Roxy’s Best Of… San Francisco, California

Host Jason Buckley brings you the Best of San Francisco, California, and the Bay Area, from kid stuff (including summer camp) to restaurants to art galleries and shopping


Zaki Kabob House

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We stumbled upon this new-ish restaurant on New Years Eve. It’s in the spot where Christopher’s Taxi used to be (1101 San Pablo Ave, Albany), and we had heard it was good. That night we just got the spicy lamb shawarmas and they were great! There was one stereotypical Berkeley lady in there who wouldn’t shut up about politics with the owners. They are Muslim and she apparently had to prove how cool she was to them by going into the whole thing about the middle east. I agreed with most of what I overheard, but dinner isn’t really the place for that. But then again I guess that’s part of the experience of casual dining near Berkeley. A few weeks later my mom was visiting, so the whole family went in. They’re super family friendly. The owners have a young son who is usually around and very well behaved (though he must be bored out of his skull). We got an assortment of stuff to share… a whole roasted chicken, hummous, falafel, a chicken shawarma plate, a lamb shawarma, the Jordan style salad and a basket of fries. They bring out fresh mint tea and warm pita bread with an olive oil and oregano dip to start. The food was excellent! The chicken was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, infused with great spices. And the best part was that this huge and delicious dinner for 4 came in just around $40.


Tilden Park Christmas Fantasy

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Sure, there are plenty of malls in the bay area where you can take your kid to meet Santa. But none of those consumerist meccas compare to the Tilden Park carousel. Nestled high up in the Berkeley hills, you drive along dark roads until you see the explosion of color. There’s a huge tree all lit up, a whole field of lit up North Pole scenes, the antique carousel all done up with lights and trees and stuffed animals and other decor, and of course the man himself, old Saint Nick. Carousel rides are just $2. There’s also hot apple cider and popcorn available. And unlike the mall, Santa does not have a cover charge and any pictures you get with him you take yourself. Open through Christmas at 5:30 every night. Sometimes there are even carolers. Check out our little video from last week to see.

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Red House Studios

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Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’ve been having some musical frustration as of late. Being a dad of a toddler doesn’t offer much time to rock out, and as a bassist I tend to need to play with other people. While searching craigslist for others to jam with, I came across a place called Red House Studios in Walnut Creek. They offer lessons, recording, and open jam sessions, and last night I attended something called “Band Practice: The Golden Age of MTV.” There were 2 guitarists, a drummer, and a teacher who helps everybody learn some cover tunes, and then in a month we get to perform them in front of people. Last night we played Rebel Yell, 867-5309 (Jenny), Hungry Like the Wolf, and Video Killed the Radio Star which was probably the toughest of them all. It was a lot of fun. It’s like being in a cover band without all the hassle of finding people to play with, finding rehearsal space, loading in gear and all the other less fun aspects of playing rock and roll. I just showed up with my bass, plugged into their amp, got the chord charts and I was rocking out within 10 minutes. This is the best place for aging rockers with day jobs and families to go and blow off our musical steam. A bunch of the local dads who are also musicians in my town get together once a week with the kids and have a mellow acoustic jam, but it does not compare to playing loud electric rock. When I play bass, I want to feel it, and I did last night!

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Pipsqueak A Go Go

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Pipsqueak a go go is a rock and roll dance party for kids. There’s a DJ spinning all sorts of cool retro music that kids and grown ups enjoy. They also have bands, clowns, and the Devil-ettes: a troupe of 60’s style go-go dancers who do routines and teach the kids some cool dance moves. And it’s in a bar, so parents can let the kids dance while they get their drink on (in moderation, of course! Let’s encourage responsible parenting, people.). Anyone with kids knows that sometimes kids’ entertainment can be incredibly grating on our adult sensibilities. Just hearing Elmo’s voice makes me want to tear my own head off. So it’s really nice for parents to bring their kids to something fun for them and for us. The next one is coming up on Nov. 9th, from 1-4pm at 330 Ritch St in San Francisco. It’s a little alley down near the ballpark with a great stage and dance floor. More info is here.


Gate 5 Caregivers

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There’s a new medical marijuana dispensary in Marin County! I was planning on checking out the one in Fairfax, but when I was searching for it I found that a brand new one opened up in Sausalito which is a little bit easier for me to get to from my job. It’s called Gate 5 Caregivers, and it’s not particularly easy to find. I’m used to East Bay dispensaries which operate out of storefronts, so when I got to the place where this one should have been and didn’t see any signs, I called them up and they directed me to an unmarked door in an alleyway. I showed my doctors recommendation folder to the guy outside who let me in and directed me to the front desk where they checked out my papers (on subsequent visits I only have to show my Medicann card), verified my recommendation and sent me to the back room. They had a blackboard with all of the strains listed and priced at gram, eighth oz and quarter oz quantities, ranging from $30-$50 for an eight. Everything is packaged in prescription bottles. You can also buy pre-rolled joints for $10 or 7 for $50 which is a great deal since these are really big spliffs, very well rolled. They also have edibles and hashes. The staff in the back room were very helpful and friendly, and as far as I’ve sampled, the medicine is very good quality and the prices are really good. Unlike my usual dispensary in Berkeley, they don’t have a lounge where you can medicate or offer any supplies for sale, but they make up for it with their prices and convenience.


Hotel Mac

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Friday night my aunt and uncle were visiting and they took us out to the Hotel Mac for dinner. It’s a historic old hotel in Point Richmond with very homey rooms and a pretty good restaurant and bar. The bar fills up with a mix of touorists and Chevron suits as soon as work lets out, and I always get back from my job too late to enjoy their $3 happy hour specials. Stella (2.5 yrs old for the majority of readers here who don’t know me from elsewhere) has been behaving better at restaurants lately, so we thought it would be safe to let her try eating someplace a little fancy again. We tried taking here there once before, over a year ago when my mom was visiting, and she didn’t really behave very well at all. This time was not much different. She started out OK, but then started freaking out. We had to drag her outside kicking and screaming and getting glares from the other customers. Yay! We finally calmed her down and brought her back in and there was a pint of Guiness waiting for me which definitely helped. I ordered short ribs with a beer/barbecue glaze and mashed potatoes with carmelized onions, my aunt and wife both got the prime rib, and my uncle got the pot roast. We got a side of macaroni and cheese for Stella, opting against the pancetta option for her. It came out first, molten hot, and she got rather impatient as we put some on a plate and stirred it around to cool it down. My aunt put an ice cube in it and Stella started whining “no ice cube NO ICE CUBE!” My wife and I split an heirloom tomato mozzarella pesto salad which was amazing (though would have been better with big slices of fresh mozzarella instead of the little balls). Our entres came out and they were delicious and huge. I was stuffed before I was halfway done with the last piece of meat, but I finished it anyway because I’m an asshat. The next day at lunch we had sliced prime rib leftovers in a salad. All in all it was pretty tasty, though the prices make you expect it to be a little better than it is. And while the service was excellent, I would not recommend bringing kids. Now if I can only make it to happy hour and enjoy some $3 oysters!


The Steam Trains

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Berkeley’s Tilden Park has a ton of great stuff to do, and I’m sure I’ll be hitting on many of them on this blog. This park is way high up in the East Bay hills, and nestled in one of the more remote areas are the steam trains. This is a small scale railroad with working steam locomotives that takes you for a 12 minute ride through redwoods and eucalyptus groves and along mountain ridges with incredible views of the bay. It’s quite possibly the best $2 you can spend in the entire Bay Area. After taking Stella there almost every weekend for months, I thought that it would make for a great location to shoot a film, and this past spring I had the opportunity to shoot a short there for a 10 hour filmmaking competition. Until I can figure out how to embed a YouTube viedo on here, you’ll have to follow this link to see it. My wife had sugested I break out of my comfort zone of comedic films, so this one is more of a crime drama. Shooting quickly at a tourist attraction with lots of little kids running around was a challenge, but I really liked the results and the folks who run the trains couldn’t have been more supportive and helpful.


Burma Superstar

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For almost the whole time I lived in San Francisco proper, my wife and I had wanted to check out Burma Superstar (on yelp) on Clement in the Inner Richmond neighborhood (405 Clement between 4th and 5th aves to be exact). And for some reason or other, we never managed to get there, usually because we would drive by, see that it was packed and there was no parking anywhere close and then give up for something easier. Now that we live in the East Bay and have a toddler, it’s not always easy to just go out to a restaurant in the City. But my in-laws were babysitting for us one day recently and we finally got to try it. I had no idea what to expect from Burmese food, but my wife told me about this Tea Leaf Salad which was featured on the Food Channel and that we should try it. They brought that out on a plate with each ingredient separated and the waiter tells you which is which before tossing it at your table. I can’t remember everything in it and it was one of the most complexly flavored things I have ever eaten. I can’t remember exactly what our entres were, which is less a statement about the entres than about how incredible that salad was. We shared a curry dish and a noodle dish which both tasted a bit like a cross between Thai and Indian food and everything was garnished with strips of fried garlic. It’s an incredibly small and tightly packed place with a really cool look inside, slightly spendy and sometimes very hard to get seated but totally worth it.


Hello Roxy’s Best Of!

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Hey there new readers. I’d like to thank Roxy for inviting me to offer my crazy ramblings about the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve been here just over 5 years as a transplant from the East Coast, Washington, DC by way of Hyde Park, NY to be specific. There are some differences which I find rather favorable, like the warm (mostly, depending on where you are in the area) weather, the mellow vibe, the art and culture and music scenes and the liberal politics. There are other differences which I could do without, like the scarcity of good pizza or delis, the high cost of living, and that those liberal politics that I love can sometimes be a bit too obnoxiously authoritarian PC even for me.

I look forward to giving Roxy’s readers the real scoop on this cool area, and I hope that you enjoy my perspective.


Introducing Roxy’s Best Of… San Francisco, California, Hosted by Jason Buckley

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Welcome to Roxy’s Best Of… San Francisco, one of the very first Roxy blogs not written by Roxy. I’d like to introduce you to Jason Buckley, best known in and around the blogosphere for his blog, Washington Interns Gone Bad.

Another BlogExplosion favorite, Jason describes himself in his online profile as follows:

  • I am somewhere between 30 and 40 years old
  • I am married to a wonderful woman named Anne
  • I am the proud daddy of a sweet little girl named Stella
  • I live in San Francisco
  • I work as a graphic artist/production manager at a sign shop
  • I play bass guitar, though I’m severely out of practice
  • I make movies
  • I have an associates degree in broadcasting
  • I like good movies, but I like really bad ones, too
  • I used to be a whole lot cooler than I am now, or at least I thought that I was back then
  • I am originally from Hyde Park, NY
  • I lived in Washington, DC for 7 years
  • I used to work in politics, now it’s just an annoying hobby
  • I can sometimes be too sarcastic and cynical for my own good
  • I like a lot of different kinds of music
  • I am 3/4 Sicilian and 1/4 Euro-mutt. The 1/4 Euro-mutt means I’ll never be a made man.
  • I do not stay awake nights worrying about not being a made man.
  • I watch too many mob movies and Sopranos episodes.
  • I don’t really follow sports.
  • I have an amazing memory for all sorts of pop culture minutiae, yet I can’t remember much of what I learned in high school.