Thursday, August 23, 2007

Eat a weekday lunch at SFAI

Spectacular views of the city and the bay. A mural by Diego Rivera. Exhibits of student art that rotate on a weekly basis. Great, cheap, healthy food. There are few better places to eat lunch in San Francisco.

Half Italian/Spanish monastery and half poured-cement Modernist angularity, the school building itself is pretty great. You first enter a quiet courtyard with a fountain at its center, trees providing shade, and student art hanging on the walls along the periphery. A bell tower looms overhead. To the left is the Diego Rivera Gallery, home of the eponymous mural as well as year-round student-run exhibitions of student artwork. To the right are various classrooms and administrative offices. If you continue straight through the courtyard and up the ramp you enter the modern addition to the original building. A curated gallery exhibiting the work of professional artists is on the left. Past that is the cafe.

They've got all the coffee drinks, bagels and other similar snacks, a full sandwich menu and heartier specials--e.g., roast 1/4 chicken, dal and rice, Thai curry, different salads and flatbread pizzas--that change daily. There are always at least a couple veggie options. I've not seen anything over eight bucks, and you can usually eat something delicious that will fill you up for about five. Eat your lunch inside at one of the tables, or, even better, up on the roof, where you can enjoy the food and the view at the same time.

The San Francisco Art Institute is located at 800 Chestnut, a block and a half west up the hill from Columbus. The cafe is open for lunch, on weekdays only, until 2pm. Your best bet is to bike, though the 20 and the 30 buses both service Columbus. It might even be worth the cab fare. For more information about the architectural history of SFAI, go here.

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