Wedged between two of San Francisco’s most alluring parks—the Presidio to the north, Golden Gate Park to the south—is the equally appealing Inner Richmond district. The quiet, sunny neighborhood boasts an array of local restaurants, wine bars and historic shops—including one of the city’s oldest and best bookstores.
Where to Shop
San Francisco has a strong reputation for supporting small stores selling locally made wares. In the Inner Richmond, you’d have to try to actively avoid the many independent, family-owned shops lining the streets.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Green Apple Books remains one of this literary-minded city’s most beloved independent bookshops. The shop stocks everything from new hardcover and paperback releases to political and art-centric magazines to stylish notebooks and journals. Don’t be confused: the shop is split between two locations on the same block; the annex containing used fiction and a serious vinyl record selection is two doors down from the main, two-story storefront. And don’t miss the nook of ever-revolving displays in the annex, where discerning shoppers can be found eying colorful greeting cards and artwork from the Outer Sunset design duo behind 3 Fish Studios, in addition to screen-printed tees, tote bags and wall art from the full-service Tenderloin-based print shop, Studio Nico.
Curious children as well as kids at heart will discover fascinating toys, from soft stuffed animals to wooden nesting dolls, as well as animal-shaped nursery lamps and whimsical party supplies, at Tantrum.
At Foggy Notion, opened in 2011 by photographer and designer Alissa Anderson, California-inspired eclectic home goods, including handmade jewelry and organic skincare products, are the focus.
William the BeeKeeper sells locally produced honey, handmade soaps and charming ceramics, and offers crafty classes in candlemaking and macramé. For more made-in-SF books and T-shirts, pop into Park Life.
The Best Restaurants in Inner Richmond
Take friends to Kitchen Istanbul, where owner-chef Emrah Kilicoglu crafts delicious Turkish-style mezze plates meant for sharing and main course dishes that are as enjoyable as the convivial, cozy dining room. Start with the chef’s creamy hummus before moving on to savory moussaka—lamb or vegetarian—or lamb kebabs, and save room for perfectly semisweet homemade baklava for dessert.
For hearty Burmese cuisine, Burma Superstar has become a destination in the neighborhood with a waitlist almost as legendary as its tealeaf salad. It can take two hours to get a table. Plan to put your name on the list and pop into some charming nearby shops while you wait.
For take-home treats, head to Schubert's Bakery. A San Francisco institution since 1911 known for its mousse cakes and fruit tarts, including the ever-popular marzipan-wrapped Swedish Princess Cake.
Where to Drink
For 35 years, the Toy Boat Dessert Café has been serving up sweet treats with a side of playful delights, including a fully functional mechanical horse for the kids. Bring cash to this cute corner café that specializes in coffee and espresso drinks and serves the Bay Area’s own Double Rainbow ice cream, including some lactose-free options.
Pull up a stool at High Treason to sample wines by the flight while enjoying mellow tunes from the turntable. Neighborhood newcomer Scarlet Lounge also hits all the right tasting notes: cool cocktails, lovely decor and a chill, welcoming vibe.
Much more than a museum, the interactive Exploratorium on San Francisco’s waterfront Embarcadero “beckons involvement,” says the New York Times. Fostering science, art and human perception, the completely hands-on space boasts more than 650 ever-changing exhibits and a learning-by-doing ethos. And it’s not just for curious kids. Here are the top seven reasons to visit:
This one is the most obvious, but you can’t beat the unique and eccentric experiences here. The museum is divided into six galleries which include experiments with thoughts, feelings, and social behavior; light, vision, sound and hearing; and local history, geography, and ecology. Outdoor exhibits explore winds, tides, and natural phenomena including the popular Fog Bridge, where San Francisco’s famous Karl the Fog is recreated several times a day, swirling amongst visitors. Other favorite exhibits include the Distorted Room, the Kaleidoscope Booth, and the Tactile Dome. Visitors can actually watch the engineers build the exhibits in their exhibit-building workshop, available for public observation with an “open-kitchen” concept. Fun fact: 80 percent of the world’s museums use exhibits, programs or ideas designed by the Exploratorium.
The Exploratorium Is Kid-Friendly
The Exploratorium encourages everyone to think with their hands and experience science in an interactive way. Late physicist and founder Frank Oppenheimer—younger brother of J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atomic bomb)—saw the need to teach science differently, embracing concepts of invention and play. Kids can run around in 330,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor space—the length of three football fields—and explore hundreds upon hundreds of eclectic exhibits in a giant playground of science and perception. There’s even an entire gallery devoted to “tinkering” where visitors can help make things like an oversized clock or a lariat chain to develop ideas and understanding.
The Exploratorium Is Adult-Friendly
Peruse the museum with a cocktail in hand—and no kids!—every Thursday night during After Dark from 6-10 pm. This 18+ evening features adults-only programming with unique guest speakers, music, cutting-edge films and activities. Programming changes from week to week and has included diverse topics ranging from cannabis to Virtual Reality to a look into the periodic table with Everything Matters. Participatory playfulness is always encouraged, especially for adults.
Museum offerings are as diverse and eclectic as they come and they’re always changing. Programming features scientists, artists, lecturers, musicians, poets and chefs. There is always something new to discover and varied ways to consume new information and learn.
Location, Location, Location
The Exploratorium sits on the San Francisco Bay at Pier 15 with breathtaking views of the Bay Bridge, in addition to the downtown skyline and the city’s waterfront. It’s also conveniently located; it's a short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, downtown and AT&T Park and close to multiple forms of public transportation including BART, cable car lines and ferries.
Only in food-centric San Francisco would restaurants be a draw at a science museum, but the Exploratorium features two. SeaGlass is a waterside spot with stunning views. Chef Loretta Keller creates family-friendly, multicultural, locally sourced menus that showcase small producers. Sit indoors or outdoors at the Seismic Joint Café, a casual take-out spot featuring a coffee bar, baked goods, natural sodas, and more.
Come for the science, stay for the shopping. The Exploratorium’s two stores boast quite possibly the most unique, eclectic and exciting procuring experiences in San Francisco. Stores carry gadgets, games, kits, activities and books for both kids and adults that focus on science, art and technology. There’s no better place to pick up a local souvenir or gift. Both the main store on the Embarcadero and the other in the middle of the museum were inspired by the museum’s onsite workshop where all exhibits are designed and built. The main store—open to the public—even features a large, interactive Triple Vortex exhibit; a store fixture that converts into an interactive sound exhibit; and a cherry-red Art-O-Mat vending machine that dispenses original artworks.
Lovers of culture might want to plan their visit to San Francisco for the fall. Every October, the city's thriving and playful annual literary festival attracts a lineup of some of the most interesting and talented writers working today. And starting each October and extending into November, San Francisco welcomes the return of the country's oldest and longest-running open studios program, organized by ArtSpan. Here's what you need to know to experience these two beloved traditions for yourself.
What started out as a day of readings in Golden Gate Park has evolved into the largest independent literary festival on the West Coast and spread to eight cities over the past 18 years.
A celebration of San Francisco’s rich community of writers and readers, the beloved Litquake (Oct. 6-14) event serves as a forum for local talent and draws national and international authors, including Nobel and Pulitzer winners, to a lineup of mostly free events at an eclectic mix of venues all over town. Participants have included Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dave Eggers and Patti Smith, and 2017 brings Marc Maron—of the Netflix series "GLOW"—Chris Kraus and Amber Tamblyn. Highlights include a tribute to Pablo Neruda with the bookstore City Lights and a staged reading of Joan Didion’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem.”
The ultimate Litquake happening is the adults-only, booze-fueled Lit Crawl through the Mission that closes the festival (Oct. 14). The pub crawl celebrates San Francisco’s historic passion for drinking and reading with 100 venues—bars, bookstores, boutiques, galleries and even a mural-decorated alley—playing host to readings that attract nearly 10,000 people over three hours. Lovers of the written word, this is your party.
The Return of SF Open Studios
Every October and November, scores of San Francisco artists and gallerists open their doors to the art-loving public. For five weekends (Oct. 15-Nov. 12), SF Open Studios highlights neighborhoods where visitors can find printmaking shops, glass blowing studios,and every kind of exhibit imaginable. Entry to every open studio is free—unless of course, you can’t resist buying a piece.
SF Open Studios Exhibition at SOMArts
Experience over 400 unique artworks at SOMArts' SFOS exhibition representing artists from every neighborhood. Oct. 12- Nov. 11.
Detour to Dogpatch
Explore artistic pockets of the evolving, industrial Dogpatch, home to the Minnesota Street Project collective, plus studios in the oft-overlooked southern neighborhoods of Potrero Hill and Glen Park. Oct. 28-29.
Mission Open Studios
Discover dozens of working artists at 1890 Bryant Street Studios. Then enjoy a leisurely stroll to explore other neighborhood spaces including Army Lofts, Workspace and the Journal Building (1540 Market St.). Nov. 11-12.
Hunters Point Shipyard and Islais Creek Artists
Only open three times a year to the public, the Hunters Point Shipyard & Islais Creek Artists Open Studios is a unique opportunity to view work by over 400 visual artists, musicians and writers who work in the nation’s largest artist collective, located on a former U.S. naval base with beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay. Oct. 14-15.
Major museums and Union Square galleries are only two of many exciting ways to experience art in San Francisco. In the past year, several major new spaces have completed renovations or opened for the first time, offering ever more opportunities to explore the Bay Area’s rich history through the arts in both visual multimedia exhibits and music. From ambitious city galleries to rehabbed barracks on the bluffs in Marin, there are new San Francisco spaces and centers to suit just about any art-lover’s tastes.
Head to the Headlands
Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area since its founding in 1982, the Headlands Center for the Arts has been an inspiring destination in the windswept coastal wilderness across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco for 35 years.
In August, the new artist-led renovation project was unveiled at the historic nine-building campus, which supports multidisciplinary arts programming and offers a popular in-residence program to artists of all stripes, from writers to photographers. A dozen alumni from the program have received MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships, and many more have accepted some of the highest honors in their various disciplines. Check the calendar for artist talks, panel discussions and hands-on opportunities to make art with some of the area’s masters.
For Students and For All
Fort Mason continues to evolve as an arts destination with the opening of the new $50 million San Francisco Art Institute—SFAI—campus.
Housed on a 67,000-square-foot renovated pier, the massive studio and exhibition space juts into the San Francisco Bay, offering panoramic views of the water from what was once a World War II Pacific theater embarkation point. With this exciting expansion, SFAI has created 160 art studios for students, and for the public, several new free exhibition spaces.
One eye-catching attraction: the Mural Wall, which will feature rotating artist commissions. The inaugural mural by alumna and SFAI faculty member Alicia McCarthy will be displayed through 2019.
With an emphasis on free, dynamic programming in recent years, the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture has drawn art aficionados to the north side of the city with its major artist retrospectives and small galleries dotted all over the 13-acre former U.S. Army post. One exciting new exhibition, "Sanctuary," opens Oct. 7 and presents prayer rugs made by 36 artists from more than 20 countries, all riffing on the physical and psychological notions of sanctuary—and located, appropriately, in the Fort Mason Chapel.
When heading to Fort Mason, make sure to check the schedules at the exciting arts venues in the area, including the Magic Theatre playhouse, a Bay Area institution celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. And every Friday night through Oct. 20, check out the nation’s largest food truck extravaganza at Off the Grid, where piping hot fusion cuisine and cold brews on tap pair perfectly with the city’s late summer fog and free music performances offered most Friday evenings.
The Poster Child for a New Art Center
At the new two-story, 12,000-square-foot Haight Street Art Center, poster art production, history and education are the full-color focus. A giant bronze rabbit marks the entrance to this Lower Haight neighborhood gallery, which functions as a sort of living history center, complete with scanners and printers in a print shop that can be accessed by anyone, famous artist or curious visitor off the street.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, the center’s inaugural exhibition, "The Art of Consciousness," features nearly 100 psychedelic posters from the late 1960s creativity explosion that rocked San Francisco. The permanent collection continues to offer plenty of eye candy. Before visiting, be sure to check out the center’s class calendar which offers opportunities for visitors to test their own far out silk screen-printing techniques.
Since opening its doors last year, the range of galleries in the three warehouses that comprise the Minnesota Street Project have attracted excited guests and drawn rave reviews. With the recent announcement that Chronicle Books executive and SFMOMA trustee Nion McEvoy will display his personal collection of photographs and other artworks in one of the galleries, there is ever more reason to make a detour to the Dogpatch.
On view through Oct. 28, the group exhibition "Soil Erosion" offers visitors an array of works by more than 20 contemporary artists exploring themes of erosion in land, liberty, culture and loss of desire. With the recent opening of famed Bay Area chef Daniel Patterson’s latest Alta location in the Minnesota Street Project, the spacious galleries and adjacent local businesses have become a destination for a night out or a leisurely weekend afternoon adventure.
The Walt Disney Family Museum: "Awaking Beauty: The Art of Eyvind Earle" is this gorgeous Presidio museum’s 18th original exhibition, highlighting the artist who worked on "Sleeping Beauty," "Lady and the Tramp" and "Peter Pan." Through Jan. 8, 2018.
SFMOMA: The only U.S. presentation of a major retrospective of the work of photographer Walker Evans traces his signature documentary style over five decades, including more than 300 prints, many from the artist’s personal archive. Sept. 30-Feb. 4, 2018.
Contemporary Jewish Museum: "Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist As Maggid" collects the work of 16 contemporary artists who act as modern-day maggids—wise storytellers—to reimagine tales from Jewish folklore. Sept. 28-Jan. 28, 2018.
Asian Art Museum: The nation’s first exhibition presenting Philippine art from the pre-colonial period to the present, "Philippine Art: Collecting Art, Collecting Memories" also commemorates this museum’s recent acquisition of 25 compelling works for its permanent collection. Through March 11, 2018.
SFO Museum: Depending on your departure gate, check out the latest exhibits from the world-class SFO Museum. Current displays showcase the history of United Airlines, shoes of world cultures and the evolution of the typewriter.
It was 1850 when the first commercial grapes were planted in Napa Valley and only a few short years later Samuel Brannan—San Francisco’s first millionaire—built a rail line to bring his wealthy friends to his resort spa in Calistoga in 1864.
Posh and luxurious was the ride from San Francisco via Vallejo to Calistoga. Through the decades, motorcars became the chosen form of transportation and the rail line became obsolete. Thanks to the loving care of “The Society for the Preservation of the Napa County Railroad,” Lou Schuyler—a retired Southern Pacific engineer—and Vincent DeDomenico—inventor of Rice-A-Roni—the Napa Valley Wine Train was born.
Their mission was to restore the quintessential beauty and decadence of traveling by private rail car with white glove service, passion for excellence and exceptional cuisine. Of course—being in Napa—fine wines would be the celebrated icons on the Napa Valley Wine Train.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to travel back to that time in the late 1800’s when opulence and service were paramount? Thanks to the loving care of Napa Valley Wine Train, it's now possible.
What to Expect During Your Ride
On one of the many journeys you get a rarified glimpse into the intimate and decadent lifestyle of the cultured affluent from a century ago. The train has superbly united the lavish old-world style of traveling by first-class trains with the personal touch of private VIP winery tours and intimate opportunities to meet the elusive wine makers who have crafted the exceptional elixirs that are served on board. Of course, every train adventure is accompanied by world-class gourmet meals prepared on the train.
Tours and Winery Access
Every day, the Napa Valley Wine Train leaves the station on a grand tour, each different and very unique. The most popular tours are the six-hour "Quattro Vino" tours with three distinct winery itineraries to choose from. While lounging like royalty in elegantly appointed cars with names like “Champagne Vista Dome” and “Le Petite Gourmet Dining Car” guests enjoy breathtaking views of Napa Valley vineyards while savoring a delicious, four-course meal.
The train stops at prestigious wineries where guests are given exclusive back stage access to areas of the wineries that are not open to the public. The wineries all have unique stories that are shared by the wine makers during the private tours. Each tour ends with a premium wine tasting created especially for the honored Napa Valley Wine Train guests.
Special Events on the Train
Murder Mystery Dinner Theater
For those who enjoy a bit of drama, the Napa Valley Wine Train hosts a monthly, Agatha Christie-influenced Murder Mystery Dinner Theater where guests are encouraged to come in costume. The fun starts at the station where guests are given clues to what will happen on board the train that night. This entertaining and interactive theater ride is a three-hour journey aboard the "Vintage Train" and includes a multi-course gourmet dinner where guests get lost in the intrigue of the evening.
Rock the Rails concerts
To celebrate harvest season, the Napa Valley Wine Train is hosting special events throughout the autumn months. The most anticipated are the "Rock the Rails" concert series showcasing Sheila E. in September and David Pack’s Legends in October. These concerts are a rare opportunity to hear world-class music while experiencing the joys of the Napa Valley Wine Train.
Meet the Maker
Keeping with its intimate and opulent lifestyle, the Wine Train features "Meet the Maker" events where winemakers from local wineries ride with guests on a four-hour wine pairing adventure in the "Private Reserve Train." The wine makers bring on board premium vintages that are not available to the public. While the train rolls through the lush vineyards of Napa, the wine makers take the guest on fascinating wine tastings voyages filled with stories of each wine’s creation and unique essence.
Twilight Dinner Series
During the next few months, the Wine Train and Raymond vineyards have partnered to host the "Twilight Dinner Series." This incredibly decadent evening includes appetizers and wine pairings on the train traveling northbound to Rutherford Station, followed by a private tour of Raymond Vineyard and then a two-course Epicurean feast that is set in one of the magnificent rooms at Raymond. Jean-Charles Boisset, the legendary wine czar and owner of Raymond enchants guests with his ebullience and enthusiasm for wine and food during this exclusive evening. The escapade ends with dessert served on the train heading back to the station.
In November and December, Santa comes to town with daily visits on the Napa Valley Wine Train. Children and adults alike are entertained at the station with delightful characters that lead them onto the train where Santa is waiting to give each child a stuffed teddy bear. The train is transformed into an enchanted winter wonderland and a light meal and hot chocolate are served on the hour and a half escapade. Guests are encouraged to bring an unwrapped new toy that will be lovingly donated to Napa county foster children through Ticket to Dream Foundation. The Santa Train has become a celebrated tradition loved by all ages.
Just about an hour north of San Francisco by car, the under-the-radar town of Sebastopol in western Sonoma County makes a compelling day trip. The community-minded town has great food, wine and art, all three of which can be enjoyed in a former apple processing plant turned giant maker hub in the middle of town.
The Best Restaurants in Sebastopol
Founded by Sebastopol native Lowell Sheldon, Handline is a locavore’s paradise, with a menu that include sustainably-sourced beer battered fish tacos stuffed inside freshly milled corn tortillas, and locally harvested mushrooms in green garlic butter, fresh corn and summer squash blossom salad.
Local farmers and ranchers are also on display at Ramen Gaijin, where house-pulled noodles in a brothy soup serve as a great starter. But the black sesame ice cream is what really makes it worth the visit. To keep it more casual, Hole in the Wall serves California comfort food, including a villager’s style soup with slices of golden and red beets, cabbage and potatoes topped with Angus short rib and sour cream, along with a selection of savory and sweet crepes.
The Best Places to Drink
With a bespoke line of organic ciders sources from apple orchards around the area, Horse & Plow offers a sweet alternative to wine. Served up in a polished tasting room outfitted with two glass bottle chandeliers and a wood-burl bar, cider (and wine) flights freely flow on tap. For more traditional Pinots that are characteristic of the region, Freeman Winery offers balanced, elegant cool climate wines, by one of the few female Japanese winemakers, Akiko Freeman.
Where to Shop
Vintage picks curated for hipsters, theme parties and festivals are abound at Aubergine Vintage Emporium, where the inventory runs the gamut. This is the place for anything from tribal jewelry to second-hand designer jeans to homemade quilts. For gift ideas to take back home, it doesn’t get sweeter than Beekind, a honey store owned by a beekeeping husband-and-wife team that sells food treats, candles, body care and medicinal products of all kinds.
The Best Things to Do in Sebastopol
The Barlow, where a collection of creative eateries, breweries, wineries and artisans coexist, is partially responsible for securing Sebastopol’s position as the arts and culture hub of western Sonoma County. Every third Thursday, the 12-acre outdoor market district comes to life for an evening of music and local performances.
You can hang with a treat from Sub Zero Ice Cream, keep up your juice cleanse at The Nectary or shop for adorable trinkets at Littlefour. While vineyards have replaced many of Sebastopol’s vast orchards, the Gravenstein Apple Fair continues to celebrate the city’s founding produce. No worries if you miss the festival, Gravenstein Apples are available throughout the summer and fall at the Sunday Sebastopol Farmers’ Market.
Independent boutiques, open-air coffee vendors and yummy eats await you in this trendy neighborhood that stretches along Hayes Street. At the heart of this community you’ll find Patricia’s Green, a small park that buzzes with people and features rotating public art installations. Some of the city’s most beloved performing arts groups, including the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet, also call Hayes Valley home.
Where to Shop
Pick up unique home decor items, gifts and clothing made by local artists at Gather, then head over to Timbuk2 for custom messenger bags, totes or backpacks crafted at its factory in the Mission District. Nearby, Marine Layer is known for its soft, locally designed casual wear—this location also has a mystery T-shirt vending machine offering shirts at a discount. Shoppers looking for high-end threads will find dapper menswear by French designer Emile Lafaurie at SEAN, fine European lingerie at Alla Prima and stylish, eco-conscious staples at Amour Vert.
The Best Places to Drink in Hayes Valley
Right off of Patricia’s Green Park, Ritual serves up locally roasted and meticulously sourced espressos, pour-overs and lattes from inside a re-purposed shipping container. This square is also home to Biergarten, a Bavarian-style outdoor beer garden where you can people watch and try a rotating menu of draft brews from around the world. California reds and whites are poured alongside vermouth and small bites at Fig & Thistle, an intimate, dimly lit space with a rustic-chic ambiance.
Carnival-inspired comfort food is the main attraction at Straw. Menu highlights include a donut burger that has been featured on the Food Network, mini corn dogs with raspberry dijon and a cotton candy of the day. Try to get a seat in the Tilt-A-Whirl booth.
The romantic, French-influenced Jardinière offers European twists on Californian cuisine for those with finer palates, as does Plaj, where you can find innovative Scandinavian dishes made from seasonal and local ingredients. Sweet tooths should pop into Miette Patisserie, a charming bakery crafting gourmet confections, cakes and some of the city’s best macarons; an added bonus: the macarons do not contain any artificial ingredients or food coloring.
While downtown Oakland is home to the city’s stately civic institutions, uptown is where locals gather for post-work revelry. A bustling hub during the 1930s that waned after attention shifted to the suburbs, uptown Oakland is experiencing a vibrant revitalization. In 2009, Oakland dubbed it the Arts and Entertainment District for the neighborhood’s many eateries, galleries and venues housed in gloriously restored historic buildings.
Where to Shop
Uptown owes some of its recent reemergence to Oakland First Fridays, a monthly art bash that fills sidewalks and galleries with a fashionable crowd. For a taste of the city’s flourishing art scene, head to 25th Street where a cluster of galleries such as Vessel Gallery exhibit local artists. At Turtle & Hare, husband-and-wife design team Monica Reskala and Christopher Weiss outfit a sleek, airy showroom with their handcrafted wood furnishings in addition to a selection of refined tableware, stationery and jewelry.
The Best Things to Do
Find dazzling Art Deco gems such as the Fox Theater, a richly detailed 1928 Moorish-themed movie palace that today hosts acts such as Metallica and The Roots. While the Fox no longer screens movies, you can catch second-run flicks over pizza and beer at The New Parkway, a comfy theater that eschews theater seating for vintage sofas and diner booths.
The Best Restaurants and Bars in Uptown
One of the neighborhood’s most atmospheric eateries, Drakes Dealership, stripped the roof off of a retro brick-wall auto shop and transformed it into an open-air beer garden with fire pits, trees and a whopping 32 brews on tap. For cocktails, head to The Double Standard, where meticulous drinks such as a spiced Pimm’s Cup are best enjoyed on a delightful back patio with picnic tables tucked under towering redwood trees.
It’s hashtags and hash browns at The Gastropig, thanks to the signature "#Baconslut" sandwich—a brioche roll stuffed with bacon, cheddar, chili aioli and a gooey over-easy egg—served alongside a crispy waffle-iron hash brown. At Kured, a new lunch pop-up inside hip Spanish spot Duende, executive chef and owner Paul Canales dishes up sandwiches with homemade sausage, including a harissa-spiced Merguez made with Sonoma lamb.
Japanese influences at upscale diner Hopscotch mean you’ll swap traditional eggs and bacon for custardy shoyu eggs with pork belly and kimchi fried rice. And while the steaming bowls of noodles and savory broths are a hit at Itani Ramen, the most fun might be the restaurant’s dessert vending machine that’s stocked with technicolor packages of Japanese frozen treats.
The stretch of Waverly Place connecting Clay and Sacramento streets in San Francisco’s Chinatown provides a quiet parallel to Grant Avenue, a lively lane of gift shops, clothing stores and cafes to the east. When Brandon Jew brought his first solo venture to the former Four Seas Restaurant space, he moved the main entrance from Grant to an understated Waverly Place storefront. He then refurbished ornate lotus chandeliers from the old Four Seas, and outfitted the airy, updated dining room with custom tables, Chinese pottery, potted palms and pops of jade green.
Jew opened Mister Jiu’s in April 2016. Just six months later, the soft-spoken chef earned a Michelin star.
“Chef/owner Brandon Jew has brought some of the sparkle back to Chinatown with this contemporary treasure,” reads the Michelin review, “[putting] a modern Californian spin on the Cantonese classics that once made the neighborhood a national dining destination.”
Jew, who grew up in San Francisco’s Sunset district, chose Chinatown for his cocktail bar and kitchen because of personal connections to the neighborhood.
“It’s exciting to be in the old Four Seas space. My uncle got married upstairs, and there were lots of celebrations here when I was a kid,” he said. “With our restoration, we tried to retain as much of the building’s original soul as possible.”
Tradition informs both the design and the menu at Mister Jiu’s. Jew mixes classic flavors and modern techniques learned through his culinary experiences in Italy, Shanghai and San Francisco. Inspired by his work with respected local chefs like Quince’s Michael Tusk and Judy Rodgers, the late chef-owner of Zuni Cafe, Jew also puts a global spin on seasonal, Bay Area ingredients.
“I felt like it was time for someone to serve California elements in a Chinese context,” he said. “It’s how my grandma shopped for dinner, going to seven or eight stores looking for one special thing. It’s about relationships, and knowing where to find the best ingredients.”
“In Chinatown, people shop the markets in the morning and cook those ingredients at home that night. Why can’t we do that with Chinese restaurants?” said George Chen, founder and executive chef of China Live. His Chinatown food hall opened on Broadway in early 2017, complete with a market-driven cafe, beverage bar, tea counter and culinary retail shop, plus an upstairs cocktail lounge and fine dining venue.
Chen and his wife, Cindy Wong-Chen, explored Asia in search of sustainable, humanely produced goods and equipment for the 30,000-square-foot, Eataly-inspired space. The ground-floor Market Restaurant and Bar Central seats diners at tables and chairs made from reclaimed Northern Chinese elm. Hand-painted blue and white tiles in the Oolong Cafe reflect a style of ceramics popular in 14th-century China. Illustrated posters and rice sacks gathered during the Chens’ travels adorn the walls.
From a bright chrysanthemum salad sprinkled with star fruit vinegar, to slow-simmered broth crafted in an imported ceramic cauldron, the menu spotlights what George Chen calls “traditional recipes with a San Francisco twist.”
“We change our menu daily, and we named this destination ‘China Live’ because we wanted to create a vibrant platform where people can try new things,” he said. “With San Francisco booming and Chinatown being right here in the heart of the city, the time was right for this project.”
Three to Try at China Live
The China Live retail market carries sauces, spices, noodles, cookbooks, kitchenware and a number of other culinary goods. These three items are among many noteworthy options.
- Bay Area chocolate maker Karen Urbanek worked with Cindy Wong-Chen to create a special selection of Flying Noir chocolates for China Live.
- Extra Virgin Camellia Tenuifolia (Tea) Oil is a mild alternative to olive oil that works well in Asian dishes and non-Mediterranean recipes.
- Tea mugs and teapots designed for China Live make it easy to properly seep, strain and sip the perfect blend. Loose-leaf teas are also available for purchase.
Chef Brandon Jew's Chinatown
What are your favorite childhood memories of Chinatown?
On weekends, my grandma would take me shopping in Chinatown. She was really particular about where she bought things. We went from one place to the next as fast as we could, so that we could get home and get cooking. That kind of energy still exists in Chinatown—it’s very busy, very bustling, and I love that about this area.
Where in the neighborhood do you like to eat?
Golden Gate Bakery has an egg custard tart that’s so good, especially when it’s hot. I’ll sometimes go to City View for dim sum, and I sometimes have lunch at Hon’s Wun-Tun House. I love the counter and the people who work there. It’s great how a bowl of wonton is so simple and satisfying.
What makes Chinatown a fit for your business?
There’s a lot of inspiration in this neighborhood. We’re just trying to continue the legacy of this building and make it a place where people celebrate. I wake up every day thinking about how we’re doing and how we can do it better.
More people made their way to Sacramento in 2016 than ever before. It's no wonder, given the number of microbreweries, farm-to-table restaurants and health-conscious attractions popping up in this lively but laid-back city. And from the new Golden 1 Center to a number of new hotels on the horizon, Sacramento is only continuing its upswing. Here's what you don't want to miss.
There's a new way to maximize your travel time between Los Angeles and San Francisco. And it doesn't require you store up on snacks, laden yourself with caffeine and make sure your phone has enough juice to keep your nav running.
Cabin, a startup that's a pod hotel on wheels, whisks travelers through California.
All images ©Cabin
If New York is the king of foodie cities, San Francisco is definitely the queen.
In 2017 the Bay City matched the Big Apple in number of three-star Michelin restaurants—six each—when Quince got a bump from two to three stars. These are the brightest of San Francisco's Michelin-starred restaurants.
Benu, Three Stars
The Michelin Guide inspectors lauded Chef Corey Lee's sleek, slate gray dining room as much as the masterpieces parading from the kitchen. The menu has Asian influences and has included dishes like the thousand-year-old quail egg on ginger cream.
Quince, Three Stars
Michael Tusk's sophisticated take on traditional Italian fare earned the guide's highest award this year. The tasting menu changes daily, but may feature tortellini with umami and red kuri squash, a ricotta-filled favioli in butter sauce, or savory sea urchin.
Saison, Three Stars
The atmosphere at Chef Joshua Skenes' Saison is elegant with a prix-fixe menu that can feature upward of 20 courses with obsessive attention to detail.
The Restaurant at Meadowood, Three Stars
Take a drive out to Napa Valley for dinner at The Restaurant at Meadowood. The Michelin Guide inspectors describe the restaurant's atmosphere as "wine-country chic" with each course vying to outdo the last. The 950 wines available offer perfect compliment to the creative dishes.
Manresa, Three Stars
A meal at Manresa might begin with savory petit fours, move to black cod filet with Brussels sprouts, finishing with pumpkin puree with chocolate crémeux and sherry vinegar. Chef David Kinch expertly blends European traditions and American ingenuity at this Los Gatos restaurant where he collaborates with local farms to get the best ingredients daily.
The French Laundry, Three Stars
Chef Thomas Keller's Napa Valley restaurant is notoriously difficult to book with good reason; booking at least two months in advance is recommended to experience this legendary dining experience, one of the world's best for more than 20 years. Choose from two nine-course, seasonal tasting menus or a vegetarian option.
Lazy Bear, Two Stars
The dining experience at chef David Barzelay's Lazy Bear is a dinner party; he cooks and entertains guests while personally presenting the courses. Guests—seated at two communal tables—sample delectables like lightly seared Miyazaki rib-eye with Asian pear and bone marrow-pumpkin pureé.
Acquerello, Two Stars
Dinner at this old-school Italian restaurant is a formal occasion. Each prix-fixe menu comes with a well-crafted wine selection; choose three, four or five courses. Savor the pasta with a tableside shaving of white truffle and finish with a decadent dessert like almond milk-panna cotta topped with crushed almonds.
Atelier Crenn, Two Stars
"Poetic" is a word often used to describe Chef Dominique Crenn's culinary style. The world's first two-star Michelin chef—a title she earned in 2016—presents dishes that are as pretty as they are delicious, ordered from menus that read like poems. The Michelin Guide inspectors hailed her talent with seafood as "otherworldly," particularly the lobster swimming in tangy and citrusy shiso broth.
Baumé, Two Stars
Chef Bruno Chemel serves up an eight-course, seasonal tasting menu of traditional French dishes in creative interpretations. Think ice cream dropped in kabocha soup and cauliflower mousse garnished with tiny broccoli bouquets.
Campton Place, Two Stars
At Campton Place—inside the Taj Campton Place Hotel—chef Srijith Gopinathan blends Californian and Indian cuisines served on charcoal-glazed ceramics. "The Spice Pot," a traditional street food, is the signature dish and features buttermilk foam, tamarind chutney, chickpea crackers, English peas, spiced potatoes, mint snow and fried quinoa.
Commis, Two Stars
Chef James Syhabout's unassuming restaurant stays packed for the chef's sophisticated eight-course tasting menu. The menu might include scallops with créme fraîche, roasted abalone with artichoke heart or slow poached egg in alium puree with dates.
Coi, Two Stars
This modern seafood restaurant in North Beach offers one tasting menu for dinner. Chef Matthew Kirkley uses classic French influences to create an exquisite eight- to 12-course menu featuring dishes like Dungeness crab with grapefruit, champagne and bay leaf and carrots roasted in coffee with mandarin, roman mint.
The newly renovated San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), located in the heart of the Yerba Buena cultural district on 3rd Street, is one of the world’s largest museums of modern and contemporary art.
Designed by international architects Snøhetta, a new 10-story addition triples the museum’s gallery space, includes expansive art-filled free zones and enhances the dining and shopping options.
Among the many iconic works on view is the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, one of the world's greatest private collections of modern and contemporary art. The collection includes exceptional works by Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Gerhard Richter and Agnes Martin. The museum’s permanent collection—housed in 170,000 square feet of exhibition space—includes over 33,000 works of painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design and media arts on view in lofty, spacious galleries.
So where to start? We recommend a private tour.
Choose from one of six private guided tours, lasting one hour and led by an art historian.
The SFMOMA Highlights Tour combines an overview of the recently transformed museum with highlights of the museum’s collection. Explore must-see masterpieces such as Matisse’s “Femme au Chapeau” and Frieda Kahlo’s “Frieda and Diego.” Conquer the heights of the Oculus Bridge, breathe in the Living Wall’s 19,000 plants and admire the breathtaking beauty of the multiple outdoor terraces.
The tour of the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection guides visitors through one of the greatest private collections in the world given by the founders of the Gap. In dedicated galleries on three floors, the Fisher Collection offers “mini-museums” of the works of artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Gerhard Richter, Agnes Martin, Andy Warhol and Chuck Close in gallery suites dedicated to American Abstraction, Pop Art, Minimalism and Figurative work and Post War German Artists.
The Painting and Sculpture Collection Tour is an exploration of SFMOMA’s exceptional permanent collection of paintings, sculpture, and works on paper from the early 1900s to the present. Take a closer look at the foundations of the museum’s collection with works such as Marcel Duchamp’s conceptual “Fountain”—a ceramic urinal—Mark Rothko’s shimmering “No. 14,” and Jackson Pollack’s early work “Guardian of the Secret.” Learn out how SFMOMA earned its title as the first West Coast museum dedicated to modern art.
The Pritzker Center for Photography Tour, the largest space devoted to the medium at any art museum in the U.S., provides an overview of the museum’s photography collection. SFMOMA was one of the first museums to recognize and collect photography as an art form and their exceptional collection includes 17,000 work from the beginning of photography to work by currently practicing photographers. Be sure to stop in the Photography Interpretive Gallery and try some hands on experiences designed to teach visitors about the photographic process and history.
The SFMOMA Architecture Tour guides visitors through the Snøhetta-designed expansion of the new SFMOMA building—from inspiration to construction—and the challenges faced in designing what is now the largest museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art in the United States. See how San Francisco was incorporated into the design and learn insider tips about the making of this spectacular building.
The Special Exhibition Tour, Edvard Munch: Between the Clock and the Bed, If “The Scream” is the only thing you know about this iconic artist, this is the tour for you. Featuring 44 paintings from collections around the world, including seven never before seen in the US, this exhibition chronicles the career of one of the 20th century’s most iconic artists. Learn about Munch’s obsession with certain themes and subjects, his revolutionary painting style and how he painted his emotions into the works. Highlights of this tour include “The Dance of Life” (1925) and “Sick Mood at Sunset: Despair” (1892), a painting that paved the way for “The Scream.” Available through Oct. 9.
Private guided tours are available for groups of all sizes, and start at $35 per adult ($45 for the special exhibition), which includes admission. For full pricing and details, go to sfmoma.org/groups.
Break out your halter tops and pedal pushers; you can now experience camping near Yosemite National Park in the retro glory of a 34-foot Airstream trailer.
It's available at the family-friendly Yosemite Pines Resort, a scant 22 miles from Yosemite's western gate.
The Airstream recalls the heyday of the American road trip, when families took to the open road, making merry in their aluminum house on wheels. The restored "Silver Bullet" is chock full of amenities: a linen awning that creates a "front porch," a sofa sleeper, range, retro-style coffee maker, bathroom with shower and flat-screen TV with Blu-Ray player.