Best Time Travel, San Francisco - 2006
St. Francis Fountain
Sitting in one of St. Francis Fountain's eight wooden booths and ordering, say, a grilled ham-and-cheese on rye (which comes with your choice of french fries, home fries, fruit salad, potato salad, egg salad, macaroni and cheese, small garden salad, small Caesar salad, cup of soup, black beans, or veggie chili whew!), seems like a minivacation. (And a bargain, at $7.) A vacation to a place where time has stood still. The fountain has been in continuous operation since 1918, and although candy and ice cream are no longer house-made, in homage a glass case is filled with kitschy, brightly colored candies, and the ice cream for the many old-fashioned fountain treats is provided by Mitchell's. The fare (breakfast all day, burgers, sandwiches, quesadillas) is well priced (nothing over $10, and mostly considerably less) and well prepared. The long counter boasts 14 stools, from which you can swivel to admire the original graphic depictions of malteds, a cottage cheese and pineapple salad, or a "double-dipped" jumbo soda, matted in cheerful red. And if the soup of the day is split pea with ham, get it.