SoMa Days: Downtown’s Hidden Gems from an Archery-Obsessed Engineer

Yes, I am a man who works in tech, but no, I am not a “tech bro.” It’s a nuanced, yet important distinction. By day I’m an engineer for a fraud detection startup, and at night I make art. On weekends, I dabble in archery. Yep.

I love taking in the morning light from my apartment on a slightly elevated perch where the Mission District meets Potrero Hill. I walk to the bus (either the 33 to BART or the 9 the whole way to my office in SoMa) and take in the local flora, especially the native succulents. As a native Michigander, I’m a huge fan of this climate. In other words, I’m done with winter, forever.

My office is on Mission Street at Main, and it never takes more than 35 minutes to get there. I begin my day with meetings and reviews and slip out for coffee at 11AM. My go-to is Blue Bottle in the Ferry Building, mostly because I really like walking to the waterfront. (Sometimes I come back in the afternoon to nab some oysters loosies from the Hog Island table set up in the Marketplace, those are the days I feel like I’ve truly Made It.)

We get lunch catered a lot (tech startup, goes without saying) but I also work in spitting distance of the Rincon Center. People mostly go there for the food court, but there’s so much more to appreciate. The building still holds much of its original 1940s Art Deco charm, complete with murals by Anton Refregier that were commissioned by the federal government (the building was originally a post office) but almost destroyed in 1953 when the California senate argued that they slandered California pioneers and pushed Communist propaganda. The murals narrowly survived demolition again 30 years later when locals decried a developer’s plans to raze the building and erect a tower in its stead. The tower went up, but the murals were incorporated; so, worth checking out now in case someone comes at them again. In any event, the Rincon Center provides a number of solid lunch options (Amawele's South African Kitchen, Yank Sing for dim sum, Sorabol Korean). Not to mention the 80-foot-ceiling-to-floor indoor waterfall. If you’re sensitive to running water sounds, like me, it’s advisable to pee before you arrive.

Another favorite lunch activity, which I guess you could file under “hidden gems,” is seeking out a rooftop to escape the hungry hoards and enjoy some premium views. Because of a 1985 ordinance, there are dozens of these “Privately Owned Public Open Spaces” around SoMa and the Financial District.

I am left blessedly alone for the afternoon to catch up on some languishing projects, which have me working a little later than my usual 6PM quittin’ time. I rendezvous with a friend who also works in SoMa (a project manager, also in tech) and we traverse the Financial District to North Beach for Friday happy hour. Our usual spot is Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum Cafe (“Specs” to the initiated). This place is a joy — O.G. San Francisco with O.G. regulars to boot. Order a wedge of gouda and saltine crackers to go with your stiff, reasonably priced drink, and take in the “museum’s” many knick knacks and artefacts. Right across Columbus is our next destination Vesuvio. It’s definitely touristy and a place of pilgrimage for college kids who just discovered “On the Road,” but a great bar nonetheless.

Unless it’s baseball season and I’ve got bleacher seats for the Giants at AT&T Park, I rarely go to SoMa on the weekend, preferring to reap the benefits of Bay Area life and go camping or hiking. If I’m not leaving town, you’ll probably find me at Golden Gate Park archery fields of a Saturday. Like I said, I dabble, but that is perhaps too passive a descriptor for what has quickly become my life’s passion. But, archery can’t pay the bills so I’ll be back in SoMa come Monday.