Roam Artisan Burgers, Blue Bottle Coffee & Wooden Charcoal Korean Village Barbecue House

Korean soup

Now I know why they call America – The land of the free. I had a trifecta on my first day; The (normally pricey) watch repair place fixed my watch for free, with a “Merry Christmas!” as he walked onto the next customer, the mobile phone company not only gave me a new SIM card so I could talk and tweet away (which isn’t free, unfortunately) but gave Romain one, too, and last night as we were coming home from dinner, we passed by Boudin bakery, where the bakers were up baking loaves of sourdough bread.

The baker, wondering who the weirdos were (which was odd that he was watching us, because we’re certainly not the only weirdos in San Francisco), who were peering in the doorway. We told him we were just looking and I mentioned my other-half was from France, so he handed us a hefty bâtard of San Francisco sourdough. I dunno, maybe after the trip, we kind of looked bedraggled and in need of some nourishment.

One of my FAQs that folks ask is: “How often do you get back to the states?” I think they figure I’m kind of a douche because I usually say “never.” It’s not because I don’t like my homeland, but getting to San Francisco is always a major challenge. On this trip, there was a lone, unattended suitcase surrounded by policemen (okay, there were only two) that someone had left in the area where the RER train arrives from Paris to Charles de Gaulle Airport. After being told various stories about how we could get to the airline check-in desk because the shuttle trains weren’t operating due to the colis suspect, a reassuring service announcement was made that, fortunately, a regular bus would meet us all upstairs to whisk us early-morning travelers right to our terminals. Good thing we still had 2 1/2 hours to spare and we were just a quick hop over to the friendly skies of United.

Unfortunately, three buses came – and went, not a single one for all of us shivering in the 6:30am cold, damp air. So after waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting – living in France, you get pretty good at that…) of course, no bus ever materialized. Not to go on, but when we finally did make it to the check-in desk, after checking us in, they said we couldn’t actually get on the flight and had to be re-routed through another city. Of course, all the seats were taken so we scored the prime center seats in the two last rows of the plane. (Where it tapers to a narrower point.) I’d hoped to get some writing done during the flight, as well as catch up on Jennifer Aniston movies, but it was so tight back there that I couldn’t even extend my arms, so I sat like an Egyptian mummy with my arms crossed in front of me and braved it out. But that was strike-three, my friends, for the RER to the Paris airport. Next time, I’m walking.

banchan

Although I woke up my first day in San Francisco feeling like I’d spent 20 hours in a dehydrator (which, essentially, I did) and my head feels like someone poured concrete into it, I wanted to get out and see (and eat) some stuff and enjoy myself, after I took care of some customer service needs I had been “banking” for my visit back.

I’m still not sure why every customer service agent on the telephone wanted to know how my day is going – good thing they didn’t ask the day of my flight – that’s why I have you guys ; ) but I’m trying not to be so suspicious anymore of the kindness of strangers. In fact, the cashier at Target – after we used a 20% off coupon, then got another 5% off because my friend paid with some special card, the cashier asked if I had some app called Cartwheel to save even more. When I said, “No, sorry”, she took out her own phone and started scanning and checking every. single. item.

After I picked his jaw up off the floor, Romain and I are now trying to figure out how to bring her back to Paris and clone her.

blood orange soda

I was eager to get some of the good food from San Francisco into my gullet, which helped overcome the less-than-friendly skies travel “adventure.” And until I get reunited with my camera (long story…) I have my trusty smartphone to shoot some snaps. (My socks and undies also went AWOL, so if you come to my booksigning on Sunday, you might not want to peek until the table where I’m sitting.)

Our first lunch was at Roam Artisan Burgers. I wasn’t instantly craving a burger, because we get burgers in Paris now. But after three hours at Target, translating everything into French (although the pharmacist spoke French – so it’s nice to know they don’t call it “Tar-jay” for nothin’), and doing on-the-spot currency conversions while filling my shopping cart with chapstick and unscented shaving cream, I was wiped out from my translating and fiduciary duties and needed some all-American nourishment.

Roam

On the plus side, I now have a lifetime (and then some..) supply of zip-top bags, and picked up some garbage bags for a French friend, who pleaded with me last time I saw her – “Next time you go back to America, Daveed, please get me some of those American trash bags.” Even better than substantial discounts and free watch repair (and, thankfully, only one Jennifer Aniston movie on the flight), I also got my fill of truly crisp French fries, served in a trilogy known as the Fry-Fecta at Roam, along with blood orange sodas, and a grass-fed beef cheeseburger with aged cheddar that was terrific. But no matter how fast we were wolfing down our burgers, racing through ‘em as the juices started flowing out the bottom, it was hard to keep out hands out of that big bowl of russet fries, fried onions, and the best – and crispest – sweet potato fries I ever had. I don’t know how they did it (and for my waistline, probably best not to know) – but I’m going back before I leave, for more.

blue bottle coffee

A quick pick-me-up of caffè macchiato at Blue Bottle Coffee and a couple of cookies, then off to dinner before the jet-lag kicked in. I wanted to go to Brother’s BBQ, which my friends told me wasn’t so great anymore, and Korea House was closed for good. So we hit Wooden Charcoal Korean Village Barbecue House, that was, indeed, pretty great.

Korean bbq

The little bowl of banchan were some of the best I’ve ever had, along with spicy tofu soup. And for some reason, they gave us another bowl of soup, on the house – what’s up with this wacky country? They’re just giving everything away! (Although maybe it’s to soften the blow of the insane rents and real estate prices in San Francisco.) The kalbi beef was kind of tough, but the pajeon pancake was crisp and tasty, and the spicy pork bbq’d meat was a hit.

It’s nearly 4:57am the next morning now and I’m gearing up for breakfast in a few hours, which looks to be bao (Chinese pork buns), while I down my third cup of Peet’s coffee until we figure out where to eat today. Ah, San Francisco, there’s no place like home. And maybe today, we just might go back to Roam*.


Hey, if you’re in San Francisco (or I haven’t turned you off flying forever, and you feel like taking a trip**), I’ll be Omnivore Books this Sunday from 3 to 4pm signing books. Stop by if you’d like to say hi, and perhaps tick a few holiday gifts off your list.

*Hopefully with a real camera, some socks, and a pair of unmentionables.

**I don’t blame you, because I’m never getting on another plane again, either.

56 comments

  • French people always criticize me for picking my parents up at Roissy by car, or asking for a ride (I literally give friends the keys to my car while I’m gone so they can pick me up and drop me off. We have an understanding). “Just take the RER”, they say ! Let me know next time and I’ll give you a ride. Have fun in ‘Mericah.

    • The RER is fast, but the B trains are pretty grim. Still, during morning hours, it’s a good way not to get caught in the traffic jams that often encircle Paris. Fortunately we gave ourselves plenty of time. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter.

  • The only time I had problems with traffic out to Roissy which made it longer than the RER was during a taxi strike last year. It was also when there was work being done on the B, so it was lose-lose. Otherwise, I can get out there in 25 minutes because a taxi driver once taught me some shortcuts on the A1.

  • Welcome back!

  • Welcome back to SF David!

    Looks like you are hanging around in the inner richmond, not to far from my place. After moving back from Paris a few months ago, it’s nice to have you over here, reminding me how great this city (and its food) is too!

    I loved meeting you in Paris, and hope to make it over to your book signing, but work may not allow it. Try to make it over to Hayes Valley tonight for their block party and be sure to stop by The Mill on Divis for coffee and toast… Their bread may rival some French loaves… (Don’t tell them I said that!)

  • Please come to LA so you can experience more Korean food! There’s so much to be consumed by an enthusiast such as yourself! I know you will love it!!! ;-)

    Hope you have a lovely time back home.

    • It’s going to be a long, long time before I get back on a plane. When is that high-speed train to LA happening? ; )

  • David: I’ve had your Omnivore stop on my calendar for a long time, still hoping to get there to see you & say “hello” even briefly if at all possible (as you said, easier than flying for hours under sub-prime conditions) but schedule obligations may close in on me Sunday. Would love to do the chocolate/gourmet trip again with you. And I’m going to enjoy your comments on the food in SF so I can follow in your footsteps.

  • My Lord, that kalbi looks good…

    Hopefully Sunday will not be rainy so that I can make the trek to your book signing.

  • you’re totally right. the trip to SF is always a horrendous 20-hour-something ordeal. and worse if you have to go through JFK. but at the end, it’s worth it. if you have a spare evening, i really recommend Mr. Pollo in Mission. the ugly sign might be off-putting, but some friends took me there for a four-course dinner tasting menu ($20), where i’d had a life-changing grilled arepa with cheese. so good. the place can only seat 10 people so reservations are a must.

    say hi to Ms Kaminsky for me! :)

  • It makes me very sad that I’m missing your Omnivore signing — I love that shop, and I’d love to “meet” you — but alas, I’m going to be in Austin, having hopefully not suffered quite the same airline mis-luck as you did. Thanks for the Korean rec; I wasn’t impressed with my last visit to Brothers (and your suggestion is even closer to home. bonus!). Enjoy your visit. Maybe one of these years I’ll make it to a signing!

  • LUFTHANSA !!!

  • Having just returned from Paris where I spent a blissful 10 days hopping from chocolaterie to patisserie to boulangerie to fromagerie to epicerie per your recommendations, I look forward to meeting you at Omnivore on Sunday! Hope you have time to check out some of the recent culinary additions to your old stomping grounds of North Berkeley (where I live) or just to enjoy the faithful standbys. (It’s not like Cheese Board Pizza ever gets tiresome, after all! :-))

  • I used Les Cars Air France this summer and was quite pleased with the service. I think it costs about 5 euro more but much cleaner and less trudging about with the rollie bags.

    So funny, the Target trip, we always bring Ziploc bags, Saran Wrap, Dobie Pads, and rubber gloves to family in France!

    Hope to see you at the Omnivore signing, there is also Mercato Natale at the Museo Italo in Fort Mason.

  • While you’re in the US, I’d recommend picking up some coconut cream from Trader Joe’s. I made your vegan banana ice cream with it, and it was AMAZING. Of course, I also quadrupled the rum.

  • Welcome home! You landed just in time for the cold. Hopefully it will warm a bit by the time you head back east. I love the contrasts of the unbelievably bad and fabulous in travel stories. It makes for good tale and fosters a love of adventure, I think.

  • I always take the RER to and from CDG without problem, but what the heck is going on at the airport? When we flew in Air France a month ago, there must have been over 1,000 people in line at customs, with 6 windows open. It took over 1 1/2 hours and then had trouble locating the luggage because they had stopped listing our flight on the boards. For the return (after a harrowing time the previous year) we got to the airport 3 hours ahead, “checked in” on the terminal, then waited in line to have them make sure we checked in. There was a long line at security, which got even longer when one of the 2 open gates closed. Time was running out, but there was another long line at customs with one window open. After that we made a mad dash 1/2 mile?) for the gate, plane was boarding, but with the new jumbo planes, it takes them so long to board that we left an hour late. They need to beef up the staff.

    • I had a super smooth CDG experience just a few weeks ago! Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I was flying Lufthansa to Frankfurt (and at an ungodly hour), but I checked in without any wait at all and security was likewise a breeze. The only downside was that once through security there was nothing to eat except for a few extremely sad-looking (and tasting) pastries and some truly terrible coffee. Not that I was expecting culinary greatness but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for at least one café per terminal/gate area providing freshly baked croissants and real coffee in Paris’ busiest airport!

    • Last time we flew into CDG in Paris, they had two trains waiting at the platforms, one said it was leaving in 1 minute for Paris. So we got on that one. 10 minutes later, it hadn’t moved, and people were getting on the one on the other platform, so we all moved over to that one. We all waited … and waited.. and waited. Then the other one revved up, and we all ran over there, and it took off about 30 minutes after the “1 minute” waiting time. I felt sorry for the tourists because they were so confused and wonder why they don’t have someone down there helping people to get on the right train. With unemployment high, and being a major airport (in the most visited city in the world!) you would think that they could hire one person to direct people to the right train.

  • Meet for Irish coffee at the Buena Vista? I’m thinking I’ll hit that after lunch at Roam now that I know about that place. Is there something like a Lebovitz bump?

  • I haven’t been to SF since 1998, but it was just yesterday that someone was asking if it was a nice place to visit. Duh. Maybe I’ll make it there again some day.

  • Enjoy your time in San Francisco! I baked a Kouign Amann at my husband’s request, using your recipe! It looks beautiful! We first tasted this butter cake in Saint Malo a few years ago, and again in Paris, and my husband has been collecting recipes and asking me to bake one since then! Your instructions and tips were really helpful! Our dinner party guests this evening will be guinea pigs! Hopefully, it tastes as good as it looks and smells!

  • I love Korean food and am so chuffed you featured some! I would love to know your take on asian food as well if you ever feel like it :)

  • David — I’m sure you’ve heard that Brothers-In-Law BBQ is gone forever; and while I miss their links, ribs and chicken, you can get some amazing BBQ at Hi-Lo BBQ in the Mission — some of the best links, ribs, and fatty brisket. And I agree with a previous post, you must hit the Mill — great backdrop story behind how the toast and coffee shop came to be; and then head down to the Ferry Building for some Roli-Roti; and grab a porchetta sandwich, complete with cracklings and luscious juiciness. Ok, welcome home!!

  • The other day I was shopping at Rainbow and came up 19 cents short – even with my senior discount. No matter. The nice checker added their employee discount and I ended up with $2.00 change. Pricey real estate but nice checkers. ; )

  • Opened this mail and said”oh,my BBC has gone international!” OH NO. Then said ” OhYeaah DL is. Back home to Remind us at we love off here.” Sorry for the freezing cold!! Thanks

  • Yo David! Good to hear about food in The City. I can never resist fish tacos, Nick’s way at The Taco Shop on Irving. Great place to also watch the Niner’s on Sunday. Yes, Go Niner’s!!!

  • I’ve discovered a secret to flying in and out of Paris…I take the late night flight from the states..so you sleep and arrive first thing in the morning…and for leaving, I take the earliest flight out of CDG. The reason..the airport opens at 5:30 AM…there are NO lines for checkin…No lines at customs and its a breeze. Same thing with the late night flights from the US..take the LAST flight…no lines, no issues. Best way to beat the airport traumas at both ends no matter where you are travelling.

  • Great post… I love target too.. often because I”m the only man in a store full of really attractive women, but the customer service is great too :)

    You’re so close to portland, come on up and try my 3 year prosciutto and taste some of the amazing oregon pinot noirs being made right in the city, then cap the trip off with a trail run in the columbia gorge… you’ll love it and your french friends will hate you for looking fit and healthy ;)

    All the best!!

  • I make THE BEST sweet potato fries ever, and at home! Bake the potatoes in their skins first. Cool, peel, and slice. Deep fry in a wok with peanut oil. Or canola or whatever you have. Be really decadent and use lard. Ugg. Fry until browned, but don’t burn! Sprinkle with sea salt.

  • Thanks for the good info about Brothers BBQ and Roam Burgers. Keep them coming! I hope you’re planning a meal at Mission Chinese Food – we had takeout from there last night and it was crazy good. I’ve never waited on line at lunch time (and they do deliveries, too).

    If you feel an urge for great thin crust pizza and beautiful salads, head over to Gialina in Glen Park (right by the Glen Park Bart). Or it’s a short taxi ride from Omnivore Books.

    Stay warm!

  • Hi David, As a long time flight attendant I am so sorry your flight was a disappointment . Will miss you at Omnivore tomorrow since I am working to FRA. Looks as though you are staying near my neighborhood. Your column on Judy Rodgers was lovely. Along with countless others, I prepared roast chicken with bread salad this week as my little homage to Judy. While you are in town, you can find some really interesting bitters at Cask and Bi Rite. Enjoy your stay and safe travels.

    • I have friends who are flight attendants and they are often the heros as some work so hard, and it’s not easy dealing with passengers. I don’t fly often because I don’t like sitting in those seats for hours (and hours) and I arrived with a nasty cold, that sapped my energy for a few days. I was probably the only person that always had great experiences on United, so I was disappointed with them (to say the least!)

  • Wonderful to think you and Romain are near by. Welcome home!

  • I realize there is small chance of you ever making a book signing trip to Santa Barbara, but I’d be happy to make a drive to Los Angeles to meet you and buy one of your books! Enjoy SF!

  • Welcome back, David. It’s funny but I don’t seem to have any local adventures here in the Bay Area unless I’m escorting friends and family around when they come to visit…and shame on me because this (like Paris) is such an amazing place to live and explore.Sadly I’ll be hawking my wares in Marin tomorrow afternoon and cannot come to Omnivore Books to see you. Will you be anywhere else signing during your visit?

  • Having heard all the horror stories about flying in and out of Paris, we were advised to fly in and out of LHR and take the eurostar. I would recommend that to you as well. Also, airline options are fantastic between LHR and SFO. :)

  • My trick used to be to leave as late as possible inthe evening out of CDG and go on a Tuesday night. The planes were almost empty.
    The lemings go early in the day and the week…
    Also SAS is worth the extra jaunt to Copenhagen they are so nice and the seats seem bigger.
    Love hearing about every bite.

  • I am also a flight attendant based at JFK and happen to be a commuter living in Paris. I like to take the LATEST flight back to New York as you can throw a bowling ball down a corridor and not hit anyone. You have the airport to yourself…always. Going to Paris, I take the first flight out at 5pm and land early, but I always have carryon, so do not have to wait for luggage. I always take RER B and have never had a problem, so you are scaring me. I do know how to take the RER on both ends by elevator . That is a real secret, especially going down to the RER at CDG and up the escalators at every point at Gare du Nord! London? If you get a good price on the Eurostar, you do NOT have to pay the enormous departure tax out of London because you are considered a thru passenger , but your savings on tax went into your train ticket. Tax out of Paris, $60 tax out of London, $118 to $200, depending on what class you are seated in. Yes, I am an expert.

    • You’re braver than I am. I would never take an elevator in an RER station (or in any transit station). They always seem to be broken, with “Out of Service” signs on them. Or if not, I don’t trust them because I have gotten trapped in an elevator once and called the emergency number and they told me that the repairmen were at lunch, and that I’d have to call back later.

      Allegedly there are going to be special express trains to the airport (some are, but not many) which will make the trip more pleasant, but I don’t know anything about it. I used to take the Air France bus sometimes, but a friend got stuck on one coming back for 4 hours in a massive traffic jam, so I tend to avoid it.

  • Welcome Home David,
    AND now you know why I never leave Cadiz if I can avoid it. JUST LEARNED there is a new train starting 15 DEC. from BARCELONA to PARIS!!!

    It is about those Zip lock bags. Do you need the ones with the little runner on the top? If not, I use wonderful bags that have the runner/sealer along the edge, do you not get those in Paris? Let me know. I can get some bags to you easily.

    EAT WELL, enjoy, the CITY. Get down to the BUENA VISTA for an Irish Coffee!

  • Hi David,
    Can you bring me back ANYTHING from Trader Joes, and Target for that matter. Oh how I miss American stores with pleasant customer service. My first taste of French customer service was at L’Orange store. I asked politely, in my best French if the salesperson spoke English. He answered, “pas de tout!” And he walked away from me!

    • It’s funny how we grouse about customer service in America, but when I arrived in France, my French teacher told me that’s the thing that people say they miss the most about America. (French people complain about customer service in France as well.) I’ve found the younger generation – to some extent – is much better at dealing with customers and being helpful. On the other hand, customers are sometimes really rude to salespeople in France. I reprimanded a young woman because she had left a bag at the cashier at the supermarket and the cashier called her back, alerting her to it. The young woman didn’t even look up from her phone call to acknowledge or say Merci, Madame, for that. Honestly, where are people’s manners? : )

  • Monoprix has great ziplock bags now……but plastic wrap (Saran) is a must! Costco’s is best! (costco is coming to Paris I hear )

  • Ongoing argument in our house: we could get a meal/nice bottle of wine for what it costs to get a cab to/from CDG. Arriving Paris: Yes, but we’d be too frazzled to enjoy it and we’d lose 2 days of the trip recovering. Leaving Paris: True, maybe, but there are too many chances for things to go wrong and at best we’d arrive sick and exhausted. And of course same dialogue arriving/leaving London, only the numbers are larger.

    The 5% off is for using Target’s in-house charge card. You can apply on the web or at the store. It adds up.

  • How wonderful to be back in SF! Even out in Australia I long for the customer service of America (Target too). Moreso I long for the pastries at b. Patisserie. I hope you make it! If you really want to see a jaw drop go to the Tacolicious on Valencia – bottomless chips and salsa for all, free of charge, with a smile. Hope the signing at Omnivore is a hoot. Sorry to be missing it but like you I couldn’t bear the thought of getting on a plane.

  • You’ve visited all my favorite places in this city! Roam is a short walk away from my house and I love eating there – a great burger for a reasonable price. Glad you got to have Blue Bottle, too! Did you do any fancy dinners?

  • It was great meeting you at the book signing today! I live in the neighborhood and was lucky to get there early and be 4th in line. Please continue to let us know all the great places you visit during your time here. Were you able to visit any other places in Noe Valley today? Thanks so much for making the tough trip all the way to SF, you are so appreciated here!

  • There’s no place like home. Yes, we are a country of (generally) nice people. Wish you were coming to Totoville.

  • Hi David,
    I’m curious to hear a comparison of Blue Bottle and L’Arbre à Café

    Enjoy your stay Stateside.

  • I make the 23 hour trek every year for the past 10 years…and with 3 kids in tow…alone! (actually I prefer to leave my other half behind, he can easily become my 4th child and dismantle my dictatorship). I look at solo flyers on the plane with such envy! All you have to think about is yourself. You are blessed…go home more often! Enjoy your trip and please write more about what’s new/old/happening there, I miss it everyday.

  • So glad you are back in SF & enjoying the people, places & food of my home town. Love your writing & Pinterest posts–couldn’t get to Omnivore but hope to get your signed books. I still see the Paris streets & sites from my visits through your words! Thank you! (And Gialina’s pizza with nettles and a fried egg is amazing. & Peets forever!)

  • If you live in Paris, of course you have to deal with CDG, but if you live in the provinces, Amsterdam is the only way to go…

  • What a nice worker at Target! I’m at Target at least twice a week, and its really hit or miss with nice workers. (My husband works for them, though not at a store.) Also, stacking discounts on things that are already cheap is great! We did a huge Christmas haul with a 20% off coupon + employee discount + 5% off using the Target credit card + Cartwheel savings.

    And that Korean food looks great! It was my one big craving while I was pregnant last year..spicy tofu soup. So good.

  • Hi David, I wasn’t able to make your book signing–wrangling kids at Disneyland, but I was able to get my books signed and mailed home to me from Omnivore (thanks to you both!). I cannot get enough of your blog, books, and recommendations.Thank you for the rec. for Korean BBQ. We loved it. I’m curious to hear about whether you’ve ever had Beef 7 Ways? You have talked about enjoying Vietnamese food in the past, and (as a Vietnamese person) I’m wondering if you’ve ever tried.this? It sounds more daunting than it is. I would recommend Anh Hong in Little Saigon (and would happily take you there myself). The family who owns these restaurants have mastered the art of it. I look forward to catching you on your next return.