1621 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109
between Sacramento Street and Clay
The night might be dark, but the first place I will take you after the late night flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco is Bob’s Donuts for the energy of the group waiting outside for the best donuts in the city. After a long after the drive up to the city airport, the donut shop located where I used to study in the early hours on Polk Street had a standing line outside waiting to buy donuts near midnight. You can still study there. Intelligent, wise, foodies, and local neighbors stand in line at 2 AM and 3 AM for the fried donuts at Bob’s Donuts. Lines outside of a donut parlor? I used to read college text books at the counter. Now it was standing room only as two dozen customers waited to buy glazed old fashion donuts. Robin the Chef said, “People in the neighborhood set their alarm clocks for 1:00 am and 2:00 am in the morning, because that is when I make the apple fritters. Their alarm goes off. They wake up, get out of bed, come in here to buy the donuts, and leave with a box of fresh donuts; Then return to bed. We are famous for our apple fritters.” My son basked in the energy. Chef Robin’s display of handcrafting fresh, fried cake batter into halos made of butter milk, sugar glaze, mocha and chocolate frosting; The donut shop wins awards for crumb donuts, buttermilk bars, raised maple, and extremely large round donuts nearly twelve inches in diameter that have an eating contest attached; But I didn’t get all the facts on the eating contest.
The chef designs giant donuts. Eat the magnificent breaded beast to earn your name listed on their Hall of Fame. Plus you win awards if you eat their large donut in two minutes: Diners win a t-shirt with Bob’s logo, refund of $8.00 with a free milk, coffee or tea, and a refund for the purchase of the donut after the halo is consumed. Everybody is a winner, because the taste is so delicious, if you don’t wolf the dough down, you still get to enjoy the taste. The front door is only a few feet away from the Swan Depot and the California Street Cable Car Station on Van Ness Blvd and California Street. Many culinary experts insist that the Swan Depot is the finest seafood restaurant in the nation. Fun for the family; I know what critics must think, how can a donut shop be fun for the family; But parents brought their kids. Children took up all the seats at the counter around 11:00 AM. As the kids ate, their parents continued to pick donuts boxed in large pink squared containers to take home. The next night, our family returned after a two hour drive south from Santa Rosa, California to SFO Airport. Stopping at Bob’s Donuts was a must, because the customers made a line longer than the one the night before. Robin was making his famous apple fritters early tonight. Word got out on social media when friends stopped in to dine on donuts. Facebook, Twitter, texts, and emails; Information was out that Bob’s Donuts was frying apple fritters early, so shut off the TV, restart the laptop computer, and put up your socks to the knees, because Bob’s cook Robin was glazing cinnamon with apples early. My boy got seats front and center to see the action. Again, the line of people outside grew long. The front was the only shop from the Chocolate Factory to Market Street with a line of customers standing outside waiting. Positive newspaper reviews filled the wall. Awards from city officials and county government were framed beside the awards. Children colored cartoons personally congratulating the donut shop for their fine flavors. Valentine’s Day Donuts made in the shape of a heart can be seen from the window as pastries are designed to be eaten 24 hours a day.
Special thanks to Robin, chefs, bakers, and the kind baker at the cash register. I did not capture his name when he told me. But I remembered, because the neighborhood feel in the community known by the title Polk Gulch from the vintage mining times when the City of San Francisco was full of gold miners arriving from the east near the foothills of Sacramento to Lake Tahoe, I remember the feel for the place, because everybody in the community treated each other inside as if they were family instead of the restaurant being just another place where people bought groceries. The line was full of laughter. Movies played on a TV set high in the corner. Customers sat and watched a film titled The Italian Job with
stars Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron,