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Jul 28, 2008 08:10 PM

Skinny my itinerary, please...

I'll soon be departing to visit a relatively recently transplanted East Coast pal in a few days (this Thursday evening, in fact). Please help a seafood-crazy, cocktail-swilling kitsch-loving East Coast gal skinny her itinerary so as not to run self and said friend ragged... any advice, feedback appreciated! I'm looking at 3 full days and fear I have them jammed too full... particularly not really knowing distances... friend lives in Noe Valley...

Friday -
Predeparture breakfast at Peer Inn, for real... (do they really serve breakfast?)
Alcatraz (tix bought; I am a tourist!)
Tooling around to see Laughing Sal et al at Pier 45
Late lunch at Swan Oyster Depot (crab not in season? what to order?)
Random meandering around downtown, Barbary Coast area
Rendezvous with pal at Tonga Room for happy hour
Dinner at Tadich Grill (what time to minimize the wait? nearby alternative?)
Cocktails - Bourbon and Branch (made a res), House of Shields, HaRa Club, Cantina

Saturday -
Farmer's Market / Hog Island Oysters
Yank Sing Dim Sum snacks (Rincon Center is the preferred location?)
Haight afternoon stroll -- Alembic for late lunch, early dinner, libations
Beach Blanket Babylon (bought tix)
Post show cocktails - Tosca, Tony Nik's, Vesuvio

Sunday -
Brunch Beach Chalet, Cliff House Bistro (which is least offensive yet touristically satisfying?)
Birth of Cool Exhibit at Oakland Museum of Art
Range (Mission) -- Early dinner... possible dessert at Bi-Rite Creamery
Cocktails - Beauty Bar, Lone Palm

Thoughts? Also,any alternative (non-view, low key, good food, expert bloody) brunch alternatives in the Noe Valley area for Sunday, which I suppose extends towards Castro/Mission area?

Any insight is appreciated... thanks!

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  1. I must say I'm impressed with the ambitiousness of your itinerary, though I'm also a little concerned about a few of your choices if you aren't looking to run yourself ragged. I'm especially concerned about Sunday. All that cocktail swilling makes me hope you'll be getting around with taxicabs and/or public transit (or at least a designated driver), and yet the thought of the time it would take on public transit, or the cost of a cab, to go from the Cliff House to Oakland and then over to the Mission makes me shudder a bit, particularly if you are hoping to have enough time to thoroughly enjoy a museum exhibit and still make an early dinner. While the Birth of Cool Exhibit does indeed sound cool, and I'm all in favor of exploring areas outside San Francisco on a trip to the Bay Area, it might be worth checking out a museum less distant (perhaps SFMOMA?) for that afternoon. Or select a brunch place closer to BART.

    As soon as I saw that you love kitsch and cocktails, I immediately thought of the Tonga Room, which I adore, so I second that choice. (The Owl Tree also crossed my mind, a downtown bar festooned with owl decor, but I think it's still closed for renovations after the owner died.) And yes, Laughing Sal and the related amusements in that museum are part of what makes a trip to Fisherman's Wharf actually worthwhile and not just a hapless stroll through tourist-trap t-shirt stands.

    While I'm completely in favor of "random meandering", here's something a little more specific that I would suggest. And please bear in mind as you read my advice that I'm definitely somebody who loves to walk. After Fisherman's Wharf, stroll up Columbus Avenue through North Beach (classic old Italian neighborhood with the attendant restaurants and shops) until just past Broadway. (Actually, if you love kitsch, feel free to stroll a few blocks down Broadway past all the strip clubs, though in the afternoon those blocks aren't terribly interesting.) You'll find yourself at the Beat writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti's classic bookstore City Lights (worth at least a quick visit if you care anything about writing). And you'll find yourself with a nice view of the old green triangular Sentinel Building against the Transamerica Pyramid. (If you're a superfast walker and have tons of time, then keep going down to Jackson Street, turn left, and enjoy the antique stores for the next few blocks.) Then backtrack to Broadway and head half a block into Chinatown. Grant Street is great for touristy kitsch, and Stockton Street is great for what I (in my non-immigrant, non-Chinese view) consider the more authentic Chinatown. Grant Street is great all day. Stockton Street is best before all the bustling markets close in the late afternoon/early evening. If you have time, be sure to do both. Then you're in a position to march (well, pace yourself) up California Street to the Tonga Room. If you STILL have time, take a stroll around the block, admire the view, pop into Grace Cathedral if it's open, etc. And head to the Tonga Room through the Fairmont Hotel's lobby, rather than the side entrance.

    Haven't been to Beach Blanket Babylon in years, but loved it.

    I can't say which branch of Yank Sing has better food, but I would argue that the Rincon Center is more attractive than that Stevenson Street alley, and it's closer to the Ferry Building.

    A question. You list several bars for cocktails each evening. Are you planning to actually hit all of them? And as for the HaRa Club, do you mean the place on Geary at Larkin? I live around the corner and have been to every bar on that block (not a boast, just an observation). It's a perfectly acceptable neighborhood bar, but personally I wouldn't consider it a destination. I'd sooner send you a block further up Geary to the Edinburgh Castle. Not sure if the cocktails are better, but it strikes me as a more entertaining atmosphere.

    One last question. You asked for "non-view" brunch alternatives in the Noe Valley/Castro/Mission areas. Did you mean non-scene? Because aside from views of the street life, I'm not sure that there are any places in those neighborhoods that have high-rise panoramic views.

    Hope at least a bit of that was helpful. Looking forward to hearing what others have to say.

    4 Replies
    1. re: weem

      I think Sunday is doable, and may even be the easiest day, depending on what time brunch is started/finished. I'd allow an hour to get back to Market St. but from then on BART would be the primary mode. She'd be at the mercy of BART schedules, of course, but it's only 13 minutes from Montgomery to Lake Merrit, and 19 minutes from there to 16th and Mission BART.

      1. re: Xiao Yang

        Yes, point taken. I guess I was a little concerned about the timing of the brunch, combined with the hour it might take on a Sunday to simply get from the beach to downtown on public transit, followed by the commitment to an early dinner back in the City (BART on a Sunday isn't the same as BART on a weekday rush hour). Would that really leave enough time to savor a museum exhibit? I don't know. Depends on the exhibit. I haven't seen it. It might be one of those exhibits you have to spend hours poring over to fully appreciate, and it might be one of those ones you can just breeze through.

        1. re: weem

          Depending on waiting times, the schedule might be tight, but at least waiting for a BART train she can sit and chat with her pal. Nobody will be run ragged. It that respect it will be an easy day.

          1. re: Xiao Yang

            Good point. Sitting and chatting with a friend while waiting for BART isn't necessarily satisfying. But sitting and chatting with a long distance friend while waiting for BART is a marvelous opportunity to catch up.

    2. I think it sounds like a great itinerary, but it definitely sounds more like 4-5 days worth of adventure, not 3. I think you'd be better off cutting out some of these activities and really enjoying the ones you do decide to go with.

      1. I'd skip brunch at Beach Chalet/Cliff House Bistro. The reports are pretty awful.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ML8000

          I'd half agree. Beach Chalet food is pepto-nasty, service terrible but thank god their beer sucks too.

          Cliff House might be more of the touristy destination it sounds like you're looking for. The atmosphere is very nice (but busy), service is efficient, view is outstanding, popovers are very good and the brunch/lunch menu is decent. ...and it's kid friendly. Much better than anything you'll find in Fishermen's Warf for sure. Eaten there a few times with visiting friends and never walked away saying I'd never do that again (unlike Beach Chalet).

          1. re: scosco

            Beach Chalet has some nice WPA murals, though.

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              Getting to Beach Chalet/Cliff House from Noe Valley can take a while especially on public transport. Stick to something in the neighborhood for breakfast - Le Zinc, 24th Street Cafe, etc. if you want to be able to get all of the other stuff that day in and that way you are closer to BART. Food at both BC and CH are iffy at best anyway and you are paying for a view that most of the time in August you can't see due to the fog.

            2. re: scosco

              Other Brunch options in Noe/Mission - Fresca on 24th, Maverick, Tartine Bakery, Bar Tartine...

          2. isn't peer inn closed?