Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What should a couple of country bumpkins and/or Angelenos and/or Aussies do in SF?


Dear ESB

What should two thirtysomething country bumpkins from England do in San Francisco in early June? 

We'll be staying for 6 nights and have done a bit of research on the 'touristy' things we'd like to do - see the Golden Gate Bridge, hike in Muir Woods etc. but would love some ideas from your awesome readers.

Staying in the financial district (random I know - but it was super cheap and we're prepared to walk/catch the bus etc).

Like -
Antiques/curiosity shops
Hiking
CHEESECAKE
Indian food
American food (traditional and fusion)
Interesting baby/toy/nursery shops

Dislike -
Pretentious bars where they charge an extra $5 per drink just because the bartenders are wearing idiotic looking bow ties and flat caps
Hawkers

If any of your readers ever want advice on good hiking spots in England I'll be happy to return the favour...

Thanks ESB -

*****

First off, NEVER USE THAT FONT AGAIN. Do you srsly send all your emails in that font??

Second, I keep getting requests for San Francisco guides, and I keep ignoring them because San Francisco is my home town and I'd really like to be able to write the damn guide myself but the truth is I'm not qualified....

So. Here are a few of my favorite places in SF:

Paxton Gate = the best curiosity shop EVAR. Perfect place to buy your dad a skull.

Dosa (a few blocks from Paxton Gate) = delish, upscale Indian

Humphry Slocombe (also within walking distance) = the best, weirdest ice cream. Get the sundae with Blue Bottle Vietnamese coffee ice cream + prosciutto ice cream. Trust.

The Alembic (in the Haight) = the best cocktails, which you would most certainly deem pretentious. OH SHIT HE'S WEARING A CAP.

Eric's (in Noe Valley, where I grew up) = my old favorite Chinese restaurant. House of Nanking (in Chinatown) is also terrif.

I leave it to the current residents to offer more recommends.... Most importantly, who can recommend the best BURRITOS? La Cumbre was my jam back in the day, but I'm willing to recognize that there may be better burritos.

Note: San Francisco is the burrito capital of the world, which means you're required to eat at least two each while you're in town.


Anyone know who took the photo?

98 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I think people who try to sell you stuff on the street. (But I hope it's something to do with falcon husbandry.)

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    2. the worst 'hawking' experience i've ever had was actually in San Francisco - beware their shopping malls or you might have someone sneak up behind you and rub saltscrub on one hand while you're not looking...

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    3. If you're in San Francisco, there is no reason to be caught dead in a shopping mall.

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  2. That fucking font.

    Kate

    www.thrillofthechaise.com - New Giveaway!

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    1. The font didn't even really come through. Did you look up what MarkerFelt Thin looked like or do you really just hate a plain-jane serif that much?

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    2. It came through for me. Maybe you need it on your computer to see it.

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    3. Came through for me too

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    4. I know snarking on Kate is totally past its prime, but I was just on The Sartorialist and saw a comment from her, exact same format, and laughed my ass off.

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  3. Gravel & Gold in the mission sells all sorts of nice ceramics and prints and stuff. I love their blog too. (even though I recently saw that Jordan of the glitter cutlery bought her breast prints there. Which...I guess I'm surprised that mormons like breasts?)

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    1. I was totally shocked about the boob prints. Maybe it's a very motherlymother thing but I'm still surprised.

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    2. Those can *barely* be considered nudes. I had to squint to find the boob.

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    3. @Tonia - are you looking at the two giant purple boob prints flanking the sofa? because there's almost nothing but huge breasts in those.

      And I think they're pretty great - but not what I would have expected from either her typical vibe or a mormon blogger in general. (what do I know, though - despite the giant bus adverts, they're not a mainstream thing over here and everything I know about LDS I learned from mommy bloggers and Trey Parker.)

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    4. HOLY SHIT! I missed those the first time through. I though ya'll were talking about these. Those are some big purple boobs.

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  4. I really wish I could take credit for that photo. It's the shit.

    And what's wrong with a little pretension in your drinks? A big reason I moved to this area is because the drinks are better than just about everywhere else. There's a reason they're an extra $5.

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    1. Right? More like, what's wrong with a little quality in your drinks?

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    2. Because they don't like or want them? Because maybe they just want a freaking drink and get shit faced without the cute lil garnish and artisanal fart essence?

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    3. Wait, @Celia did you really move to the area because of the DRINKS? I'm gonna go ahead and take your margarita with an extra grain of salt because you might be kind of an outlier.......

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    4. To @Celia's defense, generally I find that the extra $5 isn't to pay for the flat caps and the bow-ties... mostly the $5 is because the ingredients are better. And honestly, that's a lot of hate coming from someone who makes questionable font choices...

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    5. wow. y'all are insufferable snobs. i love you, and i'm probably a snob myself too, but ... it's true.

      i'm guessing that OP knows the $5 is for better ingredients, but also that better ingredients are strongly correlated with flat caps and bow ties, and they just don't care for any of it?

      yeah of course there's nothing wrong with appreciating high quality "pretentious" cocktails, but some people just don't? it's like how some people really enjoy fine dining, or golf, or helicopter rides or whatever, because they're f*ng awesome and "quality" experiences... but some people just would rather do other things? it's just taste, right?

      am i crazy or is this making sense to anyone else?

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    6. Makes sense to me, Jen.

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    7. I have absolutely NO PROBLEM admitting to drink snobbery. My husband's in the liquor business, so I guess it kind of comes with the territory? I mean, we drink A LOT.

      And you're right, Jen. There are people who drink to get shit faced, and there are people who drink because they simply enjoy the ritual of drinking. I was just pointing out that the latter is incredibly enjoyable. Maybe that's something that comes with age? And honestly, I can't remember the last time I saw a bartender in a flat cap and/or bow tie... that could be a San Francisco thing. I live in Oakland where people aren't as "fancy".

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    8. Celia, I live in Oakland too! And I also can't remember the last time I saw a bartender in a flat cap and/or bow tie, but it's probably because I don't really care what they look like.

      But anyway, back to snobbery. "Comes with age..."? sorry but that also comes across as really presumptuous, implying that people who don't enjoy the ritual of drinking are young and/or immature. It's great that you have no problem admitting to snobbery, but it may not actually be as great a thing as you think...

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    9. OH EM GEE. ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?

      Lady, I said "maybe". It was merely a suggestion. And the reason I even mentioned it is because practically EVERYONE I know that's around my age or older can't drink the way they did in the good old days because we're older, and excessive drinking does fucked up shit to our bodies. It's nothing to get so worked up about, truly.

      And yes, I happen to have good taste, as does the very cool lady who writes this blog. If I'm going to be called a snob for defending that taste, then so be it, sweets. I've been called much worse.

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    10. Don't ever challenge Celia when it comes to margaritas. She makes the best margarita on the planet. No extra grains of salt needed, lady knows her booze.

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    11. @Rob Celia knows ALL HER COCKTAILS

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    12. Just chiming in tell Celia that I made it to the Layover the last time I was in Oakland and their drinks were insanely awesome. I am sometimes very jealous of your location, lady.

      Also, this argument is hilarious.

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    13. @east side bride I said, LADY KNOWS HER BOOZE, so don't you yell at me. I'll throw a burrito.

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    14. Ok yeah I'm obviously not part of this cool clique you all are in, and that's fine. And I understand the age comment now, in the sense that drinking a lot does fucked up shit to older bodies, but that wasn't clear from the way you wrote it. And you just said earlier, and I quote: "I mean, we drink A LOT." So whatever, carry on.

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    15. omg Jen is the most aggressive yet easily butt-hurt commenter.

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    16. *crying my hurt butt off*

      want me to sail the sarcasm boat by you one more time?

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    17. Team Celia!

      JK, but srsly. It's one thing if a bar is pretentious on purpose and doesn't serve a good product. It's a whole other thing to be talking about not liking quality products. To Celia's point, when I was young I drank crappy beer and well cocktails b/c the more the better. Now, I still drink A LOT (meaning very often--not shittons at a time) and I only drink good stuff.

      I think it's OK to leave cocktail bar suggestions here b/c ESB included this post for everyone who's been writing in about SF ("and/or Angelenos, and/or Aussies"). I doubt everyone hates cocktails/cocktail bars.

      (I know little about SF burritos except that I waited in a long line in the wee hours to get a very delicious burrito--I at least know it's a thing)

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  5. If you're into hiking, I highly recommend the Land's End trail. It has awesome views of the ocean, Marin, and the GG bridge (its end point). For burritos, my personal favorite at the moment is La Corneta on 23rd and Mission, in large part because I can't get enough of their spicy pickly onions. Also, a local tip on Muir Woods (which can be insanely crowded at peak times), go in the "back" way, hiking down from the Panoramic Highway. You'll have the trail pretty much to yourself and everything's really well marked so you can craft your own loop. Check out the National Park Service website for decent maps.

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  6. My husband travels to SF for business pretty regularly and always comes home bragging about the amazing food he ate...One of these times I will go with and eat the shit out of some good tacos. Last time he was there I made him promise to bring me home a box of Dynamo Donuts. He tried to overnight them to me (which was going to cost $50) but the post office told him that it's not possible to over-night to our home address (we live in the middle of no where...) and the donuts wouldn't arrive for a couple days. Everyone knows Dynamos need to be eaten fresh, so sadly he took the box to his meeting and made a bunch of guys in suits very happy. Womp womp. Anyway, eat a Dynamo for me while you're there! :)

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  7. I'm MORE than happy to give advice on San Francisco burritos:

    - the best "dirty" Mission burrito: El Farolito (24th and Mission) - if you eat only one burrito in SF (which you absolutely shouldn't), go here. My second favorite Mission burrito place is Taqueria Cancun on Mission and 19th.

    - the best "upscale" burrito: Papalote (24th and Valencia) - their salsa is amazing, and by "upscale" I only mean that you burrito will probably be around $9 instead of $6.

    - the best burrito outside of the Mission: Gordo Taqueria (Geary and 19th). Get the chile verde.

    Enjoy! You can also check out http://burritoeater.com/ for more burrito reviews.

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    1. My husband seconds the Taqueria Cancun on Mission suggestion. And now I want tacos in a bad way. I really need to get to SF...

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    2. I "third" the Taqueria Cancun for sure, but I'd avoid Papalote and Gordo... if you're going to visit SF from around the globe, don't eat at chain fast food restaurants!

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    3. What the... @Anonymous 9:25a: Gordo and Papalote are both local mini-chains. Why the F not support them as much as you would a single shop? And what makes them fast food? You're making them sound like McDonald's or something. It sounds like these folks are a little cooler-than-indier-than-thou...

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    4. Papalote!! I used to live around the corner from their Panhandle location but recently moved to Oakland and haven't found a taqueria I like as much :(

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    5. Jumping on board for both Cancun and Gordo. Those would be my suggestions!

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    6. Yes to Taqueria Cancun or go to La Taqueria! They charge you extra if you want your burrito WITHOUT beans. Not messing around.

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    7. Am I the only one who thinks Puerto Allegre has the best burrito (shredded chicken)? They also have strong, affordable margaritas!

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    8. Papalote is bland as shit and Gordo's is just straight up nasty (white rice in their burritos?!?!?!) AVOID

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    9. pancho villa all night long, fools.

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    10. second pancho villa. how was that not mentioned until now? so good.

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  8. Thought I'd throw in my two cents:

    I highly recommend skipping Dosa and heading instead one block down the street to Udupi (21st and Valencia). It's the same cuisine (southern Indian) as Dosa, but WAY cheaper and absolutely incredible. H and I just got back from a few weeks in southern India and this place is the only thing we'll eat to fulfill those cravings. It is SO. GOOD.

    For non-pretentious drinks, if you're a beer snob I definitely recommend Zeitgeist (Valencia at 13th) or Toronado (Haight at Steiner) - try to go during an off time to get more elbow room, but both have absolutely great beers. And Toronado lets you bring in your own food - which is perfect, because my current favorite burrito is from Cuco's, which is just down the street (Haight at Fillmore). The place is tiny, dive-y, and service is slow, but it's a family owned business with sweet people working the counter and a BOMB ASS PLANTAIN BURRITO. BOMB. ASS. And definitely NOT touristy - which is always a win, in my book.

    If you want to see the city by bicycle, I highly recommend it. (Just please DON'T do this if you are completely unaware of how the bikes-in-traffic thing works.) Don't panic about our steep hills, they are easily avoidable (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wiggle). And if you want to ride bikes AND look like a local, Mission Bicycles (Valencia btwn 18th & 19th) is now renting good looking single speed and geared bikes for really cheap. (www.missionbicycle.com)

    Last piece of advice / rant: BRING A COAT. It is CHILLY here in June, often socked in fog, and the wind last night at our place was gusting at 48mph. If you're going to walk the GG bridge, you will need fortitude (is this a euphemism for a flask?) and A COAT. Nothing makes you a laughingstock to SF locals faster than shivering in shorts and flip flops while buying cheap SF fleeces from Pier 39. OH, also: avoid Pier 39.

    YAY for visiting San Francisco!

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    1. Hah! My favorite thing to do is laugh at shivering people in I <3 SF sweatshirts, shorts, and flip flops! No better hobby...

      Definitely plan to dress in layers and layers and layers. It's too hot one second and way too cold the next in about a 15 - 20 degree variable.

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  9. Mission dive bar crawl always a good time -- good list to start with includes Thieves, 500 Club, Bender's, the Palm. Other good bars in SF include Comstock (a little pretentious and in North Beach, but worth it) and Blackbird (not that pretentious and in the Castro). There are too many others to count.

    My favorite splurge restaurant in SF is Frances, in the borderland between the Castro and the Mission. You could also try Zero Zero (close-ish to your hotel, in SOMA) and Una Pizza Napoletana (same). For burritos, Farolito and Cancun never disappoint. Also try banh mi at Dinosaurs (Castro) or Saigon Sandwiches (Tenderloin).

    Second the recommendation to hike the Land's End trail. Other favorite athletic stuff in the area: Mission Cliffs (half rock climbing gym, half bar scene), walks to the top of Twin Peaks, trail runs or hikes on Mt. Tam in Marin County (do the Dipsea Steps, then head to Mill Valley Beer Works for amazing house-brewed beer and great food). Dipsea Steps could easily be combined with Muir Woods; park in Mill Valley, take the Dipsea to MW, then hit up MVBW.

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  10. You should do a day trip to Angel Island if you have the time at all. I think it offers one of the most incredible hikes in the Bay Area... you get 360 degree views of the Bay. Catch a ferry from the Ferry Building and pack a picnic. You can hike to the summit of the island and back down in about 3 hours, but allow a little more time to hang out and enjoy the views. If you have extra time I'd check out the Immigration Station tour which is very well done and gives you a nice little dose of history. Oh, and the ferry will give you a real nice view of the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge from the water. TOTALLY WORTH IT.

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    1. there's also a great cafe right where the ferry drops off that sometimes has live music if you don't bring a picnic. has bbq oysters beer and wine!

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    2. dag, yo, i totally dropped in here to recommend Angel Island. Don't bring a picnic with you to the ferry, pick up food at the Ferry Building which has fantastic local vendors both in the permanent stalls indoors and the farmer's market/food trucks outside

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    3. very good call. that's the setup for a perfect day right there.

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  11. i second el farolito! one super burrito will feed you both. for some american/fusion restaurants: nopa, bar tartine (tartine bakery a few blocks away is quite popular too), wayfare tavern (go for lunch. get the fried chicken), 15 romolo (go for brunch. get the bloody hammer).

    i'm not much of a hiker, but walking from the financial district, through chinatown and north beach, up to telegraph hill/coit tower, then back down the filbert steps to the embarcadero and the ferry building would be a great way to see the city. grant street in chinatown will have the most hawkers/gift shops.

    also, check out land's end and the sutro baths if you have time. and the exploratorium just re-opened on the embarcardero. have fun!

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  12. THE ALEMBIC IS SO GOOD! Don't miss it. My favorite cocktail there is The Gilded Lily. It consists of chartreuse, demi sec champagne, gin, and orange flower water. It may be pretentious, but it is also fucking amazing.

    Last time I visited my sister when she actually lived in the city, she took me to Tsunami for sushi which I highly recommend.

    Yoshi's for jazz, City Lights in North Beach for Books, and Gary Danko, Slanted Door, and Boulevard are all worth the splurge. I really like Le Colonial, though I guess it's a little past it's prime and in the Tenderloin.

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  13. Outer lands for local seasonal delicious food. Great cocktails too. Maybe too hipster-y for some but worth it.
    http://outerlandssf.com/

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    1. Glad someone mentioned this. Outerlands is my buddy's best friends' place, and we unfortunately missed eating there when we breezed through last March. Outer Sunset does have it's charms, including General Store and Mollusk both.

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    2. DUDE. first half of one of your days in this order: name down at outerlands, coffees from trouble, shoppin at general store, back to outerlands cause they're finally calling your name for the coziest meal ever, around the block for shopping and admiring at mollusk, then a pleasant walk down the hill & across the great highway for some beachy times. total no brainer, do it.

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  14. If you're in the Divisidero neighborhood, Regazza is super excellent pizza and Italian (in a city that abounds with excellent pizza and Italian). And you can actually get in there, unlike Nopa across the street or Frances, which someone mentioned.

    In Jackson Square (Downtown), Cotogna is really really wonderful as well, and pretty darn close to Financial D.

    If you're anywhere near Haight, check out Club Deluxe. They have live music every night and a really laid-back neighborhood vibe. Cocktails will be a tad cheaper than the also-wonderful Alembic (but I mean, c'mon guys, she's going to hate that bar).

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    1. Yes Club Deluxe!!!!!!! But then I love Alembic too so... :)

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  15. An SF-themed post is totally a good excuse for my first comment here.

    +1 Humphrey Slocombe- get the "Secret Breakfast" flavor- it's whiskey and cornflakes.

    +1 Paxton Gate. They also have a "kid's" Paxton Gate just down the block.

    Re: burritos: Papalote for not-trad-but-delicious, otherwise Cancun or La Taqueria.

    Drinking: This is where I can make the best recs, but I don't know your jam. I'll throw down El Rio, Dear Mom, and 500 Club.

    Hiking: Why don't you just walk to the top of Bernal Hill? Best view in the city. Or explore the Sutro Bath ruins. Or stroll down Clarion alley. Clearly I don't leave the city or truly hike.

    Shopping: Bell Jar, Carousel, Nooworks, Explorist International.

    Non-Mission district stuff: Madrone Art Bar, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, City Lights Books, various cool shit in the Lower Haight.

    Avoid: the Marina.

    Hope this helps!

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  16. idk if there's a way to get there via public transportation or if it would even be worth it to lug any finds back home. But there's the Alameda Antique Fair the first sunday of the month. If you like antiques/curiosities it's a good place to see a LOT in one place.

    There's also the treasure island flea market the last weekend (sat & sun) of the month. There's a lot of kitschy 'artisan' junk but also some good deals on antique-type things.

    No one else mentioned it and maybe because it's really un-cool to cool people, but I totally suggest Off The Grid on Friday nights at Fort Mason. There's all sorts of American Fusion. Just be prepared to deal with the cold.

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  17. I definitely second Udupi Palace over Dosa. Other delicious places: Burma Superstar on Clement, The Plant Cafe on Embarcadero, and Gracias Madre on Mission for vegan mexican food (yum).

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  18. It's in a totally weird neighborhood, but I love heading over to Flora Grubb Gardens on a sunny day. Caffeinate with an espresso from the Ritual Coffee Roasters kiosk and marvel at the old cars and bikes they've turned into planters. www.floragrubb.com

    Check out the murals on Balmy Alley, or even do a tour of the Mission murals through Precita Eyes. It'll take you into the heart of the Mission, which is pretty quintessentially SF.

    Please don't miss Tartine Barkery. Yes, the line is ridiculous. Yes, it's worth it.

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  19. Did nobody say Mission Chinese yet? HOLY SHIT MISSION CHINESE FOOD. It's astounding. Best Pakistani food is at Karachi.

    Dress for English winter, it's going to be cold and damp!

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  20. OP here - thanks for all the comments! We're looking forward to trying out lots of these recommendations and eating our way around San Francisco.

    The font...yeah...I was pretending to type notes (on iPad) in a particularly boring meeting at work, hence the weird marker felt font. The snarky comments are well deserved for planning my holiday in work time!

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    1. Dude. YOUR FONT IS FINE. But have fun in SF!

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    2. I'm not the original OP, but I e-mailed with the same question.
      Additional question...where should two 30 something lesbians drink in August?
      And where's a cheap(ish) place to stay?

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    3. Who CARES what font you used?!!!

      ESB, I feel like you use opportunities like this to make fun of people on your blog in order to seem whitty and of superior taste. Really it makes you come off as opportunistic, bullying, and less substantive. I hope you do less of this in the future so as not to detract for the good parts of what you offer.

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    4. But the opportunistic bullying and superior taste/wit IS the good part of what's offered.

      Or did I miss something:).

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    5. Drinking lesbians should hit up el rio and the Lexington club in the mission and wild side west in bernal.

      Also screw cancun. Go to el metate.

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  21. San Francisco is definitely NOT the burrito capital. I know lots of people who live in San Francisco and HATE the burritos. Just try regular Mexican food. If you want REAL burritos, try them in Los Angeles or even better, San Diego.

    ANYWAY,
    Tenderloin = "Tandoorloin"...so much good Indian food, but such a shady neighborhood. Just go during the day. And for American, try the Stinking Rose (which just happens to be IN the Financial District), kinda tourist-trappy...but it's ALL garlic deliciousness inside. And while you're there, the famous beatnik City Lights bookstore is just a few doors down. Have a GREAT time!

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    1. um, yeah it is.

      Los Angeles is the *taco* capital.

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    2. No to burritos but Yes to the Stinking Rose? Stop it.

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    3. Agreed with Anon 8:48. San Diego is where the BEST Mexican food is. The further from the border you get, the Mexican food gets pretty meh.

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    4. NOPALITO FOR THE WIN. The contest being best Mexican food, of course. A little more upscale, but absolutely perfect.

      Not that you should use it as an excuse to skip Mission burritos, which are a delicacy unto themselves. El Farolito for late-night divy goodness, La Taqueria for the best meats and aguas frescas, Cancun if you are vegetarian.

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    5. Burritos were actually *invented* in SF, you LA philistine.

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    6. loving this anonymous burrito fight

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    7. Nice try, Anon 12:14. Please refer to the Burrito wiki.

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    8. city lights is full of douchebags coasting on history. i have worked and dropped cash in a lot of bookstores, and that one makes me want to start a bar fight.

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    9. San Diego. Burritos all day.

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  22. Well, OBV actual Mexican food in Mexico beats everything!

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  23. Replies
    1. Srsly. Someone said chile verde - aka my favorite food ever - above and now it's all I can think about.

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    2. I made enchiladas for dinner because of this blog post.

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  24. If you're in the Mission to get burritos as you should, check out Stuff (http://www.stuffsf.com/) -- antique/junk heaven and it's right across the st from Zeitgeist, which is a great unpretentious bar.

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    1. speaking of unpretentious bars, lucky 13 on market remains wonderful. best jukebox in town, amazing beer selection, no bullshit.

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  25. Sometimes when I'm bored at work, I come back to the posts where there are just a shit ton of comments so I can read and laugh :)

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    1. me too... this one's tops!
      horrendous font, followed by a vicious Margarita fight, only to be topped by the ensuing ultimate Burrito fight!

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  26. Check out the Exploratorium - a hands on science museum. It just moved into a huge new space on the Embarcadero. Thursday nights are reserved for adults aka they have bars set up

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  27. Do not forget Chinese food.

    Shanghai Dumpling King's new location on Monterey for Shanghainese food. R&G Lounge in Chinatown for Cantonese.

    Of course, LA is arguably better than we are at Chinese, and our best is out in horrid non-cities oddly named Daly City and Foster City, but still.

    Also go sit in Yerba Buena Gardens after work for a killer contact high.

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    1. I always think of SF having better Chinese, but maybe I'm biased...

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    2. With all due respect ESB... LPC is right. SF Chinese has been disappointing in terms of quality and variety. The best spots are in the burbs and as such is not easily accessible. I guess similarly in LA it's in the San Gabriel Valley.

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  28. I hear that Monterey Park is good for Chinese, and that Vancouver beats all of CA hands down. Of course I prefer Northern Chinese to Cantonese food, i.e. the places like San Tung in SF.

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  29. BTW, only here is the question of Chinese food locale more interesting than a contact high.

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