Guide to San Francisco by YOLO Journal & DELSEY PARIS
DELSEY PARIS has partnered with the premium travel magazine YOLO Journal to bring you monthly travel inspirations to the most beautiful places in the world. Yolanda Edwards, founder of Yolo Journal, will share with you her favorite places and secret addresses.
I grew up in this great city, and it has my heart. It is one of the most beautifully sited cities, on a peninsula surrounded by the Bay and the Pacific Ocean, so you always have a feeling of nature being within arm’s reach. I haven’t lived here in 25 years, but I come back at least several times a year, and am so excited to share some of my favorites with you.
SEE + DO
If you don’t mind hills and stairs, this city is excellent for walking–especially since all the ascending means–great views!
One of my favorite walks it to walk down Grant Street in North Beach heading north, make a right on Greenwich St, and walk up to the top of the street, where you’ll see stairs that bring you up to Coit Tower. From there, take the Filbert Street Stairs down–it is the most magical secret path that weaves down to the Levi Plaza. It’s worth doing one of the many hike options in the Marin Headlands–depending on which one you choose, it can be a 15-20 minute drive. Make sure you check out the SF Moma and the deYoung Museum. Oddly, I’ve never been to Alcatraz–I prefer to take a ferry across the bay over to Sausalito, or to Larkspur, and to walk around and explore.
EAT + DRINK
Because I grew up here, I have my favorites that I go back to every single time I visit, and then I have my new loves. The first place I stop as soon as I arrive in the city is La Taqueria, a taco spot in the Mission. I always order the same way I’ve been doing for 35 years–two taco carnitas with cheese, avocado, and salsa. It’s heaven on earth. Another favorite is Zuni Cafe, which I’ve also been going to for 30+ years. Start at the bar with a glass of Champagne and some oysters while you wait for your table, and then make sure you order the roast chicken for two. Chez Panisse is across the bridge in Berkeley–there is an a la carte cafe upstairs which I prefer, or the more formal downstairs. Reservations must be made a month in advance.
My other favorites are mostly in the Jackson Square neighborhood: Cotogna for the best wood-fire Italian, Quince its fine dining sister restaurant, Tosca or Vesuvio for a pre-dinner drink, and Bix for an elegant very old world American supper club experience–I love the burger and a martini. North Beach is somehow still caught in time–with the same Italian cafes and restaurants that have been around since I was a kid. It’s just fun to wander around and look at all the signage, smell the freshly baked bread coming out of the bakeries, and stop in for a coffee at Caffe Greco, or a deli sandwich at Molinari’s. Another must is the oldest restaurant in the state, Tadich Grill, which has thankfully not updated its interiors or its menu! Get the crab cioppino and a martini!
My love for the Jackson Square neighborhood isn’t just for the food, it also has a great selection of galleries and
independent stores, as well as some French brands I am always happy to see, like Isabel Marant and A.P.C. I like to start out with a very considered coffee from Blue Bottle, and perhaps an epic pastry from Maison Nico, then I’ll wander through Gallery Japonesque before heading to two of my favorite bookstores, the architectural wonder that is William Stout, and then the legendary City Lights. For Danish modern furniture and lighting, Fritz Hansen is great. And for the outdoorsy fly-fishing types, Lost Coast Outfitters is a must.
Sacramento Street in Pacific Heights has many great shops, but March is one of the chicest kitchen and home stores I’ve ever been to. Found by Maja has incredible decor and vintage treasures, Sue Fisher King has an elegant selection of goods for the home as well as jewelry, and Betty Lin has an excellent curation of women’s fashion. Book a table for lunch at Spruce, a highly awarded restaurant with an epic wine list, that serves California-inspired cuisine, with most of the products coming from their local farm.
Haight Street definitely has a sketchy vibe, but the vintage shopping (Relic Vintage, Decades of Fashion, Wasteland, Held Over) there is worth it, as well as Amoeba, the world’s largest indie record store. Since you’re right by Golden Gate Park,
make sure you visit it–my favorites are Stow Lake (rent a
row boat!), the Japanese Tea Gardens, and the de Young Museum. I’ll often add on a walk on the beach since I’m so far west, and there’s nothing better than watching the wild Pacific Ocean. For lunch, I head to the Outerlands neighborhood, where I get lunch at either Damn Fine, or Outerlands (open for brunch Fri-Sun), and visit some of my favorite independent shops, like General Store, Case for Making, and Mollusk Surf Shop.
Hayes Valley is one of my favorite streets to head to to discover new designers and makers I’ve never seen before. Besides great stores like Metier (epic jewelry selection), MAC (the best eye for the coolest designers), and Reliquary (chic staples), MM Clay (local ceramics) to name just a few, there are excellent spots to get coffee or a bite to eat: Miette (patisserie), Ritual (coffee), Suppenkuche (German chic!), The Bird (best fried chicken sandwich), and the classic Hayes Street Grill. Or you can walk a little further down to Zuni!
If you’re planning to explore beyond the city (drive to Napa, Stinson Beach, or Berkeley!), the 1 Hotel is best situated for that, as it’s close to Bay Bridge and the highway. Plus it’s right across from the Ferry Building, which has some of the best food in the city. The Battery is in Jackson Square, one of my favorite neighborhoods for great restaurants and bars. Downtown, the historic Palace Hotel has the most grand Gilded-Age restaurant. The Fairmont is another classic favorite–it’s on Nob Hill, so it has great views, and I love the Tonga Bar. Plus it’s right on the cable car line, and easy to walk to many of my favorite places. If it isn’t your first trip to the city, I’d suggest staying outside of the downtown area, because it’s a way to engage in the city in a more local way, off the beaten path. Some of my favorites are the Hotel Kabuki in Japantown, and in the tony Pacific Heights neighborhood is the charming Hotel Drisco, as well as the Laurel Inn.
NOTE: This is a city of contrasts! You may wake up and it’s very warm outside and you leave for the day with no jacket–but at 3pm the fog can roll in and the temperature can drop significantly. Don’t leave your hotel room without a scarf or a jacket! Also, if you rent a car, don’t use it to just drive around the city to explore–use it if you’re going quite far–say, out to the beach, or across the Golden Gate Bridge to go on a hike in
Marin. Besides the parking being a challenge within the city, there is a crime problem, and if you leave anything in the car, it’s likely to be broken into.
Yolanda Edwards is the founder of Yolo Journal, a weekly newsletter and seasonal print magazine devoted to the love of travel. Yolo gathers insider addresses and favorite destinations from its trust network of travelers in creative fields and shares them with a growing community of discerning global explorers.