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May 9, 2012 10:01 AM

Visitor -- Coffee? Chinatown? Good Bar for a Single Lady?

Hi 'hounds,

I'm visiting your beautiful city this Thursday through Monday. We're staying in Pacific Heights, but will be visiting friends in the Mission District and Haight-Ashbury. I am looking for three specific recommendations, and please feel free to direct me to previous threads:

1) Where can I find the best cup of joe in any of the above neighborhoods, or somewhere in between? It would be nice if there's a good spot close to Lombard/Van Ness so that we could stroll over for an early morning jolt. Patio and tasty snacks are a big plus, but not required. With respect to the actual coffee, I usually prefer french press, but my companion is fine with drip. I like a warm, rich, full-bodied, savory cup with little acidity.

2) Is SF's Chinatown worth a stroll? I've visited Chinatowns in London and Manhattan, which were both great for dim sum and cheap massages. Does SF's Chinatown offer comparable food and massage? Any particular restaurants/massage parlors to which you'd direct me?

3) I'll be out one night on my own and would love to have a drink or two at a really unique bar. Atmosphere is paramount. I prefer dive bars to pretentious "see and be seen" places, and I really like counter-/sub-cultural spots. Please don't send me to a meat market. I'm not a big beer drinker; I prefer whisky, scotch, etc. My biggest concern would probably be safety and readily available taxis to take me back to Pacific Heights. If you think there's somewhere in Pacific Heights that might be cool, huge bonus.

I know these are kind of general questions, so please don't hesitate to probe if there's any other info I can give to help you with recommendations. Many, many thanks in advance!


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  1. Hi Lara,

    You might want to check out Li Po, a classic dive bar in Chinatown. That way you can take care of items 2 and 3 on your list in one shot! Chinatown is safe enough and it should not be too hard to find a cab. Sorry but I can't think of any cool divey bars around Pacific Heights.

    Li Po Cocktail Lounge
    916 Grant Ave

    1. Four Barrel coffee in the Mission District (375 Valencia St at 15th) was pretty amazing.

      1. Nopa has a pretty good bar and it's not far from Pacific Heights, though I would not characterize it as divey.

        1. Hi Lara,
          First the bar question, Alembic in the haight has tons of character and a good whiskey selection. It's pretty popular, but not a meat market. Just down the street is Murio's Trophy Room, and that's a dive/counter culture delight. I also like Li Po as recommend by od_sf. There's not a lot of dive bar action in Pac Heights.

          I don't find SF's Chinatown to be that interesting. I do my Asian shopping out on Clement. There are several excellent Dim Sum places though including You's Dim Sum on Broadway. I usually get it to-go and stroll to a park.

          As for a morning coffee, La Boulange Bakery has two locations close to Lombard and Van Ness. Four Barrel has much better coffee, but you can't walk there. You could walk to eaither the Russian Hill or Cow Hollow locationfor La Boulange.

          Have fun.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Mrs. McB

            I'd give a big shout out for Spec's bar AKA Adler Alley Museum and Cafe across the street from City Lights bookstore. Authentic old timey San Francisco waterfront bar feel without the actual thugs. There's Old Overholt Rye Whisky and a cheesewheel-guillotine that dispenses an even slice every time.

            1. re: Mrs. McB

              Four Barrel varies. Last time there I stood in line for 15 minutes and was served a sink shot. I pull better shots off my La Spaz + Mahlkonig K30 than their Speedster and Roburs. For more consistency, head to Sightglass or M'velous (sp?). M'velous is a small quite cool hang out coffee and wine bar.

              1. re: Mrs. McB

                I wouldn't consider Murio's a dive bar anymore--- they renovated and it has a very different vibe.

              2. I think Chinatown in SF is worth a stroll if you have never been. My recommendation is to eat at Z and Y and beforehand go for reflexology in the place across the street from Z and Y (I forget the exact name of the reflexology place, something like “Foot reflexology”. It’s good but I would not say it’s cheap). Z and Y has great spicy Sichuan. But you need to be sure to tell them to translate the special menu that is written in Chinese, and let them know you like spicy food.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ridge

                  Agree that S.F.Chinatown is worth one visit. Neither SF Chinatown nor NY Chinatown has particularly exceptional food but it's such a large and bustling area that it would be a shame to come to SF and not see it.