MY SAN FRANCISCO HIT LIST
San Francisco seems to have it all—homey neighborhoods, cozy cafés, beautiful nature within city limits, and amazing restaurants featuring local produce. And as of late, New York's late winter cold, grey streets have been getting the best of me, and I've been feeling stuck in a bit of a slump. As much as I love New York City, I've slowly learned that in order to stay in love with the city, it's important to leave it every once in a while. So when I had a week off of school, an escape to the other side of the country sounded ideal. I'm lucky that my dad moved to San Francisco about a year ago, making it easy for me to visit a city that I'm still getting to know. It's the perfect balance of having a homey place to recharge, while filling my days with exploration.
With every visit, I start to piece together the layout of San Francisco a bit more. Bit by bit, I understand which neighborhoods are where, how to get around, and what spots I want to return to. I call my visits "urban hiking adventures," donning a good pair of sneakers and trekking up and down the hills. My GoogleMaps app is full of stars, hearts, and flags, marking places I love and places I still want to visit. And while I'm by no means a local or an expert on the city, I've found a handful of places that I want to share, in case you find yourself in the Bay Area and are looking for places for long walks, vegan cookies, a sweaty workout, or a delicious dinner.
One of my favorite parts of San Francisco is how easy it is to access the outdoors. Fresh air is single handedly my favorite way to clear my head, and between beaches, hilly hikes, and lush green parks, finding an escape from the urban areas never far away.
The Presidio: With Baker Beach on its western edge, Crissy Field on its northern edge, and more than a handful of walking trails in between, the Presidio offers plenty of options for scenic walks. You'll find loads of happy dogs running around Baker Beach and Crissy Field, which both afford beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge as well. On my most recent visit, I walked a bit of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, and came across Andy Goldsworthy's Spire—a towering sculpture paying homage to the forest.
Marin Headlands: Just across the Golden Gate Bridge, there are some stunning easy hikes and walks along the coast. When I visit my dad, we often take our dog for walks along the Coastal Trail near Rodeo Beach. I'm partial to walking here just before sunset, as it looks like the sun is diving into the Pacific, and the views of it all are unobstructed.
Golden Gate Park: This park is huge, to say the least. As in, over 1,000 acres, bigger than Central Park big. I haven't spent nearly as much time in the park as I would like to, but each walk has been peaceful and taken me by beautiful flowers and trees. It's easy to forget you're in a major city. You'll also find a handful of museums and gardens within the park.
I take café hunting very seriously—sometimes too seriously—and don't feel like I truly know a city until I can say that I have a favorite café. This is muddled by the fact that I don't like coffee, so my criteria for a perfect coffee shop is a bit different from some others. In my opinion, there should be yummy tea drinks (preferably, matcha and golden lattes), cozy seating and lots of light, and bonus points for snack options. Since I'm not looking for perfectly roasted espresso beans to fuel my day, I want to be able to curl up with a mug of something warm and a book or journal for a couple hours. There are still a handful of coffee shops I want to visit, but these are some of my favorites thus far.
As Quoted: As Quoted is my favorite of all the cafés I've visited in San Francisco. Its mostly white interior captures lots of light, and the mix of small tables and bigger communal tables make for plenty of seating options. There are always little vases with single flowers on the tables, too, which never fails to make me smile. The menu is spot on, offering sweet and savory toasts, delicious cookies, and—you guessed it—matcha and golden lattes. There are plugs if you've been walking around all day and need to charge your phone, a bathroom (a necessity when you're visiting a city and on foot most of the day), and some spots to sit outside on a sunny day. Located in Presidio Heights, As Quoted is quite far from where I stay in the city, but I love it enough to make the trek.
Beloved Café: This is a hippy, wellness haven. Copper tea tins line the shelves, a pillow-laden window seat occupies a cozy corner, and the menu is full of juices, smoothies, wellness lattes, and healthy vegan food (think creamy oatmeal and hearty grain bowls). It's the kind of place where you get the sense that the majority of clientele are regulars and that the people who work there truly care about making you something uber nourishing. It's in the Mission, and on my last walk to Beloved, I discovered a handful of wonderful boutiques along the way, making the appeal to return even higher.
Laundré: If I lived in San Francisco, I would spend lots of time at Laundré—especially if I lived in the Mission, where it's located. Not only does the café have matcha, golden milk, and a selection of toasts, sandwiches, and snacks, but it's also a laundromat. Yes, a laundromat. The main room of the café is spacious and open, with loads of counter space, a big communal table, and some couches and armchairs. But in the back, there's a laundromat. You don't need to be doing your laundry to spend time there, but if you have laundry to do, you can get work done, order a cup of coffee, or lounge on one of the couches while you wait. Apparently there's a similar concept in New York, but it's sadly nowhere near my apartment. I'd like for these to start appearing everywhere...it'd make doing laundry far more pleasant!
It's easy to do enough walking in San Francisco while visiting to not really need to do a formal workout, but if you're looking for one, there are loads of yoga studios, boot camps, and gyms. I haven't tried many, but thanks to some extra ClassPass credits and a free trial, these are my favorite ways to workout when I'm in SF.
Barry's Bootcamp: There's a Barry's in shouting distance from my dad's apartment. And while when I'm in New York, Barry's is either full on ClassPass or costs a bagillion credits, it was easy to get a spot at their location in SoMa. Since I love running, I'm a big fan of the structure of the workout, which combines treadmill sprints and hills with strengthening work on the floor. You're bound to work up a sweat, and the smoothie bar is an ideal spot to refuel afterwards, too. I'm partial to the Matcha Made in Heaven...
Core Power Yoga: I am not going to say with any authority that this is the best yoga studio in San Francisco. What I will say, however, is that it's the best option for someone on vacation in San Francisco, because your first week at Core Power is free. They offer a variety of different types of classes and a variety of different levels, too, so there's bound to be something for everyone. The studios are spacious and well equipped, and there are a few different locations around the city. Free yoga makes keeping up your yoga practice while traveling incredibly easy!
Running along the Embarcadero: I look forward to my visits to San Francisco for many reasons, but this running route is one of the bigger ones. In the morning, there's often a thick layer of fog that lingers on the Bay Bridge, while the evening light on the water is quite magical too. It's an easy spot to go for a short, easy run, or to run for miles and miles. I like mornings best, because there are far fewer tourists to dodge, but at any time of day, you're bound to spot runners out and about.
CAPITAL-H HEALTHY SPOTS
Vegan cookies, smoothie bowls, and all-natural beauty products are not hard to come by in San Francisco. In certain neighborhoods, these spots practically seem to takeover the block, too. And though I don't plan my entire trip around visiting places like these, I'm always down for a good wellness adventure.
Nourish Café: I'm not vegan, but this plant-based paradise still makes my taste buds pretty darn happy. The menu is full of veggie-centric dishes, nourishing smoothies, and desserts made with high quality, healthy ingredients. The chocolate chip cookies, for example, are made without refined sugars using ingredients like almond flour, coconut oil, and vegan chocolate chips, and are gluten-free too. My favorite dish on the menu—I think...!—is the bibimbap bowl, which is loaded with rice, tofu, chopped veggies, greens, avocado, and a delicious miso dressing. But no matter what you order, definitely order a cookie.
Credo Beauty: A couple of years ago, I read a book called No More Dirty Looks and started to think a lot more about the ingredients in the beauty products I use. Though I don't really wear makeup, I started switching out my deodorant, face wash and moisturizer, shampoo, and body wash for products made without harmful chemicals. It can be stressful to try to distinguish green-washed products from genuinely clean products, though, so having a store like Credo that curates their products accordingly makes the process loads easier. Plus, the sunny storefront on Fillmore Street is surrounded by other fun shops and cafés.
Bowl'd Açai: When I'm home, I make smoothies for breakfast most mornings. Maybe it's because of my love of ice cream, but there's something I find super satisfying about spoonfuls of thick, creamy smoothies. So when I heard there was a smoothie bowl food truck in San Francisco, I had to add it to my list. They have two sizes, regular and large, and three options for bowls. The "These Nuts" bowl should be ordered by anyone who loves peanut butter (Me! Me! Me!), as it comes topped with a very generous drizzle of nut butter among other toppings. Bowl'd also has poké bowls on their menu, and some juice and smoothie options too.
Sage Wellness: Walking into this Vancouver-based essential oil and skin care shop on Fillmore Street (same as Credo!) feels like letting your senses take a hot, soothing bath. There are essential oils steaming out of beautiful diffusers and loads of lotions, essential oil blends, and other holistic wellness products to sample. The store is full of light and they have lots of remedies for different qualms of traveling and urban living. I've used their Peppermint Halo blend for headaches and their Gutzy blend for my digestion troubles, and have had wonderful experiences with both. Whether or not you want to buy something, though, it's a fun store to peruse.
There is a long list of San Francisco restaurants that I want to — and have yet to — try in the notes application on my phone, but my taste buds have also been treated to some really wonderful food on past visits. It can be overwhelming to try to choose a place to eat with so many options, so here is just a short selection of restaurants serving really delicious food. And if you have favorite Bay Area eateries, please please let me know so I can check them out next time I'm there!
Little Gem: This restaurant was recommended to me by one of my favorite cookbook authors on one of my first trips to San Francisco. My dad and I sat outside in the early August evening sun, enjoying in-season grilled corn, chilled glasses of wine, and really delicious entrees. Mine, pictured above, was a Hen of the Woods Mushroom bowl over jasmine rice, with heirloom beans, tomato stew, kale, and a poached egg. Hi, yum, more please! Local, in season produce is important to the founders and it shows on the menu and on the plate. For a nice but not overly fancy dinner, this would be my favorite!
Jane on Fillmore: I wasn't quite sure whether to put Jane under cafés or restaurants, because it's sort of both. I've sat and enjoyed a cup of matcha while writing in my journal, and also have been for lunch. But the food is worth ordering, so I settled on filing it here. You order at the counter and pick your table, so it's certainly casual, and the perfect spot for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. There's something on the menu for everybody, whether you want an egg sandwich or a "Happy Hippy Bowl" salad. The cookies are pretty darn delicious too, and it's located on the same street, and same great neighborhood, as Sage and Credo!
Gracias Madre: Vegan Mexican food in San Francisco should be on your list of food-ventures, whether you're vegan or not (as in, I'm not, and I still love it)! Their space in the Mission is always buzzing with people, the chips and guac are a necessity, and the menu is full of plant-based takes on the classics—enchiladas, tamales, tacos, etc. They make their own cashew cheeses and cremas, and source their produce seasonally from their farm in Pleasants Valley.
Café Réveille: This is another great spot for a casual breakfast or lunch. The Mission Bay location is sunny, colorful, and has plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. They serve tasty egg dishes, sandwiches, and toasts, and have plenty of juices, teas, and coffees on the menu too. I went to Café Réveille straight from the airport, and also ordered some sort of turmeric-citrus shot to help my body get rid of some of that in-flight inflammation. It's also an easy spot to pop into by yourself, as it feels like a café-restaurant hybrid.
Tartine Manufactory: Disclaimer—I haven't eaten a full meal at Tartine Manufactory, but still wanted to put it on this list. Why? For one, I have had pastries from their takeaway counter, and they are absolutely divine. The lemon poppy-seed cake and the chocolate chip cookie should most certainly be consumed if you're able to visit. And the sit down restaurant is at the top of my list of places to go when I'm next in San Francisco. It's housed in a beautiful warehouse space that's also home to the beautiful Heath Ceramics and their dreamy newstand (where I spent an absurd amount on food and travel magazines...let's call that vacation necessities?), and they serve their food on Heath dishes too. Everything from the menu to the atmosphere looks lovely, plus a few of my friends have recommended it, so there are plenty of reasons to add it to your list too!
If you've been to or live in San Francisco, let me know what your favorite hidden gems are in the comments below! I would love to know your favorite spots for hikes, cocktails, exploring, or brunch.