A few years ago, right before the COVID lockdowns, I can remember my stay at a hotel in a “not-so-nice” part of Oakland.
One evening I stopped by what appeared to be a popular pizza restaurant, full of patrons, and was shocked to see the pricing on the posted menu just inside the premises.
A medium 2-topping pizza was close to $40, which to me was outrageous.
I scanned the kitchen area trying to figure out how they could justify their pricing and I was drawn to a message on a chalkboard.
It said something to the effect of; in order for our employees to be able to live and work in our city, we are paying them a minimum of $25 per hour. Thank you for your understanding and for supporting our restaurant and staff.
Needless to say, I passed and went to a Carl’s Jr, by my hotel spending only $10 for an entire combo meal.
Last Thursday, a reporter with SF Gate magazine, Nico Madrigal-Yankowski, walked into a different universe called, The Palm Court at RH.
A posh restaurant featuring a fountain that gently poured streaming water over its marble edges in the center of the dining room.
It had a chandelier twinkled above, shimmering gold light on the gleaming white tiled floors. Four miniature palm trees guarded the fountain like rooks on a chessboard. The opulent Beaux-Arts architecture of this joint screamed a different level of wealth than she was accustomed to.
But she wrote, I was just there on assignment to try a burger.
The gaudiness of wealth on full display as so many San Franciscans struggle through the hardest of times in the City by the Bay feels a little unnerving to this born-and-bred city kid. With each passing day, it feels like the city is less like the one I grew up in. It disheartens me that corporate and tech money is winning. I feel powerless to help change it.
The description on the menu didn’t make it seem much more interesting: Hearth Burger — a slab of Monterey Jack, charred ciabatta, $30.
My first thought was that I could make that at home for a fraction of the cost.
“Leaving the Palm Court, I made a promise to myself to eat the age-old burgers of this city as much as I can before they’re gone. Give me a Sam’s burger, give me a Red’s Java House burger, bring back the burgers from a tailgate party in the parking lot of Candlestick Park before a 49ers game.”
Just as I turned down the $40 pizza, I will not be going after this San Francisco restaurant’s $30 hamburgers anytime soon, really never.
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