October 1, 2008 11:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm visiting San Francisco for the first time on Friday. What should a New Yorker do in the Bay Area that will be especially exotic, relaxing, and fun?

I've never been west of Chicago and maintain a fairly high-strung East Coast mentality that I would enjoy dialing down for a weekend in California. I'm looking forward to this visit (Friday to early Tuesday) to relax, ease into the, uh, California vibe--whatever that is--and experience the things I've missing out on as a New Yorker.

I'd appreciate recommendations for a decent, not-terribly expensive sushi restaurant, some fun bars and restaurants in The Mission district where I'm staying with friends, favorite vintage stores, and any must-do activities that are authentically Californian.

Also, any tips on dressing for the Bay Area weather in October would be swell.

Head start: we're all attending some events at Lit Quake and the Vegetarian Festival. Thanks in advance!
posted by zoomorphic to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (31 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if you'll have the free time for this, but I'd suggest just walking around - San Francisco is walkable like home, but while New York may be photogenic, I'd have to say SF is beautiful in a way that NY is not. And to me, riding a bike and rollerblading up and down those hills was a must do.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 11:55 AM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're an art gallery person, the Asian Art Museum is quite impressive.
posted by Nelsormensch at 11:56 AM on October 1, 2008

Best answer: The Ferry Plaza Farmer's market on Saturday is pretty great -- make sure you go outside and have breakfast from one of the many vendors out there.

As for the Mission district, definitely stop at Tartine bakery.
posted by Atom12 at 11:59 AM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I dont know exactly what kind of cool SF events you are looking for but the Squid list is the place I go for my stuff in the city. Also the museum of natural science is open now... as of 2 days ago... nothing cooler and newer in teh world of science.
posted by elationfoundation at 11:59 AM on October 1, 2008

SF Love Fest: http://www.sflovefest.org
Castro Street Fair: http://www.castrostreetfair.org
Squid List: http://www.laughingsquid.com/squidlist/events (on preview - elationfoundation has it)

It'll be 65-70F during the weekend, probably foggy with 20 mph winds.
posted by jet_silver at 12:01 PM on October 1, 2008

Here's my post from last October when I basically asked the same question. We really enjoyed the Ferry market so I would second that recommendation. We also enjoyed walking around the Castro.
posted by jacobsee at 12:04 PM on October 1, 2008

The view from the Lawrence Hall of Science in the Berkeley Hills is quite nice (much more dramatic than that live picture would indicate).

It's fun to street hike around Pacific Heights and the Russian Hill area -- so many beautiful houses. There's the original Swensen's there to take a break.
posted by troy at 12:07 PM on October 1, 2008

Best answer: the new grass-roofed Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park is open now. it's $25 to get in, which is really expensive, but apparently it's fantastic. and then you'll be in Golden Gate Park, which is also fantastic!
posted by supermedusa at 12:07 PM on October 1, 2008

Best answer: If you have access to a car, get out of the city for a couple hours. Highway 1 is beautiful, Muir Woods (or anywhere else with redwoods) is worth the trip. Also, head to the top of Twin Peaks for a great view of the city.
posted by gnutron at 12:08 PM on October 1, 2008

Best answer: The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is this weekend in Golden Gate Park. Free and quite California. Get some banh mi around 25th/Irving to eat. You can also take a break from the crowd and wander around the park, going to the Asian Art Museum, Conservatory of Flowers, and/or the recently reopened Academy of Science.

Mission food? You'll want to eat anywhere and everywhere around 16th/Valencia and/or 29th/Mission. You won't run out of places. We Be Sushi has several locations and is cheap and decent sushi. Chay Ya on Valencia bet. 18th & 19th is a vegetarian Japanese restaurant.

For bars, nothing along Valencia is terrible, but you should really go to Zeitgeist for a unique SF bar. If you don't like it, don't worry about it, but give yourself the chance.

Weatherwise I'll just recommend that you bring both shorts and a rain coat.
posted by rhizome at 12:11 PM on October 1, 2008

Best answer: If you want exotic, from the point of view of New York, then go visit Muir Woods. There is nothing like that in the NE.
posted by Class Goat at 12:15 PM on October 1, 2008

Not exotic but walking the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral calmed me down on Day 2 of my trip this past January.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 12:22 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mission: Playa Azul for Mexican Seafood, Mitchell's for Filipino ice cream, X21 for wacked out vintage furniture, 826 Valencia for Pirate Supplies and McSweeney's swag, Paxton Gate (next door to 826) for taxidermy supplies, framed insects, and exotic gardening supplies. I would check the Knockout or Make Out Room for events. Bourbon and Branch, Delerium, Absinthe, Rye are all good for swank cocktails if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by benzenedream at 12:37 PM on October 1, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. The boyfriend and I might rent a zipcar, so Muir Woods is a great idea. What about some middle-end sushi restaurants? I'm not a big sushi fan, but I'm sick of everyone telling me that it's because I haven't had sushi from the West Coast.
posted by zoomorphic at 12:37 PM on October 1, 2008

Forgot to mention -- all of the above Mission places can be hit in one afternoon of walking (12 blocks or so max).
posted by benzenedream at 12:38 PM on October 1, 2008

If you want to drive up to Napa(about an hour away), they should be in the middle of the grape harvest for this year. It's a really interesting time of year to take a tour of the wineries.

-Artesa is on the south end of the Valley (closest to SF), and that is one of the most beautiful places to be this time of year. The vines start changing colors, and the panoramic view from the tasting room at Artesa is just beautiful. ">http://www.artesawinery.com/
-Mumm Napa has the best free tour in the valley, in addition to outstanding photography exhibits. ">http://mummnapa.com/
posted by mintymike at 12:47 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

If your in the Golden Gate Park area, a good sushi place is Kazu, its on Irving (yellow awning) between 9th and 10th...its small & the service can be overwhelmed when crowded, but its very good (veggie rolls too!).

Definitely Muir Woods, or some hiking in the Marin headlands (great view of GGB too)-these are pretty "Californian" to me, a former east coaster. It might be wet and rainy this weekend...but whenever in SF, prepare for anything & there are microclimates, so it might be sunny and 80 in the mission but 50s and foggy in the park/sunset.
posted by hazel at 12:54 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm not a big sushi fan, but I'm sick of everyone telling me that it's because I haven't had sushi from the West Coast.

Just go to Ebisu (9th/Irving). Middle-end might be something like Amberjack at 27th/Church or that place in the Castro, 18th/Sanchez or so. Miyabi near Church & Market is pretty good.
posted by rhizome at 12:57 PM on October 1, 2008

Yo's sushi, between the Mission and Bernal Heights has pretty good sushi. The best sushi I've had in SF is at Hama-Ko, in Cole valley. It's just sushi, nothing else, but is very authentic and has the best fish I've ever had. Ebisu is good too.

If you're staying in the Mission, definitely spend an afternoon walking down Valencia street and checking out all the hipsters and hipster stores.

The New York Times 36 hours in the Mission is spot on with a lot of its recommendations.

Bar-wise, I second Zeitgeist (especially if it's a warm afternoon - its outdoor seating is not to be missed) and like Amnesia, Revolution Cafe, and Latin American Social Club. If you like beer, a visit to Toronado (in the lower haight) is in order. If you like cocktails, visit the Orbit Room or get reservations at Bourbon and Branch.
posted by pombe at 1:26 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

What about some middle-end sushi restaurants? I'm not a big sushi fan, but I'm sick of everyone telling me that it's because I haven't had sushi from the West Coast.

As someone who has lived in San Francisco and NYC, I'd say that the best sushi I've had has been in NYC.

That said, if you're in the Mission, Tokyo Go-Go is probably the best mid-range sushi bar in the area. Hip atmosphere too. I was a fan of Yo's sushi - in the beginning his sashimi was the best bang for the buck in San Francisco - but his quality has gone down and his prices have gone up.
posted by vacapinta at 1:47 PM on October 1, 2008

benzenedream hit a lot of good places in The Mission. I'd also suggest Ti Couz for crepes. Yum! There are a lot of cute shops in that area, I could spend hours wandering around Valencia. I particularly like Candy Store and Therapy (and their sister furniture/decor shop).
posted by radioamy at 1:51 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

From any one of the Market St. stations, take the Muni train N to Stanyan, get off, and then go a few blocks north to Haight St. and just wander around, making sure to hit Ameoba Music (the fave record store of a lot of people) on Haight. Get back on the outbound N and take it to the beach. Then get on the 23 bus and take it down the beach to Sloat St., going to the beach there, maybe watching surfers if it's breaking, visiting the Aqua Surf Shop, and eating at the excellent greasy spoon coffee shop right there (if you are early enough), then take the L train back to Market St.

Not that "touristy" but it will give you a nice little taste of the Sunset district, and you can also see the ocean.
posted by Danf at 2:36 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Eiji isn't really a sushi place; the tofu is pretty special, though, and you won't find a place like it in New York. Also, it's in the Castro, which is close-ish to the Mission.
posted by Zach! at 2:50 PM on October 1, 2008

If you want the awesome sushi, Okina Sushi in the Richmond District. Its only open Thursday-Sat. It has about 6 tables, rock-bottom prices and the owner says he has the fish flown in from Japan. I don't how he does it, but its the best sushi ever.

If you hit Tokyo Go-Go, be sure to get a plate of the Truffled Hirame and the soft-shelled crab roll.

The New York Times 36 hours in the Mission is spot on with a lot of its recommendations. And the first place on that list is the radio station I DJ for, Pirate Cat Radio studio/cafe. Ever had coffee in a live radio studio? Well its awesome, check it out.

Also try Lovejoy's Tearoom
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:00 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding Okina Sushi. However, "amazing West Coast sushi" is code for Los Angeles, not San Francisco. I wouldn't hold SF sushi any higher than NY sushi. LA trumps both for bang-for-the-buck.
posted by junesix at 3:45 PM on October 1, 2008

Eiji's tofu is delicious, but even its sushi is fantastic.

Try the pho at PPQ.
posted by svolix at 4:01 PM on October 1, 2008

I enjoyed my stop at Pancho Villa (roughly 16th & Mission). Open 'til midnight every night, delicious. Take a cable car ride, it's worth the $5. If you can get on a bike, I recommend route 55, which will take you through a breathtaking downhill in the Presidio, then shoot you out onto Crissy Field. From there you can bike along the Marina, and eventually all the way down the Embarcadero if you play your cards right. Enjoy SF!
posted by xiaolongbao at 4:10 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I love the Sutro Baths. (We don't have too many ruins in the USA; Europe hogs them all.)
posted by cirocco at 5:26 PM on October 1, 2008

One of my favorite places for a walk in San Francisco was always the stairways on Telegraph Hill. Lush, quiet, relaxing and chock full of wild parakeets! After that, you can stroll around North Beach.

If you want to overdose on Californiality, eat at Cafe Gratitude. Instead of ordering dishes, you recite positive affirmations. The food's pretty good, too.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 8:07 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Tonga Room is a bar with its own lagoon and intermittent rain showers.

The Musee Mecanique : antique arcade machines and a really freaky clown (warning: link has sound, including clown laughter.)

Miette Cakes: truly the most extraordinary baked goods anywhere.
posted by corey flood at 8:34 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I second Class Goat about Muir Woods. I'm a native San Franciscan and I think all the "city" and urban things in the Bay Area won't be that exciting to a New Yorker. But Muir Woods, Stinson Beach, Tomales Bay, or Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Highway 1, Lake Tahoe, etc. - all the nature of California is incredible. If you can get up north to Bolinas or Inverness or south towards Monterrey or Big Sur - that's amazing and authentically Californian.
posted by gt2 at 11:51 PM on October 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

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