In 1993, dpaul and I moved into an apartment on Dolores Park, on the edge of the Mission District. At the time, the area was pretty edgy. There was gang activity nearby and drug dealers in the park. The windows on either side of the front door of our building were pocked with bullet holes.
Needless to say, this had a negative effect on the commerce of the neighborhood. On the corner was a grim little restaurant called Real Good Karma that served cheerless bowls of brown rice and tofu. A friend remarked that it was the site of countless lesbian breakups; so much for that good karma. At the opposite end of the block was a produce market where fruit lay molding on the shelves. In between stood another storefront, a corner market called Bi-Rite, which we'd hit up for the occasional can or box, but otherwise its offerings were meager.
So it was until 1997, when Sam Mogannam, the nephew and son of Bi-Rite's owners, took the place over. By this time the dot-com boom had brought young money into the Mission, and the neighborhood was ripe for gentrification. Sam shuttered the market for a remodel, and when the paper (and bars!) came off the windows, the neighbors came out in droves. At last, a real market! Look, gourmet cheese! Ohmigod, a deli case! Hey, fruit that isn't rotting!
Before long, we were spending a sizable portion of our take-home pay at this new food shrine, routinely making dinner from ready-made salads and entrees from their case, or cobbling together fancy cheeses and charcuterie to go along with their (very reasonably priced) wines. And in the early days, one of the things we bought most often was a pear skillet cake made by Sam's mom, a spice cake with pears and a sticky caramel edge. It was pure crack, and regularly stood in as both dessert and breakfast.