Dean Clough

July 28, 2023

Portico Darwin: The One Where I Complained The Most


<4 Minute Read
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Happy Friday.

Julie and I live in one of the nicest neighborhoods in SF.  And with all due modesty, that also (still) implies the world.  This is down the street one block.

Sorry, but it's true.

Which begs the question:  how on Earth can a man talk about Xanadu and paradise and winning lotteries and gratitude and all of that, and then produce today's post?

A mystery for the ages . . . but my ginormous arrogance about this is mitigated by the fact that we have lived in the same rent-controlled, 800 sq. ft. one-bedroom apartment for over 31 years.  And likely will until our move to an aptly-named "Death Camp" (more to come!).  Here's my better half upon our moving in during May of 1992.

But wait, this gets worse.  In fact, today's post is all about:

  • Entitlement
  • Fussiness
  • Whining
  • Being Spoiled

In fact, please stop reading now if you specifically don't like my whining.  Although hopefully, some among you might see today's post for what it is:  Farce.  Satire.  Comedy. 

And truth?  You decide. 

Just know that all is not perfect in my beloved Marina District neighborhood here in SF.

So today, I blow the lid off and expose the two worst stores in the United States (at least the parts I go to).  That would be The Marina Safeway, and Noah's NY Bagels on Chestnut Street, a supermarket and a bagel shop, respectively, in my 'hood.

Both are unique in that, given their location, they should be amongst the finest, not worst, retail establishments - not just in California, but anywhere.  But they're not.  They fucking suck. 

So let's visit.

Marina Safeway

There just aren't that many supermarkets with a history.  This one has two.

First, did you know that what is pictured above is the very first design of its kind?  There were 100+ supermarkets built in North America that look (or looked) like this.  The tall windows and high ceilings were a completely new concept for grocery stores in 1959, when this opened.  Here's one from just a bit later, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

The Marina Safeway's second place in history is not quite as glamorous or sophisticated.  That's because for a time - which thankfully ended before our arrival - this place was a meat market.  And they also sold steak and fish.

Shopping For Sex At The Supermarket / Marina Safeway: Hot or not?

Now?  I loathe this place and have for years.  First, the quality of their offerings (strictly by-the-book-corporate-parent-Albertson's) is a joke given where this store is.  The fact is, we won't buy fresh meat or seafood or really even vegetables or fruits here - it's that Bogus

Next, the entire place - even after a recent refresh - is crap.  It's too big to be boutique and trick, and too small for what's now jammed inside.  I know this all sounds douchey, and it is.  But ask yourself:  can you see the Golden Gate Bridge from your supermarket?  Shouldn't this place be something more special?
Lastly:  the riff-raff quotient - even for SF - is off the charts.  Let's just say I've experienced things I'd prefer not to have here.  At least there are TWO security guards patrolling the place now.   I can tell you that the one they had wasn't enough from stopping this old white man from being physically threatened in the past by a variety of miscreants.

For the record, I'd be just fine with a Bristol Farms.

Noah's NY Bagels
I need to write a companion whine-fest post, one covering the complete dearth of proper Jewish delis here in SF.  That major problem is compounded by the super-shitty options we have for bagels.  There is simply not a nice place to get a good bagel in San Francisco.  And yes, I've been to Wise & Sons - and my lox and bagel sucked.  And the evergreen House of Bagels?  Fine, but they're awful places to actually eat a meal.

But there used to be a wonderful spot.  Shortly after arriving here in 1992, a bagel shop opened on Chestnut Street, the high street for the Marina District.  It was (and still is) called Noah's NY Bagels, and it was only the second one to open, after their first in Berkeley. 

Here's the story in their own words, from their now-corporate BS website.

This place was Killer!  The bagels were made fresh onsite and were of the highest quality, as were the lox and schmears and everything else.  I bet I have had 100 or more toasted onion bagels, with cream cheese, lox, cucumbers, and capers, no tomato or onion please, from here.  Even better, they had a lovely outdoor garden where one could enjoy breakfast and read the paper with dignity.

Yes, it was quite a place.  Indeed, well into the mid-1990s, it was the spot for breakfast on weekends here, and the weekdays were even better, as it was quiet and you could really enjoy the scene.

Boy, did that fucking end.  Noah's grew and was eventually acquired by the chain Einstein Bros. Bagels in 1996, which itself was the creation of the goofy Boston Chicken (now Boston Market) franchise.  That to some degree explains what happened.

First, they closed the garden.  They then cut back on the menu and bagel options, and I'm not sure they even still make the bagels onsite.  They've gradually removed all of the tables inside, a message intended for the homeless that loved to sip a small coffee and stay for hours on end.   

Over the years, it's gotten shabbier and dirtier and shabbier and dirtier.  If fact, while the bagels have remained OK, it can be sketchy enough on the inside, cleanliness-wise, that we became leery of eating anything from here.  We're not the only ones, although I'd say 2.5 stars is pretty generous.

Like the Marina Safeway (a 1/2 mile walk away), Noah's NY Bagels should be an exemplar of quality and design esthetics.  It is not.  It is a dump.  

This is a surprise, when you consider that Noah's (and Einstein Bros. Bagels) have been owned by the yupscale and very successful Panera Bread chain since 2021.  So maybe we'll get lucky and they'll fix the place up.

Or better yet, take it all down and start over.

Now:  get off of my f'ing lawn and have a great weekend.


Maybe you're all out seeing "Oppenheimer."  As you should be - I had given up hope movies like this could still be made.  Epic?  Uh, yeah.  Diamond Certified, too.

Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.


Misdirected angst?  Someone wrongly unhappy?  One of the best albums of all time?  Done, done, and done.  Here is Nirvana and their seminal and Diamond Certified Nevermind.

About Dean Clough