LIFESTYLE Recent Posts Travel & Food  >  San Francisco: The City by the Bay

San Francisco: The City by the Bay

San Francisco: The City by the Bay
Print pagePDF pageEmail page


Along with the ever-changing weather – as Mark Twain famously put it, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” – the city is alive with gentrifying and quickly-growing neighborhoods, along with old and respected genteel neighborhoods. There is more to see and do in San Francisco than ever before. Following are some of the areas to see and some of the highlights they offer.

The Mission

One of the most recent areas in the city to gentrify, the Mission District has a trendy restaurant and art gallery on every block. Named for Mission Dolores, this area was founded in 1776, which makes it San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood. Mission Dolores, which is still there – at Mission and 16th Streets – is the oldest building in the city. The largest concentration of murals in the city adorns buildings, fences and walls throughout the district. Potrero Hill’s Dogpatch neighborhood is one of 11 historic districts in the city and home to the second crookedest street (after Lombard) in the city.

More than just a park, Dolores Park is the Mission’s heart. On a pretty day people come from far and wide to tan, socialize, and catch the views of the San Francisco skyline and the bay beyond.  And when you get tired of the beauty and relaxation, take a stroll on Mission Street and its huge selection of thrift stores. For higher-end shopping, the nearby Valencia Street is one of the fasted growing shopping streets in the city.

A highlight on 16th near Valencia – for women’s clothes – is Sunhee Moon, A local designer, Sunshee Moon’s well-made women’s line includes pants, skirts, and tops in classic, clean cuts. Her clothes fall in a category be between dress-casual and professional, and are priced in the mid-range ($98 for tops and skirts). Items are beautifully arranged by color around the periphery of the store. Accessories all come from local designers, and all of Moon’s clothes are made in the area. For house wares, Therapy, on Valencia, offers an eclectic array of items of new and used furniture, home accessories, kitschy knickknacks and clothing.

At Joshu+Vela, on 16th St.,, the bags – messengers, backpacks, briefcases, totes and more – are all designed with use in mind. The bags are all manufactured locally. This, coupled with the best natural materials, informs how the company designs each bag or wallet.  These quality products are said to last a lifetime. And the colors and leathers are a real treat for the senses as well.  And at Acaia, 425 Valencia,, you can find home treasures such as simple linen pillows in a dazzling array of colors; modern brass candleholders; stunning champagne glasses ands more.

When you can’t shop anymore, there are some great new restaurants in the Mission.

Fénix,, serves up a great Sangria and more at 1077 Mission. Mexican-inspired flavors are the name of the game for chef Mark Liberman who explores a new set of flavors, including large format dishes like glazed pork shank that comes with pickled items and little salads. The menu also offers more traditional items such as chips and salsa, and carne asada. Al’s Place,, boasts a Michelin star and offers modern takes on seafood and vegetables with such dishes as yellow eye bean stew with torn bread; lightly cured trout, crispy potato, bashed cucumber, bagna cauda; and blistered squash, grilled peach mayo, peach thinning relish, favas.

And, if you have having so much fun in the Mission that you can’t pull yourself away, 1906 Mission,, is a modern Victorian Bed & Breakfast, with relaxed contemporary décor and lots of bright colors, fun art, custom headboards and luxurious showers. The people who work at the inn are all very friendly, it is close to public transportation, and it is smack dab in an area that comes alive with bars and entertainment at night.

Noe Valley

This quaint residential community full of beautiful Victorian houses is perched above Dolores Park and has become one the newest areas to be frequented by visitors to the city. One big pull here is that – because of its location – Noe Valley is often sunny when the rest of the city is shrouded in fog. Noye Valley has become a mecca for shoppers and foodies with lots of new stores and eateries popping up.

For women’s clothes, a newcomer to the neighborhood, Two Birds,, at 1309 Castro St, is a clothing and accessories shop from Susanna Taylor and Audrey Yang, former buyers at HeidiSays boutique in Pacific Heights. They emphasize versatile basics with lines such as Vince, Elizabeth and James, Joie, Theory. Accessories include Rebecca Minkoff bags, We Are Owls silk-and-cashmere scarves and jewelry from local designers Jennifer Tuton and M. Stone. Wink SF,, at 4107 24th St (the main drag here), is one of those places that seems to have everything. It is small but packed with variety of home décor, kitchen and bath accessories, tea pots, jewelry, shirts, bags, travel kits, and hand-printed cards.

Try to visit on a Saturday for the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market, from 8 a.m. to noon. Local organic farmers sell all kinds of fruits, vegetables, nuts and honey. There is also live bluegrass music, plus information about organic and sustainable farming.

For dining, there are lots of casual restaurants offering bagels and coffee, but for something more posh try Le Zinc,, 4063  24th St, Noe Valley’s own French bistro, complete with prix-fixe menu, zinc-topped bar, menus written on chalkboards, escargot, moules (mussels), pruneaux et bacon (prunes wrapped in bacon), crepes, steak frites, and an excellent selection of wines by the glass.

North Beach

The Italian section of the city, North Beach, is also the place that the Beats – the famous collection of writers and artists who congregated in San Francisco in the 1950s – made famous. To that end, don’t miss the funky little Beat Museum,, at 540 Broadway, when you visit here. You will have the privilege of seeing the Beat generation come alive again through an extensive collection of memorabilia, including original manuscripts and first editions, letters and personal effects from Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady and more.

This neighborhood, part of the famous Barbary Coast, is home to some of the liveliest nightclubs and bars in town. Grant Avenue itself is the oldest street in San Francisco. In the early days, North Point docks served as a gateway for immigrants from all over the world. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that thousands of Italians made the area their stronghold and turned it into the local Latin Quarter.  Nowadays small boutiques with locally made clothes and housewares are all over, particularly on upper Grant Avenue. Even though Italian restaurants are the most prevalent, there are plenty of other good spots to try once you’ve had your fill of pasta, with menus featuring Japanese, French and contemporary fusion cuisine.

In terms of sights, there is a lot of see here. Coit Tower & Pioneer Park,, offering magnificent views of the City (it is especially beautiful as the sun sets), this curious structure was donated in 1929 by Lillie Hitchcock Coit (an eccentric volunteer firefighter) to beautify the skyline. Inside, a mural created as part of the Federal Art Project wraps around the ground floor’s circular walls, depicting the effects of the Depression on the Bay Area.

Telegraph Hill was long ago seedy poor area, it is now primarily an enclave of privilege. A stroll down the Filbert Steps,,  gives you direct access to the views and lush gardens that make the location so desirable. As you head down the stars at Filbert and Montgomery streets, keep an eye out for an incongruous flock of green parrots — they’re cherry-headed conures (native to South America), and they make their home on the eastern slope of the hill.

As for shopping, start at the famous City Lights Bookstore,, at 261 Columbus Ave., Lawrence Ferlingheti’s shop with opened in 1953 and still has one of the best collections of poetry, fine art tomes and political newspapers in the city. It prides itself on being a library that sells books, so they encourage you to dawdle. Head upstairs to visit the poetry room, which features special sections on the Beats.

At Park and Pound, 1422 Grant St.,, founded by Bay Area natives and sisters, Jessica and Abbey Herman, Park and Pond well-designed local goods are the name of the game. Merchandise includes jewelry, stationery, gifts, home items, art, and bath and body products, all produced within 100 miles of San Francisco. Some of the offerings include Chessy Shay Jewelry with intricate work and gemstones, Missive with great handmade greeting cards, and FluffyCo which has colorful handmade leather goods.

When San Francisco native Howard Gee started AB Fits,,at the corner of Union and Grant Streets, 20 years ago, he wanted bring people better denim with a personal touch. His fit expertise has built a long-loyal customer base. And, though his offerings have expanded since those early days, he is still very much focused on finding and fitting the best denim available. The store offers all the current brands of denim such as Levi’s Vintage, J. Brand, 3×1, DL1961, Strom and more.  It’s definitely worth a pilgrimage for new jeans and other great clothing.

And for libations, here are two picks, but this a great neighborhood to just walk around and pick what looks good. Ristorante Fior d’Italia, “The Flower of Italy,” 2237 Mason St.,, was opened on May 1st, 1886 in San Francisco’s Barbary Coast and has been in the neighborhood ever since. Traditional Italian fare is offered here with an emphasis on seafood dishes – such as clams and mussels in broth and garlic, and prawns wrapped in pancetta. And for newer Italian, try the Trattoria Cotadina, 1800 Mason St., some great dishes like gnocchi in tomato cream sauce, fusilli with chicken and prosciutto, and lamb chops with capers and red onion – all with a modern edge.

Financial District

Every neighborhood in San Francisco vies to be the first, but before the hippies found the Haight and the Italians took over North Beach, those searching for gold in the Sierras settled in the Financial District. There is a lot hubbub here during the day, and some of the city’s best restaurants night and day.

Since it’s the tallest building in San Francisco, the Transamerica Pyramid dominates not just the financial district but all of downtown. When this 850-foot foot tower was completed in 1972, it was one of the five tallest buildings in the world. Although the tower itself is not open to the public, the adjacent Visitor Center on Clay Street is definitely worth checking out.

Crocker Galleria, 50 Post Street at Mongomery, with its high-end stores and interesting design, is is a great spot to sit and watch business executives on their lunch break and feel the everyday hustle bustle of the area. Specialty shops like Bella Ceramic, with the largest selection of Italian Ceramics in the Bay area, or Aricie Lingerie, which offers a wide selection of European brands, might be a little more expensive than the ubiquitous “I Escaped From Alcatraz” T-shirt, but they’ll certainly last longer. And Anderson Bakery as well as 360 Gourmet Burritos are some of the best mall dining options in the country!

At night, don’t miss the Punch Line Comedy Club, 444 Battery St.,,which is the oldest of its kind in the city. Big-time stars like Robin Williams, Ellen Degeneres, Drew Carey and Chris Rock learned their craft on this very stage.

For dining, there are so many choices in this area it is mind-boggling. You can’t go wrong with the Tadich Grill, 249 California St.,,which is literally California’s oldest restaurant. Be forewarned, they don’t take reservations and are usually packed, but it is worth the wait for their old-style fresh seafood. West coast style dishes like Shrimp Louie and Crabs Newberg, are particularly good.  A newer entry in the dining scene, Homage, at 88 Hardie Pl.,, a breakfast and lunch restaurant, highlights the food of local farmers by featuring a different farm every two weeks. The hyper-seasonal California cuisine will change with the farmers, but generally focus on soups, salads and sandwiches. Some current favorites include Vietnamese-inspired noodle soup, smoky heirloom tomato soup gratin, and summer short rib sandwich.

Several great hotels are located in this area. The Omni Hotel, 500 California St.,, was built as a bank in 1926 – which fitting for this neighborhood.  It offers high-end lodging at a reasonable price with a boutique ambiance. And for a French flare, Le Meridien, 333 Battery St., is  close to the waterfront and Union Square and is clean and comfortable. The concierge service here is also first-rate.





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...