Recently, my cousin was in town and I took her to 826 Valencia in the Mission. The store is a fun, mind-warp of a place where you open drawers and find rocks and ropes, and mops get dropped on your head. Children can get a prize by telling a joke, or doing a dance. You can sit and watch an aquarium in a small theater built for two. But the 826 Valencia store only scratches the surface of this non-profit's mission -- to support children with their writing skills and to help teachers get their students excited about the writing. Dave Eggers, local writer, was one of the founders of 826 Valencia, and its impact has spread nationwide.
While at the store, I picked up a copy of Seeing Through the Fog: A Gateway to San Francisco, which is one of the projects to come out of 826 Valencia last year. It is a tour guide of San Francisco of sorts, written by 72 seniors of Gateway High School. Essays cover a wide spectrum of the city.
"Love Spots S.F." by Michael Cordova gives us the best make-out spots, like Inspiration Point:
"Its panoramic views of Angel Island and the overlook of the Presidio forest make it a magical place, which can create a very romantic and inspiring atmosphere (hence the name Inspiration Point!)."
In "San Francisco's Overrated Spots," the author Kuji Sadiq tells tourists to avoid places like Pier 39:
"This is a tourist trap with overly expensive entertainment. It's no different from the same tourist stuff you probably have in your city. Just walk through and look at all the stuff that you could buy, but hopefully your intelligent mind will tell you not to. The carousel is very good-looking as far as carousels go."
Throughout the book, you will find food recommendations. Student Michael Feyock wrote an essay focused on the best burgers around San Francisco: Slider's, Bashful Bull, Bill's Place. There are several recommendations for El Farolito throughout the book, and Gary Guan gives recommendations for barbecue, Chinese food, Korean food and even Argentinean food around the city.
I could continue to quote from this charming book all day -- it is a great read, and so fun to see San Francisco from the point of view of a high school senior. I'll leave you with one more quote. In his essay called "San Francisco's Best Asian Restaurants," author John Philip Hallman V gives recommendations ranging from PPQ on Irving at 19th to Banana Island in Daly City. He ends his essay with this statement:
"Now you know what locals eat. We don't eat fancy, and we don't eat expensive, but we do eat well. You won't find us on top of Macy's eating cheesecake or at Fishermen's Wharf eating overpriced junk food as many of the typical tourists do. Instead, we eat from our own world class Thai or pho restaurants. We know what tastes good here, and we know how to eat here, all while saving our pocket money for tomorrow's meal."