EAT: For the quintessential San Francisco dining experience in a chic and urban space, book a table at Bacar restaurant (with its 1200-bottle wine collection) in the SoMa (South of Market) district, and go early (or stay late) to enjoy a drink in its lounge, bacar below, a favourite spot for locals to sip classic cocktails inspired by historic jazz spots like The Cotton Club, plus there’s live jazz every weekend (www.bacarsf.com). A new comer to the SF dining scene is Terzo, a vibrant, authentically European-designed restaurant serving up tapas and Euro-meets-Northern California cuisine (www.terzosf.com). Straits Restaurant, in the downtown Westfield shopping centre, serves upscale Singaporean dishes and is buzzing at night (it’s open until 2am at weekends – www.straitsrestaurants.com. And overlooking the Ferry Building Marketplace and Bay Bridge, is the Michelin-starred One Market Restaurant, close to the Financial District and Union Square www.onemarket.com
SHOP: Check out the Castro area, one of America’s first ‘gay villages’ for quirky shops, boutiques and menswear for metrosexuals, before heading to the souvenir and bong shops of Haight-Ashbury, where you can also pick up alternative and club clobber in the likes of XGeneration boutique. The Downtown area, around Union Square, is home to all the big name department stores, including Macy’s and Neiman-Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, but be sure to bring your credit card, especially when it’s sale time. Union Square is also home to a fab branch of Anthropologie, a US-wide chain selling fashion and homeware, which is like Avoca only more so. The Mission district is a hot spot for vintage clothing and furniture stores so head there to get your retro-fix whereas charming North Beach is all about intimate boutiques selling ditsy one-offs and more expensive antiques. San Fran natives love their bookstores, so take the time to browse in any one of a number of quirky, independent book shops.
DRINK: Pick a neighbourhood, strap on your party sandals and prepare to go bar hopping – variety is the sauce of life in San Fran. You’ll find plenty of DJs spinning tunes in bars, which means you don’t always have to fork out the entrance fee for a club. Downtown’s Bambuddha Lounge (pictured) is a style-driven sanctuary on Eddy Street, filled with beautiful people and wannabes. For a taste of the truly bizarre, check out the creepy C Bobby’s Owl Tree on Post Street, where photos of owls cover the walls. There are amazing city views from the 52nd floor Carnelian Room (pictured top), on the top of the Bank of America building on California Street, which also boasts one of the city’s largest wine collections. Saloon is the oldest bar in SF, and looks it – don’t dress up to go there, but it’s a good place to mingle with the local hipsters.
SLEEP: Sugahfix gals will love the boutique Hotel Diva, at 440 Geary Street www.hoteldiva.com (pictured left) in the centre of the city, close to Union Square, the main shopping, theatre, restaurant and commerce area. There’s a condom in the hotel room safe (how’s that for ‘safe sex’), a list of witty style tips in the bathrooms and a banner outside officially proclaiming the hotel to be ‘sexy‘, just in case you were in any doubt. The beds all feature a striking sculptured steel headboard in the shape of a wave and there’s free internet access in the Diva Lounges. Plus, it’s near the main shopping area, where you can find everything from Louis Vuitton to H&M. Other hotels in the area include the city’s original boutique resting spot, Hotel Union Square; the grand Kensington Park Hotel; the Zen-like Hotel Metropolis; the chic Maxwell Hotel; the European-style York Hotel and the sophisticated Steinhart Hotel.
THE SIGHTS: Alcatraz island, housing the famous former max-security jail, is a must see – go on a night tour for added atmosphere and great views over the city www.parksconservancy.org but book in advance as tours fill up quickly. Book a city tour with any number of operators – we liked Mr Toad Tours www.mrtoadstours.com because who doesn’t want to see the city from an open-air, pre-1930s touring car! Ride the cable car from Powell Street – it’s cheap and it’s what the locals do then take a ferry cruise around the bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge. Whatever you do, don’t pass up the chance to pop into Grace Cathedral in the prestigious Nob Hill neighbourhood. Never mind too-cool-for-school, this is too-cool-for-church, what with it being a place of worship as well as a venue for concerts (both sacred and rock), cutting-edge theatre, talks and old films. Find out what’s on at www.gracecathedral.org.
Both sites have lots of ‘insider’ tips on where to go and what to buy. I was delighted to find Spendora.com which Sugahfix.com lovers will adore! It has a brilliant City Guide section – click on San Francisco and it has everything you need to plan your shopping attack.