LeFrenchFrite’s Quick Guide to San Francisco

Official Top 10 Sites
Non-Official Top 10 Sites
Food – Brunch
Food – Dinner
Shopping
Tours
Bars

favourites:

  • the Golden Gate Bridge view from the Marin Headlands
  • the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park
  • lunch at the Ferry building
  • kayaking in Sausalito
  • strolling around the Palace of Fine Arts
  • eating/hanging out in the Mission/Dolores Park or Hayes Valley
  • shopping on Union/Fillmore
  • food truck Fridays
  • $1 oyster happy hour at Waterbar
  • brunch – see list!
  • the bay bridge lightshow

The ‘Official’ Sights:

1. The Golden Gate Bridge

  • See the bridge from Chrissy Field, while walking along the water
  • Or drive across the bridge and stop at the lookout point on the other end to take pictures or walk (take a jacket – it’s very windy usually!)
  • My favourite views are from Conzelman Road, which climbs up the Marin Headlands and gives amazing views of the bridge. Getting there is a bit tricky, you can drive across the bridge and take the exit to the right after the vista point and towards the Marin Headlands (I think it’s exit to the right and then a left turn, almost like you are heading back over the bridge – put Conzelman Road, Mill Valley in your GPS)
  • You can rent bikes and bike across the bridge to Sausalito (cute little town on the other side) where you can have lunch and ice cream and then take the ferry back to San Francisco!

2. Riding the Cable Car

  • It’s best to get on at the beginning of the ride (at the base of Powell Street and Market) in Union Square and ride it all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf/Ghirardelli Square
  • along the way you will stop at Lombard Street, which is the crooked street that San Francisco is famous for. You can get off to take pictures and then hop back on (as long as it’s not a very busy day, otherwise you might be waiting for a while!)
  • get off at Ghirardelli Square and treat yourself to a chocolate treat inside the Ghirardelli chocolate factory!

3. Fisherman’s Wharf

  • stop off at Boudin’s for clam chowder served in a bread bowl or stop at any of the crab stands along the way
  • walk down to Pier 39 (especially if you’re with kids) to see (and smell!) the sea lions lazing around on the docks

4. Alcatraz (you need to book this in advance!)

  • take a tour of Alcatraz Island (former home of the famous high-security prison), but be prepared for the cold, wind, and rain!
  • definitely use the audio tour
  • some say Alcatraz is better as a night tour
  • try to book tickets before-hand as it is usually sold out (for either tour)

5. Ferry Building Marketplace

  • stop by for lunch or a snack, some suggestions: cowgirl creamery shop for a grilled cheese, Miette bakery for a cookie, Recchiuti chocolates for a sweet bite, olive oil tasting, oysters at Hog Island, and a burger from Gott’s Roadside
  • http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com
  • they do a farmer’s market on Tues, Thurs, and Sats

6. Golden Gate Park

  • http://www.golden-gate-park.com
  • home of the De Young Museum and the Legion of Honor (currently doing an exhibit on the ‘Impressionists on the Water’)
  • visit the Japanese Tea Garden for an official Japanese tea ceremony (advance booking required) or just walk through the gardens and buy your own cup of tea and cookies for a snack
  • the Conservatory of Flowers and is located here and currently has an exhibit with butterflies called ‘Butterflies & Blooms’
  • there’s a children’s area with an authentic carousel http://www.golden-gate-park.com/childrens-playground.html
  • stop off at the Park Chalet for a snack/drink – go to the back, not upstairs

7. Palace of Fine Arts

  • originally designed for the 1915 Panama Pacific Expo, it’s still standing and beautiful but no longer houses any art
  • still worth it to take a stroll and some beautiful pics

8. Exploratorium (at Pier 15)

  • hands-on science museum, great for kids

9. Chinatown

  • start off at the gates at Bush and Grant and wander through the streets for cheap souvenirs
  • start off at Café de La Presse for brunch or stop off at House of Nanking for lunch

The ‘non-Official’ top ten sights:

1. Go to AT&T Park to watch a baseball game

2. Dolores park (in between Church, Dolores, 18th, and 20th streets)

  • on hot days and especially on the weekends, the park is called ‘Dolores Beach’ because people will lay out towels and tan or spend the day picnicking
  • stop off at Bi-Rite Creamery for an ice cream cone (if the line-up is insane, try the frozen yogurt – still good and it does the job, but with a shorter line!)
  • have snacks/breakfast at Tartine (www.tartinebakery.com) nearby or lunch/dinner at Delfina or Farina down the street

3. Ocean Beach

  • enjoy a walk on the beach, watching surfers, sitting on the bluffs for the sunset, etc.
  • water is too cold to go swimming but you can enjoy the views and the sand!

4. Alamo Square (Steiner and Hayes – the Full House picture)

  • picnic on Alamo Square and watch the view of the Painted Ladies (the 7 Victorian homes on the eastern side of the square also called ‘postcard row’ with a view of the city behind it)
  • start off walking through Hayes Valley and grab some snacks (see below under shopping for snack ideas)

5. The Mission district of San Francisco

  • Dolores Park (as mentioned above) is in this area
  • walk down Valencia between 16th and 22nd for shopping and food
  • the same strip but on Mission Street has more restaurants and bars
  • tour the street art of this area with www.precitaeyes.org or www.vayable.com
  • stop off at a local Taqueria for a burrito! My reco – La Taqueria at 2889 Mission Street (a little further down)

6. Go to the Academy of Sciences on a Thursday night for music, creatures, and cocktails!

7. Eat from a San Francisco Food Truck

  • check out this site to see where the food trucks will be that day: http://offthegridsf.com
  • on Fridays they have some food trucks outside of the Civic Center/City Hall – take a tour of City Hall (it’s beautiful!) and then grab some lunch and sit outside in the sun (free tours are offered at 10, 12, and 2pm M-F)
  • the most talked about food truck is Delpopolo pizza because they spent a lot of money to build and customize the truck. Check out their site to see where they will be: http://www.delpopolosf.com

8. The View

  • enjoy a drink and the gorgeous view from the Top of the Mark restaurant at the Intercontinental hotel http://www.intercontinentalmarkhopkins.com/top-of-the-mark.aspx They also offer a Sunday brunch, live jazz during certain nights, and wine/movie nights on Tuesdays in the summer
  • during holidays (i.e. Christmas) if you have time, stop by the Fairmont next door to check out their Christmas tree and life-size gingerbread house

9. The Bay Bridge Lights

  • to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the bridge, they installed LED lights along the entire bridge and programmed it to move in a never-repeating constant display
  • watch it from the Embarcadero area and Sausalito http://thebaylights.org/about/
  • if you can, get a seat by the window at Waterbar ($$) and enjoy the seafood and the beautiful view! (btw – if you get there early, Waterbar has a $1 oyster happy hour from 11:30-5:30pm!) http://www.waterbarsf.com/food.php

10. Catch a Show

 

*Sausalito

  • travel to Sausalito by car, ferry from the Ferry Building/Pier 41 (20 min), or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge
  • spend the day enjoying the views of the city and houseboats, wandering through art galleries, eating ice cream, or enjoying seafood
  • (recos: 331fish and Bar Bocce)
  • go kayaking or SUP amongst the houseboats and sea lions http://www.seatrek.com

Favourite Brunch Spots:

  1. Park Tavern (in North Beach) – weekends only
  2. Absinthe (in Hayes Valley) – weekends only
  3. Brenda’s French Soul Food (in Tenderloin) – casual place/heavy but delicious Louisiana cooking – be prepared for a wait, esp on weekend
  4. Sunday Brunch at the Palace Hotel$$ $85/pp but will fill you up for the day!
  5. Stone’s Throw (Sundays only)
  6. Mission Beach Café

Worth Noting for Brunch (all have LONG line-ups on the weekends and I’ve never braved them, but they are highly recommended by people – try it on a weekday?):

  1. Mama’s (in North Beach)
  2. Dottie’s True Blue Café
  3. Plow

Favourite Restaurants (try to make a reservation if you can):

  1. Coqueta in the embarcadero area – Spanish tapas
  2. Le Mar Cebicheria – Peruvian food in embarcadero area
  3. Monsieur Benjamin – French Food in Hayes Valley – late night eats until 1am
  4. Delfina Restaurant (they also have a pizzeria next door www.delfinasf.com) – get the chicken with mashed potato or head to the pizzeria for pizza!
  5. Nopalito – Mexican food – call ahead and put your name on the call-ahead wait list – small with busy bar area/fun place
  6. Nopa – California cuisine – always busy/ good for late night dining
  7. Frances – small neighbourhood feel/amazing food/a little pricey/must make reservations or take a chance for a spot at the bar www.frances-sf.com
  8. Zuni Café – famous SF institution known for their chicken…
  9. Park Tavern (also on my brunch list) – get the burger!
  10. Ryoko sushi (not family friendly) – on the weekend evenings they have a DJ playing R&B and good ambiance, sushi is always fresh, usually a wait
  11. Tacolicious/Mosto – head to this fun place for tacos or tequilas
  12. Lers Ros (in Hayes Valley) for Thai Food
  13. Ike’s Place sandwiches (casual to-go lunch place)
  14. Otoro Sushi (Hayes Valley)
  15. Tony’s Pizza Napoletano – located in North Beach (aka Little Italy) and home of the ‘world pizza champion’ http://www.tonyspizzanapoletana.com/index.php (usually pretty busy…if you are craving pizza though, you’ll find lots of spots around here)
  16. Highly recommended: 1760, Swan Oyster Depot, State Bird Provisions, Café Jaqueline, Beretta, La Urbana, Ichi Sushi, Bar Jules, Rich Table, Foreign Cinema, Namu Gaji

 

Worth Noting for Dinner (have not made it to these yet, but highly recommended):

  1. Mission Chinese Food (voted one of the best new restaurants of 2012 – long wait unless you go early) http://missionchinesefood.com
  2. Jardiniere – $49 Prix fixe on Monday nights with a special menu each week http://www.jardiniere.com/monday_menu.html
  3. Hakkasan $$ http://hakkasan.com/sanfrancisco/about
  4. Gary Danko $$

Shopping:

 Main Shopping District

  • head to Union Square (in the middle of Stockton, Powell, Post, and Geary Streets) for the main center of SF shopping and the “third largest shopping area in the US”
  • the area is surrounded by Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Barneys and then lots of designer shops
  • walk up and down Grant and Stockton streets between Bush and Market for more shops and if you walk all the way down Powell to Market, you will arrive at the Westfield San Francisco Centre with lots more shopping and a huge Nordstrom
  • stop for a snack/drink at one of the cafes located in the middle of union square or a burger and fries from Bourbon restaurant in the Westin St. Francis or while in the woman’s department at Macy’s, head to www.toutsweetsf.com for a treat from the Top Chef Dessert winner’s first patisserie

 Boutique Shopping

Hayes Valley: walk up and down Hayes Street between Franklin and Laguna (and some on Octavia towards Grove) for boutique shops and great restos/sweets

  • my food faves: Miette bakery for a cupcake, Chantal Guillon for red velvet macarons, Schulzies for bread pudding, Smitten ice cream for fresh ice cream made on the spot with liquid nitrogen, Republic coffee, Two Sisters for a cheese plate and drink, and Arlequin for a grilled cheese sandwich

Lower Fillmore: walk up and down Fillmore around Fillmore/California streets for some designer shopping (Ralph Lauren, Jonathan Adler, Marc Jacobs) as well as boutique shops and some good eats

  • my food faves: Fresca for Peruvian, Delfina for a pizza, and Woodhouse Fish Company for a lobster roll

Union street (from Octavia to Fillmore): trendy, fashionable shops and tons of fun places for food

  • my food faves: American Cupcake for cupcake and wine flights, Pacific Puffs for delicious cream puffs and coffee, Betelnut for dinner or Brixton for drinks

Other Lists:

Tours:

Bars/Drinks:

  1. Lightning Tavern on Union Street
  2. Cantina (Tenderloin Bar)
  3. Red Room at the Clift Hotel – (upscale)
  4. Amelie (wine bar)
  5. 620 jones (outdoor patio)
  6. Noeteca (wine bar)
  7. Bar at 25 Lusk
  8. Wine jug (wine bar)
  9. Bourbon and branch (original speakeasy! Book a table in the private room)
  10. Bruno’s/Laslo/Double Dutch in the mission for R&B/Hip Hop dancing or Madrone for Motown Mondays
  11. 15 romolo
  12. Press club (for upscale happy hour)
  13. Waterbar ($1 oyster happy hour)
  14. Bar Americano (happy hour)
  15. Local Edition (on Market)
  16. Prospect
  17. District (in SOMA)

Add your fave places here too!