[spotlight series. kelly lack + kristen ewing]
[san francisco soundtrack. going to california]
Oh, San Francisco, you beautiful thing. We always liked you, a lot, but it was really on our most recent trip that we truly fell in love (perhaps it had something to do with the week-long sunshine, but in any case…). We love how compact you are (7miles x 7miles), but still how incredibly diverse, creative and inspiring you are as well. We love your many differing neighborhoods – all so close – but all so different. We love that every second person here describes themselves as a “burner” (regular Burning Man-goer, of course), and that good live music is so easy to find. And we love how naturally beautiful you are. We visited Ocean Beach for the first time, and then witnessed the sun setting over the Sutro Baths – feeling more like Ancient Greece than downtown California – it was then that we were sold. Not to mention how easy it is to get out of town – over the bridge, and up the coast (for oysters in Tomales Bay, through Point Reyes) and into wine country. You are a nature wonderland. You are wonderful. We like you a lot.
Here we list some (but not all) of our favorite things. There really are too many to mention! But this should get you started…
Along with Portland and Seattle, San Francisco is definitely home to some of the best coffee in the US. You are spoilt for choice here. We like…
Four barrel: one of our favorite brews. You can find their coffee at The Mill. We also love their roasting space in the Mission.
Sightglass: the coffee is good, and the space is exceptionally beautiful (those windows! Wow). We also loved the music playing the day we visited. We asked who the artist was, and turns out it was a local guy named Young Moon (keep an ear out – he’s good :) ).
Blue bottle: lots of locations around town – we like the one downtown (in an old bank building) and the one in Oakland (see our Oakland guide).
St Frank: a beautiful light-filled space, with good coffee, and also a place to work (where wifi is available).
Ritual: a cute shipping container pop up in Hayes Street.
Front: this garage-esque space, in an industrial part of town, does a great coffee.
Hollow: more for the cute little green shopfront than anything else! So freaking adorable.
Samovar (tea): not coffee, but tea, in a stunning space. Try their signature chai.
The Mill: for their big chunky, lusciously-topped toasts (and Four Barrel coffee). You can also take home loaves of their amazing bread. Look out also for their pizza nights on Mondays.
Lolo: a fun, colorful, buzzy space that’s great for ceviche and margaritas (two locations – both good).
Outerlands: for anything and everything. Outer Sunset. We love it here.
Nopa: a mainstay. Always great. Expect to wait if you don’t have a table reservation (can grab a seat at the bar). The burger is infamous. We love the fish.
Nopalito: for totopos and carnitas tacos. Cute neighborhood spot.
Bar Agricole: for a fancy weekend brunch or dinner.
izakaya rintaro - quiet, tranquil little spot, hidden behind a big wooden fence (look out for the big number 82 painted in white). we love the miso black cod.
Flour and Water: for exceptional pasta.
Central Kitchen/Salumeria: for a casual meat and cheese board (at Salumeria), or something delicious in the more formal restaurant.
Marios: for their meatball focaccia sandwich and homemade Campari.
Baretta: cosy, corner neighborhood spot doing exceptional cocktails and great homely Italian.
Craftsmen and wolves: for their “rebel within”. That’s all you need to know.
Pizza from pizzeria Delfina: the best spot on a sunny afternoon for pizza and prosecco. Sit in the sun, watch the world go by. You can also eat in the more formal restaurant part next door if you would prefer. Just down the road from our favorite supermarket (Bi-Rite) and ice cream shop.
Bi-rite creamery and supermarket: loveliest little gourmet supermarket around (specialising in local, organic and sustainable). Amazing produce. Great for grabbing picnic stuff and taking it to nearby dolores park (for long lazy days, people watching and stunning views of the city). Their ice creamy across the road is next level. We like the hard scoops and the soft serve as well. All so good.
Zuni cafe: a SF institution (been around for 20+ years). Come here for Zuni’s roasted chicken and bread salad (and some oysters).
Tartine: probably the most famous bakery in the city. They serve Four Barrel coffee as well.
Mr holmes bakehouse: for Cronuts and other sweet things.
Plow: wood and white dining room. for breakfast.
Slanted door: in the ferry building. very san francisco. vietnamese. fresh and organic.
Zazie: in cole valley for cosy french bistro vibes.
20th Century cafe: on a sunny corner in Hayes Valley. For Eastern European-influenced eats.
Souvla: this was only newly opened when we visited last year. awesome souvlakis, big salads, and wait for it…olive oil and sea salt greek frozen yoghurt. omg.
little gem: a new one in hayes valley - for healthy eats.
Green heart foods: for health-conscious eats in the mission.
Cala: for mexican seafood.
Locanda: for their delicious gnocchi.
Tosca’s: innovative and fresh italian from famed chef, april bloomfield. dark and moody. we like it here. great cocktails, too.
Trou Normand: if you are into meat. This place specialises in whole animal butchery! Try the Trou lamb burger.
Okoze: in Russian Hill. Eat at the sushi bar only. For dinner. Order scallops. And sake.
Blue Plate: in the mission. A bit of an institution. Come here for american comfort food.
Foreign Cinema: for california-inspired food and film screenings on their outdoor patio.
Foreign cinema: for foreign films.
For a drink head to -
General store: our favourite store in California (the one in Venice Beach used to be our local). Bright, light and airy, and full of amazing brands. It also comes with the most beautiful, sunny, cactus-filled courtyard and glasshouse out the back. The best.
Case for making: studio supplies for a creative life. Super cute bibs and bobs.
Gravel and gold: clothing, accessories, home goods.
Aggregate supply: literally an aggregate of three shops - Heliotrope, Turk + Taylor, and Acacia. Amoeba records
The Perish Trust: a teeny tiny shop filled to the brim with vintage pieces and other random finds.
Mollusk in Outer Sunset.
Hayes street: poke around the cute boutiques on this sunny street.
Golden gate park: absolutely huge, green and incredibly beautiful.
Sunset at sutro baths: dont miss this. Follow it up with dinner at Outerlands (in Outer Sunset).
Check out China Beach: peaceful, quiet and definitely one of SF’s hidden gems. Tucked in the Presidio across from Robin Williams’ old home (rip).
Picnic in Dolores: grab goodies from bi-rite first.
Check out the murals: they are everywhere.
Farmers market at the ferry building: touristy, but definitely worth a visit.
Catch a live show at the Fillmore.
Farmers markets: so many on offer.
Ferry to Sam’s (touristy, but fun) - oysters and wine.
Brunch at Salito’s. Amazing spot on the water in Sausalito. Order the crab omelette in a skillet.
Hike around Muir woods national monument.
Head up to wine country. Visit Sonoma. Spend a night at the Farmhouse Inn (see our separate guide) - an exquisite barn-like farmhouse property, set amongst the vineyards.
Stop in Inverness - for oysters at Saltwater Oyster Bay, or Hogg Inn. And if you are lucky, spend a night at Mankas. Heaven.
We were so happy to stumble across this gorgeous boutique hotel on our most recent trip to the city. Located smack-bang in the heart of the city - one block west of union square - this 153-room boutique hotel fills up the very stylishly-refurbed 1909 Fielding building. With two restaurants and a gorgeous cocktail bar, Hotel G makes a very convenient base for exploring SF. We love the design - the old wooden and tile floors have been perfectly revamped - and we especially love the artwork. Hotel G has cleverly partnered with a San Francisco nonprofit arts centre for developmentally disabled adults called Creatively Explored. All the artwork you see - in the guest rooms and shared areas - is by these artists. And the best bit, the artwork is for sale, with all proceeds going directly back to Creatively Explored.
Other sleeping options:
Airbnb: one of the most beautiful Airbnbs we have ever stayed in. Beautiful design, exceptional location, and Zoe (a fellow Aussie!) is a kind, loving and energetic host. Look no further than this.
The Battery (boutique hotel/members club, right in the heart of downtown).