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San Francisco A to Z

San Francisco A to Z

In San Francisco, it is possible to feel entirely at ease in your own skin – whether your sensibility runs to the unassuming, the urbane, or the utterly outlandish. Once deemed ‘the Paris of the West’ for wealth and finery stemming from nineteenth-century gold and silver finds, the city now emanates an identity and culture that rest more on influences wrought from the 1950s onwards by the Beats, Haight-Ashbury, and Harvey Milk. A rich intellectual heritage flows from nearby Berkeley and Stanford. Explore peaks, troughs and astounding views by cable car or on foot, taking regular sustenance from fine eateries that abound from Russian Hill to the Castro.  For repose, visit tranquil Grace Cathedral, wander the gardens of the Presidio and Golden Gate Park, or venture across the Bay to meander at length through redwood and sequoia groves in Muir Woods.

 

A

Asian Art Museum

200 Larkin Street

San Francisco

+1 415 581.3500

 

Whether you favour Neolithic ceramics, Buddhist thangkas or the sublime stone works of Masatoshi Izumi, any predilection for Asian art will be amply sated here, in spaces thoughtfully designed by Gae Aulenti. The Museum’s collection – one of the most extensive in the world – holds more than 18,000 works from Japan, China, Korea, Southeast Asia, the subcontinent and the Himalayas, with up to 2000 pieces on exhibition at any given time.  Browse at leisure then visit the store, which offers an appealing array of books and unique decorative items.

 

B

Bi-Rite Market

3639 18th Street  

San Francisco  94110

+1 415 241 9760

 

The Bay Area abounds in organic produce. Bi-Rite is one of its most enthusiastic and well-stocked purveyors, with a passion for the social exchange embodied in the production and consumption of wholesome food. The friendly staff have encyclopaedic knowledge – to sample their expertise, enquire about fuyu persimmons or padrón peppers. In autumn, they might direct you to famed Warren pears from Frog Hollow Farm (whose pastries, too, are beyond compare). 

 

C

City Lights Books
261 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco 94133
+1 415 362 8193

 

City Lights still exudes the vibrant energy that forged its identity in the early 1950s as a crucible for West coast writing, publishing, and Leftist foment. To explore its enticingly crammed shelves at length, allow several hours. Allocate at least one of these to thorough investigation of poetry offerings on the second floor; with luck, you’ll secure a vacant armchair. Should hunger beckon, step out for delicious thin-crusted porcini pizza bianca at L'Osteria del Forno.

 

D
Dolores Park
566 Dolores Street
San Francisco  94110
+1 415 554 9529

 

Downtown city views stretching across the water to Oakland might not be the most remarkable sight your eyes behold here. Rather, it’s likely you’ll witness a panorama of sun-lounging near-nudists peppered around the park amid throngs of respectably clad folk reading McSweeney’s latest offering. Whatever the Park’s distractions, supplies from Bi-Rite Market, two minutes’ walk away, will sustain a leisurely afternoon.

 

E

Eight-Two-Six Valencia Street: The Pirate Store

826 Valencia Street

San Francisco 94110

+1 415 642 5905 (ext. 201)

 

For when your finest pirate attire becomes weatherworn and unwearable. The Pirate Store is an adjunct of 826 Valencia – a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to nurturing the imaginative, daring and curious predispositions of children through storytelling. It sells glass eyes, scurvy remedies, sea salt and pepper; and, among a rich literary offering, the James’ Lick Middle School’s bookish-beyond-its-years magazine Slick.


F
Frances

3870 17th Street
San Francisco 94114 

+1 415 621 3870

 

Chef Melissa Perello’s menu changes daily, reflecting modern Californian sensibilities and French influences, and making inspired use of fresh, predominantly organic ingredients from local markets and farms. To accompany your meal, we recommend the house wines, which are artfully blended on-site by beverage director Paul Einbund to provide modestly priced yet memorable pairings.   

 

G

Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA)

998 Market Street

San Francisco 94102

+1 415 843 1423

 

GAFFTA is devoted to the production, research, and dissemination of digital culture at the point where art, science, technology and society intersect. Visit the Foundation’s website to see details on forthcoming courses, exhibitions and events, which frequently involve collaboration with institutions such as the Stanford d. school, UC Berkeley Center for New Media, and San Francisco State Conceptual Information Arts Department.

 

H

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream

2790 A Harrison Street

San Francisco 94110

+1 415 550 6971  

 

Of San Francisco’s notable organic ice cream vendors, Humphry Slocombe is among the exemplars. Those with adventurous palates can indulge in a scoop or two of Foie Gras, Elvis The Fat Years, or Government Cheese. More timorous ourselves, we veer towards Malted Dulce Delche, Honey Thyme, and Cinnamon Brittle.

 

I

Intuitive Counseling with Jessica Lanyadoo

625 Valencia Street (at 18th Street)

San Francisco 94110

+1 415 336 8354

 

This renowned Mission-dweller boasts skills as an astrologer, clairvoyant, and spiritual medium. Pre-consultation, Ms Lanyadoo will analyse your astrological chart. Depending on your preferences, a consultation may involve an intuitive reading of your energy, Tarot divination, and communication from departed loved ones; it will inevitably involve uncannily astute commentary on your personal relationships.

 

J

John Berggruen Gallery

228 Grant Avenue

San Francisco 94108 

+1 415 781 4629

 

A specialist in major 20th-century American and European paintings, drawings, sculpture, and limited edition prints – particularly those of Bay Area figurative artists – Bergruen also exhibits the work of younger contemporary artists. Exhibitions cover two floors, and change monthly. Historic shows feature pieces by luminaries such as Ellsworth Kelly, Georgia O'Keeffe and Willem de Kooning,  

 

K

Kabuki Springs

1750 Geary Boulevard

San Francisco 

+1 415 922 6000

 

This welcoming Japanese bathhouse offers communal tubs, a steam room, a sauna, and a cold plunge pool. The schedule is gender-specific most days, going co-ed only on Tuesdays. You may have to wait for a place, but nearby eateries will keep you comfortably nourished while reception staff save your spot in the queue. You may like to complement your bathing session with a facial, massage or acupuncture treatment.  

 

L

The Luggage Store

1007 Market St

San Francisco 94103

+1 415 255 5971  

 

A non-profit, artist-run cultural centre and gallery, the Luggage Store proffers multidisciplinary arts programmes aimed at broadening the Bay Area’s social and aesthetic networks and strengthening relationships between local communities. Venture in between Wednesday and Saturday (there are additional venues on Ellis Street and Cohen Avenue), or view the website for details on exhibitions, performing arts events, arts education and public art initiatives. Entry to most events is by sliding-scale donation.

 

M

Martinez cocktail at Bar Agricole

355 Eleventh Street

San Francisco 94103

+1 415 355 9400

 

The Martinez at SoMa’s Bar Agricole is one of the city’s most memorable cocktails – refined and perfectly balanced. This isn’t surprising, given co-founder and bartender Thad Vogler’s passion for traditional blends, fine ingredients and painstaking methodologies. Wine and food offerings at Agricole are similarly considered; and the airy Aidlin-Darling interior exudes a mellow ambience.

 

N

Native flora at Bay Natives Nursery

10 Cargo Way (at Jennings St.)

San Francisco 94124

+1 415 287 6755

 

The selection of native Californian flora at this specialist nursery runs to more than 200 species, including endemic Bay Area locals such as Springbark Clover, Arroyo Willow and James Roof Silk Tassel, and various rare plants. To appreciate a wealth of native species in situ (around 260 in total), wander the expansive Presidio parklands at the city’s North-Western tip, where they occupy around ten per cent of the landscape’s seven square kilometres.  

 

O

Ocean Beach

Bike Route 95

San Francisco 94121

 

Favoured by expert surfers with the mettle to handle its notorious riptides, this celebrated stretch of Pacific coast abuts Sunset and Richmond District neighborhoods. The craggy outcropping to the north forms a striking platform for historic Cliff House, and skirts the ruins of Sutro Baths. For much of the year, Ocean Beach is more likely to offer wind and fog than sunny splendour, but it’s ideal for those who like their seaside walks lengthy and exhilarating.  

 

P

Phoenix Hotel

601 Eddy Street

San Francisco 94109

+1 415 776 1380

 

Unperturbed by the clamour of the Tenderloin neighbourhood and raucous poolside parties, guests flock to the Phoenix Hotel for an experience rather than run-of-the-mill lodging. Knock back something on the rocks and a Zabuton Steak in the hotel’s restaurant, Chambers eat + drink, before heading down the road to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for some of the city’s best live music.

 

Q
Quince
470 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco 94133
+1 415 775 8500

Elegant, formal, yet amiable and unhurried, Quince serves distinctive Italian- and French-influenced fare. Co-owner and chef Michael Tusk goes to considerable lengths to source fine local produce for the restaurant’s tasting and four-course menus, and his exquisitely constructed dishes are evidence of the joy he takes in doing so. The offerings of pastry chef Devin McDavid and wine director Chris Bagetta are equally laudable. 

 

R
Rooky Ricardo’s Records

448 Haight Street

San Francisco 94117

+1 415 864 7526

 

This Lower Haight music geek’s haunt is a modest, unassuming gem with an artfully edited spread of vinyl collectibles. With an emphasis on early-era rhythm-and-blues and soul, there’s a likelihood many of the discs you unearth will be unfamiliar or at least unanticipated; the selection of 45s is particularly comprehensive. If owner and spirited raconteur Dick Vivian is behind the counter, you’ll likely enjoy inspired soul mixes and industry-insider tales.

 

S
Saint George Spirits

2601 Monarch Street

Alameda 94501

+1 510-769-1601

 

Founded as an eau de vie producer during the early 1980s, Saint George now produces a wide range of spirits – from gin to single malt whisky to an exceptional absinthe. Founder Jörg Rupf and master distiller Lance Winters take an artisanal approach, marked by a reverence for raw ingredients and devotion to hand-batch craftsmanship. Tours are offered Wednesday to Sunday; you can also sign up for informative talks and cocktail-mixing classes. Well worth a trip across the Bay Bridge.

 

T

THE THING Quarterly

3285 20th St
San Francisco 94110 

+1 415 218 0821

 

A somewhat unorthodox periodical, published in the form a useful object. Each edition is created by an individual artist, filmmaker or musician at the invitation of editors Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan. The sole proviso is the inclusion of some form of text.  Editions to date include Miranda July’s pull-down window blind and Jonathan Lethem’s inscribed reading glasses.

 

U

Unionmade

493 Sanchez Street  

San Francisco 94114

+1 415 861 3373

 

Head to the border of Mission and Castro to peruse Unionmade’s extensive, thoughtfully selected range of products for men.  Casual and fine clothing, shoes, accessories, household items and grooming aids are complemented by an intelligent collection of books, magazines and stationery, and elegant items for indulged dogs. We particularly like the shirts, jackets and pocket squares produced by Unionmade in collaboration with Harris Tweed.

 

V

Viracocha

998 Valencia St.

San Francisco 94110

+1 415 374 7048

 

Named for a pre-Inca creation deity, Virococha is a retail space founded by a collective of local artists and performers, and permeated by a sincere community spirit. It houses an ever-evolving range of beautiful vintage and antique objects – from Japanese prints to Underwood typewriters to restored clawfoot bathtubs – along with fine vintage clothing and hand-crafted items. It also offers an exceptional lending library curated by local writers and booksellers; and hosts numerous performances – music, theatre, readings and poetry slams.

 

W

Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts

1111 Eighth Street
San Francisco 94107

+1 415 551 9210 

 

The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts is a non-profit institution housed at the California College of the Arts in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, next to the city's design district. It serves as a forum for the presentation and discussion of international contemporary art and curatorial practice; the adjunct Capp Street Project residency programme delivers lectures, symposia, and occasional publications.

 

X

Xanadu Gallery

140 Maiden Lane

San Francisco 94108

+1 415 392 9999

 

This spacious, sunlit gallery is housed in Frank Lloyd Wright’s only San Francisco building; the design was a precursor to his plan for the Guggenheim Museum in New York. This alone is reason to visit, and the proprietors graciously indulge respectful viewing. The attendant attraction is a selection of rare African, Asian, Oceanic, Latin American and ethnographic artworks and jewellery – ideal for passionate collectors. 

 

Y

Yosemite National Park

+1 801 559 4884

 

Four hours East of San Francisco lies Yosemite, described by naturalist John Muir as ‘a place of rest, a refuge from the roar and dust and weary, nervous, wasting work of the lowlands.’ We concur, and appreciate why the likes of Muir, Ansel Adams and Chiura Obata spent lifetimes documenting the landscape. If time is short, take a day trip; Incredible Adventures hosts intelligent small-scale tours. Otherwise, linger to explore the Park’s abundant trails. The hardy will exalt in Half Dome, but even modest walks like Lower Yosemite Falls yield breathtaking views.   

 

Z
Zuni Café
1658 Market St.
San Francisco 94102
+1 415 552 2522

 

Zuni’s Mediterranean-inspired menu changes daily; the one constant is an array of seasonal, sustainably produced meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables. It does hold to some long-favoured staples, however. And of these, it’s hard to surpass the woodfire-roasted chicken with Tuscan bread salad – a delectable offering of tender herbed meat presented on a bed of bitter leaves and succulent marinated bread, scattered with currants and pine nuts.

 

 

‘San Francisco has only one drawback. ‘Tis hard to leave.’ Rudyard Kipling

Aesop Fillmore Street

2450 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
+1 415 775 1837

View our Fillmore Pocket Guide

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