Last week, two of my best friends from Texas finally came to visit. I’ve talked San Francisco up quite a bit over the years, so I knew they were arriving with high expectations. One of my favorite things about San Francisco is the diversity of the city. Each neighborhood is distinctly different, and I wanted to show them as many areas as possible. We ate our way through the city, taking in the sights as we went.
San Francisco, from the Golden Gate Bridge
Day 1: Come Fly With Me
Before picking my friends up at the airport Wednesday night, I made a batch of banana muffins, using Jenna’s banana bread recipe as a guide. If you have not yet read her book, White Jacket Required, I highly recommend it! These little muffins were great to have available for breakfast or snacks while my friends were in town.
The girls arrived hungry after a long flight. We dropped their luggage at my apartment, then went straight to the Blue Jay Cafe for dinner. This colorful little spot serves up hearty comfort food at low prices. They have an extensive side list, full of tasty options, so 2 of us ended up ordering plates of sides. Our favorites were the mac and cheese and brussels sprouts, with sweet potato fries close behind. We chatted the night away, finally falling into bed in the wee hours of the morning.
Day 2: Coffee, Carne, and Cacao
Cafe Au Lait
Thursday morning I had a client to see in the Financial District. My friends came along and stopped at Coffee Bar, a small cafe that I frequent, while I went to the studio to teach. As soon as I was through, we hit the ground running! My roommate, another friend from Texas, joined us as we walked to the Ferry Building and grabbed lunch at Il Cane Rosso. All 4 of us ordered the sunchoke soup. I paired it with half a pork sandwich, and the girls both had half a beef brisket sandwich. It was all delicious!
Pork Sandwich and Sunchoke Soup
After perusing the shops at the Ferry Building, we continued up the Embarcadero to Tcho, my favorite chocolate maker in San Francisco. I loved the chocolate tasting at Tcho after my tour a few months ago, and I was excited to experience it again. The second tasting did not disappoint! My friends liked the milk chocolate best, while I was partial to the “Nutty” dark chocolate. This stop reminded one of my guests of a visit to Ghirardelli when she was a little girl. We decided to make it a chocolate day, and continued walking to Ghirardelli Square. We checked out the views from the square, rested briefly by a fire pit, then got some ice cream at the cafe.
I had planned to take the girls to Absinthe, but after a day of rich, sweet food, we were craving something a little lighter. We ended up going to Lers Ros, also located in Hayes Valley, for Thai food instead. We shared a green papaya salad with prawns, pad thai, and red curry with chicken. By the time we walked home, we were all worn out!
Red Curry with Chicken
Day 3: Around the World in 12 Hours
Anxious for something “normal”, I started Friday with coffee and a bowl of oatmeal at home before going to ballet class at ODC. One of the Texas gals joined me, and we had a great time dancing together for the first time in 3 years. The three of us teamed back up after class and went to lunch at La Boulange. This French bakery has a number of locations in San Francisco. It has good coffee, delicious pastries (almond croissants… mmmm), and nice salads and sandwiches. My Nicoise salad was great, and the girls enjoyed their egg salad sandwich and quiche/soup combo.
We were joined by another dancer friend of mine, and journeyed through the Gates to China Town. Spotting a familiar sign for free tea tasting, I led them into Vital Tea Leaf. Lindsey and I had an amusing visit to this little store during her first visit to SF years ago. Our favorite teas of the day were a rose green tea and lychee oolong. The young woman helping us was full of information, and also full of smiles. We hit the street again, taking in the sights and sounds of Chinatown. Turning right on Jack Kerouac Alley, we ended up outside the famous City Lights Books.
We continued walking on Columbus Avenue, into North Beach. After a little pick-me-up, AKA gelato, at a sweet shop, we walked up to Coit Tower. We opted not to go inside, but we enjoyed walking around the tower, seeing the beautiful views of the City and the Bay. Walking back down the hill, we stopped at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, arguably the best pizza in SF. We shared a Cal Italia and a Margherita pizza. All I can say is “YUM!” The tour continued as we walked across Lombard Street to see the crooked block, consisting of 8 sharp turns. Fun fact: Vermont Street is actually the most crooked street in San Francisco, though it is less of a tourist destination.
Cal Italia at Tony’s
The day concluded at the War Memorial Opera House, where we watched our friend perform with the renowned San Francisco Ballet. The highlight of the program was Yuri Possokhov’s new Rite of Spring. After the performance, we went to get a drink at Dobb’s Ferry with a couple dancers.
Day 4: It’s Always Sunny in the Castro
I had to neglect my post as tour guide on Saturday morning and go to work! I met up with my friends to see the matinee performance of San Francisco Ballet’s Program 4. I thought Scotch Symphony looked more solid than when I saw it last season, but my favorite piece of the day was Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour. I was feeling restless after working at a desk all morning and sitting through the performance, so I was happy to move as we walked to the Castro.
Cosmos and Food
My SF girlfriends and I used to frequent Cafe Flore to take advantage of their Saturday 2-for-1 special on Cosmos. I was happy to share this spot with my Texas girls. Cafe Flore has a a beautiful outdoor patio (with heat lamps), good food, and an entertaining staff. After a drink and a late lunch/early dinner, we moved on to Hot Cookie. As we ate our cookies, we continued wandering. I gave a brief history lesson when we passed Harvey’s, but mostly stayed quiet as the girls took in the sometimes odd, but mostly awesome, neighborhood.
We ended the day at Cafe du Soleil, chatting over wine and coffee with a good local friend of mine and her out-of-town guest. It was a great place to wind down!
Day 5: International Orange
The one thing my friends really wanted to do was walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Sunday morning, after grabbing coffee at Mojo Bicycle Cafe and pastries at the Divisadero Farmers’ Market, we made the trek to the bridge. It was my first time to actually walk on the bridge! I’ve biked across twice, but never have tackled it on foot. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we had a lovely walk across. We wandered down through the Presidio, stopping to play around in Crissy Field, then went to the Marina. Our first stop was lunch at The Grove. After fueling up, we went window shopping. We stopped at Kara’s Cupcakes for a treat before heading home to rest. I had the special Bailey’s flavor, and my friends both had red velvet. I want to play around with Bailey’s baked goods now! It was so good.
Golden Gate Bridge
My roommate joined us for dinner. Tapas and sangria at Picaro! We ordered calamares fritos, broccoli con almendras, pollo al ajillo, tortilla de patata, and patatas aioli. The broccoli and tortilla de patata were my favorite dishes. We had a great time catching up all together, and laughed a lot. I’ve had some great nights at this restaurant, but Sunday will join the ranks as one of the best. We moved on to Lion Pub, where we enjoyed some delicious margaritas.
We stopped at Cafe Abir Monday morning before driving to the airport. I was sad to see them go, but was happy to have had so much time with them. I hope they understand now why I love San Francisco! We laughed a lot, ate a ton, and walked a grand total of 23 miles. It was a wonderful few days!