Taxi Tour of San Francisco


Video Transcript

Most of us who live in the Bay Area have our favorite city spots for eating, drinking, taking in a view, and experiencing some of San Francisco's rich history. But few of us have had a chance to explore everything the city has to offer. Buzz Brooks has been driving a DeSoto cab in and around San Francisco for a quarter-century. Buzz says, "I've often said that you could blindfold me and drop me into any place in the city and within a couple minutes I'd know exactly where I'm at by taking the blindfold off and looking around a few minutes."

With Buzz's knowledge of the city, hopping in Buzz's cab for a tour is a great way to get to know San Francisco. He says "We're going to a place that I noticed on the map that looks suspiciously like an oval sort of thing, like it used to be a racetrack at one time. And we did a little research and it turns out sure enough that it is a racetrack."

It's called Ingleside Terraces – a quiet neighborhood off Ocean Avenue. Buzz heads to Urbano Drive, a mile-long loop that was a racetrack and a popular spot for horse- and car-races between 1895 and 1905. After the track closed, a developer started building houses, without disturbing the track's original shape. Nowadays, you'll find hundreds of homes on and around the track, which people like to circle on foot or by bicycle. You'll also find a giant sundial, built to draw attention to the housing development when it opened in 1913.

After visiting the sundial, Buzz heads west. Sloat Avenue brings us to the Pacific. A short drive north on the Great Highway takes the cab to the city's western edge and the Cliff House – a popular destination for many of Buzz's passengers. Since 1863, several different buildings have stood on this spot. The present Cliff House went up in 1909. It's now part of the Golden Gate National Parks. A renovation completed in 2004 gives restaurant-goers a view that's better than ever. Proprietor Dan Hountalas explains, "We've got probably 230 degrees now, where before we had 180, so we're catching more of the Headlands and more of the Golden Gate." Dan has run the Cliff House since 1973, continuing a long family tradition in this neighborhood. His father ran a snack shop next to the Cliff House, starting in the 1920's.

The family legacy also lives just up the street at Louis' Restaurant, owned by Dan's cousins. Louis' is one of my favorite spots for breakfast or lunch. Bill Hontalas and his brother Tom run the restaurant, which their grandfather opened long before they were born. Today, it still is a friendly neighborhood place, with good, hearty food, a spectacular view, and plenty of loyal customers. After stopping for some lunch, Buzz is on the move again. His destination is San Francisco's most crooked street. Nope, not Lombard, but Vermont Street in Potrero Hill.

Between 20th and 22nd, Vermont winds through seven switchbacks in a shorter distance than Lombard's eight curves, and the curves certainly feel tighter than Lombard's! After that wild ride, Buzz is ready to visit a peaceful place. He points his taxi in the direction of the Presidio's Crissy Field. Once a military air strip, Crissy Field is now a jewel on San Francisco's waterfront – one-hundred acres of wild shoreline and restored marshland within the Golden Gate National Parks.

Located near the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, The Warming Hut bookstore and café is one of the best spots at Crissy Field. Not only does it offers many wonderful books about San Francisco's wildlife and history, it also ploughs its profits back into the National Parks. It's also a good place to get a latte and go see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Exploring the city streets in Buzz's taxi has been a journey full of living history. It's a reminder that there's no city quite like San Francisco, where endless discoveries remain just a cab ride away.

Since the taxi tour show, Buzz has graduated from tour guide to Rolling Busker.....
Buzz performs songs, LIVE, from his new jazz vocal CD called "The Oenophile Anthem" three nights a week in a unique venue --- his taxicab! Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, Buzz can be found coursing through the veins of San Francisco, happily singing his silly, witty, and wacky jazz.
Call 415-794-BUZZ to schedule the most entertaining cab ride ever! Or visit Buzz at his website:  

Take a taxi tour with Buzz Brooks of some of San Francisco's historic landmarks and neighborhoods and find some good places to eat along the way.
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Louis' Restaurant: 415-387-6330

Buzz Brooks
Cliff House
The Warming Hut
Urbano Drive
Vermont St.

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