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A Proustian Travel Guide: Mo Clancy

A Proustian Travel Guide: Restaurateur Mo Clancy on Her Favorite San Francisco Day

A Proustian Travel Guide: Restaurateur Mo Clancy on Her Favorite San Francisco Day

The writer and restaurateur shares her favorite San Francisco spots, explains why she studied kendo, and her love for travel. She even named her son Magellan!

Photography by Maria del Rio

Mo Clancy is a serial entrepreneur. The writer and filmmaker has spent much of her career in the marketing, fashion, and beauty industries. But for her latest venture, San Francisco's Seed + Salt, she partnered with chef Ariel Nadelberg (formerly of the Terrace Café at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden as well as Brooklyn's Applewood and Al Di La).

Nadelberg is creating umami-rich, flavor-forward plant-based foods — such as the beet burger made with beets, walnuts, lentils, mushrooms, brown rice, and raisins and served on gluten-free bread with a house-made vegan ranch — that leave you feeling good and wanting more.
We caught up with Clancy, a self-described Luddite in the city known for its tech savvy start-ups, to find out what she loves about the City by the Bay, and discovered she's studied kendo martial arts and loves to visit Zanzibar.

What are you most proud of?

If you’d asked me this six years ago, I would have given a very different answer, but now I have a son, Magellan. The universe somehow blessed me with the best kid in the world. I am definitely not the traditional mother — I have a wanderlust to explore and create and dream. But someone gave me a piece of good advice when he was born and I was worried about fitting the June Cleaver role. She said, “Do it your way,” and I have. I realized that if you are there, if you give love and you create experiences together with your child, he or she will be happy. That takes priority in my life and it’s non-negotiable. If I don’t do anything further in my life right I know I have been a good mother.

What is your most cherished possession?

I met a Taoist healer and kendo master, Sung Baek, who I studied under and learned from for many years. I wasn’t looking to study kendo, modern, Japanese martial arts, but I met him and he said, “You will study under me”. As anyone who has met Sung knows, you can’t really say no to him. So I started practicing kendo under Master Sung. Soon after I began studying, he took me to a tournament. I thought I was going there to watch but quickly found out he had registered me to compete. I was completely annihilated by a 13-year-old — a truly humbling experience.

I learned I had to start from nothing and with dedication I could win. When he finally felt I was worthy, he gave me a sword he crafted with his own hands. I look at that sword daily as a reminder to continue to push myself to be a better human every day.

Where is your all-time favorite travel destination?

A view of Seed + Salt's display cabinet

Describe the perfect weekend for a visitor to San Francisco.

The perfect weekend involves everything that makes this city great: food, nature, and creativity. I would definitely do a hike through the Presidio National Park. While there, check out the three Andy Goldsworthy exhibits right in the middle of the forest. This is right near Seed + Salt, so stop in and see us for a S+S beet burger, Almond Chocolate Chip Cookie, and a Milkshake (all good for you!).

On Saturday morning, I would hit the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building. We are so lucky out here to have some of the best produce available anywhere. There are also so many wonderful small-batch food purveyors. Then I would head over to the emerging Tenderloin district. There is a great gallery there — the Jessica Silverman Gallery — that is really putting emerging San Francisco artists on the international map. There is also an incredible ice cream place, Shakedown, just opened by our friend Amy Pearce. She has been a pastry chef all over town, including Verbena, but has focused on unique ice cream here. Shakedown is like no other place you have ever been to!

On Sunday, I would do a tour of the murals in the Mission. There is one particular alley where local artists each took a wall. Gracias Madre is a very worthwhile vegan Mexican restaurant on Mission - I love their enchiladas. Afterward, if you still need something sweet, stop at Project Juice’s new smoothie shop on Valencia. I love the superfood ingredients they use in their smoothies, plus they have ones that taste like dessert.

What is your favorite neighborhood in San Francisco and why?
I really love Glen Park/Bernal Heights. I guess it’s because it feels like old San Francisco…the city I knew before the dot-com boom.

What makes someone a SF local?

People here are open thinkers and believers in possibility. Also, everyone here is a little quirky: San Francisco just attracts it. You just need to be open and quirky (and love good food) and you’ll fit right in.

Alive, dead or fictional, who is your favorite local?

My favorite local is Lawrence Ferlinghetti, co-founder of City Lights Books. Back in the 1960s and '70s, he was an activist, poet, and creator that brought together some of the greatest literary talent of that time. He is old-school San Francisco.

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