…for the love take me with you!!
Hands down, San Francisco is my very favorite city. I have visited many times and spent a life-changing four months living in an apartment overlooking the Bay.
Recently, several people have asked me for recommendations for their own upcoming trips. I figured I should write something up that I could share with anyone going to my favorite city!
Let’s kick things off with my favorite restaurants.
If there is one thing I am confident about, it is my ability to point you to good food in San Francisco. I gained 10 pounds while I lived there and there was a lot of effort that went into that!
1. Hollywood Cafe. This one I sort of stumbled onto by accident. It’s not in a fancy building, it doesn’t have a fancy name, but I’m telling you if you want the best breakfast of your life, go to the Hollywood. My friend Nomad even brought tour groups here for his job. That’s how good it is. I’d highly recommend one of the breakfast sandwiches, served on amazing fresh croissants with a side of the absolute most fresh fruit you have ever tasted. Location wise it’s great because it’s walking distance from Fisherman’s Wharf and not even up any hills!
2. Crepevine. This restaurant is my go-to spot after running a race in San Francisco. Crepes and/or pancakes and mimosas. I’ve eaten here post-Bay to Breakers and the San Francisco Half Marathon. They have a location on Market Street in downtown and one out by the Golden Gate Park.
3. La Boulangerie. If I were to be given a last meal, I would have to at least consider the homemade granola and greek yogurt with fresh fruit from La Boulangerie. There are no words. Just trust me. It’s like heaven in a big ol’ bowl. Plus it’s a great atmosphere–a cute little French bakery with wicker furniture, a cute blue and white striped awning and an amazing pastry selection. Again, there are lots of locations around town, but I’m pretty partial to the one in North Beach just off of Washington Square Park.
4. Mama’s. This one is a must do because, to me, it’s classic San Francisco. I found this place when my Dad and I went to look at apartments. It’s right in the corner of Washington Square Park and there is usually a line out the door if you don’t get there early. I honestly don’t remember what I’ve ordered when I have been there, but I remember that the food is good. It’s second to the atmosphere though—a long line where you can see them making your meal, tiny tables in a corner with fresh flowers on them, an old two story building a bit reminiscent of the Full House house. It’s an experience that you need when you visit San Francisco.
For lunch or dinner…
1. Trattoria Pinocchio. I think that if I had to pick my favorite type of food, I’d pick Italian (sorry to my Mexican ancestry there…) and this is my favorite Italian restaurant. It’s right in the heart of North Beach, as it should be since that’s the main Italian neighborhood in San Francisco. They have the most fun drink menu, all fresh, homemade pastas, and a great atmosphere. You can reserve yourself a table outside, which I always like to do. I highly recommend the homemade gnocci. To.Die.For.
2. Chioppinos. This restaurant is located close to Peir 47 right across from The Cannery. I love the location–close to the beach, the trolley and Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a great blend of Italian and seafood. My parents loved the seafood there. I don’t eat fish, but I would probably kick a puppy for a bowl of their minestrone soup. (I wouldn’t actually ever kick a puppy, obviously!) Plus, they have a great outdoor seating area and always have really fun music playing in the background.
3. House of Hunan. I think everyone wants to eat in Chinatown while they are in San Francisco. My favorite place to do that is House of Hunan. The only problem is that it’s everyone’s favorite place to eat, so if you go at normal times there is a line. If, however, you can plan your day to go at an off time–say right when the open or at like 3:00 you can get right in. They serve food family style and it is all seriously amazing. My favorite is the sesame chicken. Order that. You’ll thank me.
For drinks or sweets…
1. O’Reilly’s Irish Pub. I’m partial to this pub for lots of reasons. My Irish heritage and love for Notre Dame football probably draws me to Irish pubs in general. This one is awesome—old wooden floors, a huge old wooden bar, and usually a bartender who is from Ireland and speaks with an accent. You can’t beat it. Plus they have great bar food snacks as well. It’s tucked around a quiet corner in North Beach. I frequented this joint a time or two, but my favorite time was when my girlfriends (who turned out in later years to be my bridal party!) were in town for Fourth of July. We all ventured down to O’Reilly’s for a little drink and when we walked in, it was a madhouse full of people dressed in white with red scarves just like the Running of the Bulls in Spain. Turns out, they were having a “Running of the Bars” where they all dress up, make a list of like 5 bars, go to the first one for an hour, then all go out in the street and run (by run I sort of mean walk/stumble while screaming) to the next one. It was awesome. My dad is also a big fan of this place, as he likes to park it at the bar while my mom shops down the street.
2. Tony Niks Bar. This bar is also in North Beach (can you tell that was both close to my apartment and my favorite neighborhood?) just off of the park. It’s usually pretty low key, they have an awesome drink menu, and comfy couches for sitting. Highly recommended if you just want to relax and grab a drink.
3. Specialties. Remember that 10 pound weight gain I mentioned? My guess is that 9.5 of those pounds came from the semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies at Specialties. You guys do not even understand. They are the best cookies ever in life, especially when they are all warm and fresh and gooey. The bakery even sends out text messages if you sign up to let you know when an order comes out of the oven so you can run over and get ’em while they’re hot. (I could lie and say I wouldn’t know about that, but we all know I’m a fatty and LOVE cookies.) This place has locations all over the city but they are usually closed on weekends, so go during the week. (That’s at least true for the downtown locations, it might be different at the others, I don’t know.) In the past, I’ve literally had people bring me a ziplock bag full of these home when they went to visit. Keep that in mind if you find this advice useful…