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Cocktail Packed 4 Day Itinerary for SF

Flying to SF tomorrow from NYC. I'm going with my girlfriend. We've both been to SF before, so we aren't really interested in doing the touristy things like fisherman's wharf or Alcatraz. We both live in the city so are used to walking a lot. Coming to NYC I had always been in midtown and such, now that I've lived here for 5 years, I realize the best places are the more non-toursity places. I live in the village and am looking for places like that (i've heard castro?) and brooklyn etc. to walk around in + some nature and good sights for photography.

Not trying to spend too much on a dinner (under $80 total, we dont need to drink at dinner), but cocktails at other places is fine. We are big into cocktails and food (she is vegan) so this is our itinerary. Interested to hear any ideas/how realistic it is.

Appreciate the tips!

Thursday Night (10 pm)
- Check in hotel in northern SoMa/Fidi area.
- Grab a quick bite to eat somewhere
- Burritt Room/Local Edition/Rickhouse (choose 2?)

- Sightglass Coffee
- Early brunch at Gracias Madre
- Bi Rite Creamery
- Explore mission/dolares park etc. (any ideas on where to walk)
- Lunch at Dinosaurs
- Would like to get up to a good vantage point. Somewhere like tank hill/corona heights park etc.
- Drink at The Alembic
- Head back to the hotel to relax a bit, then walk aroudn North Beach
- Dinner at Plant Cafe (cheap+easy)
- 15 Romolo/Comstock Saloon for drinks.

- Philz Coffee
- Getting a car and headed to Rutherford for wine tasting.
- Lunch in Yountville or somewhere out there.
- Thinking about driving back through towards Sausalito area so she can see that, and we can drive across the GG bridge.
- Source for dinner
- Smugglers Cove + Absinthe for drinks.

Sunday (birthday)
- Four Barrel Coffee
- Need a good lunch rec over near Golden Gate Park.
- Golden Gate Park (worth it?) would like something to do outside
- Nothing till dinner. I'm a big burger enthusiast in NYC, so would love a place with a great burger, or even good brazilian food or something. Preferably near Mission/Tenderloin/Downtown/Soma area.
- Bourbon & Branch for drinks

Nothing planned. Any other suggestions?
- Flight is at 11 pm that night.

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  1. You will have to drive on the Golden Gate Bridge, as the Bay Bridge is closed starting tonight at 8pm. It's a very nice drive, though -- once in a blue moon I drive home from work that way for the view, even though it costs me double in tolls.

    Actually, these days the Mission is probably a lot like the East Village, in that it was once filled with young hipsters, but has since gentrified a lot and is mostly just young yuppies.

    If I may say so, SF burgers would crush NY burgers in a direct competition. I'm not up on the current state of the burger in NY, but of the places that often get mentioned as best in NY that I've tried (such as Burger Joint, Corner Bistro, and, unforgivably, Shake Shack), the best in SF is many, many times better. In my own opinion, of course. There are many threads on this on Chowhound; my current favorite is the one at Nopa.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dunstable

      +1 for burger at Nopa, it's my fav in SF.

      On Saturday night, consider throwing Two Sisters in the mix for cocktails. Also in Hayes Valley, near Smuggler's and Absinthe. I love their cocktails.

      Worth getting a reservation on Sunday for Bourbon & Branch, as it's a holiday night so it might be busy...

      Monday - the Ferry Building has lots of delicious (and probably vegan) food/restaurants, as well as a great view towards East Bay over the water.

      For some good nature + photos, try walking the trail at Lands End. Incredible views of Golden Gate Bridge from a different angle and you can also stop by Sutro Baths. On the drive back towards downtown, stop by Aziza and try to get a seat at the bar for their cocktails, which are hands down my favorite in SF.

      1. re: bobabear

        Oh yeah, consider Golden Era Vegetarian in Chinatown for some vegan food, or Chaya in the Mission for Japanese vegetarian (with vegan options).

    2. "Northern SoMa/Fidi area" is confusing since SOMA is a huge neighborhood and almost entirely south of the Financial District. Can you be more precise about where you're staying?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Staying at the W on 3rd street.

        Thanks for the tips dunstable. Golden Gate Bridge is what we were looking to do anyways! So Nopa is your favorite. Any other suggestions?

        1. re: mdemps9190

          Rickhouse is great and near there. Food nearby, Gitane's open until 11:30

          Be sure to drop by Cask.


      2. Not a bad list. If you don't change a whisker you'll have fun.

        Some thoughts:

        What are your favorite cocktail places in NYC? There's a huge amount of cross pollination between the craft cocktail scenes.

        Eater's list really isn't bad. http://sf.eater.com/archives/2013/07/... It's jogged my mind about Kronnerburger, which is up your alley, and Trick Dog.

        Saturday: the best view of san francisco is from the marin headlands. When you drop down the final pitch to the bridge, on the way back, you exit right before the bridge, and go up the road to the west, and pull off at one of the parking spots. You're above the bridge looking down with the city in the background. Fine at night.

        Sunday: there's not much to really _do_ in golden gate park. There's the tea garden, which is nice for about 90 seconds, there's the academy of sciences, which is great if you have screaming kids, there might be lindy in the park at the grandstand, you can walk out to the ocean. Might I recommend one of my favorite outings: Angel Island. You catch the ferry from the ferry building, take your coffee at the Blue Bottle stall there (I know you have one in brooklyn, but... going all the way to Four Barrel that morning will blow your time budget), grabbing a picknick's worth from there - cowgirl it up. Ride over to the island, then you can enjoy the historical immigration site, and also climb the island. Ride the ferry back. You get a bigger view and a ride in a boat, the minus is you have to time yourself with the ferries.

        For an interesting burger Sunday, consider Namu Gaji, I haven't been but it gets a lot of plusses. Mission, hip, etc.

        Thursday: best food option is Zare at Flytrap. It's a very short walk, and they have a great app menu, a very good touch with vegitables, you might have to negotiate something off the menu, they'll be cool with that, a very good way to ease into SF. It's more of a "good restaurant" but it's so close that it's not a big deal, just eat at the bar. They are not bad with the cocktails.

        Friday walk: look for an online walking tour covering the murals of the mission. Your best "vantage point" is in Buena Vista park, which is exactly between dolores park and the alembic. Make sure you find the golden fire hydrant, it's on the way. It's not as good as Twin Peaks, which is a GREAT vantage point. Or do that monday.

        Friday dinner: obviously this is to get credit with the vegan side of the house. And it's on the water. No comment. And the next night with Source.

        Saturday drinks: I keep wondering about Smuggler's Cove plus Absinthe. Absinthe is pretty good but it's not quite up to the rest of the list. Imho.

        Sunday dinner: don't even try Brazilian here.

        Monday: some actually fun things in the city: Rent a bike, but go up twin peaks, or all the way to Baker Beach (great view in the city). There are some architecture walking tours. Also, consider something including Oakland or Berkeley. You can walk through the Berkeley campus, and have lunch at Gather, still swing back to pick up your luggage at the W.

        6 Replies
        1. re: bbulkow

          Wow thank you so much for the advice.

          NYC I like most of the main mixology bars/speakeasies such as Raines Law, Employees Only, Dram, Pegu Club (sometimes), Death & Co., Elsa etc.

          Thursday: Thanks for the tip on Zare. Will definitely think about it depending on timing with checking in to the hotel. I know we 100% want to knock out local edition that night.

          Sat: Definitely will check out Marin. Is it worth it to still go to Sausalito for a bit or not really? Also, do you think we'll have trouble getting in to Smugglers Cove? Absinthe seems interesting, but if you have another suggestion based off of my likes list, let me know.

          Sunday: Angel Island sounds good. Will definitely consider it. Still looking for a dinner place as Nopa doesn't have any availabilities and I'm not really trying to go there at 5 pm and wait for a table, especially with a pending res at Bourbon and Branch at 9 pm. I'm a fan of new american as well, but price is strict and that $80 max is including tip. That burger looks interesting, but I may be wanting to try something more traditional.

          Monday: Any recs for Oakland? My buddy works for the A's and can get us tickets to the game at 1 pm. Is it worth it to go and do this/how long does it take in reality to get from SF to the stadium/Oakland in general via public transit?

          Also, any idea when I can fit in a decently priced but solid Lobster Roll somewhere, and where that may be? I grew up in Boston so Im a fanatic and with the lack of remotely well-priced options in NYC, I don't get them often.

          Thanks again for everything!

          1. re: mdemps9190

            There can be lines at Smuggler's Cove at times, but SF tends to be a bit empty of locals on Labor Day weekend, so maybe not. Try not to go there too late or there will be a line.

            If there's a line, try Two Sisters. Again, it's in the same neighborhood and has great cocktails.

            I've been to Raines Law a few times and think Aziza's cocktails can match up to it.

            1. re: mdemps9190

              I like Burritt Room (the bar) a lot; the best drinks there may be their punch bowls. I didn't like the vibe at Local Edition so we didn't stay for a drink. For one, you can't sit at open seats, many of which are reserved in advance. Bar Agricole would be my other SOMA choice: http://www.baragricole.com/#/drinks/. Great space to boot.

              Mission Dolores Park is a park, good for sitting and picnicking mostly. Walk up Valencia and veer off on the numbered streets to see most of the sights. There's a lot to see and do in the Mission.

              Also in Hayes Valley is Brass Tacks, which opened recently in the former Marlena's space. Supposedly v good bartender-program but I haven't been yet. But it's literally a block from Smuggler's, Absinthe, Two Sisters, so why not?

              Sunday in GG Park is great for a stroll or bike ride bc they close off to traffic. Love the De Young, world class museum. That is the day to do the Alembic which is on they way back through the Haight. It doesn't make as much sense to go there on Friday.

              No more lobster rolls here than in NY. But Monday sounds like a great day for a leisurely lunch w drinks. Since you have time, you could stand in line at Swan Oyster Depot, all seafood choices incl lobster and crab. Or head to old-school Tadich for a martini lunch. Or to Wexler's for a smoked everything menu including a manhattan. The latter two are in the FiDi you'll want to beat the lunch rush somehow. The Ferry Bldg is also a fine place to spend time.

              1. re: mdemps9190

                The "usual suspects" in nyc. I had dinner at traif sunday, I was pretty well impressed. Love the sweet / savory they're doing in so many dishes, and the bartender was willing to mix up specials if he wasn't busy.

                I can't comment on sausalito. The one food rec everyone makes there is fish.

                It is true about GG park that you could hit the Asian Art (it has a lookout tower that's pleasant) and stroll through the big garden. A recent trip out that way had me at Social Kitchen, which I can recommend, although you might end up drinking a beer, they make their own and it's not bad.

                There's a thread about whether everyone will be gone this weekend. Between Burning Man and Labor Day and the Bridge Closure, there might be unusual patterns - including people being stuck in the city.

                Oakland. Pizzaiolo, great cocktails, open monday, a bit of a pain to get to via public transit. I'd send you to Enquentro in particular - the only veg place I enjoy eating at - but it's closed monday. As is hopscotch, second thought. My favorite bar - just for vibe - is Cafe Van Kleef, which is right near the 19th st bart, but the cocktails are actually terrible. And by terrible I mean nearly undrinkable. The only thing I order anymore is greyhound with stoli, they squeeze the juice while you watch, but the stoli's watered. Looking at OpenTable, I see Mua is open. they have a solid burger, and they have an entire vegan substitution guide, and a very oakland vibe. The burger there is a-ok and they have a vegan housemade burger. Cocktails aren't bad at all, they have a cask-conditioned special, for example. A little bit of a walk from 19th street but not bad. There's also a nest of galleries due east of Mua on 23rd, and down to Rock Paper, not sure if they'd be open on Monday. My dead-on favorite place to drink is Heinhold's, partially because a friend lives near there and it's her regular, but it's also just cool. They don't really mix drinks there it's more of a shots and beer kind of place. They might make something simple and classic like an old fashioned. If you go to Heinhold's, you can go back to SF on the ferry, which is steps away. Ferries are probably running more often because of the bridge closure. At Heinhold's you can sit out in front, which is delightful on a warm late sunny day. Would be a must for a Jack London fan, the bar is apparently featured in several of his books.

                I have no idea why you think we might have lobster here. There's no lobster on the west coast, we have crabs. Crab season starts at Thanksgiving (the tradition of the thanksgiving crab)

                Baseball. I haven't been to the oakland stadium since they Raiders came back and they changed the field to include football. That was a while ago. On a good day, a ball game can be relaxing and pretty sunny. There is no food (of note) near the stadium. For timing, just look at the BART Coliseum transit times. It takes maybe 5 minutes to walk the footbridge over to the stadium.

                Do search for "Fruitvale Taco Crawl". There's a bart station that has a lot of great down-home mexican places within a block. It's not that far from the Colosseum.

                And - make a point to check out the Bay Lights, the giant light sculpture they put on the bay bridge. It's visible from the Embarcadero just south of the ferry building. After dark, obviously.

                You'll have to check if ANYTHING is open. It's labor day. One of the hip joints (State Bird) is closed all week.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  I had a surprisingly solid cocktail at Social Kitchen in May -- it was a house version of a mojito done with gin, so prolly not up bbulkow's alley, but quite tasty. The beer was just so so per my sudsy companion. Coupla tasty items on the HH snack list...

                  I dunno if it's known for cocktails but we really enjoyed what we had at the bar at Miss Ollie's in Oakland (same trip). A fun vibe but not really bar-ry. Food was uniformly excellent and drinks friendly.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Nice to know. My trip we focused on the beer since it was the 50-beers-in-one-giant-crawl tour. There are ways to do a highball well, and a tall cold fizzy drink I'll order might be the occasional Pimm's cup if they've got the fresh cucumber stacked at the bar.

                    SF is rarely hot enough - but what are some favorite bars for a Pimm's cup?

            2. Wow, can I come with you guys?!!! Couple suggestions: Skip the wine country unless you want to devote a whole day to it (which is well worth it imo). If you want parks, outdoor stuff, consider the Lands End hike from Legion of Honor to Cliff House. Very scenic and drinks at Cliff House fit in with your cocktail theme. As for A's game, it's a cinch to get there and back on BART (and the A's are doing great right now!). Have fun and let us know how it goes.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Lisa S.

                Lisa, I'm pretty interested in the Lands end hike. We only have a car for Saturday and are doing cake bread, but early (1045 private tour). If we left and got to lands end around 430 would we be able to park, and enjoy a nice walk?

                1. re: mdemps9190

                  You can walk as far as you want before turning back. Sounds like plenty of time.

                  1. re: mdemps9190

                    Lot of driving for little time in wine country. But you will try some good wines at Cakebread and it's fun going over the G.G.

                    4:30 or even later at Lands End gives you plenty of time for nice walk, cocktail at Cliff House, and still make it back to town for dinner. Park at Legion of Honor to join trail head, about 45 minute stroll to Sutro Baths / Cliff House, than a 45 minute martini-fueled return hike to car is a breeze. If you time it right, and assuming weather cooperates (perhaps unlikely this time of year) the return to car could be a spectacular sunset hike.

                    1. re: mdemps9190

                      Yeah, 4:30 should be fine. If there's not parking on the road by the Cliff House, there should be plenty further south on Ocean Beach. It should be a pretty easy hike—more of a walk—that could be finished well before sunset, but that depends on your pace (my friends and I hike around the city once or twice a week).

                      Fair warning as Lisa S. said, it can get cold and foggy in a hurry out on the edge of San Francisco, especially compared to NYC.

                      Also, to keep this from being all about tourist information: the Cliff House is a place where you are paying for the view. There is much better food (and drinks) to be had elsewhere.

                  2. Your itinerary sounds great and there are a ton of good suggestions already.

                    When my vegan friend visited from Boston last year, we ate at Golden Era, which I liked: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/857760

                    There are also a few vegan Asian places out near Golden Gate Park in the Sunset, and also various Asian places that would have vegan options. Not sure if any are as good as what you'd get in Tenderloin/Chinatown, but could be worth it. But if you're looking for a more 'special' bday lunch on Sunday, it might not be as amazing an option.

                    Dave MP

                    1. If you want to go to a vegan restaurant, maybe Millennium. It's by far the most ambitious vegan place around.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        +1 for Millenium. I have taken various types of vegans/vegetarians where with great success. In fact, I even love the food there.

                      2. You can do better than Dinosaurs.

                        You should really add Trick Dog to your list.

                        It almost looks like your drink list is based on a list that's about a year old, and misses some newer options.

                        I've come to the realization that Smuggler's Cove is an odd place, in a really stupid space with a menu so expansive, it's easy to order a dud. Keep your expectations low, and if it's overly crowded, don't feel as if you missed the best bar in SF.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: sugartoof

                          I agree that SC is a bit claustrophobic. It made more sense when it was Jade but now it's a tiki bar with no tiki. That said, I loved the drinks when Cate was at Forbidden Island.

                          1. re: rubadubgdub

                            No tiki? The place is decorated like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The top floor's less claustrophobic than the basement.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I honestly didn't see this! Maybe I'm used to my tiki over the top like FI or Tonga. But what I remember seeing was a pretty toned down. It looked a lot like the old Jade actually.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                By Tiki standards, it looks like an afterthought, or like a loungey bar having a once a week Tiki night, with decorations you could carry in and out at the end of the night.

                          2. I had one of my favorite cocktails ever at Smuggler's Cove when I asked the bartender for her favorite agricole rum drink: a Last Word made with agricole rum instead of gin.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I think that's a good strategy, rather than stand there paging through a menu that would make a Greek Diner blush.

                              Anything you can order in a highball glass would be advised, since you're probably going to have to go up or down a flight of winding stairs.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                +1. was in SF a couple weeks ago and hit up the Alembic, Bourbon and Branch (and Wilson and Wilson), and Smugglers Cove, as well as having drinks at AQ. While all the places made great drinks, coming from NY, SMugglers Cove was unique and the clear stand out.

                              2. Don't miss Trick Dog!

                                1. Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Bourbon and Branch was the clear cut favorite. Overall I feel like the cocktail scene didn't really compare to all that NYC has to offer, but it was still a great time. Also liked the Alembic, two sisters, and rickhouse a lot.

                                  Smuggler's Cove was a bit disappointing as the bartender seemed more focused on churning out drinks than his craft, but it was a unique menu.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: mdemps9190

                                    Yeah, Smuggler's Cove is a lot of hype, but I think the quick, and gruff bartending is a product of the extended menu, and the layout of the place, where gridlock is inevitable. They're just trying to get people out of their faces. I've never had a drink there where I didn't wonder if they hadn't forgotten an ingredient or two.

                                    What did you have notable at Two Sisters?

                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                      Two sisters I just had the tea-infused old fashioned. It wasn't really the cocktails that made me like it, but the ambiance and such. Coming from Smuggler's Cove to there was a nice change of pace. It reminded me of sitting at the bar at hotel Delmano in brooklyn.

                                    2. re: mdemps9190

                                      I dunno, I think there is a limit to that sort of thing, personally. Once I was at Middle Branch, and when I ordered a drink, the bartender was extremely meticulous measuring the portions of alcohol, inserting the bits of fruit peel, the bits of flaming tree bark or whatever else was going in there. After a very ostentatious few minutes of mixing and stirring and igniting, he took a strawful of my drink... and then decided that it was unacceptable, and tossed out the whole drink, and started over. I could almost feel the moans of everyone else waiting for a drink (and there was quite the queue, mind you). The drink was, of course, delicious, but I bet I would have thought that first one was delicious too. As far as I could tell, he used exactly the same ingredients from exactly the same source and exactly the same portions.

                                      I personally can do without all that, but that's just me. I definitely want attention paid to the drink, and do not want the bartender to roll his/her eyes if I specify how many olives I want in my martini or something. At the same time, you don't have to get hyper-precise about it. It's probably good enough with your best approxmiations of quantity.

                                      1. re: mdemps9190

                                        when did you go to smuggler's cove? I think timing can definitely be everything, as I was lucky (from what I hear) to go at a time when the bar was only about 1/2 full and not only did my drink receive ample attention, the bartender was more than willing to discuss the different drinks and rums on offer as well as the sf cocktail scene in general and the differences between ny and sf at length. from what i hear that may have been the exception that proves the rule, but it was certainly nice. from what i gather SC does get extremely crowded/busy and that could def make for a subpar experience.

                                        1. re: cubicles

                                          So basically, you were at one of the 4 seats or whatever it is, at the bar?

                                          I've been in the place when it was half empty, about 30 minutes after opening, and the bar area was still cramped. I think luck has more to do with it than the time you go.

                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            Smuggler's Cove has more than one bar.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              The downstairs bar isn't always open, and there's not much more room there either.

                                          2. re: cubicles

                                            Timing is definitely everything. We went early on a saturday night, maybe around 9 pm? It was just disappointing to see overall. I know it may be inconsiderate to blame the bartender for wanting to keep things moving, but I just expect a better experience and attention to detail. I actually like things like you mentioned dunstable.

                                            It's like if you go to a steak place and order a steak medium-rare but they cook it to medium. You may not realize it, but it's not perfect to what you are paying for, and the chef definitely notices it. (Steak may be a bad example, but you get my point).