Things We Like

Pub date November 25, 2009
WriterMarke B.
Yoshi’s Fillmore

The Fillmore district was an epicenter of the golden age of West Coast jazz, and this huge, luxurious, recent addition to the area is reviving the spirit of that bygone era for thousands of delighted musicophiles and newbies. Dine on delicious sushi, grab a couple of cool cocktails, and sink into the tuneful, improvisatory vibes with live shows nightly. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself taking in performances by (or sitting next to) some of the Bay’s jazz greats. 1330 Fillmore. (415) 655-5600,
Neighborhood: Fillmore. Muni: 22 Fillmore, 38 Geary

Glen Canyon Park

A stunning shot of Northern California nature lies smack-dab in the middle of the city. This huge preserve in the Glen Park neighborhood offers outdoor activities, unusual wildlife, sports utilities, and the opportunity to get away from it all without the car-rental fees. Pack a couple of buttery chocolate croissants from nearby Destination Baking Company in the Glen Park Village shopping area and commune with nature (and gooey pastry) for an afternoon.
Bosworth and Elk
Neighborhood: Glen Park. Muni: 44 O’Shaughnessy. BART: Glen Park

Ton Kiang

Chinatown gets all the press when it comes to Chinese cuisine in this town — deservedly so — but locals also flock to this Outer Richmond neighborhood fave from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily to dive into some of the city’s best dim sum. That means the large two-story dining room gets a little packed and noisy, but who cares when you’re gorging on delectable hai kim (shrimp-stuffed crab claws) and siu lung bao (Shanghai meat dumplings)?
5821 Geary. (415) 752-4440,
Neighborhood: Outer Richmond. Muni: 38 Geary


If you’re into giant, after-hours nightlife experiences with a spiritual edge, this recently opened megaclub will grab you body and soul (without completely draining your wallet). Techno, tribal, electronica, hip-hop – even guided meditation and peace conferences – all find a home in the bangin’ multiple rooms of this green-certified palace. Check the basement “catacombs” for the latest sounds, grab a bite at attached Thai restaurant Prana, and don’t forget your latest dancing shoes.
540 Howard.
Neighborhood: SoMa. Muni: 27 Bryant

Zante Pizza and Indian Cuisine

It’s one thing to claim to invent a curious dish like “Indian pizza” – but quite another to have it turn out quite so amazingly. Zante in the Outer Mission has been serving this unique, crispy-crusted delicacy for years; it’s a San Francisco classic. Choose your toppings from an expansive, unusual list that includes spinach, tandoori chicken, cauliflower, eggplant, and more. The restaurant also features savory traditional Indian foods (the veggie samosas will knock your socks off). If you can’t make it in, Zante delivers to most of the city seven days a week.
3489 Mission. (415) 821-3949,
Neighborhood: Outer Mission. Muni: 14 Mission

Fiona’s Sweet Shoppe

Ah yes, the famous Union Square, where the tumult of international commercialism, in the form of a gazillion department stores and tourist traps, can certainly overwhelm. When you’ve had enough browsing, or just need a sweet refresher, head a few blocks northeast to this incredibly cute, tiny candy store on Sutter Street. Scrumptious old school confections like English toffee and Dutch licorice abound, each piece individually wrapped and displayed in adorable jars.
214 Sutter. (415) 399-9992,
Neighborhood: Downtown. Muni: 30 Stockton, 45 Union

Harry Denton’s Starlight Room

An oldie but still very-goodie. This dazzling bar and nightclub on the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel has an atmosphere that occasionally rises into glitzy high camp, but with 360-degree views of the glimmering city at night through floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows – well, all aboard the disco-go-round! Among all the polished Art Nouveau decor, the 1930s-style ladies room is a definite must-see. Sundays play host to the raucous “Sunday’s a Drag” brunch and gender-illusionist showcase – a stunning buffet if ever there was one.
450 Powell. (415) 395-8595,
Neighborhood: Downtown. Muni: 38 Geary, 30 Stockton

Upper Playground

An art gallery, a fashion label, a men’s and women’s boutique – Upper Playground, whose various outlets take up approximately an entire block of Fillmore Street in Lower Haight, is the streetwise hipster’s one-stop dream. Local graffiti artists line up to design for Upper Playground’s numerous lines of T-shirts, hats, jackets, and accessories (including cheeky dildos and shot glasses), or to display their latest graphic works. When you’re done fingering monogrammed fleece in downtown’s tourist traps, this is the place to collect real SF souvenirs.
220 Fillmore. (415) 861-1960,
Neighborhood: Lower Haight. Muni: 30

The Buena Vista

Whether or not the talented gents of the Buena Vista bar and cafe brought the everdreamy Irish coffee to America (as has been claimed), this well-appointed bar is well worth visiting for its cozy, old-timey atmosphere in the heart of North Beach – and for that lovely, steaming concoction of Irish whisky and specially prepared cream. Fog? What fog? You’ll slice right through it with a couple of warm ones in your belly.
2765 Hyde. (415) 474-5044.
Neighborhood: North Beach. Cable Car: Powell and Hyde

Ritual Coffee Roasters

With its anti-establishment logo, interesting art, tattooed baristas devoted to coffee culture, and scenester customers devoted to their laptops, Ritual embodies several generations of quintessential San Franciscan culture – from the summer of love to the dot com boom (2.0) – with a decidedly funky Mission District flair. This is where to plug in, foam up, and get connected, whether you’re new in town or ready to launch that quirky startup.
1026 Valencia, SF. (415) 641-1024,
Neighborhood: Mission. Muni: 14 Mission, 26 Valencia. BART: 24th Street


Rain or shine, this world-famous dive always seems packed with hipsters, hippies, bikers, anarchists, burners, European exchange students, and anyone else willing to brave notoriously surly service from punk-rock bartenders. The payoff? A chance to sip stellar Bloody Marys or draught imports on a beer garden-style bench in the expansive backyard. Sunday afternoons are especially raucous, and feature a shamelessly carnivorous barbeque.
199 Valencia, SF. (415) 255-7505,
Neighborhood: SoMa. Muni: 22 Fillmore, 26 Valencia


Sleek, upscale, stylish – and fabulously gender-bending. Chichi drinks and high-end food are part of the deal, but AsiaSF’s real draw is its spectacular, theatrical, during-dinner shows featuring gorgeous, jaw-dropping gender illusionists – high-kicking, hair-flipping, and lip-synching with flair atop the long, thin bar. A restaurant and club perfect for celebrations, special occasions, and other-side-of-the-mirror titillation.
201 Ninth St., SF. (415) 255-2742,
Neighborhood: SoMa. Muni: F Line, 14 Mission, 19 Polk. BART: Civic Center Station

Bottom of the Hill

Situated deep in the deceptively charming industrial district of Potrero Hill, this live music venue, bar, and restaurant is known to music fans worldwide as one of the best places in San Francisco to see live bands. With a roster of performers that reads like Pitchfork’s Who’s Who of Indie Rock (and local acts soon to be included), an intimate stage, cheap cover, and a comfortable smoking patio, it’s a good bet seven days a week.
1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455,
Neighborhood: Potrero Hill. Muni: 19 Polk, 22 Fillmore


San Francisco’s take on the tour bus, this biodiesel-fueled, decked-out VW is one part party, one part educational tool (by day, as Das Frachtgut), and all parts experience. Hop aboard for a movie-, DJ-, or dinner-themed trip with other strangers in the know, or rent it out for your own private fete. Either way, you’ll see several San Francisco landmarks, from peeks at Ocean Beach to a great view of your purple-haired fellow rider.
Pick up at Shine (call for schedule), 1337 Mission, SF. (415) 424-1058,
Neighborhood: SoMa and all over. Muni: F Line, 14 Mission, 26 Valencia


Japanese immigrants flocked to the area in Western Addition between Van Ness Avenue and Fillmore 100 years ago, and Japanophiles have been following their lead ever since. You can’t miss Japan Center, a three-block mall featuring shops that sell rare Japanese products, a multiplex theater, and a memorial designed by a world-renowned architect. Highlights include noodles at Suzu Ya, the baths and spa at Kabuki Springs, and oodles of anime figurines and samurai swords.
Between Geary, Polk, Laguna, and Fillmore, SF.
Neighborhood: Fillmore. Muni: 38 Geary

Beat Museum

If there’s one thing North Beach is known for more than its Italian roots, it’s for being the adopted home of the Beat Generation. This shop and museum is dedicated to all things Kerouac-and-friends, from documentaries upstairs to Beat bobbleheads (downstairs). An interesting education for curious on-the-roaders and a treasure trove for serious, finger-snapping fanatics looking to get groovy.
540 Broadway, SF. (800) 537-6822,
Neighborhood: North Beach. Muni: 20 Columbus, 41 Union, 45 Union/Stockton

Casanova Lounge

Hip, crowded, and unapologetically ironic (read: velvet nudes on the walls), Casanova, a full-service dive bar, is a Mission flagship. Crimson lighting and comfortable couches give it a slight boudoir/opium den feel, while lots of standing room and loud DJ music keep a casual vibe. And yes, it’s a meat market, but also a great place to meet well-versed, impeccably accessorized locals.
527 Valencia, SF. (415) 863-9328,
Neighborhood: Mission. Muni: 22 Fillmore, 26 Valencia, BART: 16th Street