My urban safari of San Francisco’s districts and neighborhoods is now over and before the memories fade like the fog over Golden Gate Bridge, I would like to share a few highlights. I expected a lot from this city that has shone like a beacon and inspired a generation or two and it didn’t disappoint. Arriving from San Francisco Airport, I knew this would be a special trip. The afternoon light beamed on the residential bedecked hill tops casting the light back again. A wonderful introduction.
Choosing my Airbnb base in Castro, away from the main concentration of tourists around Union Square, was ideal. A neighborhood of boundless energy and tolerance and an abundance of quality restaurants, bakeries, hip grocery stores and landmarks, just a short walk away. From the heart of Castro, close to Harvey Milk Plaza, the window seat at the bakery & café, Hearth, was the perfect place to nibble on something toasted and watch those marvelous historical streetcars rolling in and out. A block or two away, the recently opened restaurant, Lark, served delicious tapas, deserves a mention as does the Kitchen Story, serving a fusion of Californian and Asian dishes.
Adjoining Castro, the Mission has also a lot to offer. The famous Tartine Bakery & Café is a city icon, which the inevitable queue outside still confirms. Probably the best vegan restaurant is located in this hip neighborhood. Gracias Madre serves tasty Mexican vegan dishes in a vibrant, lively setting and it’s extremely popular with the locals. For something completely different from the Mission’s raw energy, head north to Alamo Square and admire those “Painted Ladies”, Victorian terraced houses standing proud with the skyline of the Financial District in the background. Just a hop, skip and jump from here, Divisadero Street, links Lower Haight with the northern part of the city. Divisadero is home to some of San Francisco’s most enjoyable venues, The Mill and Nopa. The Mill, a wonderful space, is a collaboration between Josey Baker, the resident baker and Four Barrels Coffee. Take my advise try their “hipster” toast with strawberry marmalade and soak in the atmosphere. A block south from The Mill, Nopa is one of San Francisco’s most popular restaurants and I’m still baffled how I managed to get a table. Maybe hanging out at the bar, sampling a range of Californian IPA’s and cascading compliments to the bartender, for two hours helped. She was awesome. The whole experience at Nopa, proved to be most enjoyable and I still sleep with the cork from a bottle of Idlewild, from Fox Hill Vineyard under my pillow.
A wonderful way of being introduced to San Francisco’s local organic products, is a visit to one of the citiy’s iconic buildings on a Saturday morning. The Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, is home to a triweekly ongoing event, The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, which since 1993 has been serving San Francisco’s curious urban dwellers a healthy insight to the farmland around them and a responsible, sustainable food culture. Roam the stands and taste as you go. Inside the building, The Frog Hollow Farm Café, serves a delicious avocado toastie, hugely popular, which captures the essence of Californian eating, simple and fresh. Tired of the crowds on the Embarcadero, then jump on a bus to a district that has been flying under the radar for sometime keeping their secrets to themselves. Dogpatch, is slowly being discovered by curious visitors, finding jewels like Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous who approach the art of producing ice cream from a different perspective, hand crafted scoops designed for the child in us all. If Dogpatch is too laid back, then head for Market Street, drop in The Market inside the Twitter building, find a place at the bar, order a Nettles in The Woods pizza and something from Napa and enjoy the vibe.
No visit to San Francisco is complete, without a hike from Sausalito and over the Golden Gate Bridge to Fort Mason. A breathtaking experience. Arriving in Fort Mason, a stop at the bar The Interval is recommended as is the excellent vegetarian restaurant next door, Greens. Sit back and enjoy the view. Indeed, wherever you are in this wonderful city, it is the magnificent views that make you pause and admire.
Thanks to all the locals that made this trip so enriching, but a special thanks to our host in Castro, the painter, Saundra McPherson for nudging us to the right places. And also to Lone and Albert in Copenhagen, who lost their hearts to San Francisco and who were kind enough to share their treasures.