Heart of the City Archives

Man J. Kim, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, former Supervisor Rev. Amos Brown, and Mayor Gavin Newsom form a four-way ribbon cutting team at Sears Fine Food.

Breakfast gold in the City of happy returns
by Hank Donat

In case you hadn't heard, we have mastered maudlin civic pride as a sport in this great old town that still insists on masquerading as a city. I'm not talking about the return of the Vaillancourt Fountain earlier this month, though that was a banner day.

Sears Fine Food, which closed last winter after 65 years, came back with a fabulous pancake banquet for the community of Union Square merchants last week. The restaurant under new owner Man J. Kim is not the wizened Sears of recent years. That restaurant seemed heavy from rivers of syrup and the weight of its owner's financial problems.

Kim's Sears has been remodeled beautifully and the food is as good as ever. Of course, what would maudlin civic pride be without the purists who will surely find a reason to complain? They'll say the menu has changed. They'll cry foul. "That's not the same typeface on the welcome mat!" I'll remind them that the original location was up the street at 529 Powell. For most of us, last year's Sears was already a second generation.

Sears joins a list of nearly-lost institutions that have died and been buried and mourned only to rise again. The Washington Square Bar & Grill, Clown Alley, Purple Onion, House of Shields, Hotel Utah, and the soon-to-open Trader Vic's all come to mind.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin remembered some of them in his congratulatory remarks at Sears. If only for Peskin and Mayor Gavin Newsom, ribbon cutting should be an Olympic event. My score: Ribbon 9; Scissors 8.7; Cutting 9.2.

Newsom hung out for several minutes in the kitchen with dishwasher Willie Sledge. Newsom had a part-time job washing dishes as a teenager. Sledge is among 20 of the new restaurant's employees who are formerly homeless.

As a model of someone who got off the streets, Sledge is a hometown hero. It is important to remember him each time we see how far we still have to go as a City with a homeless crisis.

I can't wait to see those absurd pictures of Mayor Newsom and his wife Kimberly Guilfoyle splayed on Ann Getty's throw rug in the glossy pages of Harper's magazine. I must have the art director's name for the Wall of Infamy.

A shot of Newsom in a recent edition of Newsweek was also unflattering. In it, Newsom strikes a pose in front of a couple of tourists who view him through a telescope. You will say, "huh?" even after you have seen it. (The irony is that these images may be completely unnecessary for building Newsom's marquee value on the national stage. Seen in action as mayor, Newsom looks like a leader. - HD)

The same day the Mayor and Ms. Newsom's glamour shots appeared in the Chronicle I joined the not-at-all exclusive club of folks who have witnessed a homeless man whip out his business and urinate at Fifth and Market. "In front of God and everybody," my grandmother used to say. In this case, everybody would be the scores of surrounding tourists who will never come back to our city. There's a picture for you.

Judging by the response at home to the more shallow aspects of the Newsom's national celebrity it is clear that Mr. and Ms. San Francisco aren't going to stand for style alone and no substance. Spearheading gay marriage won't be enough in the city of St. Francis. Here, those of us who got married to our gay partners already had things like homes and livelihoods, and hope in this world.

Daughter of the city Angela Alioto sends regards from Rome. She writes via her new Blackberry that she is having the time of her life on a quest for Fra Angelico and Gozzoli angels with granddaughter Chiara Mia. So often Alioto seems like she's having the time of her life and I think that's her secret to success. Memo to Angela: Get Gavin on your Blackberry and send him to Fifth and Market.

My thanks to members of the San Francisco Bay Area Publicity Club who nominated my San Francisco-themed web site, MisterSF.com, for "Best Web Site." The Pub Club presents its media excellence awards Sept. 8 at John's Grill. Mister SF is nominated with others including Alex Clemens' Usual Suspects political site and Craigslist, whose founder Craig Newmark is the Meryl Streep of such awards.

Hats off also to the eagle-eyed Googlers who noticed that former Chronicle columnist Samantha Mohr isn't the only professional typist with internet access at the Junior Paper.

Mohr was sacked from the paper a few weeks ago after her editors admitted she had lifted material for her column from the net with no credit going to the original sources. The Googlers noticed that a version of Mister SF's firsthand account of a clash with California's Attorney General Bill Lockyer over gay marriage appeared four days later under the banner of a Chronicle gossip. (I pressed Lockyer into admitting that he thinks gay marriage will be legal in the next decade and that he sincerely hopes his legal action against them does not promote intolerance. - HD)

With hoaxes like Ben Vanderford's beheading video and the John Kerry/Jane Fonda photo making their way around the world, the press is overdue to figure out how to deal with the internet. For online outlets themselves it's time to take a stand for fair play, just as the Chronicle did in Mohr's case.

Welcome to MisterSF.com. Please visit the site often to keep in touch with San Francisco, for your own amusement, and to use the Local Joints section as a portal for independent businesses. Keep your money in the neighborhoods... Watch this space for observations, interviews and more from around town. All other sections of MisterSF.com are also updated continually, so come back and watch us grow!

Contact MisterSF.com

Copyright 2004 Hank Donat
mistersf.com home