and trinkets in Berkeley, and more people attending the fair to sell to, and more people that want to perform...