Sunday, September 04, 2016

San Francisco City Guide: What to Do + Where to Eat


I still remember the very first time when I saw the Golden Gate Bridge for the very first time. It was almost 8 years ago. Time surely does fly. We live about an hour away from the city, and we like to come up and visit new places every time we go there. I can't say the same about food, though. We always end up sticking with the food we have tried and loved, just like the wings and diced chicken from  San Tung Restaurant. You'll find more recommendations below. Ocep is very good in finding out new places for us to explore. Even though we feel like we have visited all the spot there is, there's always more and there's always new things to go to, like the annual Cherry Blossom Festival at Japantown in April. I recently posted a video of some of the places mentioned below!


 If you're visiting SF for the very first time, you should go to all the places mentioned in any SF travel guide because they are the landmarks, but I'm trying to steer away from the typical tourists attraction like Pier 39, Lombard Street or the Golden Gate Park in this post. Below, you will find my recommendation on all of all the places I've been to and all the food I've had!

Things to Do

- If you want to see a lot of things at once, you can try riding the SF signature Cable Car. I believe it has 3 different route, but the one I've been on is from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf. You can pay one all-day ticket and hop on/off anytime you'd like. There's also an option of 3-day,7-day and 1-way ticket.

-Visit the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market for a bite to eat, or more! This place is perfect especially for my foodie friends. Just like typical farmers market you may find at your local area, but bigger. It has different kind of food, from the kinds you find at the grocery store (aka fresh and organic produce) to ready-to-eat food like porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti. The area is located by the pier, so it's always nice to walk around and enjoy the view.

-If you're not afraid of putting out some sweat, go to Muir Woods National Monument. It's located just less than an hour away up north of San Francisco. I've been there a couple of times, and I love it! The national park gives you great view of beautiful redwood trees. Since it's surrounded by tall redwood trees, the hiking will be pleasantly protected from the sun. The trees form natural shade to the visitors. The parking is quite tight, so be sure to get there earlier. The two times I've been there, we always get there around noon, and even though we got parking space at the end, it was not fun finding one during that hour.
Muir Woods

- Another option of exploring and exercising at the same time is to go to Lands End. We started from the top with this amazing view of the ocean and the remains of what used to be an indoor public pool aka Sutro Baths. We then worked our way down and find ourselves a giant cave where you can go inside and hear the sound of the ocean water against the rock cave. Then, along the hike, we finally got to the Labyrinth which I just found out was destroyed last year due to vandalism (ARGH!). Fortunately it was already rebuilt as we speak. Let's hope it doesn't get destroyed again!

Lands End Labyrinth 
-One of the most unique places I've ever visited is the Hidden Garden Steps. It's located just in between of people's residential buildings. What makes it unique other than being a 148-step stairs in between buildings is the mosaic art tile on every step. You need to be standing on the bottom of each flight of stair to see the artwork. It's beautiful.


-Keeping on with the steps theme, visit the Macondray Lane. It's also located by people's residential buildings, and as you walk towards the steps you will be mesmerized by the view. It kinda reminds me of the movie Secret Garden, although I don't really remember much about it.

- The art of street art is on Clarion Alley. It's one long alley filled with murals all around. Each mural comes with its own strong message, and from what I read the murals do change from time to time.
One of the most colorful mural at Clarion Alley when we went there
- Green garden in the middle of steel garden is not something you see everyday, and that's exactly what Yerba Buerna Garden is. It is so interesting to find a park in the middle of tall buildings.
The view at Yerba Buena Garden

-I love going to Japanese Tea Garden. The place is perfect for taking pictures or even just for enjoying beauty. Everything is so intricate, from the layout design, the floral placement, and the colors. 
Japanese Tea Garden, SF
- You may have heard about Coit Tower, and you may have seen it from the distance. What you may not know is that you get to take the stairs (up or down), all 400 of them, from/to the tower! We took the stairs up through the steps at Filbert Street. While it was a good exercise, I wouldn't recommend doing it under 90F heat like we did! At the end, the view from the top was totally worth it! It was one sunny day, so I got to take a very clear picture of the city!
View from the hike to Coit Tower
Where to Eat

When it comes to food, we usually stick with what we know we love. It's mainly because we don't get to visit the city as often as we'd like, and when we do we want to have something that we know we love and we can't get at our local place. There's some occasion when our friends suggest something and we try it out. It's very rare that we go to a place to eat on a whim when we're in the city. We want to always makes sure the food we eat there is worth the trip.

Lunch & Dinner
- San Tung  - very packed, and it seems there are always people waiting to get seated. Some hours are better than others. The place recently opens San Tung 2 exactly next to the original place. I'm not quite sure if they are operated under the same management, but San Tung 2 has all the popular menu we like and it tastes exactly the same. Judging from the line when we were there, people seemed to ignore the existence of the second location and kept on waiting in line for the original place. The most popular menu is the wings, but we both prefer the diced version because it's more convenient an hassle free to eat. Not that I'm a shy eater. We also enjoy the black bean sauce noodle and peanut sauce noodle.

- King of Dumpling - Despite the small space, this place feels homey and comfy. The cooking also feel like home cooked meal. We love the dumplings (hence the name!). We usually order the Shanghai soup dumpling aka xiao long bao, pork dumpling with chives, and onion pancake.
Pork dumpling at King of Dumpling
Thai Cafe - a small restaurant in the northern part of SF. My friends and I always order duck fried rice. The sauce it comes with is amazing. I also love love the fried calamari. They just know what they are doing with those calamaris!
left to right: Duck fried Rice, Fried calamari
Desserts
- Sophie's Crepes - located inside the mall in Japantown. We always order No. 17, Japanese crepes. It comes with green tea gelato, red bean toppings and of course, the delicious crepes. The menu offers both savory and dessert crepes. I never really try the savory ones, but I'm pretty sure they taste as delicious. It's just that since we always have meal at the same place, our dessert place is practically also the same.
Sophie's Crepes No. 17
- Marco Polo - another small gelato place, only 2 miles away from San Tung. They offer not only the traditional gelato flavors like chocolate and strawberry, but they also have exotic ones like durian and sour sop. I loooovvvee durian! I was so exited when they opened up a branch in San Jose not too long ago.

- Ghirardelli Square - not only do they sell Ghirardelli chocolate, but they also have ice cream shop there. The square is right by the pier, so the view is beautiful especially during sunset. I love Very Berry Sundae. It's a mix of berries, ice cream and cheesecake in one big glass. Yum! If you pick up the complimentary city map that you can find at tourist information places (like the parking garage under the Union Square), you can find a $1 off coupon for any sundae. If you take the Cable Car Train, from Union Square, this would be your final destination at the end of the route.

Filbert St. steps to Coit Tower
Let me know if you have visited any of the places I've mentioned above and tell me what you think! I would also like to hear your recommendations! 

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