PASSPORT: SAN FRANCISCO
Even if you’ve never been there you have an idea of San Francisco. Maybe it’s the Golden Gate Bridge, or the rolling hills with a ribbon of asphalt running along. Maybe it’s something intangible, like the summer of love or cottony bales of fog. It isn’t the largest city but it’s one of the world’s most iconic, influential and popular tourist destinations because of its history, legendary destinations such as Alcatraz, activities and nightlife.
Millions of people from all over the world visit San Francisco every year for the architecture and its world-class restaurants and museums. They climb its hills in the mild summer air on their way to China Town or The Mission District, catching cable cars from one place to another. It may be small but walking through the city will quicken your heart, and so will the eclectic mix of Victorian and modern architecture passed on your way to the Conservatory of flowers — a cathedral of glass and iron, and then on to Union Square - the city’s shopping center and most likely where your hotel is.
Its natural bays and harbors made it the perfect port city. Soon San Francisco was bustling with trade from all over the world. Jobs were plentiful and the city mellowed. Exposure to world cultures through trade had an effect in the food business and today the city is home to some of the best and most diverse restaurants.
San Francisco’s renowned literary scene is associated mostly with the Beat Generation. Lawrence Ferlinghetti established City Light Press in 1955 and began publishing works from Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Robert Duncan and Frank O’Hara. But it wasn’t until 1957, with the publication of a book by Jack Kerouac, that speeding across the country on the open highway in a fast car, on the road with a finished novel and good friends, became a national sub cultural pastime.
While the Beats gave San Francisco a language, painters like Clifford Still and Philip Rothko gave it a look. Abstract Expressionism stole the art scene from Paris. Color fields and expressive brush strokes by San Francisco’s painters, jazz music and live poetry readings were turning San Francisco into “The Paris Of The West.” This new era of cultural identity dovetailed with returning servicemen who’d been Over There, who’d seen the world; who’d been stationed in San Francisco before leaving to fight a war and returned to the city they’d fallen in love with. This closed like a zipper over the city, like a nation unto itself: Frisco.
The spirit of adventure and entrepreneurialism remains in San Francisco, where a complex and cultivated population demands quality food, entertainment and surprise. Here you have world-class restaurants and museums, coffee shops and, naturally, bookstores. Not to mention the propinquity of Sonoma Valley and the countless vineyards. With its mild climate and welcoming environment there are plenty of reasons to head west young man.
Sears Fine Food
Sears Fine Food is a nod to the San Francisco of yesterday. It’s a no-frills downtown diner serving traditional breakfasts of sausage and famed Swedish pancakes. You know the place: tiled floors, booth seating, and patrons at the counter, reading the paper over coffee.
The name Wilkes Bashford represents a venerable institution in classic menswear. Mr. Wilkes first opened his Union Square store in San Francisco in 1966. He was one of the premier stateside retailers to introduce fine-tailored menswear from Italian designers (like Giorgio Armani) to the American market. Over the years, the shop has held to its unbending principles of peerless quality, and it presently offers well-merchandised selections from lauded names like Etro, Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli, Brioni, Ermenegildo Zegna and more. Just last year, the store unveiled its newly renovated retail emporium — an ultra-luxury, 7-floor townhouse which provides a plush and welcoming backdrop for its exquisite sartorial collections.
Situated on the corner of Valencia and 18th street in the Mission, FSC Barber is the western outpost of the Freemans Sporting Club, its first outside of New York City. It is a classic barbershop; timeless but not antiquated. While waiting, grab a seat on the round wooden train-style bench, and enjoy a beer. Look forward to a post-shave wrap with a eucalyptus scented hot towel. Then head to the menswear shop in the back or grab a bottle of Odin fragrance or Baxter pomade.
Situated on Washington Square Park, this American bistro is positioned in a sea of Italian restaurants and coffee shops in North Beach. It focuses on unfussy food and stiff cocktails. Sidewalk seating under the heat lamps is ideal for a dinner and people watching.
Driftwood clad walls inside and baskets of knit blankets for the outdoor seating provide a warm embrace. The menu is small, unpretentious and it’s hard not to order everything. Salads look like someone just foraged the seasonal ingredients. Big bowls of soup are perfectly suited to the buttery toast of fresh-baked levain bread. It’s the warm restaurant every neighborhood deserves.
Sanctuaire is an upscale culinary nexus for overachieving chefs and progressive gastronomes to converge and spend. In this inviting space, obscure ingredients like Pangasinan sea salt, white truffle honey and Tahitian vanilla beans coexist with molecular emulsifiers, Extra Virgin olive oils and pre- cious French porcelains. Shoppers will also find a wide array of top-tier cookware and state-of-the-art kitchen equipment — Gastrovac cooker anyone? For lovers of esoteric flavors and seekers of uncommon palette teasers, Le Sanctuaire’s chic showroom delivers an inspiring epicurean experience with truly endless possibilities.
The Perish Trust
A former Laundromat now houses the art, antiques and found objects of the Perish Trust. Look for handmade goods, industrial design, and heritage pieces that have withstood the test of time. All objects have been sourced within a hundred mile radius of this Divisadero Street shop.
A restaurant can be memorable for a number of reasons; the service can be attentive and personable, or perhaps the décor, music, or restaurant layout is remarkable. Ultimately the food will be the lasting memory of a truly wonderful restaurant. Such is the case with Kokkari Estiatorio. The menu includes small plates of traditional Greek dishes like tender octopus tentacles charred briefly over a hickory wood fed grill as well as large dishes of lamb or pork that’s been cooked all day over the open fire in the main dining room. Add a few glasses of crisp, chilled white wine from Santorini and it is the next best thing to being in the Cyclades.
Twenty Five Lusk
Exposed wood beams, brick walls, and hovering fireplaces divide this large industrial loft space into dozens of corners for intimate conversation over a rye old fashioned. There is a glimmer of New York City in Twenty Five Lusk, whether it is the swanky décor or the sight of stilettos and suits, a departure from the typical California casual.
Tucked back on the end of Grant Street at the base of Telegraph Hill, you’ll feel lucky to stumble upon the black wooden door of A-B Fits. Their clothing and accessories are essential to the SF uniform: warm knit sweaters, soft cotton tees, and a definitive denim section. APC, Acne, Levi’s Vintage Collection, Dope + Drakkar, as well as limited quantity made-in- San Francisco jeans.
The Outer Sunset neighborhood lies on the western coastline of the city, home to sea dwellers and surfers alike. Mollusk is a surf shop brimming with California beach culture and a neighborhood gathering. You can find the sustainable wooden surfboards of Danny Hess, local surfer and woodworker. Surf gear and clothing are displayed on reclaimed wood between vintage couches. The shop also knows how to throw a party — Tecates included.
This corner, light-filled Mission bakery is a San Francisco institution. The husband and wife behind the counter turn out artisanal loaves of bread, pastries, jam-filled tarts and savory open-faced sandwiches that have made this bakery a recognizable name across the country. Seating is sparse, take it to go and walk two blocks west to the grassy hills and palm trees of Mission Dolores Park.
MAC, or Modern Appealing Clothing, offers high-end brands in a relaxed setting. The staff is warm and genuine, outfitting you in Comme de Garcons, Dries Van Noten, and Martin Margiela. MAC has two locations, one in Hayes Valley and the other in the Dogpatch neighborhood. The Dog- patch shop, hidden between industrial warehouses and shipyards, shares the sunny yellow building with Piccino restaurant, making it hard to visit one without the other.
Trouble Coffee Company
A nook of a coffee shop, smaller than a Japanese bar — yet easy to spot by the chalkboard sign with daily scribbles and the outdoor seating of logs and benches. Go for the holy trinity and order coffee, a thick cut of cinnamon toast, and a young coconut with a straw.
Aggregate Supply offers diverse supplies for modern San Francisco living. It is an apothecary shop-meets-retail store amidst the glowing restaurant scene of Valencia Street. Local favorites like all-natural Helioscope skin care and the peppery chile preserves of INNA Jam can be found amidst Turk + Taylor clothing.
Almond Hartzog, a furniture showroom in the heart of the Design District, showcases a curated collection 15 years in the making. Most pieces are of Scandinavian design dating from the 1920’s to late 1960’s and are sourced from European auction houses. Newer items, including local designs, are scattered throughout the show room floor.
Tlucked between downtown Union Square and the gritty Tenderloin neighborhood is Tradition, an American cocktail bar with a focus on house-blended and barrel-aged spirits. What really sets this bar apart is the eight booths, or ‘snugs’, in the downstairs section. Each booth, private and enclosed in wood, has its own distinct drink menu based on a theme, such as Tiki, New Orleans or Speakeasy.
De Young Museum
The Golden Gate Park is a long, narrow stretch of land, home to lakes, Japanese tea gardens, fly casting pools, an archery range, a field of bison, and the de Young Museum. The de Young is a fine arts museum, featuring American art dating back to the 17th century, as well as contemporary exhibits, textiles and costumes. A recent exhibit called “This World is Not My Home” displayed the work of iconic photojournalist Danny Lyon, depicting American motorcycle gangs, street scenes, protests, and his hours spent with inmates.
If you can only go to one store in San Francisco, let it be Unionmade. This shop caters to the man who goes hiking on weekends, but does it in Red Wing boots with Kapital socks. The man who truck camps with Pendleton blankets in the back for a bed. His iPhone nestles in an Il Bisonte case. He smells of campfire and Juniper Ridge fragrances. Unionmade makes style inevitable.
MAAS + Stacks
When friends Otto Gustav Zoell and Stephen Chen decided to open their Castro menswear shop, MAAS + Stacks, they did what any of us dream to do: fill it with clothing, shoes and accessories that they would like to wear. Recognizable brands like Band of Outsiders and Robert Geller hang alongside lesser-known labels like Our Legacy and White Mountaineering. The common thread is a consciousness of quality production and clean, well-tailored looks.
Delfina Restaurant & Pizzeria Delfina
The doors of Delfina Restaurant first opened in 1998, and for 15 years it has remained on the forefront of the burgeoning San Francisco restaurant scene. The daily menu pays homage to rustic Italian cooking, utilizing the array of fresh, local, artisanal California produce available. The space expanded in 2005, including an adjoining pizzeria. Diners sit along the bar while thin crust Neapolitan inspired pizzas cook in the oven. The seating spills out onto the street, and day or night the sidewalk tables of both restaurants are always full.
Sumptuous seasonal dishes take center stage at this James Beard nominated, Mediterranean eatery. The restaurant’s creative menu and interior décor are completely dynamic and switch dramatically from season to season. For spring, you could be dining on a delicately executed fava bean falafel garnished with green almonds and young fennel, and come autumn, find yourself fawning over their masterfully prepared Duck Aged on the Bone. Ambience enhancers like exposed brick walls and massive industrial-style, warehouse windows also add to the unique AQ dining experience.
Whether you’re trying to create your own Mad Men-in- spired office space, or seeking out that rare vintage armchair to compliment a mid-century themed living room, it’s worth paying a visit to Monument. The owners, Michael De Angelis and Samuel Genthner have done a remarkable job of curating outstanding Scandinavian mid-century pieces (from Danish masters like Finn Juhl and Jens Risom) along with a deep selection of baroque and mod-era accessories and ornaments. Their inventory is regularly updated, so there are always new treasures to be discovered on any given visit.
This is one of the many acclaimed restaurants owned and operated by successful celebrity chef, Michael Mina. RN74 is a must-visit culinary haven for lovers of French wine and cuisine. The restaurant boasts an extremely impressive wine list selected mainly from the Burgundy region of France, and a resident sommelier is always on hand instructing diners on the perfect wine pairings for their meal choices. Another highlight is their Last Bottle Board, a European train station-style reader which lists the last bottles available of popular wines in stock. Overall, RN74 is a worthy dining choice for gourmands keen on exploring the infinite, palate-pleasing harmonies of authentic French food and wine. Designed by AvroKO in 2009, the restaurant’s architecture has been acclaimed in various architectural publications.
At Farnsworth, the operative theme is “meticulous curation.” The collection of antique furniture stocked here revolves around historical modernist décor from the late 1940’s through to 1970. Pieces carried include designs from American pioneers like Dunbar, Eames and Herman Miller along with a varied sampling of outre artifacts from the 20th Century. Chances are that modern-era rosewood cabinet you’ve been hunting diligently for several years will be sitting neatly in a corner waiting for you to give it a new home. The owner Jeff Farnsworth is a master at restoration, so you can be assured that anything you find here will be in pristine condition.
Four Barrel Coffee
Four Barrel Coffee is a cafe without Wi-Fi or outlets - and this is a good thing. They succeeded in getting customers to put down their phones and computers and connect with each other in this Valencia street café. People engage in conversation over the wooden counters and communal seating inside, or in the welded metal bar on the sidewalk out front. Dogs lounge on the floor, good music is always playing - it’s a great neighborhood scene. In the back of the shop, a handful of employees expertly tend to the coffee roaster. Customers have the choice of French pressed, or if you have a minute, the pour-over coffee is well worth the wait.
Staying true to the rule-breaking trope conjured up by its name, Coup d’etat is a one-of-a-kind home furnishings destination that struts bravely to its own Stradivarius. Their expansive showroom space also serves as a fertile inspiration source for free-thinking interior decorators due to the fearless and creative manner in which they present a deep cache of antique and original items. Mixing modern art-deco with ornate Venetian — Why not? Pairing a salvaged shipyard table with a Suzani-draped ottoman? — That works too. Minimalism is thrown out the window here, and we must say, the end result is quite spectacular.