Leave Your Heart in San Francisco
A local’s look at the city by the bay
by Shyla Batliwalla
“San Francisco, my favorite city—where the women are strong and the men are pretty.”—From a t-shirt I bought at the 2002 Gay Pride Parade
I’m currently a Houstonian, but I can’t lie—in my heart, I’ll always be a devout San Franciscan. Born and bred in the SF Bay Area, I’ve developed an intimate, almost romantic relationship with my city by the bay. A style-seekers paradise with the most eccentric and beautiful people in the country, San Francisco is the perfect vacation destination. With over sixteen million tourists descending on her each year, there is much more to the city than Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Trek off the beaten path for a peek at the San Francisco we San Franciscans love most.
My Favorite ‘Hood: Hayes Valley
Hayes Valley, a patchwork of quirky shops, creative souls, and overwhelmingly delicious restaurants is the ‘hood where I lived, played, and loved.
For a perfect cup of coffee, head to Blue Bottle. Don’t let the long line or garage-chic setting deter you; one sip of Blue Bottle coffee and you’ll never drink Folgers again. Stop by Miette for delectable cakes and sweets. The uniquely flavored hazelnut, rose geranium, and fleur de sel macaroons are heavenly. For a sinfully delicious dinner in a classic, Euro-inspired setting, make a reservation at Absinthe, home of Top Chef finalist, Jamie Lauren. Her beef cheeks and slow-cooked pork are among the best bites of meat I’ve ever tasted. After dinner, meander over to Rose Street for a glass of vino at Hotel Biron.
If shopping is your strength, head to Flight 001for innovative travel accessories. Fashion fanatics Corina and Catherine hand select exquisitely stylish designer duds and luxury denim at Azalea boutique. For modern styles with vintage flair, check out Lavish. This hip boutique houses luxury clothing and accessories as well as adorable infant wear.
Embark on a Day in the Park: Dolores Park and Alamo Square
San Franciscans eat, drink, read, lounge, and essentially live at the park. Since the perfect 80-degree day doesn’t come along every week, whenever one strikes, we flock to our favorite outdoor spaces.
In the heart of the mission district and neighboring the Castro, lies the quintessentially San Franciscan, Dolores Park. A random cocktail of baggy-jean-wearing teens, young hipsters, and couples in love, Dolores Park is a favorite local hangout. Don’t miss movies showcased the second Thursday of each month.
Another city fave is Alamo Square, home to dog lovers, sunbathers, and the “Full House” house. Four city blocks bordered by architecturally distinctive mansions, Alamo Square overlooks the entire city from the Transamerica Pyramid to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sand, Sun, and Scenery: China Beach
Hidden between Baker Beach and Lands End is China Beach—a tiny, secluded stretch of sand. It’s the perfect place for romantic walks, intimate picnics, and breathtaking views. I spent one of my first dates with my fiancé at China Beach watching the Blue Angels fly overhead—one of our most sacred memories.
Pizza and Ice-Cream: 18th Street
I’ve spent countless evenings strolling up 18th street and indulging in some of the city’s best food. For an unforgettable dining experience, head to Pizzeria Delfina on 18th and Guerrero. Choose from a bevy of sundry thin-crust pies with toppings like fennel sausage, prosciutto di parma, and mozzarella di bufala. Save room for dessert and skip one block up the street to BiRite Ice Cream. For a true taste of heaven, try a scoop of their salted caramel or honey lavender.
Hot Night on the Town
On Friday nights my gal pals and I would head out to the mission to drink up and get down. Start your escapades upstairs on the patio at the swanky Medjool restaurant and bar. Then stumble over to Beauty Bar for martinis and manicures. Afterwards, hop next door to Little Baobab where hibiscus and ginger cocktails await you. Their miniscule dance floor and lively reggae tunes will keep you dancing ’til the wee hours of the morning. Before calling it a night, pay a visit to one of the late-night bacon-wrapped hot-dog vendors. The mere smell of these tempting treats gets me every single time.
One Lazy and Yummy Sunday
Sunday brunch after a night of dancing is practically a spiritual experience to San Franciscans. The best place to brunch in my hometown is Foreign Cinema. The food is world-renowned and old, foreign films are played on the outside patio. Try the baguette French toast or the homemade “pop tarts”—delicious.
It took the love of my life to pry me away from my darling San Francisco, but a piece of my heart will always be in the city by the bay. If you are debating where to spend your summer vacay, head to San Francisco and hit up some of my favorite local haunts. But before you book your flight, here’s one last piece of advice: When talking to a local, don’t ever, ever refer to San Francisco as “San Fran” or “Frisco”—it’s just not acceptable.