1. Where to Stay
Get a floor-to-ceiling view from your room in the eighteen-month-old InterContinental (from $295). Downstairs at Luce, chef Dominique Crenn will show you why Esquire named her Chef of the Year in 2008.
Be posh for less at Hotel Frank, the recently renovated Union Square hotel with a bold black-on-white color scheme, crystal chandeliers, and vintage thirties glamour shots in the rooms, all starting at $129/night.
Consume less at the Hotel Carlton (from $95), the country’s first LEED-EB Gold–certified hotel with enough solar panels to generate 10 percent of its own electricity. Dramatic city views help offset the small rooms.
2. Where to Eat
Drink coffee made with a $20,000 halogen-powered Japanese siphon bar at Blue Bottle Cafe. The brunch, which includes locally produced cheeses and charcuterie, is a little less intense.
Try a series of mix-and-match wine flights at the Press Club, a split-level wine bar in a sun-drenched Yerba Buena complex that doubles as a showcase for six boutique regional wineries. Pair your favorite vintage with something from the small-plates menu.
Hide away at Anchor & Hope, the third in a series of chic SoMa openings by the Rosenthal brothers and their partner, Doug Washington (Town Hall, Salt House). Housed in a former mechanic’s shop in the Minna Street alley, executive chef Sarah Schafer, herself a former Colicchio prodigy, puts a California spin on New England–style seafood.
Find southern comfort at the just-opened Wexler’s, where Michelin-starred chef Charlie Kleinman adds unlikely barbecue flavor to everything from Scotch eggs to slow-roasted smoked sturgeon.
3. What to Do
Start at the city-center oasis of Yerba Buena gardens, the series of terraced pavilions and squares with outdoor gardens and indoor cultural treasures. Ogle the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s Daniel Libeskind–designed building, a diamond-shaped gallery tacked onto a former power station, which opened last year.
Walk across a glass-covered bridge to access SF MoMA’s Rooftop Sculpture Garden, a 14,500-square-foot space added this summer, where works by Ellsworth Kelly, Henry Moore, and Alexander Calder are on display. Follow up with high tea at the Samovar Tea Lounge, where everything from Argentine Mate to Indian Chai is served on an elegant terrace overlooking Yerba Buena itself.
Stroll through Mint Plaza, the 2007 urban-regentrification project that has transformed the former slum into a Euro-style complex of alfresco piazzas anchored around San Francisco’s historic 135-year-old Old Mint building. Lounge in dozens of bright-orange chairs by British designer Jasper Morrison and watch the street performers and weekly world-music concerts, or sip an espresso at the newly installed Chez Papa Resto.
4. Insider’s Tip
If you’re heading to the Embarcadero or the ballpark, avoid the jam-packed Muni and opt instead for the small blue Jitney ($2) at the corner of Market and 4th Street. It makes only one stop and will drop you two blocks from AT&T Park.
5. Oddball Day
Originally the home of infamous brothels during the Gold Rush, SoMa has more recently been the playground for folks of all desires to find law-abiding, but no less licentious, after-hours sport. Begin at the aptly named Center for Sex and Culture, a sex-positive education and events space offering everything from erotic poetry readings and writing seminars to nude yoga sessions. Keep the evening spicy at Heaven’s Dog, the latest in San Francisco wunder-chef Charles Phan’s miniature pan-Asian empire. Locally sourced meats and vegetables get extra firepower from peppers and spices, and an inventive cocktail menu will help you ditch your inhibitions. (Go after 11:30 p.m. for free late-night dim sum.) Swig courage and a Libertine cocktail (gin, Madeira, lemon, and sugar) at Harlot, the Minna Street club-lounge with Gothic-lite décor, a deer-antler chandelier, and corset-clad waitresses. By now, you should be prepared for one of the nightly Leather theme parties at Chaps Bar.
San Francisco monthly’s online guide, 7x7, details the best of the city high and low, from music to fashion to after-hours fun.
For the most up-to-date foodie news and events—including a comprehensive listing of openings, closings, and more—check out Grub Street San Francisco.
The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to San Francisco is a Wiki-style online community filled with economy-appropriate tips, news, and reviews of San Francisco on a budget.