Go for Sunday brunch in one of the city's most beautiful rooms: the Garden Court at the Palace Hotel. Refurbished and charming with fabulous light, the setting is perfect for not-at-all-your-typical buffet. There are choices from generous American specialties to a Japanese section from the hotel's A-1 restaurant, Kyo-Ya and Chinese food as well as seafood and, well, it must be experienced (with champagne, of course).
Inside the Palace Hotel: 2 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94105;
tel: (415) 546 5089;
If you’re a foodie, find the ultimate deli: Valvonna and Crolla. This is for the serious gourmet. Squeeze past each other in the narrow tiled aisles and avoid the hanging salamis and hams overhead. Sample the succulent fat-laden mortadella. Be tempted by the transparent shavings of prosciutto freshly cut. Indulge your baser instincts in the creamy soft blue St Agur that slowly melts on the tongue to the gentle persuasion of Graham’s Vintage Port. And for a present to bring home? An estate bottled olive oil from Umbria? Some bulbs of roasted garlic from the Languedoc? And as for wine...
When the finest Italian food shop in the country only sells one fresh sausage, you know it's going to be good. Valvona & Crolla's Fonteluna doesn't disappoint. This is a solid, semi-cured sausage flavoured with chilli and fennel. As it is semi-cured it can be eaten raw as a salami or cooked. It can be cooked by either frying or grilling. As it is a dry sausage it really needs a wet sauce - I like it diced in a tomato sauce, thinly sliced and used as a pizza topping or with peppers.
It's not cheap at £4.95 for 265g but this is concentrated, strong tasting sausage with no water or cheap filler. Highly recommended! It would be a hard soul that would not come out of here the richer in taste and the poorer in pocket. Worth visiting on a Sunday morning, especially for their imported Indian peppercorns, or just to sit and have tea in their restaurant while the world muses and peruses. Blue Mountain coffee or green tea? Jalapenos peppers or habaneros?
Valvona & Crolla: 19 Elm Row, Edinburgh EH7 4AA
VinCaffè: 11 Multrees Walk, Edinburgh EH1 3DQ;
Modern American cuisine with international influences and classic cocktails. The dishes are small and it is recommended to order 3 or 4 each (like tapas) from the menu and share with your partner or party, so you get to sample most of the menu. Definitely more on the quality of the food and not quantity, Friendly staff and quick service, or just pop in for a drink.
1085 Sutter St (& Larkin), San Francisco (next door to Hotel Carlton); tel: (415) 441 4232;
I'm almost reluctant to share this one in case it gets too popular - but the seafood here is out of this world. Tadich is a San Francisco institution. Reputedly the oldest restaurant in the city. Check opening hours as it's in the financial district so may close earlier than expected.
240 California St, near the Embarcadero Center, between Front and Beale Streets;
tel: (415) 391 1849
Chez Panisse is a Berkeley institution. Just across the Bay Bridge from SF (itself a beautiful and highly underrated bridge with great views of the SF Financial District, always coming in second place to the Golden Gate Bridge!) is Berkeley, probably the most liberal of places in the US. Home to Berkeley University (where I spent 2 happy years as a student) and numerous incredible restaurants, my pick of which is definitely Chez Panisse in the Gourmet Ghetto district.
Alice Waters, creator of "California Cuisine" (all natural, organic, local, fresh, seasonal ingredients), founded this restaurant in 1971, and it is still serving up some of the best, freshest food in the whole of the Bay Area. It is not cheap, but not outrageously expensive either, and worth splashing out on.
They have two sections in the restaurant - the a la carte cafe upstairs, slightly cheaper, where you can choose between courses, and the restaurant downstairs, which serves a set menu every night. The wine list is also impressive, and it is worth asking the waiters to pair your meal with some excellent local Napa and Sonoma Valley wines, as they are extremely knowledgeable and will no doubt recommend the perfect wine to go with your meal. I have eaten in both the a la carte section and the restaurant downstairs, and both times felt I had eaten the best meal of my life!
Reservations should be made, as it is a popular place.
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley (nearest BART station is Downtown Berkeley;
Café reservations: (510) 548 5049; Restaurant reservations: (510) 548-5525;
The best cheesecake in the world, and the other food isn't bad either. This is a great US chain restaurant, serving damn good food.
Go to Union Square and into Macy's. Hit the button for the 8th floor in the lift and be transported to SF's version of Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory. Watch your eyes get bigger than your belly when you order dessert. Have two of the biggest courses you've ever seen. Feel bad, when you leave half of the best cheesecake you've ever tasted!
Go late on a Friday/Saturday night (open til 12:30) and sit on the terrace or just go late and get a slice to take away!
8th Floor Macy's, 251 Geary Street, just off Union Square;
Breakfast. Forget those spartan breakfasts with a few dodgy rolls and luke-warm coffee. This was it. Everything for the cosmopolitan traveller, including as near to an Ulster fry as you’ll ever get.
Are your taste buds beginning to tremble at the thought of such seductive fare? Is the saliva flowing? The sheer joy of savouring the smell from a plate with rashers of succulent shavings of bacon beside plump juicy sausages and carefully fried eggs. This, complemented with those hallmarks of excellence, soda bread and potato bread, and black pudding and grilled tomato cooked properly, with the tomato beginning to blacken and the pudding just on the verge of crisping. Which of us has not succumbed to temptation at some time?
And as for the philistines who claim that a fry does not fix a hangover… let them feel the soothing balm of such fodder on a morning when the hands shake and the pulsing head yearns for pity and even death is seen as a welcome release. When eternal promises to never again indulge in the demon drink are made. When even the Almighty is invoked in an effort to remove the awful consequences of over-indulgence. It is then that the magical restorative properties of the fry come into their own.
To witness such a miracle is to visit any early opening restaurant on a Saturday or Sunday morning when pathetic specimens of humanity, who, the previous night, ready to take on the world, now cringe at the sound of a closing door. The secret is to find The Right Place. And here it was. In the breakfast room of the St James Thistle.
St James Centre, Edinburgh;
tel: 0131 556 0111
This street is an easier environment than Chinatown with comparable Asian markets and restaurants, as well as orthodox Russian residents and a scattering of lovely small bistros like Clémentine. A great flat street for walking, shopping and eating.
Clémentine: 126 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94118;
tel: (415) 387-0408
Best weekend brunch place in the city. This very cool Mission eatery is where the club kids go to come down and where the bedheads go to get some coffee. The eggs benedict is a must.
3296 22nd St, San Francisco 94110 CA (nearest cross st is Valencia);
tel: (415) 824-4088
In the same vein as the Mad Dog in the Fog (owned by the same guy), this is the city's premier sports bar.
And by sports, I mean sports. The Kezar is located across the street from Kezar Stadium, the former home of the city's five-time Super Bowl champion 49ers, now converted to a trim 10,000 seat athletics, football and soccer stadium. The atmosphere follows the same vein as the decor: distinctly 49ers-related, and NFL and college action packs the place to watch every game on its 24 TV screens. Similar crowds watch baseball, especially the Boston Red Sox, or ice hockey (an unusual interest of the owner - read more). March madness may bring the biggest crowds of all. If you want your American sport, the Kezar's the place to go.
But it's more than that.
The Kezar abuts the epicentre of the city's legendary Irish community (a community third only to New York and Boston) and there is a distinctly Irish undertone to the place, from the logo exhibiting Kezar Stadium's famous arch with a shamrock placed in it to the Irish bar staff and owner. Gaelic sports are in abundance here, and the bar is equally full for the Six Nations or Republic of Ireland internationals.
But while it's an Irish bar in America, it's not an “Irish” bar. Rather, it's a mishmash of European and American sensibilities. The Premiership and Champions League football attract huge crowds, mixing tourists, American fans, and expatriates. New Zealanders and Australians pack the pub for Tri-Nations rugby (shown live in the wee hours) and even Indians come for cricket. The World Cup saw the start of Kezar's newest demographic - Ukranian soccer fans.
Oh, the food's also top notch for a sports bar. You'll find your fish and chips, meat pies and your Irish fare, including shepherd's pie and the legendary Irish breakfasts munched on by hungry rugby and football fans, as well as American hamburgers and buffalo wings. But the owner's wife - a chef - adds some subtle touches in the form of salmon, penne pasta and excellent salads.
Beer flows freely here, with several varieties of American beers, English ales, and God's own Guinness.
770 Stanyan St, at the edge of the Haight-Ashbury district. Reachable by several bus lines, including the 71 Haight-Noriega, the 43 Masonic and the 6 Haight;
tel: (415) 386 9292
This is a fantastic restaurant where you can sit and look out at the sea lions from the side. We had a delicious meal here last summer. It was great to find such a good place to eat in a very touristy area, and very reasonably priced. Look a the website and see the amazing choice on the menu. It doesn't include the desserts, which are yummy. I had an Apple Granny which was so big I couldn't finish it but they packed it for me to take out.
Pier 39, space 103; reservations: (415) 982 5872;
It's a great bar that hosts literary readings, music quiz nights and more. They also serve the best British chippy-style fish & chips I've found since moving here. (They actually come from the Old Chelsea, a tiny place round the corner.) Irvine Welsh has been known to hang out there.
950 Geary Street;
tel: (415) 885 4074;
If it is a sunny evening, have a drink at Medjool's "sky terrace", the only rooftop bar in the city. Beautiful panoramas, beautiful people. The drinks and food are slightly less beautiful, but you come here for the 360 degree drop dead gorgeous views.
2522 Mission St (nearest intersection is 21st Street);
tel: (415) 550 9055;
Delfina is arguably the finest neighbourhood restaurant in the city, and is reasonably priced. It is located in the Mission Dolores part of town, on 18th Street, just a block from the lovely Dolores Park.
That section of 18th Street is food heaven: along with Delfina there's a Sicilian style pizzeria, a wonderful bakery (Tartine), and the best retro organic grocery in town (Buy Rite).
Delfina gets everything right: design, ambience, service, and, most of all, the food, which is Californian/Italian and simply perfect. Book a table before you visit the city, as this place is hugely popular. The wait staff are Mission hipsters.
3621 18th Street, at Guerrero. Take the J Church muni, get off at 18th St, and walk 1.5 blocks towards the Mission (away from the Castro);
tel: (415) 552 4055;
House of Nanking is a fantastic, moderately-priced Chinese restaurant that never fails to please. It's best to go early (11am) or mid afternoon to avoid the long lines. You won't be disappointed. I think it's my favourite restaurant ever.
919 Kearny St (about a block south of where Kearney and Montgomery intersect, on the west side of the street);
tel: (415) 421 1429
Hands down, the best Chinese restaurant ever. A huge sign hangs in the kitchen, that you have to walk past to get to the dining area, that reads "Absolutely no MSG". Try a range of goodies. What you can't eat they'll pack in doggie bag boxes for you to take away.
217 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133 (very close to City Lights Bookstore);
tel: (415) 788 7527;
Gilroy, CA is the worlds garlic capital and much of its produce ends up at the "The Stinking Rose" on Columbus Avenue. This is a reataurant dedicated to all things garlic - even ice cream. While this may sound a bit gimmicky, if you like your food strong and unambiguous, there is nothing better. Also check out the t-shirts on sale there - they are guaranteed conversation pieces for when you get back home.
325 Columbus Avenue | San Francisco | 415.781.7673
Get the bus out along Geary Blvd to The Cliff House - which is reputably fantastic if you are not on a budget ;-) we ate at the diner just up the hill for a tenth of the price. But the views from the Cliff House over Ocean Beach on the Pacific are pretty special. Then head down to the old Sutro Baths to check out where the San Franners used to come for their r n' r.
A classic Greek portal opened to a massive glass enclosure containing seven swimming pools of various temperatures. There were slides, trapezes, springboards and a high dive. Together the pools held 1.7 million gallons of water and could be filled in one hour by high tides. There were 20,000 bathing suits and 40,000 towels for rent.
Balmy temperatures and abundant plants enhanced "California’s Tropical Winter Garden." The Baths could accommodate 10,000 people at one time. Now all that remains are the ruins.
From here you can head through the little tunnel down by the baths and up the hill to the trail which leads along the coast all the way around to Chinia Beach via an increasingly impressive panorama of the GG.
Surfers take on the Pacific swells just below you at the base of the cliffs. You re-enter civilisation at China Beach and could probably walk up to the Palace of the Legion of Honor about half way around if you had time.
Walk through China Beach past the millionaires row of ab fab homes and if you still feel spritely, you can continue along the coast path to the GG or if not, grab a bus on Lincoln Blvd into the city - a lovely untouristy gem of a walk that is pretty easy to reach via public transport and not too strenuous (I did it with a 1yr old on my back!)
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