I want to share some insider tips with you so you can enjoy and experience the city as locals do. San Francisco has a lot to offer and I hope that you can enjoy some of its charms and the sights, views and the weather that make it special. Be sure to bring along some warm clothes and good walking shoes.
If you get here early, you might consider side trips to the Napa Valley (for wine and food lovers) or Point Reyes National Seashore and Muir Woods (for nature lovers). While I have included many tips, I hope that you will go beyond these and create your own San Francisco experience. For instance, I have mentioned only some of the wonderful restaurants in the City. To be sure, there are many others. Nothing would please me more than you coming to my San Francisco and leaving with your own San Francisco.
- Top of the Bank of America Building: Stop by for drinks early evening and see the fog roll in, from the tallest building in San Francisco.
- Palace of the Legion of Honor & Lincoln Park: Great views of downtown San Francisco and the East Bay from the Palace of the Legion of Honor and breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge from El Camino del Mar (between 34th Street and continuing East to 32nd Street).
- Cliff House & Sutro Heights Park: Enjoy a drink or dinner at Cliff House, perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and watch the waves break on the rocks below. Walk or drive along Ocean Beach to the South of Cliff House.
- Marina Green & Crissy Field: The Marina Green is along the Northern shore facing the Bay, just before you get to the Presidio. You can continue West to Crissy Field (inside the Presidio). Incredible views of the Bay, Alcatraz, Angel Island, Marin and the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Golden Gate Bridge: Walk or drive along the 2 mile span of the Golden Gate Bridge. Great views of the City and the Bay looking East and the Pacific looking West side (on a clear day you can see the tiny Farralon Islands in the distance). On the Marin side, be sure to enjoy the views and take pictures from the vista point and from Marin Headlands.
- Sausalito: Drive over or take the ferry (from the Ferry Building or Pier 39) to Sausalito and walk on Bridgeway Blvd. You can get a drink or a meal at one of the many restaurants.
- Pacific Heights: Drive along Broadway, Pacific and Vallejo between Van Ness and Divisidero towards the West.
- Union Square: (www.unionsquareshop.com). All the great stores you could want in a compressed few blocks, including Neiman Marcus, Saks, Macy’s plus many designer stores.
- Westfield San Francisco Centre on Market Street: (www.westfield.com/san francisco/). Huge inner city mall with many stores including Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.
- Chinatown: Great for souvenirs. Bargain hard.
- Fillmore Street: (www.fillmorestreetsf.com). Boutiques and local designers and eateries.
- Union Street: (www.unionstreetshop.com). Boutiques, local designers and eateries.
Best Italian Food:
- A-16: (2355 Chestnut Street; 415-771-2216; www.a16sf.com). Located in the Marina/Cow Hollow section of San Francisco, this restaurant features the cuisine of Naples and Campagna. A-16 stands for Autostrada 16, the highway that winds by Naples.
- Bar Bambino: (2931 16th Street; 415-701-8466, www.barbambino.com ). A Mission District Italian that gets a “4 Bells” rating from San Francisco Chronicle.
- Beretta: (1199 Valencia Street; 415-695-1199; www.berettasf.com). Located in the Mission District of San Francisco, this new Italian eatery has won great reviews and many devoted fans.
- Delfina: (3621 18th Street; 415-552-4055; www.delfinasf.com). Also located in the Mission District, this restaurant has many devoted fans and serves Italian food with California influences.
- Farina: (3560 18th Street; 415-565-0360; www.farinafoods.com). Another great Mission District restaurant featuring the cuisine of Genova. Some of the best pesto dishes to be found outside Italy.
- Perbacco: (230 California Street; 415-955-0663; www.perbaccosf.com ). Located in the Financial District, this highly rated restaurant features the cuisine of the Piemonte and Liguria regions of Italy. Walking distance from the Convention sites and hotels.
- Quince: (1701 Octavia Street; 415-775-8500; www.quincerestaurant.com ). Located in lower Pacific Heights, this restaurant has been wowing the critics. It serves Italian food with strong California and French influences.
- SPQR: (1911 Fillmore Street; 415-771-7779; www.spqrsf.com ). Also located in lower Pacific Heights, this Italian eatery evokes the feel and the flavors of Rome.
- Aqua: (252 California Street; 415-956-9662; www.aqua-sf.com). Located in the Financial District, this is a sophisticated restaurant that combines seafood with California ingredients. Famous for its Tuna Tartare.
- Bar Crudo: (603 Bush Street; 415-956-0396; www.barcrudo.com ). Located in the Union Square area, this “4 Bell” rated restaurant is the hot place in town for seafood.
- Farallon: (450 Post Street; 415-956-6969; www.farallonrestaurant.com ). Located in the Union Square area, this is a great seafood restaurant with an inspiring underwater décor.
- Pesce: (2227 Polk Street; 415-928-8025; www.pescesf.com ). This Venetian inspired seafood restaurant has been getting great reviews. Serves tapas style small plates.
- Scoma’s: (Pier 47; 415-771-4383; www.scomas.com ). This is a famous tourist restaurant located in Fisherman’s Wharf. Also has a location in Sausalito. You can get San Francisco’s signature seafood cioppino here.
- Swan Oyster Depot: (1517 Polk Street; 415-673-1101). This is an old standby, a tiny seafood diner --- a good place for lunch. Known for its chowder and oysters.
- Tadich Grill: (240 California Street; 415-391-1849). A 150+ year old local institution. Serves the famous San Francisco seafood cioppino but no fancy food.
- Bocadillos: (710 Montgomery Street; 415-982-2622; www.bocasf.com). Located between the Financial District and North Beach, this restaurant gets high praise and serves Spanish and Basque food.
- Boulevard: (1 Mission Street; 415-543-6084; www.boulevardrestaurant.com ). A romantic restaurant that exudes French charm, close to the Embarcadero waterfront. Extremely popular with the locals.
- Canteen: (817 Sutter Street; 415-928-8870; www.sfcanteen.com). California cuisine with a seasonally changing menu.
- Coi: (373 Broadway; 415-393-9000; www.coirestaurant.com). Even though some of its ratings have fallen off in 2008, it remains highly regarded and popular with a loyal following. I call the food Asian inspired Californian.
- Foreign Cinema:(2534 Mission Street; 415-648-7600; www.foreigncinema.com). A true San Francisco experience in the Mission District (which now has a claim to the best new restaurants). Highly rated, great food, great décor, movies in the background – definite must!
- Gary Danko: (800 North Point Street; 415-749-2060; www.garydanko.com ). Located near Ghirardelli Square, hard to get in. Great California cuisine and a must try tasting menu.
- Jardiniere: (300 Grove Street; 415-861-5555; www.jardiniere.com). James Beard Award winning highly acclaimed restaurant near the Van Ness Opera/Symphony district.
- Kokkari: (200 Jackson Street; 415-981-0983; www.kokkari.com). My favorite Greek restaurant, located on Jackson Square, behind the Financial District. Great food and great décor.
- Michael Mina: (St. Francis Hotel, next to the lobby; 415-397-9222; www.michaelmina.com ). The restaurant that inspired several locations (Las Vegas, Atlantic City) and competes with Aqua for the best Tuna Tartare rankings. Easy to get to from the Convention sites and hotels. Famous beyond words.
- One Market: (1 Market Street – the bottom of Market Street; 415-777-5577; www.onemarket.com). Inspite of its age, this California cuisine restaurant still serves great food and gets great reviews --- “4 Bells” from the SF Chronicle.
- Town Hall: (342 Howard Street; 415-908-3900; www.townhallsf.com ). Another highly rated restaurant competing for the best Tuna Tartare in San Francisco. Easy distance from the Convention Center.
- Zuni: (1658 Market Street; 415-552-2522; www.zunicafe.com ). Highly rated and a continual high performer over the years. Perhaps the best hamburger in San Francisco. Would also recommend you call ahead for the roast chicken for 2 before you go.
- Commonwealth : (2224 Mission St.; 415-355-1500; http://www.commonwealthsf.com/ ). A progressive American restaurant in San Francisco`s Mission district. Nominated for a James Beard Award.
- Mission Chinese Food : (2234 Mission St.; 415-863-2800; http://www.missionchinesefood.com/ ). Delicious option for visitors on a budget.
- Taqueria Cancun : (2288 Mission St.; (415) 252-9560; http://www.yelp.com/biz/taqueria-cancun-san-francisco-4 ). It wouldn`t be California without a fresh and delicious burrito.
- Ame: (689 Mission Street; 415-284-4040; www.amerestaurant.com ). Located in the St. Regis Hotel close to the Convention Center, this restaurant serves beautifully presented Asian food.
- Slanted Door: (Ferry Building --- bottom of Market & California Street on the Embarcadero waterfront; 415-861-8032; www.slanteddoor.com ). Well known elegant Vietnamese restaurant located in the Ferry Building, with a view of the Bay.
- Yank Sing: (101 Spear Street; 415-957-9300; www.yanksing.com ). Long reigning leading Chinese restaurant famous for its dim-sum. Keeps getting great reviews. Located close to the Embarcadero waterfront.
Pizzas: California is experiencing a pizza revolution and it is hard to keep up with who is the best. My favorites are:
- A-16: (See the Best Italian Food section). A-16 is one of the few pizzerias in the US to serve authentic Naples pizza.
- Beretta: (see the Best Italian Food section). Beretta makes a terrific pizza.
- Pizetta 211: (211 23rd Avenue; 415-379-9880). A tiny establishment in the Outer Richmond District that serves great crispy pizzas and calzones. Worth the hike if you love pizza.
- Pizzeria Delfina: (3611 18th Street; 415-437-6800; www.pizzeriadelfina.com). Long waits in the evening but worth it. Try the Margherita with Bubalus Bubalis mozzarella. If you have never hear of Bubalus Bubalis, vist www.realmozzarella.com. If you have never tasted Bubalus Bubalis, then take the opportunity to remedy the deficiency.
- Ferry Building: (www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com). A wonderful place to sample great food. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, a farmers market is operated in the mornings. The Saturday farmers market features many vendors of farm produce, dairy products, etc. Throughout the week there are specialty food purveyors who can delight your palate. My favorites include: McEvoy Olive Oil, Miette baked goods and candy. Acme Bread (perhaps the best bread in San Francisco) and Cowgirl Creamery (artisan cheeses from California and other places --- you can buy Bubbalus Bubbalis mozzarella here as well as cheeses from Bellwether Farms, Cow Girl Creamery and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company). Places to eat include; The Slanted Door (Vietnamese), Lulu Petite (California/French café), Taylor’s Refresher (great burgers, fries and shakes at this branch of the venerable Napa County eatery), MIJITA (Mexican), DELICA (Japanese) and many others. A definite must!
- Belden Place: (www.belden-place.com). This is a tiny alley between Pine and Bush Streets, between Kearney and Montgomery, next to the Bank of America Building. The alley boasts a great collection of cafes --- Italian, French and Belgian. A good place for lunch within easy walking distance from the Convention sites and hotels.
- Fisherman’s Wharf: (www.fishermanswharf.org). More for tourists than locals, but you have to experience this famous San Francisco tourist attraction with many vendors serving Dungeness crab, etc.
- Chinatown: (Grant and Stockton between Bush and Broadway; www.sanfranciscochinatown.com). Lots of Chinese restaurants, grocery stores, souvenir stores, bakeries, etc. Lots of tourists and many locals who live in the neighborhood.
- Columbus Avenue: (North Beach). Many Italian restaurants and cafes line this avenue.
- Japan Town: (Geary Blvd between Webster and Fillmore; www.sfjapantown.com). Many Japanese restaurants, sushi joints and Japanese noodle houses.
Ice Cream & Gelato:
- BiRite Creamery: (3692 18th Street; 415-626-5600; www.biritecreamery.com ). In my opinion, the best ice-cream in the country. If you love ice-cream, then this tiny gem in the Mission is a must! My favorite flavors are Honey Lavender and Salted Caramel. Also worth trying are Balsamic Strawberry and Orange Cardamom.
- Emporio Rulli: (www.rulli.com; Many locations including right --- I mean literarily, on Union Square – climb up the stairs across from Macy’s). Serves great gelato along with coffee, snacks and pastries.
- Tango Gelato: (2015 Fillmore Street; www.tangogelato.com). Many exciting traditional as well as exotic flavors of gelato with an Argentinean touch.
- Ciao Bella Gelato: (www.ciaobellagelato.com; from New York but with a San Francisco location in the Ferry Building).
- Ghirardelli Ice Cream: (Ghirardelli Square; www.ghirardelli.com). More for tourists than locals but you cannot come to San Francisco and not have any.
Bakeries (Breads, Confectionery & Snacks):
- Citizen Cake: (399 Grove Street; www.citizencake.com ). A true San Francisco experience. Great food and snacks, cakes to die for and a recommendation from Michelin to boot.
- Tartine Bakery: (600 Guerrero Street; www.tartinebakery.com). This Mission District gem has an unbelievable cult following. Terrific sandwiches, baked goods and coffee.
- Boulangerie: (2325 Pine Street; 415-440-0356, www.baybread.com). A little bakery with a lot to offer.
- Acme Bread Co: (Ferry Building; 415-288-2978). Great bread and great sandwiches. This is the bread to bring back home.
- Miette: (Ferry Building; www.miettecakes.com). A great patisserie and confiserie with terrific cakes and pastries. Also has melt in the mouth French caramels.
- Beard Papa: (99 Yerba Buena Lane; 415-978-9972; www.beardpapasf.com). From Japan comes this little cream puff bakery with many devoted fans. Located across the street (on Mission) from the Metreon, next to the Marriott.
- Blue Bottle Coffee: (Served by many establishments but has its own kiosk at 315 Linden Street; 415-252-7535; www.bluebottlecoffee.net). The coffee for coffee lovers and those like me who do not drink the stuff regularly but cannot pass up the brew served by Blue Bottle.
- Local Chocolates:
- Scharffen Bergen Chocolate (Ferry Building; 415-981-9150; www.scharffenberger.com).
- Recchiuti Confections (Ferry Building; 415-834-9494 (www.recchiuti.com).
- Ghirardelli Chocolate (Ghirardelli Square and also on Stockton Street close to Market Street)
- Pizzeria Delfina: Their much awaited second location has just opened in Lower Pacific Heights, on California Street, between Fillmore and Steiner, across from Molly Stone (2406 California Street; 415-440-1189). I plan to try it out shortly and expect that this location will also offer Bubbalus Bubbalis mozzarella as an option for its Margherita pizza (shown on the menu as Bubalis Mozzarella di Bufala).
- Burger Bar: (Right inside Macy’s on Union Square). Star San Francisco chef Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys fame is bringing his famous Burger Bar to the sixth floor of Macy’s, below the Cheesecake Factory. This will be the third location, with Burger Bars already operating in Las Vegas and Saint Louis and will feature Keller’s signature burgers including one with Kobe beef, foie gras and shaved truffles. Unfortunately the Burger Bar will not open in time for the MBA October 2008 Annual Convention. Still, here is that reason you were looking for (as if you need any more reasons) to come back to San Francisco next year.
- Fleur de Lys: Speaking of Hubert Keller --- and if you visit the Fleur d Lys website the first thing that comes up is his name, some of my friends have already criticized me (imagine that) for not mentioning San Francisco’s classic, 45 year old French restaurant with American influences (777 Sutter Street; 415-673-7779; www.fleurdelyssf.com ).
- Epic Roasthouse: (Note: “roasthouse” not “steakhouse” --- get that!). My friend Dain Ehring of Dorado mentioned this restaurant. (369 Embarcadero; 415-369-9955; www.epicroasthousesf.com . --- I finally figured out that when they put “sf” at the end they either already have or plan to have other locations). Regarded by some as “expensive”, this restaurant is operated by San Francisco’s legendary restaurateur, Pat Kuleto. The spectacular views get consistent rave reviews. The restaurant is located on the waterfront, a few blocks east of the Convention Center. I hope to try it sometime if I get invited or when our industry gets back to profitability.
- Waterbar: (339 Embarcadero; 415-284-9922; www.waterbarsf.com ). I couldn’t mention Epic without also mentioning Waterbar, next door. Another Pat Kuleto restaurant --this one features ‘expensive” seafood. It too has spectacular views and cylindrical floor-to-ceiling aquariums to boot. The San Francisco Chronicle mentions that “the sustainably sourced fish behind the glass, [are] chosen in consultation with the Monterey Bay Aquarium”.