WHY WE LOVE IT
- A foodie's paradise, this may well be the country's best dining destination.
- Multicultural and proud of it.
- So many places to rest your head: grand and gilded hotels, Victorian B&Bs, stylish boutique hotels.
- It's walkable, and downtown public transportation will get you nearly everywhere you'll want to go; you won't need a car until that Wine Country or Monterey day trip.
- All those hills mean dreamy ocean and bay views.
- Plenty of "painted ladies" (Victorian houses), especially in Pacific Heights, the Haight and Alamo Square.
- Skyscrapers cede space to abundant greenery in Golden Gate Park, Yerba Buena Gardens and elsewhere.
WHEN TO GO
San Francisco is temperate year-round, with daytime temperatures generally between 55 and 65 degrees, but the fact that it's almost surrounded by ocean and bay makes its weather hard to predict. (It can even change drastically from one neighborhood to the next.) That said, April and May are usually cloudless and mild. Summers bring that famous fog, and days can be overcast and chilly. The best time to visit is during San Francisco's real summer: September and October. Days are warm and sunny—with temperatures from the high 60s to the 80s—nights are mild and fog and rainfall are rare. Want a bargain? Winter tends to be rainy but mild and hotel rates go way down.
WHAT TO PACK
Never did that old prescription—layers, layers, layers—more aptly apply. You'll always want a light jacket or sweater to protect you from those sudden blasts of cold air from the Pacific Ocean. Bring along tops with three-quarter or long sleeves and close-toed shoes. Don't bother with sandals unless you're visiting in the fall. From November through April, don't forget to pack your umbrella.
WHAT TO BUY
We haven't figured out how to bring home fresh oysters, Dungeness crabs or those fabulous Mission District burritos, so we'll settle for artisanal preserves, olive oil, vinegar and gourmet chocolates and teas from the Ferry Building Marketplace or its outdoor farmers' market (see Shop). To replicate Bay Area fashion, pass up the department stores and hit the indie boutiques; the best ones are in Hayes Valley, North Beach, Noe Valley, Pacific Heights and the Marina. Locally made arts and crafts range from museum-worthy (see Major Art Museums, in Play) to bargain. Art galleries cluster along Sutter, Post and Geary streets north and east and west of Union Square, though there are enclaves elsewhere, most notably Hayes Valley and (for more cutting-edge works) the Mission.
The San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (800-637-5196; onlyinsanfrancisco.com) has a Visitor Information Center (900 Market St., lower level of Hallidie Plaza) near the cable-car turntable at Powell and Market Streets. Two good tourist passes are the CityPass (888-330-5008; citypass.com), which covers admission to five attractions and offers free rides for seven days on city-run Muni buses, streetcars and cable cars, and the Go San Francisco Card (800-887-9103; gosanfranciscocard.com), good for admission to more than 45 attractions, activities and tours and available in one-, two-, three-, five- and seven-day versions. For transportation and discount-pass info, contact Muni (415-701-2311; sfmta.com). BART (415-989-2278; bart.gov) is a cheap, fast way to get downtown from either the San Francisco or Oakland airport.
GETTING MARRIED IN SAN FRANCISCO
The Office of the County Clerk (City Hall, Polk and McAllister Streets, Room 168; 415-554-4950; sfgov.org/site/countyclerk) handles marriage licenses. The office's Web site details the intricacies of public and confidential marriages and has info about fees and scheduling. Blood tests aren't required, but you must make a reservation to apply for a license. When filing the license application, both partners must be present and each must show a legal photo ID that contains full legal name; otherwise a Social Security card or certified copy of a birth certificate with a full legal name is required. If you plan far enough ahead, you can get married right in City Hall itself, just like Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio did (though perhaps with fewer paparazzi).
ABSINTHE BRASSERIE & BAR
398 Hayes St.
This Hayes Valley winner near the opera house gets a standing O for its welcoming staff, charming evocation of southern France and cut-above bistro-style dishes. Start with one of the masterful cocktails—the Galapagos is our concoction of choice—and order the addictive spicy fried chickpeas. Superb ingredients and a fresh approach keep the comfort food from becoming clichéd, so a fried duck's egg tops a classic frisée salad with bacon, fava tendrils accompany braised lamb shank, and shellfish might swim with chorizo in a tomatoey broth of Chimay blanc beer. Can't get a reservation? The lively bar's all-day menu could include oysters, caviar, baby-dandelion-green pizza with onion jam and hamburgers (from the beef of grass-fed cows) with house-made pickles that will make you feel like a lucky loser indeed.
1 Mission St.
Awarded a Michelin star, this consistent crowd-pleaser diagonally across from the Ferry Building boasts a decor as heady as its cuisine. Perhaps the closest you'll get to a Parisian art nouveau–style brasserie in San Francisco, Boulevard is divided into three distinct spaces—the waterfront side is the quietest and most romantic—with a peacock floor mosaic in the bar, hand-blown-glass light fixtures, vaulted brick ceilings, sinuous wrought-iron work and other head-turning details. Once the food arrives, though, you'll be riveted by chef Nancy Oakes' lusty cooking, which could include rabbit, wild mushroom and papini ravioli with hazelnut pesto or spring lamb three ways (chop, braised and sausage) with fava bean gremolata and other intriguing sides. The huge wine selection is a brilliant survey of California vintages.
DOTTIE'S TRUE BLUE CAFE
522 Jones St.
If going out for breakfast makes you happy, this long-standing funky cafe in the even funkier Tenderloin will seem like heaven, even though you'll barely make a dent in the famous omelets, amazing baked goods and gigantic specials. Speaking of long-standing, there will be a wait, especially on weekends. But what's an hour or so when you can ask locals for their faves, then envision tucking into the omelet made with lamb sausage with goat cheese or the smoked-trout scramble with capers, tomatoes and natural cream cheese, accompanied by buttermilk dill toast? Request the chipotle pepper jelly for your cornbread; it adds just the right sweet and spicy finish.
350 Harbor Dr.
As pretty as it is, Sausalito can get clogged with day-trippers. That's why we love to lunch at this sustainable-seafood eatery about a half-hour's walk (or a quick cab ride) from the ferry. Grab a picnic bench outside, gaze at the boats bobbing in the bay and raise your mason jars filled with icy beer or root beer floats as you congratulate yourselves for discovering Fish. Every classic here gets a West Coast spin, whether it's a lobster roll transformed into a butter-saturated bun brimming with Dungeness crab, or fish and chips—halibut chunks fried to a turn in Anchor Steam beer batter. Warning: As casual as Fish is, it's not cheap, and the restaurant doesn't accept credit cards.
FLEUR DE LYS
777 Sutter St.
The velvet canopy ceiling, carpeted floor and giant floral arrangements are the embodiment of a classic romantic restaurant. The opulent French destination room (now replicated in Las Vegas) remains one of the city's top addresses for a celebratory meal, with chef Hubert Keller, star of the PBS series Secrets of a Chef, firmly in command. All the luxurious touches are there—foie gras or truffles make their way into several dishes—but Keller doesn't shy away from humble mainstays such as venison and lamb, albeit prepared with flair. Save room for dessert—a Grand Marnier soufflé, perhaps? Pssst: When you make your reservation, mention that you're newlyweds, then act surprised when the waiter brings you pink champagne or some other sweet gesture of congratulations.
Fort Mason Center, Building A
Laguna Street and Marina Boulevard
If snickering remarks about tasteless tofu are yesterday's jokes about vegetarian cuisine, it's largely due to this pioneer that's been enticing foodies since 1979. The light-filled main dining room is stunning in its simplicity and drama, with soaring ceilings sliced by huge beams, abstract tapestries on the walls, a curvy cedar bar and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of docks and the Golden Gate Bridge. As sophisticated as the surroundings, the organic menu might include fresh-pea ravioli with snap, snow and English peas, fava beans, spring onions, almonds, Meyer lemon butter, chive blossoms and Parmesan; asparagus and spring-onion tartlet with Gruyère, or artichoke and portobello gratin with grilled tallegio polenta. Oenophiles can look forward to an imaginative list emphasizing boutique, artisanal and organically farmed wines.
2316 Polk St.
The carpeted, banquetted, bemirrored room in shades of butterscotch and gold and the choreographed serving team belie chef Roland Passot's whimsical approach to classical-French-meets-Cali cuisine at this Russian Hill favorite of Bay Area epicureans. You might find, say, quail foie gras "lollipops" with stripped quail legs as sticks and the stuffed thighs as suckers, or a Dungeness crab napoleon in a pool of liquid that turns out to be aspic. But the food on the prix-fixe menus (in four sizes, including vegetarian) is no joke when it comes to combining intriguing textures and flavors. If you have an adventurous palate for dishes like the warm pig's feet, sweetbreads and lobster terrine with hazelnut vinaigrette or the sturgeon with oxtail-stuffed calamari, you'll surely be seduced.
Embarcadero and Market Street
If you're lucky enough to book a table or nab one of the few-dozen daily walk-in spots, you'll join the posh and privileged stealing looks at one another while nibbling on trendy Vietnamese fare. The restaurant occupies a swank glass-and-steel space in the Ferry Building, with sweeping bay views and an equally sweeping curved bar, and though locals may grouse about the uppity surroundings, months-in-advance reservations and skimpy portions, no one's complaining about the taste of chef Charles Phan's shaking beef—filet mignon cubes with peppery lime juice—chicken clay pot with caramel sauce, crab cellophane noodles and other signature dishes. Slanted Door's desserts—Thai-basil panna cotta in mango soup comes to mind—are inventive enough to break your ice-cream-after-an-Asian-meal habit.
SUTRO'S AT THE CLIFF HOUSE
1090 Point Lobos Ave.
With an ocean view as spectacular as the one from Sutro's at the Cliff House—the two-story space with all-glass walls lets the Pacific practically join your conversation at this modernist wing of the Outer Richmond fixture—you'd expect the food to be an afterthought. Happily, the Californian menu with an organic and seafood emphasis makes this a true dining destination. Dishes that might include seafood bouillabaisse with shrimp and mussels with toast points and saffron rouille are more than good enough to hold your attention, while creations like the stone fruit and truffle honey turnover with hazelnut cannoli, nocciolo gelato and peach syrup will win over even the most dessert-resistant.
1658 Market St.
Chef-owner Judy Rodgers helped start the farm-to-table approach to American cooking, and Zuni's earthy, sensual cuisine continues to beguile. The warren of rooms has a hodgepodge feel, but that's part of the restaurant's charm. Start by sidling up to the copper bar for freshly shucked oysters and champagne, then move on to the daily changing menu. You can't go wrong with the gossamer ricotta gnocchi, smoky and succulent wood-oven roasted chicken for two served over bread salad or (during lunch or after 10 p.m.) the house-ground burger with mountain Gorgonzola on rosemary focaccia spread with garlic aioli. Nothing's done by half measures, so your Caesar salad will be made with anchovies that are cured in-house. If you're going for the Sunday brunch, don't pass up the balsamic bloody Marys.
495 Jefferson St.
San Francisco–based Kimpton Hotels installed 252 rooms in the historic Haslett Warehouse near the Cannery in Fisherman's Wharf, and the grandly named result is more Popeye than mythical voyager. If you're not familiar with this value-luxury boutique chain's style, do check it out first. The rooms awash in cobalt-blue and gold stars and stripes and the seafaring kitsch are not for everyone. But it's hard not to love the choice location, a lobby with comfy teak cruise-ship chaise longues or a concierge who'll arrange a helicopter ride over the city accompanied by a bottle of bubbly. While you're deciding, we'll be digging into the Blue Mermaid restaurant's Dungeness crab and corn chowder, which room service will send up pretty much any ol' time. Shiver me timbers!
THE CHATEAU TIVOLI
1057 Steiner St.
If you're a bed-and-breakfast type but want the grandeur of a landmark hotel, you'll love the fin de siècle splendor of this 1892 mansion two blocks from Alamo Square and a short walk from the action on Hayes Street. Freestanding columns, hand-carved woodwork and inviting fireplaces will make the would-be Victorian's heart beat faster, while appointments from the estates of the Vanderbilts, Charles de Gaulle and J. Paul Getty raise the inn's celebrity cachet. You'll gladly give up TV to stay in one of the nine over-the-top rooms and suites. Our faves: the Isadora Duncan, with a fireplace, clawfoot tub and American Renaissance furnishings, and the Luisa Tetrazzini, with a huge private parlor, carved canopy bed and riotously patterned period-style wallpaper.
495 Geary St.
Ian Schrager rescued this Union Square classic from mediocrity, Philippe Starck–ed it and put the legendarily classy wood-paneled Redwood Room, complete with digital-art exhibitions, firmly back in the firmament of great San Francisco lounges. The 363 rooms are gorgeous in dove-gray, cream and lavender, and many have two vast mirrors facing each other, increasing both light and narcissism. Everything looks quietly opulent and traditionally tasteful until you start to notice quirks like the club chairs that sport wheels (inspired by a Man Ray fashion photograph) and the Victorian settee in the lobby that seems to be growing tusks. You may be tempted to stick to the Redwood for your nightly cocktail, but don't forgo the pleasures—and 30 kinds of rum—of sexy Asia de Cuba.
FOUR SEASONS HOTEL SAN FRANCISCO
757 Market St.
The 277 large, serene rooms at this Yerba Buena Gardens center-of-everything hotel feel like mini-apartments, each with floor-to-ceiling windows; opt for a specialty suite and you'll be treated to such luxuries as a gold-leaf-covered coffee table, flat-screen TVs and hard-to-find California vintages from the hotel's private wine collection. Service and amenities are par for the Canadian chain's course (i.e., exemplary), but the attached Sports Club/LA's pool and tony Splash spa give this place the edge. Should the staff find out that you're honeymooners, don't be surprised if, say, a whimsical chocolate sculpture or orchids floating in the tub await you.
HOTEL DEL SOL
3100 Webster St.
It's nothing but good vibrations at this '50s-style motor lodge that sports brilliant colors and a sparkling outdoor pool complete with hammocks and palm trees. Located two blocks from the Marina district's lively Chestnut Street, this cheap—by San Francisco standards—and cheery property has 57 spacious rooms with rainbow-hue bedspreads, orange table lamps, bright-blue club chairs and boldly painted walls. Several rooms have kitchenettes, and all offer luxuries you wouldn't expect at budget lodgings, such as paintings by local artists and CD players. Another unexpected pleasure: free parking in cabana-like spaces. One thing that shouldn't come as a surprise is that this hotel is a hit with families, so be forewarned if you want a child-free stay.
501 Geary St.
The lobby's grand black marble staircase and whimsical trompe l'oeil frescoed ceilings set the tone for the witty Kimpton flagship in a convenient off–Union Square location. The 201 funky-luxe rooms have stripes, toile and fleur-de-lis in merrily clashing colors; some of the suites have whirlpool tubs and canopy beds, and others get the royal treatment with heavy curtains all around. Ask for the slightly insane Grace Slick Suite to relive the heyday of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship—it's decorated with band memorabilia and Slick's own artwork—and then calm down in the Roman-style coed spa or in the living room, where nightly wine-and-cheese gatherings come with tarot-card readings. Partiers note: The mod-French Grand Café, a turn-of-the-century ballroom turned brasserie, stays open late.
562 Sutter St.
A terrific location near Union Square, bargain prices and a plucky personality make this downtown boutique hotel hard to beat. Honeymooners who like to curl up with a good book—when they're not curling up with each other—will appreciate the literary portraits that enliven the walls, the comfy club chairs everywhere, the full-to-bursting library in the lobby and adjoining bar and the occasional book-signing or poetry reading. The Provençal colors and checked bed coverings in the guest rooms may bring to mind Marcel Pagnol instead of the homegrown writers and artists the hotel claims to be celebrating. But waking up in such cheerful surroundings, why quibble?
8 Mission St.
What's not to like about this three-year-old property along the revitalized Embarcadero, right on the waterfront? The views are stupendous, especially from the rooftop soaking tubs and the yoga studio (or the Penthouse Suite's private terrace), the contemporary ice-blue and gray-taupe decor with limestone bathrooms is swish, and the steak tartare with apples and black truffles and other delish dishes at the Americano restaurant live up to the city's high culinary aspirations. Here's the but: You may not be happy in anything less than a waterfront room—that is, unless you've booked one of the circular panoramic suites, with in-the-bedroom tubs that look out onto the Ferry Building.
2 New Montgomery St.
The antidote to the modernist-by-numbers hotel, this early-20th-century property offers old-fashioned amenities new rivals can't match, like 14-foot ceilings and original architectural details in the guest rooms and one of the most splendid public spaces in the city: the belle-epoque-style Garden Court, whose stained-glass ceiling, giant marble columns and crystal chandeliers turn mere breakfast into a magical event. No earth tones and straight-lined blond-wood pieces here; the decor is unabashedly traditional, with mahogany furniture, heavy drapes and gold and royal-blue accents. When your feet can't take one more hill or museum, treat your tootsies to a pedicure by the skylit indoor pool or kick back with a cocktail in the clubby, oak-walled Pied Piper Bar, with its classy and classic Maxfield Parrish painting.
THE ST. REGIS SAN FRANCISCO
125 Third St.
The angular, urban style and ample white space of this 260-room hotel in the Yerba Buena Gardens area couldn't contrast more with the rococo and chintz once associated with the luxury St. Regis brand. The winter-white and biege bedrooms that overlook the gardens are among the most zen spaces in town. (Strategically placed chaise longues make the gazing easy.) Everything's designed to make your stay as stress-free as possible, from the simple-to-navigate control system for lights, alarms and double set of window shades to a breakfast-in-bath of croissants and champagne with orange juice and peach nectar. And, oh yes, you'll have a butler, who'll reserve a table at the adventurous Ame restaurant or book treatments at the spa.
ALCATRAZ AND BAY CRUISES
Blue and Gold Fleet
Honeymooners who want to cruise San Francisco Bay have several engaging options. Hop a ferry across the treacherous currents to infamous Alcatraz, the island prison whose residents included Al Capone and the sensitive Birdman. The tour's … captivating. Or board a different ferry to the postcard-pretty town of Sausalito, where you can take an envy-inducing stroll among one of the largest houseboat communities in the United States or trawl Bridgeway Boulevard's boutiques and galleries. For lunch visit Poggio (777 Bridgeway; 415-332-7771; poggiotrattoria.com) for Northern Italian fare or stop by Fish (see Eat). Prefer local wildlife to views of other tourists? Ferry over to Angel Island, a hilly state park with myriad trails, tranquil picnic spots, atmospheric old forts and other historic sites.
FERRY BUILDING MARKETPLACE
Embarcadero at Market Street
In this food-obsessed city, it stands to reason that one of the most beloved landmarks is also a temple to all things comestible. Grazing may turn to gluttony as you slurp down the stars of Hog Island Oyster Co., smear some triple-cream Red Hawk or nettle-wrapped St. Pat from Cowgirl Creamery Artisan Cheese Shop on a baguette from the Acme Bread Company—or bite into an ethereal Parisian-style macaroon from Miette Patisserie. There are cookware and tableware shops and cafes and restaurants aplenty, among them the estimable Slanted Door (see Eat), with a take-out arm, Out the Door. The Tuesday and Saturday outdoor farmers' market is justifiably celebrated as one of the nation's best; buy some sandwiches, fruit, cheese, nuts or berries, and picnic on the nearby pier.
GOLDEN GATE PARK
San Francisco's 1,000-acre retreat of meadows, hills, gardens and forests is a Rollerblader's dream and a magnet for weekend slackers. The romantic Shakespeare Garden features flowers and plants mentioned in the Bard's plays. If that doesn't have him spouting love sonnets, repair to the Japanese Tea Garden, with its azaleas and pagodas and teahouse with kimono-clad servers; their enchantments may spur spontaneous haiku. The Conservatory of Flowers, a Victorian greenhouse, shelters a steamy jungle, exotic orchids and lily ponds. Light-years away in style, the ultramodern, copper-clad de Young Museum (415-750-3600; famsf.org/deyoung), known for its American art and compelling temporary exhibits. The California Academy of Sciences (415-321-8000; calacademy.com/newacademy) reopens in late 2008 in a splashy building that includes a planetarium and rooftop herb gardens.
MAJOR ART MUSEUMS
The iconic stepped-brick facade and striped tower of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (151 3rd St.; 415-357-4000; sfmoma.org), or SFMOMA, signal its stature within the museum-studded area surrounding Yerba Buena Gardens (see Specialty Museums, below). The museum is known for modernist classics, abstract-expressionist paintings and photographs. An ingenious redesign transformed the former main public library into the Asian Art Museum (200 Larkin St.; 415-581-3500; asianart.org) in the Civic Center near City Hall. Strengths include the Chinese, Japanese and Korean collections. The Thinker graces the entrance to the Palace of the Legion of Honor (100 34th Ave.; 415-750-3600; famsf.org/legion). Inside are more great Rodin sculptures, along with other European masterpieces. A ticket here can be used for same-day admission to the de Young.
MISSION DISTRICT: ARTS AND CULTURE
Valencia, Mission, 14th, 24th and side streets
Ethnically mixed, arty, gritty and often blissfully fog-free, the Mission District is named for the city's oldest building, Mission Dolores (3321 16th St.; 415-621-8203; missiondolores.org), an adobe chapel from 1791 with a painted wooden ceiling and ornate Mexican reredos. The young and trendy patronize Valencia Street's hip design stores and restaurants, bars and clubs, while the impecunious flock to its used-book stores and thrift shops. Twenty-fourth Street is Latino central, with bodegas, salsa-filled music stores and, most notably along Balmy Alley (24th Street between Treat and Harrison), mural art; the Precita Eyes Mural Arts & Visitors Center (2981 24th St.; 415-285-2287; precitaeyes.org) has maps and conducts mural tours. Galería de la Raza (2857 24th St.; 415-826-8009; galeriadelaraza.org) showcases Chicano art indoors.
MISSION DISTRICT: EATS AND NIGHTLIFE
Burritos are another neighborhood art form. Three of the best purveyors are La Taqueria (2889 Mission St.; 415-285-7117), Taqueria San Jose (2830 Mission St.; 415-282-0203) and La Corneta (2731 Mission St.; 415-643-7001; lacorneta.com). Over at the St. Francis Fountain (2801 24th St.; 415-826-4200) the old-fashioned wooden booths might seem awfully snug after a shake or banana split. For the 21st-century perspective, indulge in an artisanal scoop or two (or three) from Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop (3692 18th St.; 415-626-5600; biritecreamery.com), near Mission Dolores. Come nighttime, check out the DJs at 26 Mix (3024 Mission St.; 415-826-7378) or the salsa bands at Roccapulco Supper Club (3140 Mission St.; 415-648-6611; roccapulco.com); for live jazz, swing over to Savanna Jazz (2937 Mission St.; 415-285-3369; savannajazz.com).
NOB HILL ICONS
1100 California St.
Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar
The Fairmont San Francisco
950 Mason St.
The sublime and the ridiculous await you atop Nob Hill, which before San Francisco's devastating 1906 earthquake was a millionaires' stomping ground. The neighborhood's major icon, Grace Cathedral, occupies the site of two mansions. The Episcopal church's indoor and outdoor meditation labyrinths provide a soulful journey couples can experience together. Before you depart, check out the cathedral's bronze doors, reproductions of a Renaissance masterpiece whose originals reside in Florence. The '06 earthquake delayed the opening of the Fairmont hotel, a grande dame whose main attraction these days is its mother-of-all cocktail lounges devoted to pop Polynesiana, the Tonga Room. Thatched umbrellas and sprinkler-induced "tropical thunderstorms," complete with thunder and lightning, are just the beginning of your ersatz visit to Pago Pago.
San Francisco's former Little Italy still prides itself on things Italian. Columbus Avenue, the main drag, holds two institutions: Tosca Cafe (242 Columbus Ave.; 415-391-1244), with red-vinyl booths and an all-opera jukebox, and Molinari Delicatessen (373 Columbus Ave.; 415-421-2337), where sandwiches bulging with house-cured salami and buffalo-milk mozzarella demand a picnic at nearby Washington Square. Caffe Trieste (601 Vallejo St.; 415-392-6739) features stuck-in-the-1950s decor and bracing espressos. The Trieste was a haunt of the Beat writers. The obsessive Beat Museum (540 Broadway; 800-537-6822; thebeatmuseum.org) provides grounding in their movement, as does City Lights Bookstore (261 Columbus Ave.; 415-362-8193; citylights.com), whose poetry section will have you snapping your fingers. Head east up Filbert Street to Telegraph Hill's fabled Coit Tower.
The sea is a pervasive presence in San Francisco, never more so than at its rugged northwestern corner. Savor panoramic Pacific views in comfort at the Cliff House (1090 Point Lobos Ave.; 415-386-3330; cliffhouse.com), which has two restaurants and two bars. WPA-funded murals from the 1930s—plus great ocean views—are the lure at the Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant (Great Highway near Fulton Street; 415-386-8439; beachchalet.com); the downstairs Park Chalet Garden Restaurant provides a woodsy view. Walk off those calories hiking the Coastal Trail (nps.gov/goga), a 3.5-mile loop amid cypress trees, fragrant eucalyptus trees and Monterey pines, where sheer cliffs sometimes plunge to swirling waters below. Want to get out there among the waves? Check out the whale-watching tours of the Oceanic Society (415-474-3385; oceanic-society.org).
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (Mission and 3rd Streets; 415-978-2787; ybca.org) is more performance-oriented than SFMOMA but also presents temporary exhibitions of contemporary and emerging artists in its gallery. A block away, the marvelous Museum of the African Diaspora (685 Mission St.; 415-358-7200; moadsf.org) explores the contribution made by people of African descent as they spread across the world, while the ever-perky Cartoon Art Museum (655 Mission St.; 415-227-8666; cartoonart.org) provides comic relief with traveling exhibitions and artists-in-residence programs that let you watch cartoonists at work. The new kid across the block from Yerba Buena Gardens is the Contemporary Jewish Museum (736 Mission St.; 415-655-7800; jmsf.org), set to open in June 2008 in an old power substation repurposed by the architect Daniel Libeskind.
310 Sutter St.
Welcome to this frou frou-free zone, where antique, reproduction and original designs, mostly Chinese-inspired, inhabit an airy shop. Forget those elaborately decorated and lacquered pieces most Americans associate with Chinese furniture; the Big Pagoda stocks or re-creates classics with clean lines, meticulous joinery and understated ornament. Wooden lattice window panels from the 19th century are stunning enough to serve as wall art, while minimalist elm sideboards from the same era could easily keep company with midcentury-modern decor. We love the contemporary takes on ancient wedding cabinets and apothecary chests; eco-conscious nesters will want to seek out the new BP Green collection, sleek cabinets in sustainable woods.
BOOKS AND MORE
SFMOMA's shop (see Major Art Museums, in Play) is tops for art books; KAYO Books (814 Post St.; 415-749-0554; kayobooks.com) specializes in pulp fiction; Green Apple Books & Music (506 Clement St.; 415-387-2272; greenapplebooks.com) singles out local authors; City Lights Bookstore (261 Columbus Ave.; 415-362-8193; citylights.com) is about all things Beat; and Modern Times (888 Valencia St.; 415-282-9246; mtbs.com) carries lefty publications and lit and other zines. Bound Together Anarchist Collective Bookstore (1369 Haight St.; 415-431-8355) features exactly the titles its name would lead you to expect; check out the exterior mural depicting famous anarchists. To relive San Francisco's anything-goes rock era, flip through the vintage Fillmore posters and other psychedelia at SF Rock Posters & Collectibles (1851 Powell St.; 415-956-6749; rockposters.com).
843 Montgomery St.
What's up, Doc? A 4,100-square-foot fashion emporium on Jackson Square. If you were looking for Ernie's, the restaurant formerly on this site made famous by Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, you'll have to gain sustenance instead from the classic-yet-modern looks of designer Peter Som and the locally based 49 SQ.MI., tried-and-true labels such as Narciso Rodriguez and Thakoon and styles by fresh talents Richard Chai and Yigal Azrouël. Lines for men include Chimala, Band of Outsiders and Rag & Bone. The sprawling shop is also sprinkled with luxe linens by 120% Lino, Dayna Decker votives and some beautiful artisanal jewelry. What's in the name? The world's top-producing baby-carrot farm happens to be the family business of owners-sisters Melissa and Catie Grimm, and they haven't forgotten their roots.
Hayes Street between Laguna and Franklin streets and side streets
This neighborhood behind the Civic Center is either incredibly cool or overrun with precious boutiques, depending on whom you talk to. You be the judge as you begin your foray on Hayes Street, where fashion puts its best foot forward with three stylish, largely Italian shoe stores: Bulo Shoes (418 Hayes St.; 415-255-4939; and 437a Hayes St.; 415-864-3244; buloshoes.com), Gimme Shoes (416 Hayes St.; 415-864-0691; gimmeshoes.com) and Paolo (524 Hayes St.; 415-552-4580). For cutting-edge clothing (men's and women's), browse MAC Modern Appealing Clothing, nicknamed MAC (387 Grove St.; 415-863-3011), carrying European, Japanese and local labels in a striking warehouse. Standouts in home design include Propeller (555 Hayes St.; 415-701-7767; propellermodern.com) and Rose and Radish (460 Gough St.; 415-864-4988; roseandradish.com).
JUNE TAYLOR COMPANY
Embarcadero and Market Street
If you'd paid more attention during home economics class, perhaps you'd be turning out the kind of mouthwatering condiments that Londoner June Taylor learned to make in high school and that have earned her a national following. Look for her crowded stand on Saturdays at the farmers' market. Her organic preserves and fruit syrups are made from exotic fruits like quince and bergamots, prepared in ways that bring out their essence. Take-home treats could include, say, greengage-plum fruit paste; fig, port and lemon-thyme conserve; or Meyer lemon and rose geranium marmalade. Taylor's ketchup is made with organic dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes and it's-a-secret spices for a deep, rich flavor that's worth the $15 splurge. Your fries will thank you.
1 Claude Lane
2400 Fillmore St.
If "Irish knit" conjures up those bulky cabled clichés of a sweater, you're in for a surprise at these boutiques filled with girlie garments in cashmere, wool, cotton and silk. Though the stores carry other labels, the eponymously designed minidresses and layerable tanks, sweaters and jackets are the draw here. Springtime brings lace tops, pointelle cardigans and stretch-cotton coats and a palette that combines soft ocean blues and berry pinks with earth tones and metallics. The shop's new line, M.O.L. Knits, arrives late this summer, with ruched off-the-shoulder sleeveless tops, ruffly drawstring cardigans and hoodie dresses that will make you the prettiest Colleen this side of County Clare.
MUSEUM OF CRAFT AND FOLK ART
51 Yerba Buena Lane
Sure, you could bring home some sourdough bread mix, but wouldn't you rather have a more meaningful San Francisco souvenir? Why not invest instead in a work by one of the Bay Area artists featured at this museum shop opposite the Yerba Buena Gardens. The knobby, fungal ceramics of Andrew DeWitt; David Huang's dynamic-looking metal vessels lined with gold leaf; and the indigo stylized-landscape wall hangings of Barbara Shapiro are just some of the locally made objects you might be able to purchase. Don't worry about having to pack a particularly delicate item; the shop can arrange to safely ship your purchase.
SUE FISHER KING
3067 Sacramento St.
By the time you get here, chances are you'll think you're all set in the home-accessories department. After all, you've registered for just about everything you could possibly want, right? You'll have your doubts once you've visited this Pacific Heights shop that carries exquisite, often imported items you're unlikely to find elsewhere. Among the more opulent designs are those by Anichini (jacquard bedding and bedcovers in Napoleonic patterns), Venetia Studium (silk chandeliers with intricate handpainted patterns) and Anke Drechsel (silk and linen throw pillows covered in lusciously colored embroidery). Even if you can only afford, say, the faux-twig taper candles by Beeskep, they'll be gift-wrapped to perfection.
3685 Sacramento St.
Followers say owner Susan Foslien has the best fashion eye in the city. Peruse the racks of wildly avant-garde (and expensive) clothing at this Laurel Heights icon and you'll probably agree. Up-and-coming and already-arrived designers from Europe and Japan are popular here, with a well-curated selection of Comme des Garçons, Lanvin, Jill Sander, Junya Watanabe and the like. Some patrons find the salespeople pushy, others rave about their attentiveness, but few fault the drool-worthy couture. Susan's sister shop, the Grocery Store (3625 Sacramento St.; 415-928-3615), stocks MTV Awards–ready fashions; jeans, jeans and more jeans; and designer shoes, jewelry and colorful handbags to complete your rockin' look.
UNION SQUARE AREA
Downtown's Union Square and surrounding blocks host big-name department stores—Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Bloomingdale's—but for every Gucci and Cartier, you'll find haute that's homegrown. Start at Wilkes Bashford (375 Sutter St.; 415-986-4380; wilkesbashford.com), six floors of sartorial sophistication for both sexes. Prowl narrow Maiden Lane, where Yves, Marc and Coco are all well represented. More unusual are the hand-poured Parisian candles at Diptyque (171 Maiden Lane; 415-402-0600) and the ancient Roman glass necklaces, Venetian glassware and decorative objects at De Vera (29 Maiden Lane; 415-788-0828; deveraobjects.com). Then pop over to Xanadu Gallery (140 Maiden Lane; 415-392-9999; folkartintl.com), which sells antiquities and folk art inside San Francisco's only building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; its circular interior is a miniature Guggenheim.
754 Columbus Ave.
San Franciscans who know their chocolate say the real deal is not in Ghirardelli Square but in North Beach at this confectioner awash in the blues and yellows of Provence. Cocoa freaks flock to chef Jean-Marc Gorce's shop for hand-rolled treasures in flavors such as Earl Grey and French roast, with four different coatings, including hazelnut and coffee crunch. (Vegans, don't despair: You can choose from three versions that are every bit as decadent as the classic truffles.) If you order a cup of joe or hot chocolate, don't be surprised if you find one of these buttery babies perched on the saucer.