guide to san francisco

guide to san francisco

both of us grew up visiting and loving
this city, then we got engaged in this city,
then we moved here and live in the center of it.
it’s safe to say our hearts are in san francisco! It’s also safe to say that we could actually be looking at getting a home sold more easily in San Francisco sometime soon, so we can start the newest chapter of our lives in a fresh home and location.

here is our little guide to some
favorite eats,treats, & sights..

the list could go on and on, so there
are some other helpful links sprinkled
in here … but this gives you an idea!

• brunch •
the menu changes weekly based on what is in season. tiny walk-up on post street near union square. order each of their 4 specials, you cannot go wrong here. follow them on instagram @farmtable to see their menu!
this is one of the best known brunch spots in the city, and in one of my favorite areas right on washington sq…best french toast you’ll ever have, BUT-up to a 3 hour line. it really is that good, but sometimes i get pretty hangry in line. either go around 7:30 AM to be at the front when they open at 8, or stop by around 2 or 2:30 pm for no line (and a late brunch).
yes we are partial to this place because it was around the corner from our old apartment, but after making this our weekend staple and bringing every visitor here, we realized it’s one of the best hidden gems in the city. it’s filled with locals every weekend morning, and for good reason. the line moves fast, so you can get to your soufflé pancakes and baja california eggs benedict sooner :)
cutest little french spot that we love for brunch, though a little pricier but worth it! try one of their many unique eggs benedict offerings.
dottie’s true blue cafe
such a de-lish brunch spot. it’s right in the tenderloin (rough area) but it is delicious. you have to wait in a long line, but once you get in the doors it’s the best. love the feel of it, and the food really is so great. just classic and amazing. get the raspberry pancakes, a huge blueberry muffin, and always try the specials.
the bakery and the manufactory, for arguably the best for pastries/bread in SF!
arsicault bakery
must. get. the. croissant. !!!!!
craftsman & wolves
this place has perfected the morning bun. get it warm and love it. it’s perfection. also try the “rebel within”, or any of their treats! {hint, hint – the eclair}
if you’re an eggs benedict fan, go here. if you’re a bacon fan, also go here. there are all different kinds of eggs benny, and the millionaire’s bacon is solid gold…and i don’t even normally like bacon! you’ll leave here very FULL and there’s a long wait, but it’s very worth it.
one word: beignets. come here for the best. get the basic and the chocolate filled…maybe the apple cinnamon too, why not! this has a new orleans influence and some of the best fried chicken eggs benedict you can find…yes you heard me right! also watch for their specials like sweet potato pancakes. you will never leave brenda’s hungry!
boulette’s larder
i love eating brunch here at the ferry building!
b. patisserie
one of the best kouign amann!! also delicious pastries including also banana chocolate almond croissant.
rose’s cafe
try the breakfast pizza! yes you read that right!
the mill
cute coffee shop with yummy yummy TOASTS!
devil’s teeth baking co
get the breakfast sandwich or other yummy pastries!
• lunch •
blue barn marin winter salad-657x345
salad lovers, unite! this is a fresh, darling, delicious place with huge amazing salads. they also have really good warm sandos, so don’t be afraid to go hungry. i love the detox salad + the beet salad. perfect for a girls lunch.
this gorgeous restaurant under the dome on the top level of neiman marcus in union square is pricey, but so worth a splurge. the atmosphere is perfection, and the food is top quality. you have to get a crab louie and one of their famous popovers with strawberry butter! you can do afternoon tea here too. fancy and fun!
i am a french girl at heart, so the first time i saw la boulange my heart stopped. it’s a little bit of paris right in san francisco! each location is so charming, you can’t go wrong. brunch is amazing here, but i also love their lunch…croque monseiur, and all of their treats!
boudin bakery
this place may be cliché, but it’s cliché for a reason. it’s the classic san francisco sourdough spot, and i always take visitors here for clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl because it’s kind of a must. i love the grilled cheese, tomato soup, and spring salad… and of course love picking up the sourdough fresh. go to the fisherman’s wharf main location and watch the bread being made through the windows, then eat lunch and stop at the museum on the top floor before you leave…one of my favorite tiny museums all about the city! i’m in love with it.ike’s place
some of the best sandwiches in the bay. whatever you do, get the dutch crunch bread. the “blind date” sandwich is great, as is the “SF giants” and lots more. yummy, filling lunch!
liguria bakery
i am borderline obsessed with this place. right in washington square in the heart of little italy (and across from mama’s), this bakery has been around since the city began. fresh authentic foccacia bread is made in all different flavors, then wrapped up in brown paper and tied up with string…literally. i feel like i’m living in italy whenever i leave here! pick this up for a dinner party, or to go home and make paninis with!
this is off the beaten path for most visitors, but locals–check this place out in the bayview. the hours are tricky, but the food is worth scheduling around. it is basically a permanent food truck in a cute little yard with twinkly lights, succulents, and random outdoor furniture. pizza is done just right here. get the margherita, + a kale salad (TRUST ME…best ever). don’t forget a fresh squeezed lemonade!
gott’s roadside
we first tried this place in napa at oxbow market, and it’s so popular that it made it down to the city! it’s right in the ferry building and great for a burger lunch break.
red’s java house
i love this tiny shack restaurant right on the water past the bay bridge toward AT&T park. this is a fun lunch spot while strolling along the water, or for a quick dinner before a baseball game! it’s a simple menu with hot dogs and burgers, but all made on amazing san francisco SOURDOUGH bread … grilled and buttered. this is a hole-in-the-wall, gem of a place.
this place is really fun and i love the style, and the gourmet tacos are b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. seriously they are works of art. we love the place, but i always leave feeling a little hungry because the servings are small and they add up. go for a light lunch! It gave me some fantastic small plate menu ideas that I can cook at home!
• dinner •
perfection in a restaurant. this place is special. out at lands end overlooking ocean beach, and literally over the cliffs. go for a special occasion, order the lobster roll + salmon, and be happy.

this place is absolutely incredible. eating here is like a scene from a movie..the restaurant is so pretty, with streams of twinkly lights overhead and a great atmosphere. the food is on another level – so fresh that the menu is changing daily. it’s so incredible and the brunch is top notch too.
this is one of our absolute favorite local spots. it’s a hidden secret on polk street that i’m willing to let you all in on :) the menu changes constantly based on what’s in season, and we’ve never once been disappointed. don’t miss the homemade meatballs, a fresh unique pizza, and the perfect ambience. it’s family-run and draws you right in from the sidewalk.
a favorite with locals…really good authentic pizza. stay simple here, i like their basic pizzas better than the more adventurous flavors. also get brussels sprouts as an appetizer of course! their sister restaurant –delfina– is next door. it’s incredible and a little more high end.

lers ros thai
favorite thai in the city!
china live
major gem in chinatown! the open kitchen, beautiful shop, and endless incredible dishes make this a must-stop.
slanted door
my dad and i discovered this place so many years ago on one of our father-daughter trips to san francisco, and i’ve loved it ever since. it’s right on the embarcadero outside of the ferry building facing the bay. it’s a gorgeous setting and really unique modern vietnamese food…i don’t think i had ever tried vietnamese food before this, but trust me– it’s amazing here. this place is high end and good for a meeting or a fancy lunch/dinner on the water!
tony’s pizza
the. best. this little italy pizzeria is one of the only authentic italian places with food to deserve the neighborhood. it’s always crowded, but worth the wait for that margherita pizza + new yorker pizza. MMM!
papito hayes
love this mexican food joint! this hayes valley spot offers a fresh, organic take on mexican food. you NEED the house guacamole and the FAJITAS!
this is a unique place that reflects why i love san francisco. it’s a unique spot offering incredible fondue with an american influence. it’s the coziest little place and the salads + fondue are KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF. the owner is the nicest guy and old western movies play on the wall while you eat incredible fondue with every dipping side you can think of.
nopalito – some of the best mexican food in the city. try all of the salsas!

this place is special. not only is has fabulous pizza, but an amazing spirit and story as well. it is san francisco’s deaf restaurant, owned and operated by those hard of hearing. it’s near-and-dear to our hearts because of my nephew with hearing loss – so we are big fans. it is unassuming and such a great experience to dine at.

we finally made it to this top notch italian eatery. from the turkey gruyere panini, gnocchi florentine, and any pizzas you can’t go wrong with the high quality cuisine here.

little star pizza
this is really popular with locals. definitely get the garlic bread, and go for the deep dish pizza..the best.

zuni sf
a beloved classic. try their famous chicken!

nick’s crispy tacos
if you’re in the city on a tuesday night, come here for taco tuesday! come here any night for some of the yummiest fish tacos. make sure to get them “nick’s way” which means packed with guacamole + sour cream. no brainer! get the guac + chips appetizer and agua fresca or horchata. *nick’s is inside of rouge, which is a nightclub. depending on when you go, it can be loud but it’s a fun atmosphere and you work your way to the back to get your tacos!

the classic italian spot in nob hill, this is a fun and authentic italian meal you will remember. the walls are filled with pictures of celebrities who have dined here, yet it still feels personal and local. the owner lorenzo will surely become your friend throughout the meal! he lives just upstairs and truly runs the place :)

señor sisig food truck
you have to wait in this hour-long line at least once. the sisig tacos with cilantro cream sauce are the tastiest menu item and perfect if you’re wanting something lighter •• however- if you’re hungry and going for the big leagues, you get the california sisig burrito. it has FRIES in it. and avocado. and sour cream. and shredded cheese. and amazing pork. and pico de gallo. just dream about that. it’s heavenly.

le colonial
this place has a beautiful setting to stumble into, with the prettiest dining rooms serving chic French-Vietnamese food.
thai cooking with sunshine
if you’re looking for some of the very best thai food in the city AND an experience, book a night with sunshine for her famous thai cooking classes. she hosts them in her home which is a former church that they bought and redid. it’s incredible. her thai food is flawless and you get to learn to make it at the same time! see more here.
after passing this classic restaurant countless times right on top of nob hill, we finally had to give it a try. for the sake of the city’s history, it is a fun place worth dining once. the food is pretty good, but you’re going for the atmosphere. you sit in the same places that some of the most important people in the city’s history once sat. there are some good stories in there!
house of prime rib
a little bit similar to above, this old-school restaurant serves beloved prime rib since the 1940s. a fun fancy classic SF dinner.

state bird provisions
well-known and beloved, get reservations well in advance for this place offering small plates served dim-sum style.
greens restaurant
this is an all vegetarian restaurant that we love despite that face that we’re not even vegetarians. it is right down in fort mason with the prettiest view of the water. they have such fresh, delicious menu items…try the butternut squash + sweet potato gratin, the asparagus pizza, squash + coconut milk soup, and more! everything is so creative.
super duper burgers
this was chase’s favorite weekend stop when we lived in the city. cute fun stop with simple burgers and shakes!

our longtime favorite chain-that-is-nothing-like-a-chain … you can never ever go wrong here.

the little chihuahua
cute and unique little mexican spot- get the fried plantain & black bean burrito!

el farolito
one of the famed mission taquerias spots. go get tacos or a big burrito!
sears fine food
this may not be the most gourmet food, but it’s comfort food and it’s a classic in union square. go in for the famous 18 swedish pancakes stacked on a plate…even for dinner! it’s a memory and fun to eat right in union square.

flour + water
i’ve always loved the name of this place! it’s yummy italian food, from pastas to wood-fired pizza in a pretty space.
la taqueria
this taco joint in the mission is crazy popular. the owner hands ladies roses as they pick up their food…so loved that! get carne asada with sour cream, or tacos “dorado style.”
• treats •
soft serve ice cream, perfected. track this ice cream truck down in golden gate park if it’s the last thing you do. think: organic vanilla bean soft serve, dipped in dark chocolate with sea salt sprinkles in a hand rolled sugar cone. it’s everything. it’s completely 5 stars, knock-your-socks-off goodness.

tartine bakery
this is a famous sf bakery that must be stopped into if you love sweets…which you hopefully do. get an eclair or a banana cream tart..or anything, really!

another unique and YUMMY treat in the city. they have the best homemade pies and ice cream, but the best part is..they blend them together into pie shakes! sounds weird, but it’s genius and you need one.

bob’s donut shop
donut lovers, this is your spot. this place is really classic and just simple. it’s open 24 hours a day and if you go late at night you can get lucky and catch a fresh hot batch. it’s chase’s true happy place, and even though i don’t even love donuts i will always get one here. try the apple pandowdy, maple old fashioned, or anything that is fresh and warm.

the loving cup
all different flavors of rice pudding, plus some really good homemade frozen yogurt. cutest shop!

miette patisserie
you have to stop in here for a macaron, and to take in the darling darling shop. in love!

golden gate bakery
a chinatown gem! there is usually a big line, and everyone is getting the same thing–freshly baked chinese egg custard tarts. yummiest treats ever. i always bring people here!
sift dessert bar
i am in love with this all-pink, amazing bakery near fillmore. it’s local (started in napa) and perfect for a dessert date … or a treat delivery! get a homemade cookie ice cream sandwich, or chocolate filled rice krispie!
over the moon
this is the even-better version of cream, the ice cream /cookie sandwich spot. the flavors of cookies and ice cream here are much better and taste more homemade.
dandelion chocolate
this chocolate factory and shop in the mission is really unique with all different types from countries all over the world. some are crazy! go sample some and get a frozen hot chocolate. new location now in the ferry building!
beard papa
i completely heart this place…all different flavors of cream puffs! we have decided that the best kind is the cocoa cream puff with vanilla filling. YUMM.
bi-rite ice cream
go here on a sunny day in the mission, wait in a long line (!!!!) and eat it at dolores park. i have a hard time with the line, but those flavors are so unique. if it’s too long, walk down the street to the darling birite market and pick up a pint there.
johnny doughnuts
these donuts rival any we have tried. they differ from bob’s because they are more unique flavors, not just the classics. they are fluffy and amazing and flavorful. find the food truck!tcho
our favorite local chocolate – you will see tcho being used in so many restaurants through the city, and we love going to the factory (down on the embarcadero with the gorgeous huge wooden doors) and doing some sampling.
mr. holmes bakehouse
cruffins, croissants, you won’t be disapponted here! just be prepared for a line at some times of day :)
smitten ice cream
this is a tiny little place with made-t0-order ice cream. literally, they make it when you order it. there are only a few flavors, and you can see exactly which ingredients go into them. ice cream in it’s purest form!

off the grid food truck parties
you have to do your best to stop by off the grid for some of the best food in the city between all of the great food trucks!

ferry building
this indoor food market is a must-stop in the city. it’s packed with all of san francisco’s best food stands . . . and a weekly farmer’s market! go here, and try every single sample..between fresh california fruit, all different flavors of olive oil, sweets, cheeses, and more, it’s a treat for the tastebuds. stonehouse olive oil has some of my favorite varieties i’ve ever tasted. steamed caramel milk from the sidekick is a little bit of heaven. miette has a little stand in here and they have my favorite macarons. cowgirl creamery needs to at least be sampled. pick up some claire squares for the road…you won’t regret it. and make sure to try some sow juice to make up for all of those treats! :)


twin peaks summit
our favorite view of the city :: you can drive right up to the top, park, and take in the full view of san francisco. it can be windy up there, but it’s spectacular and worth the trip.

palace of fine arts
this is one of my favorite places in the entire city. it’s just off the marina, and the best place to go stroll around, relax, or read a book. the palace is beautiful, and the pond with swans is the perfect touch. we jog here a lot and stroll through it.

golden gate bridge
obviously the best landmark in the city. we got engaged right beneath it on a boat, so i am partial to it! there are so many ways to see the bridge: you can park in a lot in the city side and walk across it for free, you can rent bikes and ride across it, {continuing on the route to sausalito,} or you can drive across it and park on the other side to take pictures at incredible vista point. make sure to stop in the visitors center, because there are actually some pretty fun things to do/learn about in there. it never gets old to me!

lyon street steps
the lyon street steps = san francisco’s gym. it is a steep set of beautiful stairs in a fun area of the city. whether you walk up from the marina or run them, watch out for all the runners and fitness gurus getting their workout in! the view from up here is one of my favorites … and i love the homes around here.

union square
this is the best shopping//downtown area of the city. i love being in union square and having the big-city feel. every good store is within a few blocks, and dinner at cheesecake factory on top of macy’s overlooking the square is one of our favorites. there is always something going on in union square, and the majority of hotels are here . . . so it’s a good location with lots of people and things to do. one tip though, things close early in union square/ fidi!

fisherman’s wharf
this is the most touristy area in SF, but if you’ve never been it’s worth stopping through. go park in the free parking by the maritime museum, then stroll along and see the seals with a clam chowder bread bowl in your hand. ignore all the cheesy tourist shops, but do stop in lola toy shop..too cute.

ghirardelli square
ghiradelli square is a favorite & somewhere we stop by frequently…{this may or may not have to do with the fact that they give unlimited samples…} haha but we love this darling area, the shops, and getting some hot chocolate and salted caramel at the best chocolate place in the city!

painted ladies
the classic, picturesque san francisco can sit up on the hill in the park and look at the houses all in a row with the city behind. the actual house from “full house” is a few blocks away, but it doesn’t look quite the same anymore. either way the painted ladies are charming to visit!

coit tower
a classic part of san francisco’s skyline..coit tower is always worth seeing! we love the walk up to it, and you can go inside and up to the top if you want. since it’s centrally located, you have great views of the golden gate bridge, the bay bridge, downtown, and all around the city. it’s a quick but good visit!

lombard street
named the “most crooked street in the world,” it’s always fun to take a drive down the curves of this pretty street..or walk down it! my favorite part is the fresh hydrangeas all over. it intersects with the street we live on, so on my runs i always get to pass it and find myself staring at the beauty!

chinatown in san francisco is the best! right off union square, it’s a completely different feel. walk around, get rice candy, boba smoothies, shop, and especially get warm chinese custard egg tarts at golden gate bakery. be sure to take pictures by the dragon gate & hanging red lanterns in the street!

little italy/north beach
just down from chinatown you can find the north beach neighborhood, AKA little italy! i love love love this area. stop at the famous city lights bookstore on your way to washington square park…eat at tony’s, liguria, or mama’s before trekking up to coit tower. to reward yourself for all the steps, skip the gelato and find a grocery store to try an its-it ice cream sandwich — san francisco’s best treat! *see more about this neighborhood here.

cable car museum
fun little spot off the beaten path. this is a free museum where you can learn all about how cable cars work, and it’s actually pretty interesting! before we went, i had always wondered how exactly they worked, so it was fun to go through the little museum and see. obviously you have to take a cable car ride after! this is chase’s favorite museum in the city.

nob hill
i have to include our neighborhood here, because it’s my favorite and it’s so picturesque. take the trolley up to california street to view the city from nob hill, see the unique & beautiful grace cathedral where you can walk the labyrinth, ride the elevator up to the top of the mark, and see the fairmont hotel (my favorite) other fun local neighborhoods/ areas from here include: russian hill, polk street, and fillmore street!

golden gate park
this is our gorgeous, giant park with so much to discover within it. the options here are endless. you can rent rowboats on stow lake in the summer..go on runs or bike rides, ride the carousel, visit the japanese tea garden, de young, or california academy of sciences museums. we love this pretty place, and it feels like you leave the busy city whenever you go here. come here to run, walk, bike, play tennis, explore, or lounge on a sunny day. whatever you do, don’t miss a treat at twirl & dip ice cream truck!

crissy field
this is the field by the water with a pathway all the way down to the golden gate is perfect for walks, bridge views, kite flying, bike rides, and stopping in the warming huts to get hot cocoa when it’s foggy!

at&t park
baseball fan or not, this is an amazing field right on the water. it’s fun to do a tour, or go to a game!

dolores park
this is a great, local park right in the mission district. go up high on the hill so you can get a good view of the city, and bring a picnic {or some bi-rite ice cream!} it can get a little crazy and crowded on a warm day!

sutro baths/ land’s end
if you can make it out here, this area is stunningly beautiful and it feels untouched. the bath ruins are really cool to see, and walking the paths of land’s end / ocean beach / baker beach / etc feel like you’re not in a city!

we LOVE this little town across the bridge from SF more than we can say. whether you bike there, take the ferry or drive, you have to go. it is like a little calm artsy european town across from the city, and it’s so fun to walk around and go in all the little shops. don’t miss tiburon either!

if you’ve never been to san francisco, you should consider visiting alcatraz. it’s a pretty unique and interesting place. be sure to get tickets well ahead of time so that you don’t have to resort to scalpers since they sell out fast!

walking tours
be sure to check out some of these free walking tours available in the city!!


san francisco museum of modern art
cable car museum:it’s little, but we love it! and, it’s free!
san francisco art institute
de young museum {love this one, go up the tower for free just to see the view if you don’t have time for the full museum!}
california academy of sciences: really fun museum right in golden gate park!
exploratorium: love the new location on the embarcadero, fun with kids.
walt disney museum: really interesting, but better for adults – not kids
national maritime museum: not a long visit, but free and fun since it’s right on the water

other fun things:

  • sourdough class- a fun san francisco experience at la victoria bakery in the mission..sign up in advance! {taught by sour flour}
  • bike the golden gate bridge and go into sausalito, then take the ferry back!
  • visit the famous haight-ashbury district from the hippie days
  • go downtown to see the iconic transamerica building
  • go on a san francisco historical walking tour … or a food tour!
  • scrap if you are a crafter, definitely check out this place!
  • fleet week- if you’re in SF during october, don’t miss this.
  • do the famous nike women’s marathon along the embarcadero . . . or just run along here!
  • britex fabrics- famous fabric store off union square. some people come to SF just to get fabric here, so it’s for sure worth going into. there are four floors, all full of amazing fabrics. my sister-in-law is an amazing seamstress and makes clothes, so she loves this store in the city!
  • lola of north beach- this place has my favorite cards and gifts ever in SF. it’s a block away from mama’s, so when we’re waiting in the long line we usually switch off wandering into this shop.
  • see a broadway show that’s in town with SHN SF!
  • find the seward street slides and go down them!
  • visit the SF flower mart — biggest one on the USA!
  • ride the glass elevators in the st. francis hotel overlooking union sq.
  • ribbonerie- to go along with the fabrics, this is the best ribbon store ever. love love love.
  • visit one of the many spectacular day trips nearby the city! {you can see more of these on our bay area bucket list}
  • i love this list of hidden gems in san francisco to check out!
lastly, some notes on transportation in san francisco . . .
this city does not have the easiest public transportation compared to other big
cities with subway systems, etc. but there are ways to get around easily!
this is one option for first-time visitors to be able to see a lot. this is worth
it if you are coming for around 4 days or more. it’s $54 for an adult which sounds
like a lot, but it buys you UNLIMITED cable car rides, a cruise around the
bay or a boatride to alcatraz, & entry to most major museums in the city.
between all of that, it’s a great deal and includes transportation!!

the bike hut

SF is one of the best cities to rent bikes in and we especially love
renting from the bike hut
because a) it is a great cause
b) the owner michael is the greatest guy, and
c) it’s at the end of the embarcadero so you can
ride all the way down along the water, out to
the bridge, across it, and back. perfect!
see some fun times doing this here and here.

gocar tours

these gocar tours are hilarious to see everyone cruising around on, and can
be a fun way to get around (and drive a go-car) for the day! they have audtio tours built in
so you know exactly where to go. you can take these all the way out to ocean beach!

uber is how every local gets around in this city. it’s a cab startup the we love!
if you’ve never used it, download it and use code: UberontheGo for a free first ride up to $25!
everyone with you can use it this code once, so it can help with getting around. there are other
similar apps like sidecar, lyft, summon, and more. be a tech-savvy traveler and use these!


ding ding! you have to take a charming trolley ride. we commute to work on the
trolley and actually take them all the time, but it still never gets old. riding the
cable car is classic and charming and a treat. pay the $6 to ride it once, or
do the pass mentioned above for unlimited rides! whatever you do, don’t
wait in the long line down at powell & market … a few streets up you
can hop on with no wait time! the day pass is $11 to ride unlimited!
hopefully this guide helps anyone visiting
or living in beautiful san francisco!
you can also see our entire bay area bucket list here,
and, see all of our san francisco posts
& adventures here.
“san francisco has always been a dreamer’s city;
a far-flung city perched on the edge of the sea
wherefar-fetched fantasies have a way of
catching hold and hatching into reality.