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June 27, 2012 9:54 AM   Subscribe

Upscale and downscale food, drink and adventure in SF for 4-Jul Week?

Rokusan's month-plus USA reunion tour is wrapping up, and it's almost time to flee back across the ocean.

Before that, the girl is meeting me in SF for a week. She's never even seen California, or any part of America outside of Manhattan, so it'll all be new for her, and 4-Jul will be something I am sure. Hoping some trustworthy (or at least wise) MeFites can hook us up with:

o A good dive bar or two? Caveat: no jazz.
o Quality pho? (I hear it's difficult downtown)
o Fourth of July fireworks viewing/music/whatever? What's the best area?
o A nice jacket-and-tie dinner dinner spot with view?
o Scenic self-walks that aren't too tacky-touristy? Nature is good, architecture is better.

We're at the Mandarin Oriental, so downtown/soma is best, but we're big adventure walkers, too, so anything north of Castro/Mission is fine.

No Alcatraz, please, and we're doing Hong Kong on the way back so Chinatown isn't exactly necessary.

What's not to miss?
posted by rokusan to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As mentioned before 4th of July Fireworks are dodgy in SF due to fog.

Jacket and and Tie place might be Top of the Mark (Hopkins). The Tonga room across the street at the Fairmount can be a hoot too (for that old school SF vibe.)

There are Dashiell Hammett walking tours. That could be fun.

I like walking around in the funky neighborhoods. Polk Street around Pacific is a neat area, full of nice little shops and whatnot.

I'd take someone down to the Sutro Baths. Walk on the pier, do the Musee Mechanique and then the eerie and mysterious Camera Obscura.

Have a meal at the Cliff House if you like.

I can't help you with dive bars. Are you talking scary tenderloin places with sad alcholics or hipster spots where they serve Pabst Blue Ribbon?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:05 AM on June 27, 2012

Best answer: I don't have a specific pho suggestion for the part of town you're staying in, but I WILL do something I never do: recommend the Tenderloin for lunch. It's one of the sketchiest neighborhoods in the city, but it's also were a lot of cheap (and authentic, my Vietnamese-American friends tell me) Vietnamese food in the city is. Go during the day, don't wave gadgets around and walk like you know where you're going and you'll be fine.

Dive bars: now that the Gold Dust in Union Square is gone, I will recommend Lefty O'Douls in Union Square or Tommy's Joynt on Van Ness.

I wouldn't spend any money or time on Forth of July--it's foggy and cold almost without exception. (Been here 30+ years).

Walks: Barbary Coast Trail, which will take you from 4th & Mission to Hyde Street Pier. Google it for a map. There are also medallions in the sidewalk to help guide you. If you want nature, take the 38-Geary bus out to Land's End. This is one of my absolute favorite things to do in SF.
posted by smirkette at 10:12 AM on June 27, 2012

The Attic is a sad alcoholic day-drinking hipster spot if you don't want to compromise.

Also, Chinatown is not Hong Kong - the Cantonese dialect is even pretty distinct. Stairway Walks in San Francisco. Epic Roasthouse is an option for dinner with a view, though I think it's fairly overpriced.
posted by kcm at 10:13 AM on June 27, 2012

A friend of mine always recommends PPQ (Pho Phu Quoc). I believe there are two, one in Outer Richmond and one in Sunset (so basically one's north and one's south of Golden Gate Park), but the bus ride out there isn't bad at all.

Their website says that their sister restaurant Perilla has locations in the Mission and elsewhere, so maybe that's an option.

And I KNOW you said no Alcatraz -- I know, I know -- but I actually thought it was really cool, and so did my SF-living friend who gets trotted out there every time someone comes to town. There was a lot that I didn't know, and they have great self-guided tours. The natural aspects of the island are amazing, because it's a more or less self-contained ecosystem. I even got my mom a spot working with the parks conservation folks to help with the plant restoration.
posted by Madamina at 10:14 AM on June 27, 2012

I've been to 4th of July fireworks in SF and they weren't worth my time and effort - incredibly crowded and all I saw was interestingly colored fog. A better option would be to hop on Caltrain or BART and go someplace farther south on the peninsula. It's less foggy in Millbrae/San Mateo/Palo Alto/San Jose, so you would actually be able to see the fireworks. This website is supposed to have a comprehensive list of fireworks shows by the end of day today: http://sf.funcheap.com/city-guide/4th-july-fireworks-guide/
posted by asphericalcow at 11:54 AM on June 27, 2012

If a more general Vietnamese restaurant is ok, the Tu Lan near Market and 6th (downtown-ish) is very tasty and good value. Prepare for action-packed neighborhood.
posted by telstar at 4:56 AM on June 28, 2012

Best answer: I know you said "self-walks", but if you're at all open to guided tours, City Guides tours are fantastic. The guides are really knowledgeable. I've done at least a dozen of the walks and they've always been great. The walks are completely free, although donations are encouraged. Given your interest in architecture and your location, I'd recommend the Palace Hotel, Historic Market Street, and Ferry Building tours.

For dinner with a view, you might consider Greens, a nice vegetarian restaurant right on the bay. (I'm not sure about "jacket-and-tie"; things can be pretty informal here in San Francisco. I consider Greens to be a little dressier than most of the places I go, but if I showed up there in jeans and a t-shirt I don't think they'd throw me out.)

I have no personal pho recommendations, but here's a report from ChowHound on pho near the Financial District; and lots of people think Tu Lan has great hole-in-the-wall pho (and I see telstar already recommended it). Caveat: this is as dicey as the Tenderloin (some might consider it part of the Tenderloin, even though it's slightly south of Market), so smirkette's advice holds here, too, and I'd recommend it for lunch rather than dinner.

Have fun!
posted by kristi at 10:13 AM on June 29, 2012

Best answer: Golden Gate Park is a lovely place to wander in. I took a leisurely walk around Stow Lake last time I was in SF - it's close to the Sunset where one of your recommended pho places (plus the best best best best best falafel sandwich at Sunrise Deli) and the N-Judah MUNI.
posted by maryr at 10:46 AM on June 29, 2012

PS: It might be kinda cliche, but there some nice paths to wander near the Golden Gate Bridge (which is nowhere near Golden Gate Park, FYI) as well.
posted by maryr at 10:49 AM on June 29, 2012

Response by poster: Making a note here: huge success. Thanks, kids!
posted by rokusan at 10:58 AM on July 9, 2012

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