July 12, 2015

One of the items that I brought along on our trip to the Bay Area was a small stuffed toy of a frog wearing a crown. This cute little fellow had been part of the wrapping of a gift from a friend a few months ago and although I think he’s adorable, I kept and enjoyed the gift itself but decide to part with the little frog. A small Frog Prince toy is a rather odd thing to carry around in one’s purse, but I can actually imagine a number of scenarios in which I might give him to a total stranger. For example, perhaps a child is having a meltdown in the restaurant, and a fellow mother is looking desperate, so I whip out the Froggy Prince and pass it knowingly to the mother in the hope that it will cheer up her forlorn child. Or I’m chatting to a waitress/tour guide/bartender and for some reason she mentions she hasn’t met Prince Charming yet. Suddenly, I whip out Froggy Prince and offer it to her as a symbol of hope. Either of these could have happened today, but they didn’t. However, I did find a perfect home for my little Froggy friend in a very wacky restaurant in Woodside near San Francisco.

Two nights ago, when we mentioned to my husband David’s relatives that we were going to be staying with friends in Woodside, they suggested we visit a restaurant called Buck’s, not just for the tasty comfort food but for the very unique décor. When we mentioned it to Betsy and Frank, our friends in Woodside, they agreed it would be a fun destination, especially for our son Theo, who would enjoy exploring the place. So this evening, we headed there for dinner – and so much more. Buck’s is decorated with weird and wonderful knick-knacks from the owner’s collection, from a miniature Statue of Liberty at the entrance to model airplanes, racecars and a flock of flying nuns hanging from the ceiling, as well as hundreds of quirky objects – from a narwhal tusk to a framed harmonica collection and a signed Shaquille O’Neal shoe – spread all over the walls. The restaurant was opened in 1991 by Jamis MacNiven, and for the last 24 years its eccentric décor and warm, friendly atmosphere has drawn over 800 diners a day, including the many children who delight in wandering around the restaurant on lively scavenger hunts looking for some 25 different objects scattered throughout the place. But since it opened, the restaurant has also been a popular lunch meeting destination for Silicon Valley hopefuls loaded with ideas and keen to secure the support of one of the venture capitalists who have their offices nearby. Important moments in the development of companies like Paypal, Hotmail and Tesla Motors apparently took place here.

We piled into a cozy booth at one end of the restaurant and ordered our ribs, pasta, crab cakes and nachos, and I took off with Theo to complete his scavenger hunt, winding through the tables, round corners, looking left, right and up as we tried to spot each item on the list. We had to complete the hunt after our dinner as there were so many fascinating things to look at. But as I tucked in to my delicious crab cakes, I kept looking around at the incredible collection that MacNiven had amassed and was happy to share with his customers. I suddenly realized that this bizarre place might be a good home for my Frog Prince. I finished my crabcakes and got up to ask the bartender, who had been particularly helpful, if I might be able to donate the little guy to the restaurant as part of my Giveaway project. She smiled and led me to the manager who seemed equally happy to oblige my quirky request. They pointed to an area on the front counter where other gifts from customers were displayed, and I placed my little frog beside a dinosaur, a United Airways plane and an origami cowboy boot folded out of a dollar bill. Froggy Prince looked very at home in his new surroundings and even seemed to be smiling at us when we came up to the counter to pay our bill and then made our way out through the front door of this wonderfully unique place.



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