OK fine you could go to Mexico City for day of the Dead and I imagine it would be insane. But San Francisco with it's vibrant Mission District puts on an amazing show. Garfield Park is filled with altars made by the community, there's a walking procession, music, dancing and a lot of dressing up. Grab some amazing Mexican food at Gracias Madre on MIssion Street and go get involved.
San Francisco itself is a great city in autumn - mainly because it's no different to summer. The fog still rolls in, you still need a jumper, but there are less tourists and the colours are beautiful. The sun here just seems softer.
Not as celebrated, as big or as central as San Francisco's Chinatown, Japan Town is still definitely one of the coolest places to visit in one of the world's coolest cities. Strung either side of Post St for a few blocks between Pacific Heights and the Fillmore, on the outside it is a largely unattractive, concrete-clad, easy to miss place, save for a few Japanese plants and the Japan Centre tower. However, enter the subterranean mall and you are transported into a kitsch Japanese fantasy world. Alongside numerous sushi houses and other restaurants (many of which do charge more than the city's huge range of other fantastic Japanese eateries) are supermarkets, gift shops, art and design stores, bookshops. All with a unique, quirky, Japanese flair (one stationery shop had a hilarious line of animal-innuendo notebooks). The kitsch pastiche decor only adds to the whole charm of the place, and despite it being obviously tourist-orientated, Japan Town remains fun and not overrun, perhaps by nature of its location. Definitely remember to sample some of the bobo drinks, they're one of the cheapest things there, and fantastic.
Post St, San Francisco, CA. Civic Center BART is maybe 20 minutes walk, or the 2, 3 and 4 muni buses run a block up on Sutter to downtown.
I love sushi and I would rate Ozumo as one of my favourite sushi restaurants. It's contemporary Japanese cuisine so I would recommend trying their specials. We asked the waitress to choose for us and we were very happy with the selection. The cocktails are delicious and they have a great selection of sake for those of you who like sake (I don't!).
161 Steuart St
San Francisco, CA 94105
+1 415 882 1333
In the heart of San Francisco's vibrant Mexican district, the Mission, simply named La Taqueria is a bastion of authenticity in an increasingly yuppified area that remains popular because of its sheer quality and value for money. In traditional, homely surroundings you can order some of the finest Mexican food on offer in the Bay Area, either to eat in or take out. No airs and graces, just good quality food in generous portions and at low prices. And what's more, the guacamole is to die for.
2889 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110. Nearest BART: 24th & Mission Station.
A short walk from downtown Berkeley and the famous university campus, Cheeseboard might be a trek from the city but the pizza is justly famous throughout the Bay Area. Only serving one kind of pizza per day (and they're all vegetarian), their offerings range from highest-quality Margherita to more out-there combinations such as Blue Cheese and Pear but the pizza is invariably delicious. Served by the (huge) slice, a slice and a drink can be an inexpensive light lunch, or a whole (giant) pizza could be shared by several for a heartier meal.
1512 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709. Nearest BART: Downtown Berkeley.
This is a fantastic little French bistro in the relatively unknown neighbourhood of Potrero Hill. Fantastic views reward the climb to the top (or drive), and enjoy perhaps the best burgers in the city, with perfect french frites.
1453 18th St
San Francisco 94107
Btwn Missouri & Connecticut St
Hog Island Oyster Company is about 10 miles north of the town of Point Reyes on Highway 1. There are tables and grills where you can shuck your own oysters at the edge of Tomales Bay. In Pt. Reyes, you can buy a baguette at the Bovine Bakery, some local cheese at the Cowgirl Creamery and some wine or beer.
Then drive north to Hog Island. The ocean fog often burns off in the late afternoon. A marvelous way to induce a sense of wellbeing.
Pasta Moon in Half Moon Bay, which is on Hwy 1 just a short drive from San Francisco, serves some of the best Italian food to be had anywhere.
It is not cheap but for Brits with the exchange rate as it is now, it is very inexpensive. Go for the seafood/fishy options. Seafood risotto is superb.
I could go on and on, but if you appreciate great Italian cooking - GO THERE! It made a great start to our Pacific Coast Hwy trip.
This restaurant is linked with Green Gulch Farm, a Zen centre and farm which provides organic produce. The restaurant serves outstanding vegetarian haute cuisine. The cookbooks by two of its cooks, Deborah Madison (Greens, Vegetarian Cooking for everyone) and Annie Somerville (Fields of Greens) have been my best friends in the kitchen for many years.
On the waterfront in San Francisco
This is a restaurant located in the Ferry Building. They serve great, great food.
Watch out for the dog, though. He is not dangerous, but the owners are not polite enough to keep the dog away from the communal table, which I think is weird.
You have a straight view on the Bay Bridge, which doesn't have the fame of the Golden Gate, but is still well worth looking at.
Right in the Ferry Building. Tons of trams and buses go there.
This restaurant has the most amazing views of San Francisco. Perched on top of the Hyatt, across from the Ferry Building in the Embarcadero area, Equinox offers stunning views of the bay, the financial district and the Bay Bridge. But this is not all, for not only is the view fantastic, but the restaurant does a 360-degree rotation in about 45 minutes; whilst you’re savouring your meal you can enjoy the beautiful skyline of the city.
The food at the Equinox is of very good quality. For starters their crab cakes and their oysters are simply superb. Their filet as a main is tender and it melts in your mouth; their salmon is simply-cooked and yet it has a taste of uniqueness. The desserts come in big portions, or bigger than you’d expect at such a restaurant; and by the time you’ve got to leave you feel just right and not in need of any extra nibbles. Prices are a bit high, but if you’ve got the chance to set some money aside before you leave San Francisco, the place is worth a visit.
If money is an issue, we noticed that some people also go in to have a drink and some dessert rather than a whole meal. The one drawback we thought Equinox has is that the menu is not as extensive as one might like, especially if you’re a vegetarian: you might find there’s nothing for you to choose from.
Equinox, at the Hyatt Regency
5 Embarcadero Center,
Equinox Reservations: (415) 291-6619
Cute cafe and wine bar in North Beach run by a Brit. Cold beer and decent wines. Free Wi-Fi, Premiership on the telly, great sandwiches, delicious fondue. On Mondays and Fridays local musicians and poets perform.
700 Columbus Ave @ Filbert
Tel: (415) 392-9290
Just the name would be enough for a recommendation, but this cafe/diner also has locals and visitors queueing down the street on weekends. The pulled pork, bacon and ham is clearly a main feature, but there's plenty on the typically diner style menu for non-pork or meat eaters.
1451 Haight St
Connoisseurs will turn up their noses, but this is one of my favourite places to go for good, inexpensive, and fun sushi. I have brought people here who are wary of sushi but find themselves enjoying rolls with creamed cheese, fried salmon skin, and other not-very-authentic additions.
And I've never paid more than $30 for two people to be stuffed at the end of the meal.
Valencia/22nd st, San Francisco
Cha Cha Cha is a restaurant on Haight Street. The food is Caribbean - my favorite is the red snapper wrapped in banana leaves with black beans and plantains - but no matter what you eat, or even if you're not hungry, DO NOT MISS the sangria (just make sure you don't have to drive afterwards).
As the Frommers website says, Cha Cha Cha is not a meal, it's an experience. Moderately priced. No reservations. Weird people, weird neighborhood, great food and wine (not a full bar).
1801 Haight Street (nearest intersection: Schrader street) - a few blocks from Ashbury and half a block from Golden Gate Park;.
tel: (415) 386-7670
public transport: bus 71 stops less than a block away
One of the pleasant surprises about visiting San Francisco is that it has fantastic food. Not indigenous US food, but the food-culture imported by its immigrants from south of the border. Taquerias provides authentic, very tasty, cheap Mexican-style food to locals everywhere - especially in The Mission District. The best one is El Toro Taqueria on Valencia St. It is vegetarian-friendly (ie: it definitely doesn't cook beans in lard).
El Toro Taqueria: 598 Valencia St;
tel: (415) 431-2535;
Here's a photo: www.flickr.com/photos/bryceedwards/134769479/
Yank Sing is one of San Francisco's best Chinese dim sum restaurants. Makes the annual San Francisco Chronicle's Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants list.
Its Rincon Center atmosphere is more upmarket than Chinatown restaurants, since it appeals to nearby Financial District workers.
Before or after you eat, look at the murals of California history by Anton Refregier in the old Rincon Post Office Annex. A few of them don't whitewash the Golden State's turbulent labour and ethnic past.
Rincon Center, 101 Spear St. (at Mission St), Embarcadero/South of Market;
tel: (415) 957-9300; open: only for dim sum/lunch;
A great late afternoon/early evening walk up Grant Avenue starting at Market Street and ending at Coit Tower. You start in the heart of downtown but soon transition to Chinatown and then the Italian North Beach district before ending with panoramic views of The City and The Bay.
Stop at local establishments Tosca (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7859) for an Irish coffee, Cafe Macaroni (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7860) for dinner, then catch some live blues at the Saloon (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7858) - Perfect!
Start at Grant Ave and Market Street.
An intimate little Italian restaurant with cheesy decor but great food and bags of character. The upstairs has a ridiculously low ceiling with pasta stuck to it! I heartily recommend the gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce.
59 Columbus (at Jackson) in North Beach;
tel: (415) 217-8400
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