Help us choose what to do in San Francisco!
October 28, 2011 10:36 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are heading to California in two weeks - whoo! - and our first stop is a week in San Francisco. I've read the SF posts here, and guidebooks and websites, but I'd love some MeFite recommendations for our specific needs/wants!

These are things we like and/or are interested in doing:

-eating delicious vegan food (we are especially interested in "treats" - for instance, I'm excited at Pepple's Donuts! - but any advice that helps to narrow down the many delicious-sounding options would be great)
-doing outdoorsy things (the rest of our vacation will involve hiking in various parts of California), so cool places to walk, a great place to rent a bike and go for a ride, etc., would all be welcome suggestions
-going out for a couple of drinks at a lesbian-friendly place (we're in our late 20s, if that helps)
-seeing some interesting art or cool museums

There are lots of other things that we'd totally be up for doing that aren't on that list, but those are sort of key things. We're pretty low-key, and are happy to spend a lot of time just wandering. Neither of us is particularly opposed to doing "touristy" things if they're interesting enough to make it worth it, but it would be great to have some insider tips.

We will be staying at an apartment in the Mission, and we won't have a car. We'll have Sunday-Thursday to explore, and neither of us has been there before.
posted by sabotagerabbit to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Check out Cafe Gratitude in the mission if you want to experience Northern California veganism to the extreme. A fun place that takes vegan food (and raw macrobiotic cuisine) seriously.
posted by chevyvan at 10:41 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think pretty much any bar would be lesbian-friendly in San Francisco, but the Lexington Club is your friendly neighborhood dyke bar and it's in the Mission.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:41 AM on October 28, 2011

For vegan food, I cannot recommend Gracias Madre (in the Mission) highly enough. I'm really sad I didn't get to eat there more before moving away.

For a great walk, you want Lands End. It's a serious bus ride out to the ocean, but you get views of some pretty incredible (and classic) California coastline
posted by juliapangolin at 10:41 AM on October 28, 2011

Ah, so great already - thanks. It's great to hear personal recs for things I've read about.
Otherwordlyglow, yeah, good point - I should have been more clear that it would be nice to be surrounded by other queers!

Please keep 'em comin'!
posted by sabotagerabbit at 10:51 AM on October 28, 2011

For food: Gracias Madre as mentioned above, Papalote (also Mexican) has several delicious vegan options (mole tofu! soyrizo!) and the best salsa ever, and Cha-ya has amazing veggie Japanese food.

Outdoorsy: Land's End is pretty great.

Art: SFMOMA is the big one.
posted by grapesaresour at 11:00 AM on October 28, 2011

and Cha-ya has amazing veggie Japanese food.

And I think it's vegan, not just vegetarian. If it's not vegan, they definitely have a LOT of vegan options.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:03 AM on October 28, 2011

Hop BART to Oakland and check out Souley Vegan.
posted by liketitanic at 11:06 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

And I think it's vegan, not just vegetarian. If it's not vegan, they definitely have a LOT of vegan options.

Yeah, for some reason they say vegetarian but everything seems to be vegan as far as I can tell.
posted by grapesaresour at 11:08 AM on October 28, 2011

I too think that most bars in SF will be lesbian friendly, but you might want to walk down Cortland St. in Bernal Heights - it's a nice walk and a nice neighborhood, and there are a couple lesbian bars there - Stray Bar and Wild Side West, at least. Wild Side West has a nice backyard garden too.
posted by pombe at 11:14 AM on October 28, 2011

You can take the 33 bus (runs up 18th st. through the Mission) over the hills, get off at Stanyan Street & walk through Golden Gate Park to the de Young Museum. If you feel the urge to keep walking you can go all the way to the beach. The park is really a treasure.
posted by gyusan at 11:16 AM on October 28, 2011

Kinokuniya Mall is great, but I always seem to leave it with less money than when I entered :(
posted by mekko at 11:47 AM on October 28, 2011

You have to check out some of the public stairways! Those are some really beautiful walks.
posted by imalaowai at 11:59 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Vegetarian/vegan places to eat in the Mission: seconding Gracias Madre and Cha-Ya. Also Herbivore and Dosa.

Pretty much any bar in the Mission or Castro will be lesbian-friendly. The two actual lesbian bars are the Lex and Wild Side West (which is a bit of a hike up the hill from the Mission, but worth it.)

Go check out the GLBT Historical Society Museum in the Castro.

I second Land's End as the best walk. You can also add Ocean Beach to that.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:09 PM on October 28, 2011

Seriously seconding Imalaowai's suggestion of stairway walks. There are some exceptionally beautiful hidden stairways in San Francisco. My SO and I had a great time doing this.
posted by boobjob at 12:16 PM on October 28, 2011

Every single one of these is a best answer. If I wasn't already beside myself with excitement, I sure as hell am now. Thank you!
posted by sabotagerabbit at 12:39 PM on October 28, 2011

The Saturday Farmer's Market at Ferry Plaza is always a great option - it's on the high end, price wise, but a really beautiful way to spend the morning.
posted by judith at 1:50 PM on October 28, 2011

I grew up around the corner, so I'm biased, but I think Seward Street's "Slide Park" is totally worth a visit, as is the Kite Hill open space behind it. Both, as well as the little community garden attached to the park, are really nice outdoor spaces.
posted by majick at 3:15 PM on October 28, 2011

Nthing Souley Vegan, it is my favorite restaurant ever, and definitely in the category of "treats." I recommend the crispy burger, it's southern-fried tofu in an awesome burger. I also love the fried kale - it's a large appetizer, batter-fried kale with vegan ranch dressing over a bed of baby spinach, with tomatoes and lemon wedges. DREAMY. If you like spicy, the cayenne lemonade is great too.

For outdoorsy stuff, I like Mount Tamalpais. It's in Muir Woods, but don't do regular Muir Woods. It's like being a tree museum rather than a forest. Mount Tam is incredibly gorgeous, close to the city (just across the Golden Gate bridge) and because of its height, you can see the top of the fog over SF (if it's foggy - which it probably will be). I know people who used to bike from the Mission to Mount Tam - I'm sure this is still doable for people in shape to do so! It has wonderful creeks and picnic areas. I've never needed to rent a bike, but I am sure you'll have no problem in the Mission.

YMMV, but I find the art museums in SF to be often disappointing in their permanent collections - I would check out the websites of the major ones and see if there are any exhibits of particular interest, because what SF does get is wonderful traveling exhibits.

Definitely bus over to Golden Gate park and walk or bike around. There is a compound of happy bison there, as well as wonderful redwoods and eucalyptus trees, the Shakespeare gardens, etc. There is a vegan hot dog place near the park, as well one of the Loving Hut franchise (an international chain of Asian vegan food).

Greens Restaurant is a famous California foodie landmark, it's vegetarian, it always has vegan menu options and they're happy to modify many dishes to be vegan, and there's a wonderful view of the water from there. It's expensive though, and difficult to bus to. If you want to treat yourselves to a cab ride and expensive dinner, I highly recommend it. It's the restaurant Deborah Madison was running when she wrote the Greens Cookbook.

When people visit me, I like to take them to Empress of China. It's an old Chinese restaurant in Chinatown on like the 6th or 7th floor or something of a building on a hill. The restaurant itself is overpriced and not particularly vegan-friendly, BUT there is also a bar where you can get yummy fried tofu appetizers, silly mixed drinks, regular bar fare as well obviously, and there is an absolutely fantastic view of Chinatown and Telegraph Hill. My friends I've taken there for drinks rave about it for months after. After you have a drink there and watch the sunset over Coit Tower, walk over to City Lights Bookstore, the historic beat generation bookstore and press that published Howl.

No one has mentioned it yet, but Herbivore is an all-vegan restaurant and there's one in (or near?) the Mission. This is one that I can't recommend - I keep coming back because I keep wanting to love it, but I find it mediocre. There are way better places.

Also, when you say Pepple's Donuts - Pepple's donuts are distributed all over the bay area, at vegan restaurants and vegan-friendly cafes, and you can get every variety in the ferry building. But in Oakland they have their restaurant, Donut Farm, where on weekends they have awesome brunches with stellar scrambles, breakfast burritos, pancakes, and so on. It's all local and organic and AMAZING. A bit of a trek from the Mission, but 100% worth it in my opinion.

PS: (YMMV but I don't love Cafe Gratitude - way too hippie-dippy woo-woo for me, and I'm pretty hippie dippie woo woo myself. Obviously, that is totally some people's thing and they love it, maybe it's yours too, but it's a very particular kind of thing.)
posted by fireflies at 4:46 PM on October 29, 2011

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