Hi everyone!! I am officially back from San Francisco! Sorry this post is so late — it took awhile to write!
My mom and I had an absolute blast — not that I’m surprised, we always do! We ate, drank, and pretty much we go, go, go the entire trip!
Where we ate:
I didn’t take many food pictures because many of the restaurants were dimly lit – great for ambiance, not so great for photos!
Gary Danko: Absolutely Amazing!! This restaurant is definitely pricey, but the food was incredible. It is price-fixe so my mom and I each ordered separate items and shared. I am pretty sure the menu changes seasonally – but I HIGHLY recommend the lobster and trying the Tete de Moine cheese. The macaron ice cream sandwiches were pretty wonderful too! :)
Boulevard: Another win!! This restaurant was incredible as well. My mom had the filet and I had the pork. Both were wonderful. I am also craving another bowl of their amazing cream of artichoke soup— SO GOOD!
Cha Cha Cha: This restaurant is located in Haight-Ashbury and serves the most amazing tapas and Sangria! We tried the wings, creole shrimp, mushrooms, and the pork bbq quesadillas. All of it was delicious, but the Chipotle pepper-guava glaze on the wings was unforgettable. My mom wants me to recreate them — anyone know where to get guava fruit? :)
The Stinking Rose: This restaurant is famous for its incorporation of garlic into every dish. Seriously — they even have garlic wine and garlic ice cream! We didn’t try the wine or ice cream, but the garlic brie, gnocchi, and 40 clove garlic chicken were really fantastic!! Another great thing about this restaurant — reasonable prices!
Nob Hill Cafe: Mom and I found this cute little restaurant via Yelp reviews and they certainly did not disappoint. We wanted to go to Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins Hotel and wanted to find a restaurant nearby. First, I would definitely recommend getting drinks at Top of the Mark, because the views of the city below are incredible! They only serve light fare though so Mom and I wanted something else for dinner. Nob Hill Cafe serves delicious and reasonably priced Italian food – we split an antipasta salad and then each got pasta – mom had a roasted eggplant parmesan and I had a tortellini special with a brie cream sauce and mushrooms. Both were wonderful! The portions were huge and I struggled to leave any delicious tortellini behind!
Scoma’s: Mom and I decided to try Scoma’s for lunch after taking a bus tour of the city and exploring the Fisherman’s Wharf. We each had soup – mom had a butternut and dungenous crab bisque and I tried the lobster bisque – both were good! We also split a really great prime rib sandwich that I think was a special that day. I really loved the interior – you could tell it was a longtime San Francisco tradition!
Boudin Bakery: We decided to try this delicious sourdough bread bakery after our visit to Alcatraz. It is located in the Fisherman’s Wharf area and is a huge restaurant — they have a food court area, bakery tours, and a nice restaurant upstairs. The views from the restaurant overlooking the water were gorgeous! Mom and I split a sourdough bread bowl full of dungenous crab and corn chowder — SOO GOOD!!! There was not a bit of this left – except for the outer shell of the bowl. We also split the dungenous crab louie which was shockingly light and the perfect complement to to our heavy soup.
Bottega: Bottega is owned by Michael Chiarello, a food network chef. My mom and I checked out his restaurant when we were in the beautiful town of Yountville, CA during our wine tour. My mom and I split a meat and cheese antipasta as an appetizer – it was fantastic and I really liked that it was served with almonds — they added an unexpected, but welcome twist! I had a really light linguine pasta with artichokes and mushrooms and my mom had their risotto of the day. Both were delicious and a perfect lunch portion for two hungry wine-tasters!
The Spinnaker: The Spinnaker was our last lunch of the vacation and was absolutely perfect. The Spinnaker is located in gorgeous Sausalito and is right on the water – featuring huge windows with views of Marin County, San Francisco, sailboats on the bay, and playful sea lions! This lunch was extra delicious because my mom and I had just finished an 8-mile bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge! We started our meal with perfectly chilled glasses of white wine and a cheese plate full of delicious creamy cheeses. I had a seafood caesar salad with bay scallops and baby shrimp, and my mom had a spinach salad with baby shrimp and blue cheese. We both really enjoyed our meals at this restaurant and would definitely go back!
Cafe de la Presse: This cute little French bistro was located right next to our hotel. We had two breakfasts here and one dinner. All our meals were fantastic! I tried the spinach and feta omelette on our first visit and the yogurt parfait on the second. When we tried it for dinner we both tried the french onion soup, which was delicious! Our waiter said it was “only a cup” so we both got our own – incorrect! It was definitely a crock like your typical french onion. Next time I think we would just split a bowl, but we weren’t complaining about excess french onion soup either! For dinner, I had the ahi tuna special, which was SO good!! The tuna was cooked perfectly and had a wonderful flavor. My mom tried the Beef Bourguignon — her first Beef Bourguignon experience! It was excellent!! It was also served with a delicious macaroni and cheese, which was really great!
Hollywood Cafe: This was our favorite breakfast spot. They served overflowing bowls of gorgeous fruit that were a meal in themselves — not to mention the french toast or pancakes served alongside the bowls! We had breakfast here twice and we had the same things both times. I had the pancakes which were dense and fluffy at the same time! My mom had the french toast and she loved it as well! They also had really thick sliced bacon, which we could resist. The star of the show was definitely the fruit bowl though, with everything from blackberries to kiwi! I need to find a breakfast spot like this in DC!
Wayfare Tavern: This restaurant is owned by Tyler Florence and is known for its fried chicken. Honestly, my mom and I were not overly impressed with the restaurant in general. We were seated directly next to another two-top, which is one of my pet peeves so that wasn’t helping the situation. The fried chicken was definitely good, but the portion was so huge that I felt guilty leaving so much! Seriously — five pieces of chicken per one entrée! I left feeling underwhelmed and overstuffed. If you love fried chicken I would definitely check this place out, but I won’t likely visit if I find myself in San Francisco again.
Where we stayed:
Hotel Triton: I highly recommend the Hotel Triton. It is a cute and quirky little hotel in the Union Square/Chinatown area. We were able to walk to Chinatown, Union Square’s shopping district, the cable cars, North Beach (little Italy), and the Fisherman’s Wharf! Basically almost everywhere except for the Haight and Golden Gate Park area.
Hotel Triton’s staff was so friendly and incredibly helpful. They made sure all of our tours were arranged properly, and that we either had transportation or knew how to get there if we wanted to walk.
Another bonus is that this is a Kimpton Hotel, which means they have a free wine happy hour from 5-6 PM every day! Mom and I usually missed the first half of happy hour because we were still out and about, but it was always nice to be greeted with a glass of wine before we prepared for the evening!
The hotel is also dog friendly and has a great little workout room where I did my half marathon training! (I was a little terrified to take on San Fran’s hills!!)
What we did:
Bus Tour of the City: On our first full day in the city, my mom and I decided to do a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of San Francisco through Big Bus Tours. We ended up on a bus with a live tour guide, which I would recommend as opposed to the earphone option. We stayed on the bus for the entire tour and got to go across the Golden Gate Bridge, and saw city hall, the Haight-Ashbury area, Golden Gate Park, the Fisherman’s Wharf while learning fun facts about San Francisco. This was a great way to get acquainted with the area and helped me decide which areas I wanted to go back and visit later in the week.
Alcatraz: We knew we wanted to do a tour of Alcatraz during our stay in San Fran. We also knew that the tours book up quickly so we booked this first thing after we arrived. We did the tour on our second full day in the city and had an absolutely gorgeous day to explore the island. We boarded our ferry around 11:30 AM and left for the island at noon. We watched a short 20ish minute movie first and then began the audio tour. The audio tour was actually really great and I learned lots of fun facts — like that Scarface served time there in the late 1930’s.
Closer view of Alcatraz
Wine Tasting: We arranged a small bus tour through our hotel to do a wine tasting. That way our transportation was taken care of and the wineries were predetermined. We had a seriously gorgeous day for our wine tour and it was not surprisingly one of my favorite days of the trip. We learned a lot about California wine in general – like how certain grapes like Chardonnay grow better in Sonoma because of the fog while other grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon grow better in the hotter and dryer Napa climate. In addition we learned that the best Pinot Noir (Chris’ favorite!) grow on the Oregon coast. I actually tried an awesome Oregon wine at Gary Danko called “OPP” or “Other People’s Pinot.” I need to find that again!
The wineries we visited were Viansa, Odette Estate, and Homewood.
All three of these wineries were great, but Viansa really stood out in my mind. It is located on beautiful grounds – in fact a portion of the land was donated to Ducks Unlimited in an effort to conserve the natural wildlife.
Golden Gate Park: After a full day of wine tasting my mom and I decided we needed a day with a lower intensity schedule. I really wanted to see the Japanese Tea Garden and my mom wanted to visit the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit at the de Young Museum.
The Georgia O’Keefe exhibit was really wonderful! It featured paintings that she did while staying at Alfred Stieglitz’s family estate on Lake George in upstate New York. I was happy that we decided to do the audio tour because I didn’t know a lot about her relationship with Stieglitz prior to the exhibit so it gave me a deeper understanding and helped me explain what I was seeing in the paintings! I would highly recommend visiting this exhibit. We were pretty tired after the exhibit, so we didn’t explore the rest of the de Young Museum. Next time! It looked like they had a lot of other exhibits that would be fun to explore.
We end up just enjoying the view of the Japanese Tea Garden from the outside because we were tired and hungry after the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit. It was absolutely gorgeous though and I would definitely go back to explore and sip tea!
Painted Ladies: Before my mom and I headed to Golden Gate Park we stopped by Alamo Square to see the best view of the city and the “Painted Ladies,” which were made famous by the show Full House! They were really pretty in person!! It made me want to watch Full House again!
Haight-Ashbury: After the Golden Gate Park, my mom and I walked to Haight-Ashbury, which was a beautiful walk through the park! After stopping for a fabulous lunch at Cha Cha Cha we checked out the surrounding area. It is full of really fun vintage clothing stores and other super funky stores with really fun pieces. I ended up getting a really cute white top and lavender flats and my mom got a fun pair of square toed suede shoes with rhinestone heels! We also saw where Jimmy Hendrix lived and took obligatory Haight-Ashbury photos! I would absolutely go back to Haight-Ashbury to explore more. I didn’t expect the shops to be so neat!
Where Jimmy Hendrix lived
Biking the Golden Gate Bridge: On our last day in San Francisco, my mom and I decided to bike the Golden Gate Bridge. We used Blazin’ Saddles and had a pretty good experience once we got used to the bikes! The bike ride over to the bridge wasn’t too bad – but there were definitely some “hills” that we walked up — they were more like mountains to these two flat land Delaware girls!
The views were absolutely incredible though and I am really glad we decided to bike over the bridge! The only part that was concerning was after we crossed the bridge and continued into Sausalito. There was no bike lane so you were basically just biking on the road with cars. If I was a more experienced biker I am sure I would be fine with this, but my mom and I were both very uncomfortable and ended up walking our bikes from the bridge to Sausalito. Therefore, I would definitely not recommend this as an activity to do with kids! It was a little stressful and we were both happy to park our bikes and head to lunch in downtown Sausalito.
This is definitely a must do, but maybe not a must do again! Next time, I’ll walk the bridge if I want to get the view or just take a ferry to Sausalito. ;)
Sausalito: After ditching our bikes, my mom and I set out to explore gorgeous Sausalito. This is definitely an area I would like to come back and visit again. The houses were absolutely gorgeous and all of the sailboats on the water just made it a really pleasant experience in general. We spent most of our time in Sausalito at the Spinnaker, which was great because we could enjoy the view in the air conditioning! We did get to check out a little bit of the town– there were a ton of little jewelry shops and other fun artsy stores that would be fun to visit again!
Overall, we had a really, really wonderful time in San Francisco. We could not have asked for better weather and did pretty much as much as one could do with 5 full days in a city! I hope I am able to go back again someday!