A lot of people on Steepster are already aware of how much I love Samovar [a lot]. So, not to be redundant, but seeing as how I recently made it out to San Francisco and spent a fair amount of time at a couple of their locations while I was out there, I must wax on about them a bit more.
It was sunny out, with a bit of a nip in the air. When it gets like that, a lot of San Franciscans comment that it’s cold outside. To a girl who recently experienced the business end of a snowstorm and her BFF who hails from Fargo, North Dakota, however, it was absolute paradise. We walked through the open entryway and then did a 180 and walked straight back outside to the patio with our server.
A breeze coasted through, nonchalantly brushing against the small horde of people who had taken a cue from the weather and were scattered around the tables outside, reading and chatting. A preliminary round of food and tea was ordered and then we both shut our eyes and sprawled back in our respective chairs, soaking in sunshine and appreciating the day for a few minutes before a server, chuckling at our very best starfish impressions, came around asking us if we wanted to sample a new pu-erh tea. YES PLEASE.
Samovar’s Yerba Buena location is gorgeous in a way that defies description, and the crowds of people that flock to it indicate so. Nestled a small jaunt away from the major shopping meccas that are Westfield Mall and Union Square, directly adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art and a movie theater, it offers respite to shoppers, tourists, convention-goers, movie-watchers, business-lunchers, and everyone in between.
If you’ve never stumbled upon the Yerba Buena Gardens area in the city, you’d probably be a bit shocked to discover its existence. It’s not unlike an oasis in a sea of concrete. That’s not that San Francisco hasn’t done well to preserve its fair share of trees and parks, but…let me try to lay this down for you. When you turn the corner, you’re greeted by a vast stretch of lawn whose greenness and sheer size fly brightly in the face of its urban residence. [As a DC’er, I’m used to scraggly, clumpy grass that peeks through clay-laden dirt.] Raised up in the distance, you can see Samovar’s sign peering over the edge of cascading water and greenery.
It’s bliss. Even on a rainy day, it’s bliss. The location is cozy, while maintaining a sense of airiness and space [achieved effectively through the use of high ceilings and lots of glass].
I should accompany this with a caveat that the Yerba Buena location can fill up quickly, and on the days when it does, it REALLY does. If there’s a convention in town, you might as well forget about it and leave a visit to another day. At one point on this trip, I popped in to pick up a tin of Hawaiian Oolong while the Game Developers’ Conference was on lunch break and WHOO. However, the staff was friendly and talkative regardless of crowd volume, and within minutes I was out and on my way to do some damage around Union Square.
Whenever I go to San Francisco, I like to pick up little Zen moments that I can close my eyes and reflect upon whenever things get particularly stressful around here. As far as Zen moments go, being stretched out on a chair, sipping on a matcha shake, noshing on a fruit and cheese platter, and chatting with a good friend in the sun is a pretty damn good one.
Tips: There’s a big bamboo shoot packed with pu-erh sitting on the bar that’s worth a look. Also, if they happen to get in a limited quantity of a tea, this is probably where they’re keeping it.