Polk Gulch Lunch

Oops, they call themselves Polk Village now*


I bought this scooter three weeks after moving to San Francisco in 1992. I was on the bus to work in traffic on Columbus Avenue. I looked out the window and stopped beside the bus was a small woman in high heels perched on a motorscooter. Dang all, if she can handle it, so can I! I bought this baby the next day, a Yamaha Riva 125 for $1,600 used. It had 80 miles on the odometer — had been used at a driving school. Now it has over 18,000 miles on it — all in the city.


On a recent morning I went to the Kabuki to take some pictures. When I parked my scooter and pushed the kick-stand down, CLANK! the kick stand fell on the pavement. Not a disaster, as it has a wheel stand, but inconvenient. I went straight to Golden Gate Cycles on Pine between Polk and Van Ness. This is a good service shop. The guy said I could pick it up in about an hour.

I went out on the street in the sun and pondered my options.

a] I could walk home, eat lunch, walk back. That would take about an hour and a half.
b] I could take the bus home, eat lunch, and ride back on the transfer. That would take about an hour or more depending on the wait. But as far as I could see down Polk, there was no bus coming.
c] I had a New Yorker with me, I could eat at a nearby restaurant and read a little New Yorker.

From the corner of Polk and Pine, in the heart of Polk Gulch, I could see 10 restaurants. Wow.


The Grubstake is right across the street from GG Cycles on Pine. I’ve seen it written up as a great place for cheap eats, burgers and such. Seems too dark for such a fine sunny day.


On the East side of Polk, Pho Vietnam and Darbar, Pakistani and Indian Cusine. Pho Vietnam is new and when it opened was mentioned in Scoop’s column in the Food Section of the Chronicle. It’s nice and airy inside and well populated. As for Darbar, I’m not partial to Indian food.


Still on the East side of Polk, across Pine; Polk Street StationBreakfast Lunch Dinner — on the corner. Next to that, Picadilly Fish and Chips. We’ve been there after a movie at the Lumiere, Two little old ladies with a deep fryer, fish in the cooler and a pile of russet potatoes on the counter. When you order, they batter the fish and run the potato through a hand-crank pump-handle cutter to cut into French fry julianne. Served hot out of the fryer or wrapped to go. Not today, too much for lunch and leftover would be soggy by the time I get home. Picadilly Fish and Chips was written up in Patricia Unterman‘s book San Francisco Food Lover’s Guide, “,Pickadilly is the best fish & chips place this side of the atlantic.”


On the west side of the street I saw Shalomar Indian and Pakastani Cuisine and Victor’s Pizza. We’ve had pizza at Victor’s a number of times after movies at the Lumiere. Pizza is real good, don’t bother with the soups or pasta dishes.


Further up on the west side I saw Myconos Fine Greek Cusine, Bamboo Hunan and Manderin Cuisine and Crustacean Restaurant. We’ve had Sunday Brunch at Crustacean, a white tablecloth place famous for it’s Roast Crab.

I chose Pho Vietnam, was seated at a two-top facing the street, scanned the menu, ordered #20, and got out my New Yorker. Place is nice, the room is high and light and I can watch people pass by on Polk. All tables are furnished with a stainless steel stand containing a stack of ceramic soup spoons, long plastic chopsticks, shorter round wooden chopsticks in paper wrappers, forks and a stack of little sauce dishes. Beside this there are two kinds of hot sauce, soy sauce, some kind of dark green sauce, and sesame oil (I think) in squeeze bottles. Last, a stainless steel napkin dispenser.


Before too long, the waitress brought out my #20, a steaming bowl of Seafood Pho, with rice noodles. Beside it, a plate of garnish: bean sprouts, a branch of basil, sliced jalapeno peppers and a lemon wedge. Oh my!

Shrimp, scallops, white fish, squid, fish cake and imitation crab made up the pho, along with bits of cilantro and red bell pepper. The broth was rather mild, just right to let the tastes of the individual nuggets shine through. I chose the long plastic chopsticks and fished for some noodles. Whoa, those babies are slippery and by the time I got them to my mouth, they slipped off the chopsticks. I’m okay with chopsticks for a stir fry over rice, but I’m not an expert, maybe I’ll have better luck with the wooden ones, they have some texture to better grip the slippery noodles. Better, but not good. It helped to put in the bean sprouts and mix with the noodles to provide some mass. I looked around to see how others were eating. The woman beside me was using her spoon in her left hand to wrangle the noodles. I tried that, but it’s not like spaghetti on a fork where you can twist. So I wound up scooping some noodles with my spoon, stabbing them with the chopsticks to hold them in place, and bringing them to my mouth to suck in and bite off. Don’t know if it’s right, but it works. I could manage the pieces of seafood with the chopsticks in my right hand.

Damn, that was good; and just right for lunch. And nine bucks including tax and tip! I will be back.

* Polk Village
A great place to work, shop, live.
Sponsored by
Grass Roots
Member of Polk Corridor Business Association
Working together to build a cleaner, safer, more beautiful community.


4 thoughts on “Polk Gulch Lunch

  1. …you didn’t mention that in those 18,000 miles of city driving, you did go over the handle bars at least once…

    Nice sketch of lower Polk St. — the Grub Steak is best for a midnight hamburger in the fog; it used to have a GREAT juke box.

    Polk Gulch used to be known more for the White Swallow Bar and a number of leather shops that catered to the S&M community, although I didn’t see any of these in my last visit. Perhaps these establishments didn’t meet the “Village” specs? You should do another similar piece about upper Polk because it’s so different.


  2. Never went over the handlebars… did put it on its side once to avoid a car in front of me that panic stopped. Pedestrians called the cops to nab the “offending driver” who had no idea I went down behind him.
    Result: I got a ticket for following too close… and a skinned knee and ripped pants and a scrape on my helmet.


  3. Great pics. Do you have a better pic of the Baker Hotel (that’s the bldg with the Polk Street Station restaurant).



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