An exploration of the Golden City through its delicacies
San Francisco is a city that quickly charms you, with its friendly people, wonderful food and its relaxed vibe, not to say anything about the beautiful mix of city and outdoor life. I fell head over heels in love with San Francisco and I am already planning a return trip. 2017 is the fiftieth anniversary of the summer of love so what better time to explore what this incredible city has to offer. Whilst I would argue that the city can hold your attention for a long time if you can only manage a brief visit here are some ideas for a quick day in the city, and of course exploring the city through its food.
If you’re only visiting for a short time its worth trying to cram in as much as you can and a beautiful sunrise is worth the early morning. Head up into the hills in the Castro and Noe Valley districts and watch the sun rise slowly over the hills, bathing the entire city in a golden glow. If it is foggy, as it is meant to be, a good alternative would be the Golden Gate Bridge, partially shrouded in fog there is an amazing ethereal quality to it.
After your early start you definitely deserve a good breakfast and the city is a haven for good food. If you started your morning in the Castro head to Reveille Coffee, fabulous coffee awaits but so does some wonderful food, check out the breakfast sandwich - it really hits the spot. For my money the best breakfast in SF is down in the Mission District at the rightly lauded Tartine Bakery. The best thing about starting your day early, especially on a weekday is you manage to avoid the ever-present queue. Famous for the morning buns, which are incredible, you'll struggle to find anything that wont make for a perfect breakfast.
The Mission District is the traditionally Mexican neighborhood but over the last ten years it has gone through a large amount of gentrification and has a real mix of cultures. Thankfully its Mexican heritage still remains, and as a visitor there is almost no better way to explore this than through the food; get yourself a burrito or some tacos, explore the sweeter side and visit the incredible Dandelion Chocolate, or just wander the streets taking in the iconic street art.
In my opinion San Francisco is the best place for sweets in the US, with world class ice cream, chocolate and bakeries of all stripes residing in the city. You could head to Nob Hill and join the queues at Mr Holmes Bakehouse for a Cruffin or head down the street and check out Jane on Larkin, a coffee shop that sells incredible laminated pastries. But for my mind one of the best bakeries in the city is B.Patisserie a West Coast take on a French patisserie. Try the Kouign Amann, B makes the best I’ve ever had and in fact it was this bakery that led this pastry to mass popularity in the US.
Getting around SF is relatively easy, it’s a small city and the public transport covers most things you might want to explore, even if it’s a little confusing at times. Thankfully you can now purchase a day ticket that covers all of the different methods of transport directly on your phone. Whilst the bus and metro system covers everything you need and walking around the city can be a brilliant option, it is hard to avoid the allure of the iconic cable cars. The queues can, understandably, be rather long but skip the tourists at the start of the lines and join the car one stop later, you wont get a seat but its more fun standing anyway.
For lunch the world is your oyster, quite literally. San Francisco is an amazing clash of cultures and the food in the city wonderfully reflects that. You can get mouth numbing Sichuan at Z&Y in Chinatown, Greek at Souvla in Hayes Valley and new California cuisine at the legendary Zuni Cafe. With time short I would pick a quick lunch at Tacos Cala. Based in what feels like a converted garage in the back of an upscale Mexican restaurant, the tacos are some of the best I have ever eaten and the lunch deal of three tacos and a drink for $12 is not going to damage your wallet too badly.
If the weather is nice, walking of some off the mornings food is in order and thankfully there are few cities as fun to explore on foot than San Francisco. For amazing views over the city walk up to the Painted Ladies or the Coit Tower, or if the weather is kind walk into the Mission District and relax in Dolores Park.
You can’t come to the city and not see the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s imposing and beautiful, a trip across is a special experience. You can hire a bike to cycle across the bridge to Sausalito and enjoy a slightly more leisurely trip back by jumping on the ferry. If you’re more adventurous you can hike down to one of the beaches that give you an utterly breathtaking view of the bridge. There are two choices, Baker and Marshall Beach, both great options but just be aware that Marshall, the beach with the better views, is actually known as a nudist beach and whilst its not always busy, in the height of summer you're going to want to bear that in mind!
After a long day in this incredible city a cocktail would be the best way to close out the day. Inventive cocktails, think pea and absinthe, can be found at the newly opened Pacific Cocktail Haven. A mix of classic cocktails and modern interpretations can be enjoyed in the cozy Wildhawk in the Mission. But it’s bourbon that seems to be the San Francisco spirit of choice so a visit to Bourbon and Branch, a bar selling hundreds varieties of the brown stuff should be on your list.
After a packed day like this you’ll be tired, that’s a given, but you'll have fallen in love and be planning the next trip.
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