SAN FRANCISCO’s BEST ●Attractions●Neighborhoods/Shopping+Restaurants
SOUTH OF MARKET’s (SOMA’s) BEST
This evolving area is filled with museums, art galleries, hip bars and clubs, and upscale hotels. Moscone Convention Center is also here on Howard Street between 3rd and 4th streets.
AsiaSF 201 9th St./Howard St.
St. Patrick Catholic Church 756 Mission St./4th St.
American Bookbinders Museum 355 Clementina St./5th St.
California Historical Society Museum 678 Mission St./3rd St.
Contemporary Jewish Museum 736 Mission St./3rd St.
Museum of the African Diaspora 685 Mission St./3rd St.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) Two entrances: 151 3rd St. & off Howard St.
Metreon 101 4th St./Mission St. Originally built by Sony, this 4-story urban entertainment complex has a futuristic-style interior. It holds a movie
theater with 15 screens--including an IMAX theater that is the largest west of the Mississippi and that also shows 3-D specials and screens feature films.
INSIDE, an assortment of casual restaurant venues include:
●Cafe X Robot-made coffee.
●Sanraku Serves traditional Japanese fare.
OUTSIDE, you’ll find more:
●Lemonade 781 Mission St. Fast and casual, this link in the L.A. chain offers cafeteria-style service. When the line is long, it can feel disorganized because they encourage line-jumping but the people ahead of you don’t like it. Customer service is very good and cheerful but can’t overcome this irritating glitch. Food is well seasoned and highly flavorful and includes creative prepared salads such as arugula and Asian pears or BLT panzanella, and mains such as barbecue brisket or avocado-salmon Louie. We opted to share poached salmon with a Thai-style sauce and sides of spectacular Brussels sprouts and spicy Indian-style cauliflower plus some crostini. Not sure? Ask for a sample. Comfortable seating includes some booths and a banquette and is available both indoors and out (with heat lamps). As you might expect, lemonade is a specialty and includes everything from a refreshing cucumber-mint to tasty blood orange; I really liked the guava version. More images . . .
●SuperDuper Burgers 783 Mission St. Tasty, well-priced fast food.
Also at 740 Market St./3rd St., 3 blks. from Union Square..
South Park South Park Ave./2nd St. Founded in 1857, when it was surrounded by stylish brick homes that eventually were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, this tiny oval park is the oldest public park in San Francisco. Now it is particularly popular as a lunch spot with tech workers in the area. It was recently renovated and features a large grassy area, picnic tables, and a contemporary children’s playground with a net swing, a serpentine climbing structure, and a butterfly garden. Jack London Alley is named for the author, who was born nearby at Third and Brannan streets.
●South Park Cafe 108 South Park Ave./2nd St., South of Market. With large windows overlooking the small and popular park that fills the center oval of this unique street (it was originally designed to resemble London’s Berkeley Square), this tiny butter-yellow French bistro is a great place to sit down for a pleasant meal. The changing menu includes both unusual and traditional dishes.
image courtesy of venue
Yerba Buena Gardens Mission St./4th St., South of Market. Free. Situated atop the Moscone Convention Center, this complex holds a variety of attractions designed for the education and recreation of young people. It also features an outdoor stage, two cafes, a butterfly garden, a redwood grove, public sculptures, and a 50-foot waterfall with a multi-language memorial to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. seen along a pathway behind it. Expansive lawns, fountains, a maze and play circle, and robotic sculpture invite open-air relaxation.
●Ice Skating & Bowling Center 750 Folsom St. Fee. Year-round ice skating, and twelve lanes of bowling.
●Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 701 Mission St./3rd St. Fee. This innovative contemporary arts center presents art shows and live entertainment emphasizing the diverse artists and communities of the region. The idea is to teach about the urban environment and display art for social change. The center has two large galleries on the first floor and another smaller one on the second floor.
Current shows and more images.
●Children’s Creativity Museum & carousel 221 4th St./Howard St.
●Samovar Restaurant & Tea Lounge 730 Howard St./3rd St., Upper Terrace of Yerba Buena Gardens. The whole-leaf teas and sweet or savory treats found on the menu here are just the things to enjoy inside in the airy, high-ceilinged interior space or outside on the sprawling patio overlooking Yerba Buena Gardens. The Upper Terrace space is enhanced by Sister City Gardens, which is planted with flowering plants from San Francisco’s thirteen sister cities. Try the housemade Masala chai paired with a cherry-oat scone or smoked wild salmon quiche, or maybe one of the cultural tea services—the Moorish spread comes with veggie kebabs, mint salad, edamame hummus and roasted eggplant spreads, chevre-stuffed dates, and mint tea.
MORE AREA RESTAURANTS
image courtesy of venue
Buca di Beppo 855 Howard St./4th St. The party begins upon entering the door at this festive, happy, old-time southern Italian spot, whose name translates as “Joe’s basement.” Choose from a warren of small subterranean rooms, or pick one of the comfortable booths in the boisterous upstairs bar, where kids can wiggle and squirm until their heart’s content. Then study the menu posted on the wall while being entertained by favorite Italian tunes from the ‘50s. Another primo seating spot is the Kitchen Table; it seats up to five, and everything coming out of the kitchen parades by. Portions are huge and meant for sharing. Lord have mercy on anyone who orders a “large” of anything here, and on the poor soul who arrives without a BIG appetite. The oblong, thin-crusted, Neapolitan-style pepperoni pizza measures 2 feet long by 1 foot wide and is nothing short of great; it’s served high on a footed tray so as not to crowd a tall bowl of spaghetti with one very large, fist-sized meatball and perhaps a tasty salad, too. Or skip the pizza and order the satisfying garlic bread instead. Kids have been known to grow saucer eyes when they find out soft drink orders include unlimited refills.
Delarosa 37 Yerba Buena Lane. Featuring Roman-style pizza and small plates, this roaringly-popular spot has mostly communal seating. Tabletops and floors are hardwood, and big windows open to views of the outside walkway--all adding to the potential for an ear-splitting noise level. My favorite menu item is the Margherita pizza topped with creamy melted burrata--soooo good! Pizzas are served on raised stands, and napkins are generously-sized kitchen towels--a boon for those of us who run through numerous paper napkins at every meal. Though to accompany it we chose broccolini with garlic and really hot little red peppers as well as deep-fried asparagus with caper aioli, others were chattering about the marinated olives with fennel and citrus and the crispy tagliolini dumplings. Non-pizza panini and pastas are also enticing. With only a little room left for dessert, we shared three Bomboloni caldi (warm housemade donuts) with chocolate, raspberry, and marscapone sauces and wound up leaving one behind. Note that a vegan cheese substitute is available on pizza. Drinks include craft beers, Italian and Californian wines, and delicious cocktails. I ordered the most popular cocktail--a murky-looking, smoky-tasting Painted Ladies (mezcal, tamarind, chili tincture, lemon bitters, lime)--and my partner ordered a slightly more colorful Golden Coast bourbon (batavia arrack, apricot, pineapple, orange, lime). My mouth actually watered as I read this menu in advance. One visit just won’t do it. I’ll be back. More images . . .
The Grove Yerba Buena 690 Mission St./3rd St., (415) 957-0558. A sister to The Grove Fillmore, this branch has a similar rustic dining room, here with a grove of real tree trunks placed through the huge open space and threaded with colorful tiny lights. The ceiling is high, and an upstairs provides more seating, some of which overlooks the restaurant below providing a treetop view. Additional seating is provided outside in front. The menu is extensive, but you’ll probably be waiting in line for a while and have time to leisurely peruse it then. Once your order is taken, you’re given a number and so can then secure a table. You’ll need to fetch your own water and condiments. Breakfast is served all day. Food is decent but basically uninspired. My eggs Benedict was arranged on the plate in a sloppy manner, and the hash browns were terrible--stale, hard, and too salty (order the salad instead). But I’ll be back for the pleasant ambiance and another cafe mocha, and next time I plan to try the well-reputed chicken pot pie.
House of Shields (bar) 19 New Montgomery St./Market St.
Mourad 140 New Montgomery St./Minna St. Located inside the stately and historic Pacific Telephone Building, this restaurant features a stunning interior design that includes a curtain of silver bead threads defining the coat closet at the check-in desk and an efficient unisex restroom with gorgeous fresh flowers. A floor to ceiling sculpture crafted from the cross section of a century-old tree trunk greets diners at the entry. The restaurant's high ceilings give it an open and airy feeling while the look is modern and sleek adorned with explosive firework-styled chandeliers. Many patrons opt for a seat at the long bar, dining on small plates and cocktails. The spacious dining room is lined with comfy booths, and quieter seating is available on the second floor--which also holds an impressive glass-enclosed wine cellar. The sophisticated Moroccan dishes are served family style and include an exceptional roast chicken with sides and sauces. Eggplant and bean puree with warm flatbread is a great starter, and couscous with garbanzos, honey, saffron, lemon, harissa, and brown butter is a delicious vegetarian main.
ThirstyBear Brewing Company 661 Howard St./3rd St. San Francisco’s only certified organic brewpub has several seating areas in a large, open room of concrete floors and vintage brick walls—it is industrial yet cozy--plus an upstairs area with pool tables. Ordering a 3-ounce taster of each of the nine house brews, which include the popular Polar Bear pilsner and Brown Bear English-style ale, is a good idea. It will probably be impossible to pick a favorite until all are sampled, and by then most people forget which is which and have to start over--or come back again. Cocktails, single malt scotches, and housemade Sangria are also options. The menu features modern rustic Spanish cuisine, including tapas--boquerones (fresh Spanish anchovies) and gambas (sautéed garlic prawns)—plus paellas and desserts (don’t miss the classic Spanish churros with chocolate dipping sauce). Video tour of brew area.
Live flamenco performances are scheduled on Sunday evenings.
Town Hall 342 Howard St./Fremont St., South of Market. Sitting in the wide-open, high-ceilinged main dining room here is the best, but when the place is jammin’, a communal table near the bar is a good alternative to a long wait. The historic brick building it is within is the former Marine Electric warehouse, built just after the 1906 quake. Floors are stained the color of dark chocolate, and handmade wooden tables and chairs plus original brick walls add to the inviting mood. Starter specialties include seafood chowder with housemade sourdough crackers, and steamed mussels in Old Bay tomato broth. Should scrumptious wild mushroom lasagna be among the choices on the ever-changing, mostly American menu, don’t hesitate. Desserts are homey and special—warm pineapple upside down cake, pear-and-sour cherry crisp, butterscotch pot de crème—and the hot chocolate made with Parisian cocoa is like velvet.
Yank Sing 101 Spear St./Mission St., in Rincon Center; also at 49 Stevenson St./1st St..
HOTELS + MORE RESTAURANTS