It comes as no surprise that San Francisco has several times been voted one of the best cities in the US to live in but the irresisitible city is also a superb destination to visit. If you like gorgeous surroundings, shopping, arts, architecture and great food, San Francisco is for you.
We asked Claudia Juestel, founder of San Francisco based Adeeni Design Group, to share some of her favourites.
Where to stay
Perfectly situated within a couple of blocks of Union Square, this literary-inspired hotel was designed by Candra Scott & Anderson as an homage to poet Kenneth Rexroth. The hotel is popular with writers and artists who enjoy lingering in the dark and seductive lobby lounge, reminiscent of the literary salons of the ’20s and ’30s, and filled with antiquarian books and original art. Rooms may be small, but they are charming, rich with colour and masculine vintage-inspired furnishings. They offer all that is needed for a comfortable downtown stay. Among the amenities are complimentary Wi-Fi, wine hour and morning coffee, as well as room service, a computer station, valet parking and concierge services. No need to leave the pooch at home, Hotel Rex accepts pets at no charge.
562 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
St. Regis Hotel
Centrally located in downtown’s Yerba Buena area, this 260-room, 5-star hotel houses its own art museum and Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), and is within walking distance of top museums, theatres, some of the city’s best restaurants and the popular Union Square shopping district. The interiors are contemporary and masculine. The lobby bar and Ame Restaurant are always perfect places for people watching. A stay at the St. Regis comes with amazing city views and special amenities, such as Pratesi linens and a deep soaking tub that faces a flat-screen TV. Suites include 24-hour butler service.
125 3rd Street, San Francisco, California 94103
Where to eat
San Francisco is known for its culinary scene, boasting many of the best restaurants in the country. Great new establishments open almost monthly, and it is hard for locals to keep up with the 4,000-plus choices. A few places have endured over time, and Zuni Café is one of them. I have eaten there since I first moved to San Francisco over two decades ago. Opened in 1979, it has drawn three generations of regulars with its simple but inviting atmosphere, great selection of wine and spirits, and consistently delicious food that takes inspiration from traditional regional French and Italian cuisines. The made-to-order whole roasted chicken, prepared in a wood-fired brick oven and served with warm Tuscan-style bread salad, is legendary. The Zuni Café cookbook may be found on the bookshelves of professional and amateur chefs alike.
1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Best Splurge-worthy Dinner
Conceived by Iron Chef-winner Dominique Crenn, the Michelin Star restaurant aims to create “poetic culinaria,” with modernist garden-centric cuisine that is served in a minimalist setting, accented by the chef’s own poetry and her adoptive father’s artwork. The dishes are globally infused with ingredients that place a strong emphasis on local Bay Area sources and artfully presented as visual compositions. Dining options include an 11-course Chef’s Tasting Menu, a four-course Prix Fixe Menu and a Vegetable Tasting Menu, all with optional wine pairings. This is a restaurant with an experimental and provocative approach to food, meant to stimulate the senses. Bring an open mind, a keen eye (reading glasses if needed for appreciating the intricate dishes), and a full wallet. You won’t be disappointed.
3127 Fillmore, San Francisco, CA
Best Dinner with Atmosphere
Named after the French word for gypsy, this spot is tucked away in a quiet downtown alley and known for its fearless and unpretentious interiors by Mr. Important. Imagine red crocodile wallpaper, giant sensual tapestries, an oxblood vinyl ceiling with enormous chandeliers surrounded by medallions made from moss-covered rocks, and bright-coloured striped velvet banquettes, to name just a few details. But Gitane is of course also worth a visit for its unique artisan cocktails and always pleasing flavours from the Iberian Peninsula, France and Morocco, which are expertly crafted by chef Bridget Batson. The bar offers a generous selection of international spirits and rare sherries, Cavas and Madeiras. Dinner at the deep bar with friends from out of town is a personal favourite of mine. I always include a selection of their Catalan flatbreads.
6 Claude Lane, San Francisco, California 94108
Perfectly positioned on Fillmore Street, one of the city’s favourite shopping streets, SPQR (an acronym for “Senatus Populesque Romanus” which translates to “The People of the Senate of Rome”) is known for its forward-thinking interpretation of Italian food by pedigreed chef Matthew Accarrino. The dark interior with its open kitchen is small and simple, and seating is tight. People don’t come for the ambience, they come for the food, for such dishes as house-made chestnut pasta with suckling pork and spigarello, and crispy pig ears with pickled jalapeno. The wine list is composed of a generous selection from all the main regions of Italy. This is a bustling neighbourhood spot that, given the tight seating arrangements, is a perfect place to rub shoulders with local foodies.
1911 Fillmore St, San Francisco, CA 94115
Best Ethnic Food
San Francisco has a large Asian population and a long history of serving amazing Chinese food, including Mandarin, Hunan, Szechuan and Cantonese. Most of the better restaurants are outside the famous Chinatown, which is more of a tourist destination. Very popular for lunch is Deem Sum, or also called Dim Sum, a tradition that grew out of roadside teahouses along the ancient Silk Road. Yank Sing, with its two downtown locations, could be the most popular place in the city to enjoy these exotic bites that are served by waiters continuously rolling carts laden with freshly prepared small plates around the restaurant. It is easy to overload, as the tempting food keeps coming. Come hungry and ready for a lively ambience.
101 Spear St. San Francisco
49 Stevenson St. San Francisco
Best Without Reservations
The short downtown alley might have the biggest concentration of restaurants in the city. For those without a reservation and lack of time, Belden Place surely will be able to accommodate, with American, Mediterranean, French, Italian and Catalan cuisines, plus local seafood. Among the most popular restaurants in the alley are Plouf, B44 and Café Tiramisu. Belden Place is also one of the few spots in San Francisco that offers plenty of outdoor seating, a rarity in a city known for surprising weather changes and often cold summers. No worries, outdoor heaters are aplenty!
Belden Place, San Francisco, CA 94104
Best Fast Food
Off The Grid
Food trucks are the fastest growing gourmet trend in the country. They have been popping up all over San Francisco, serving everything from Asian fare like Chinese buns, Korean tacos, Filipino adobo and Indian curry, to Mexican and South American delicacies such as burritos, empanadas and tamales, as well as sweet treats such as waffles, cupcakes and Crème Brulé. The largest gathering is Off The Grid, which pops up weekly at various places in the city for lunch and dinner. The most popular locations are Hayes Valley on Wednesday evenings and Fort Mason on Friday nights. Check their calendar for other locales.
Where to drink
Mavelous Coffee & Wine Bar
San Francisco is not only known as a food mecca, but in recent years it has also become a destination for coffee aficionados. Barista Philip Ma, owner of Mavelous, is very serious about coffee. So as to appreciate the various nuances of beans and roasts, he serves only the very best boutique varieties. They are brewed in six ways, either with a custom La Marzocco espresso machine, or manually with a Hario V60 coffee drip, a Chemex coffee maker, and a French Press, as well as with a Siphon coffee brewing machine and a Kyoto cold slow-drip coffee maker. Mavelous also offers a nice selection of sustainably grown wines from around the world. The sexy and eco-chic interiors, designed by Adeeni Design Group, were inspired by its location in the Civic Center and its proximity to the arts. Its rich palette is reminiscent of the colours of coffee, ranging from deep espresso to red, gold and chartreuse. Several local artists were commissioned for specific artwork and functional designs. The café’s signature piece is a 50-foot long painting by famed street artist Eddie Colla that spans the length of the place and sets an edgy tone. For that amazing cup of coffee or great glass of wine, plus a spot to relax with a magazine or book, Mavelous is the place to be.
1408 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Best Wine Bar
Living just south of the country’s largest wine-growing region, many San Franciscans are devoted oenophiles. The Press Club not only stands out among the many wine bars for its award-winning interior designed by Baldauf Catton Von Eckartsberg, but also for an excellent wine selection from eight world-class wineries that are paired with savory and sweet seasonal small plates. Recently, they also began serving international beers in bottles and local specialty beers on tap. For those in search of beer or wine, this is a sophisticated and social bar and a place to meet local connoisseurs.
20 Yerba Buena Lane, San Francisco CA 94103
Where to shop
Best Food Market
Ferry Building Market Place
The historic Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street was extensively remodelled after the 1989 earthquake and has been revitalized as a gourmet destination, while still serving as a transit hub connecting San Francisco with other Bay Area communities. The Market Place boasts shops selling everything from meat, fish, produce, cheese, and bread to pastries, chocolates, and ice cream, as well as herbs, oils and wines. It is home to a number of unique restaurants and small eateries such as Out the Door, one of the country’s best Vietnamese restaurants, and Boulette’s Larder with its menu, changed daily, featuring farmstead ingredients. The Ferry Building also operates a certified farmers’ market three days a week. This is the place to be on Saturday morning, for those in search of fresh local produce, truffle salt or some kitchenware, or just wanting to hang out with the residents.
One Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111
Best Leather Goods
April in Paris
French-born Beatrice Amblard, owner of April in Paris, opened her shop on Clement Street after working for Hermès for 14 years. She makes custom leather handbags and accessories, all in the same handcrafted tradition of the iconic brand. Customers come from all over the world to have her design them pieces in the finest skins dyed specifically for April in Paris. Whether it is a timeless alligator handbag, a piece of bespoke luggage or a custom leather nightstand, Beatrice can do it all.
55 Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94118
Best Home Décor
The 151-year-old store represents the epitome of finer living and specialises in the finest in jewellery, home décor, linens, tabletop, objets d’art and personal stationary. With crystal, sterling, china, linens and bath accessories from the world’s top manufacturers, Gump’s is every bride’s dream. They host an annual bridal event that brings mothers and daughters from around the country to San Francisco. They also introduce new artists to collectors on a regular basis and collaborate with innovative artisans that have something new and unique to offer in design. Forget San Francisco souvenirs, this is the place to go for luxurious trinkets and unique treasures.
135 Post Street, San Francisco, CA 94108
Best Vintage Couture
The Union Square shop carries the finest collection of vintage estate fashion, furs, jewellery and accessories, anything a timeless fashionista dreams of.
The Union Square, San Francisco, CA 94108
Best Vintage Furnishings
Only about a year old, the collective in the popular Mission district has quickly become a popular destination with interior designers and vintage aficionados alike. More than 25 dealers exhibit everything from furniture, lighting and décor to clothing, jewellery and antiques through to the end of the last century. Inventory moves quickly, so there will be something new every few days.
150 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
This high-end antique dealer, located in a mid-19th-century stable in Jackson Square, San Francisco’s art and antique hub, specialises in 17th- and 18th-century continental furniture, San Francisco Bay Area contemporary art and Mediterranean antiquities. Regulars to the renowned San Francisco Fall Antiques Show, the owners of Foster Gwin have assembled a very carefully edited collection of unique pieces, where the old harmoniously sets the stage for the new. If there’s time, wander the streets, as a number of excellent antique, textile and art dealers within walking distance are also well worth a look.
38 Hotaling Place, San Francisco, CA 94111
Opened in 2003 by interior designer Steven Volpe and business partner Roth Martin, Hedge Gallery has since become the Bay Area’s most innovative furniture and art gallery. Known for their exquisite taste and for continuing to chart new ground, they recently opened a larger 2,500-square-foot gallery to expand the vast collection of sculptures, ceramics, furniture, lighting and accessories by contemporary artists from around the world. Hedge Gallery has been the strongest presence at the annual SF20 modernist show, where the booth unofficially always takes the prize for most innovative design.
501 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133
Academy of Art Atelier
Forget the plastic cable car or the Golden Gate Bridge mug. Why not bring home an artistic creation from talents of the Academy of Art University? The gallery is a purveyor of art and design created by students and alumni of the school. The curated collection includes original art, photography, home décor, stationary, books, accessories, jewellery and fashion.
79 New Montgomery, San Francisco, CA 94105
Best Kept Secret
The popular Hayes Valley area draws hipsters and families alike to its unique shops and food establishments. Hidden away in a small alley is Dark Garden, an atelier that creates couture corsets in many styles and materials. They also have one-of-a-kind, ready-to-wear pieces, but the perfect fit of a custom corset cannot be beaten. Styles range from classic Baroque, Rococo and Victorian to Burlesque and modern. They even offer options for men and ship worldwide.
321 Linden Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Best for Natural Beauty
Muir Woods & Mount Tamalpais
San Francisco was built on seven hills, and each crest provides stunning views of this beautiful city. Golden Gate Park and Baker Beach are big scenic attractions, but within a short distance awaits the natural beauty of Marin Country. Across the famed Golden Gate Bridge lie Muir Woods, a rare old-growth redwood forest, and Mount Tamalpais, whose peak provides a panoramic look at the Bay Area. Both offer a variety of hiking trails. On the way back to San Francisco, stop at the Golden Gate Bridge Vista point for unparallelled views of the city. Make sure you wear layers whenever you venture outside, as the weather and temperatures in the Bay Area are unpredictable and can change quickly any time of the year.
801 Panoramic Highway
Mill Valley, CA 94941
What to do
Best Museum for Art
Asian Art Museum
San Francisco’s museums offer the same ethnic and cultural diversity that is represented in the city’s population. In addition to the more general art museums like the MoMA, the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor, it also has excellent institutions dedicated to specific cultures. Among them are the MoAD, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the Museo Italo Americano. Tthe Asian Art Museum stands out for exhibiting one of the most comprehensive collections of Asian art in the world. Its home in the Civic Center is the former San Francisco library that was redesigned in 2003 by world-renowned Italian architect Gae Aulenti to accommodate about 17,000 works of art and artifacts from all major Asian countries and traditions. It is also continuously expanding its contemporary collection with a broad mind, drawing a line from thousands of years of rich history into an undefined but captivating future. To fully experience what the Asian Art Museum has to offer, check their calendar for special programmes and events, such as Japanese tea ceremonies, interactive hands-on activities, and “Matcha”, their evening mixers complete with cocktails and DJs.
200 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
Best Museum for Nature
California Academy of Sciences
A multi-faceted scientific museum originally founded in 1853, just three years after California joined the United States, it was rebuilt in 2008 by award-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano as a sustainable structure with a living roof. It is currently the greenest museum on the planet. The museum is home to nearly 40,000 animals in the Steinhart Aquarium and a 4-storey living rainforest and includes the Morrison Planetarium, the largest in the world, and the multi-user state-of-the-art Project Lab. The institution’s popular “After Dark” events for adults feature an open bar, late-night bites and life music, while allowing visitors to explore the wonders of the natural world in the architectural marvel.
55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA 94118
Best for Seeing Local Architecture
San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour
Rick Evans gives a tour most days starting at 11 a.m. and introduces his guests to San Francisco’s most unique and beautiful downtown buildings and hidden rooftop gardens, and shares information about the city’s most famous architects who have influenced its aesthetic since the 1906 earthquake. Rick also offers private customised tours for a more tailored experience.
Best Day Trip
The Wine Country north of San Francisco is well worth a visit, but too vast to explore in one day. Ranging from Sonoma to Mendocino to Napa, the region is covered in countless vineyards, beautiful forests and rivers, and dotted by charming towns. If you only have a day, I recommend visiting Yountville and
St. Helena. Both towns have much to offer when it comes to culinary delights, shopping and wine. Yountville is home to the world-renowned and Michelin star-rated French Laundry restaurant, which requires reservations months ahead. But luckily the town is blessed with a number of other great restaurants, including award-winning chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega. A unique concept was created by Ma(i)sonry, a winery collective and art gallery. It offers tastings in a historic 19th-century stone house and a landscaped sculpture garden, complete with seating around a fire pit, my personal favourite spot to enjoy an amazing glass of wine. St. Helena, just 10 miles north, is a popular destination for shoppers, foodies and wine-lovers alike. Favourite shopping spots are the Martin Showroom by fearless interior designer Erin Martin, the gourmet food emporium Dean & Deluca, and Prager Winery for amazing ports. For nourishment visit the casual eatery Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen by top chef and restaurateur Cyndy Pawlcyn, or the romantic hillside Auberge du Soleil in nearby Rutherford for a sunset view. Plus, of course, all the wineries in between.
Claudia Juestel is the founder and principal of the San Francisco based interior design firm Adeeni Design Group whose work includes projects around the United States and in London, India and on Guam. The firm is known for a cosmopolitan and eclectic approach to bespoke interiors that range from traditional to modern styles and are infused with a sense of comfort, warmth and timelessness.
Claudia also serves as the Design & Architecture Editor of SFLuxe where she has had the pleasure of interviewing some of the country’s most preeminent interior designers and architects for her series “Tea With Claudia”. Her expertise ranges from design and art to hospitality, entertaining and cooking, and many of her passions are expressed on her relevant blog www.adeenidesigngroup.com/blog/articles/