This is a continuation of my out-of-print guidebook--WEEKEND ADVENTURES IN SAN FRANCISCO & NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. It features travel destinations throughout Northern California and presents them in small, easy-to-digest chunks along with plenty of photos so you get the picture. Even more great weekend adventures await you at my BERKELEY AND BEYOND website at www.berkeleyandbeyond.com.
Located atop a small hill and reached via a promise-filled drive up a narrow vineyard-lined road, this small family-run winery is a little like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Only here it is mostly liquid red gold in the form of delicious wines—especially the Zinfandels and Syrahs. Two picnic tables are provided.
Pluto’s 482 University Ave./Cowper, (650) 853-1556. L-D daily; $.
Almost everything served here is made fresh in-house. The procedure is to get a mini-menu and figure out what you want, then move around to the food stations.
Salads come in big and bigger with your choice of seven toppings and are tossed in a giant bowl right before your eyes. Many people find that to be enough, but you might consider sharing a salad and also ordering to share a made-to-order sandwich on freshly baked bread or perhaps a few sides—mac & cheese, onion rings, or mashed potatoes with gravy. A selection of housemade cakes and cookies provide a sweet conclusion. In cold weather, avoid the wall-side tables by the front door unless you plan to remain bundled up.
Operating within a former livery stable dating from the 1890s, this brewpub features natural brick walls, dramatic bronze-hued pressed-tin paneling, and antique church pews recycled as bar seats. Its design is inspired by Berlin’s oldest bar. The dining area is spread over two stories, and a large, two-level beer garden with heaters and a fire pit is in the back. House brews are available along with tasty pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven and a variety of salads and sandwiches. Live jazz is scheduled some evenings. Update plus more images.
The Woodsman Hotel & Lodge1121 S. Mt. Shasta Blvd., (530) 926-3411. 43 rooms. Some fireplaces; some kitchens. Continental breakfast (served across the street at a sister inn).
Guests know they have arrived when they see the roadside chainsaw-carved woodsman, welcoming them to the spacious, woodsy grounds. Situated amid fragrant tall pines and within walking distance of several restaurants, this updated old-time motel features knotty-pine walls but also white down duvets, lovely lace curtains, and theme-appropriate decorations. A few detached cabins are available, and a wide-open, high-ceilinged barn of a communal room provides guests with a gathering space, fireplace, and pool table.
Seems like almost the whole town has shut down. Resident Floyd D. P. Oydegaard, who is the owner of Columbia Booksellers & Stationers and who leads town tours, says, "All in all, it's much quieter around these parts than usual." Read all about it.
The wide-open room here, with high ceilings and attractive Mediterranean wall murals, provides comfortable seating and plenty to look at. Menu fare includes soups and salads plus appetizers both cold (grape leaves stuffed with a rice mix, eggplant salad, and exotic, tasty red bell pepper-based ezme) and hot (borek—phylo dough baked with feta cheese or ground beef; and boregi—a deep-fried cigar-shaped pastry filled with feta). Choose from exotic sandwiches, stuffed pies, and main dishes (delicious baked chicken beyti is lavash stuffed with ground chicken and served with a tasty yogurt sauce; manti is like Turkish ravioli; eggplant is stuffed with meat or veggies and is a house specialty). Delicious house-made pita is made the Turkish way—without a pocket--and is perfect to sop up sauce. Sharing works well.
Katana-Ya 430 Geary St./Mason St., 1 blk. from Union Square, (415) 771-1280. L-D daily; $-$$. No reservations.
Conveniently located directly across the street from A.C.T., this teeny venue keeps ‘em waiting and then packs ‘em in. Huge bowls of noodles (choose from ramen, soba, and udon) are topped with fried chicken, tempura, and more (to keep toppings crisp, ask for them to be served on the side). Also note that the miso broth is the least salty option and that MSG is used but can be omitted by request. Beer and saki are the drinks of choice. Service is fast, allowing theater-goers a quick turnaround once seated. Sushi is made at a counter in the back, where often-overlooked seating sits empty. The salmon and avocado roll and the California roll are favorites.
play--"Love God Sex (and other stuff I don't have)"
Talented comedian Rick Reynolds spills his guts in his latest one-man show, and it is surprising how funny his gut-spilling can be--especially since he pulls much of the material from his own less-than-perfect childhood and claims not to be pulling any punches. The audience howls all the way through, some more loudly than others. Jason Alexander--yes, that one, from "Seinfeld"--directs. Though comedy, this is aimed at adults; leave the kiddies at home.
"tings dey happen" is based on the year actor/playwrite Dan Hoyle spent exploring the West African oil frontier as a Fulbright scholar. In this one-man show he portrays a pacifist militant, a media-savvy warlord, an Africanized Texas oil worker, a prostitute activist, the American ambassador to Nigeria, and more, and he is amazing in his ability to go instantly in and out of character--accent and all. Post-show talkbacks about Hoyle's adventures performing the show in Nigeria will be conducted after each Thursday and Friday evening performance and Sunday matinee. (And, yes, he is the son of local actor and comedian Geoff Hoyle.)
Upper Crust 130 Main St., (530) 895-3866. B-L daily; $.
Delicious sandwiches, salads, and soups are made from scratch at this friendly spot. When available, the club sandwich special made with garlicky aioli sauce and honey oat bread is a must. Plus, a case loaded with pastries, cupcakes, and sometimes even a salad plate-sized, vanilla-frosted snickerdoodle cookie--not to mention a selection of coffees--are also options. All this and attractive local art on the walls, too.
Situated within a vintage Gold Rush building with narrow iron shutters and interior natural brick walls, this restive retreat features a comfortable Thai ambiance. Seating in one dining room is at tables and wall benches softened with traditional cushions, and in another is on floor cushions with a hole under the table to dangle legs. In good weather, the back patio and deck are choice; a wood sluice gravity fountain adds soothing sounds. Cuisine is a simpler, toned-down version of Thai classics, and you can sub veggies, meat, tofu, or seafood into any dish.
Featuring a traditional Japanese decor, with some wood booths and a small sushi bar as well as tables and chairs, this small “homestyle” Japanese restaurant dishes up some tasty fare. An extensive sushi menu is the main draw, but delicious tempura and tonkatsu—a lightly-breaded fried pork cutlet—are also options. Expect a short wait; it is always packed with people waiting.
Situated within the beautifully reformulated 100-year-old Lake Merritt boat house, this new restaurant offers a variety of venues. Seating is available outside on a dock with its own bar and menu, as well as inside at a long bar and also in a formal dining room upstairs that has a grand view. Menu highlights include a lovely, very green English pea soup with ham hock and crème fraiche, a delicate fried Petrale sole piccata served atop Yukon Gold potato puree and steamed watercress, and Liberty Farms duck with a roasted fig sauce. Other popular choices include barbecued baby back ribs, a half- pound burger, and assorted selections from the raw bar. Cocktails, mostly California wines, and the parent restaurant’s hand-crafted Beach Chalet beers (on tap) will quench most thirsts. Celebrating a special occasion? Consider surprising your dining companion with a romantic gondola ride leaving from the restaurant’s dock ((866) 737-8494; reservations advised). Allow time before or after to stroll around lovely Lake Merritt. In daylight, you’ll see a variety of birds (the lake is a bird sanctuary), and from dusk on, you’ll be enchanted by the encircling chain of lights.
Located unpresumptiously in an out-of-the-way strip mall, this tiny Afghan restaurant offers a comfortable open dining room and kitchen along with a menu of delights. Order bolani (thin flatbread stuffed with either mashed potato or leeks) as an appetizer and some deliciously spiced house-specialty kabobs (perhaps the ground lamb seekh kabob, or the ground beef kabob (which is prepared like a hamburger patty). The meals come with a fresh tomato-onion salad, rice, and pita-style flat bread. See more here.
Nob Hill Grille 969 Hyde St./Pine St., (415) 474-5985. B-L-D daily, SunBr; $$. Reservations suggested for dinner.
After stepping inside this unassuming corner spot, diners can choose from seating at a high bar with a view of the open kitchen, at tables lining huge windows looking out to the street, or in a cozy separate dining room downstairs in the back where walls are hung with art depicting local scenes. American comfort food dominates the mostly housemade menu items. Favorites include a large and colorful beet salad, spectacular macaroni and cheese, and baby back ribs in a chipotle barbecue sauce (they are more like short ribs, in that they are so tender the meat falls right off the bones)—all of which I can personally vouch for. Items spied on other tables that I’d like to try include spinach and artichoke dip with freshly made parmesan and chipotle tortilla chips, Bolognese penne pasta, a burger stuffed with portobello mushroom and brie, sweet potato fries, and burrata mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes--but skip the disappointing chicken pot pie. Do save room for dessert: a cupcake (choose from hazelnut, poppy seed, and peanut butter and jelly), a chocolate gateau with a gooey center, brioche cinnamon bread pudding.
Meridian International Sports CafeCLOSED 2050 University Ave./Shattuck Ave., (510) 705-1450. L-D W-Sun; $. Reservations not needed.
Dining here is like enjoying an updated TV dinner. Seating is in roomy wood booths, at tables, and around a central bar in a wide open, Industrial Chic room that is painted black with concrete accents. Silent TVs tuned to sports events hang from the ceiling, and loud, upbeat music plays in the background. The pub menu features classics such as tasty housemade bangers along with more sophisticated dishes such as Moroccan barbecued wild king salmon. Fried calamari, fish and chips, and an all-natural burger are among the many other choices. Sweet endings include sticky toffee pudding that is almost as good as the one I make every Christmas and an ice cream sandwich. Wines galore are available by the glass, and 24 beers are on tap.
Named after the Indian word for "peace," this restaurant’s décor includes a hand-carved wall panel in the image of Buddha. Throughout, comfortable booths and banquettes line the walls, colorful fiber optic lights drop from the ceiling, and a riot of tiles draw the eye, and the unusually deep space stretches way back beyond the main dining room. Begin with a cocktail named for a Bollywood movie—perhaps the beautiful pale aqua Monsoon Wedding served in a champagne glass with a red sugar-dipped rim—but leave space for the global wine that compliments Indian spices (all culled from women winemakers, with $1/bottle donated to a breast cancer charity). A large selection of beer is also available. The menu’s uncommon uptown dishes and hail from throughout India and feature sophisticated spicing; they are described as “unlike any other in the Bay Area.” They include Kerala coconut curry with sea bass and scallops, basil chicken tikka, and rack of lamb with a lavender-thyme-spice pear chutney and spectacular mashed potatoes flavored with mustard and curry leaf and dotted with crunchy nuts. Part of the delight is just perusing the seasonally-changing menu.
Allow time before or after dining to browse the two bookstores, medicinal herbal shop, and humungous bead shop that are housed on the same side of the street.
IciCLOSED2948 College Ave./Ashby Ave., Elmwood, (510) 665-6054. M 2-9:30, Tu-Thur noon-9:30, Fri-Sun noon-10; $. Flavors here are not your grandma’s—pink peppercorn, sweet corn, rosemary pine nut—served either in a cup or in a hand-rolled, chocolate stuffed ice cream cone. Ice cream sandwiches, bombes, and bon bons are also options.
Miss Pearl's Jam House CLOSED 1 Broadway, (510) 444-7171. L M-F, D daily, Sat-SunBr; $$. After a long run in San Francisco, popular Miss Pearl’s has transitioned to the East Bay. A transplanted grove of tall palm trees sway just outside the entrance, and on a sunny day the outdoor patio overlooking the estuary is a bit of paradise. Rum drinks dominate, including a fruity Rum Runner and assorted JELL-O Shots. Caribbean cuisine includes delicious Stamp and Go (chewey cod cakes), deep-fried calamari with a very spicy hot dipping sauce, and Accra (black-eyed pea fritters). Sunday brunch also features assorted scrambles and a spectacular buttermilk waffle topped with ginger butter and caramelized bananas, and the farmer’s market is a must-do before or after.
Val's Burgers 2115 Kelly St /B St., (510) 889-8257. B-L-D Tu-Sat; $. No credit cards.
Located in a residential area about six blocks from downtown, this authentic '50s diner (it opened in 1958) presents a comfy setting with seating in big booths and at a low counter with swivel stools. Burgers are hand-shaped from fresh beef and come in Mama, Papa, and Baby sizes. Milk shakes are served in old-time metal cannisters—try the banana-hot fudge version—and onion rings and fries are also winners. Plenty more diner staples are on the menu, and breakfast is available all day.
Caffe TriesteCLOSED 2500 San Pablo Ave./Dwight Way, (510) 548 5198. Sun-Thur to 10pm, F-Sat to 11; $.
Located on a retail strip known as the Left Bank, this is a branch of the famous North Beach coffeehouse. Though it doesn’t have a restaurant kitchen, a microwave can heat up delicious pastries, pizzettas, salads, and panini. Opera is scheduled on Sundays at 3 p.m.
Solage Calistoga Resort 755 Silverado Trail, in Calistoga, (866) 942-7442, (707) 226-0800. 89 rooms. 3 pools; 2 hot tubs; fitness room; full-service spa. Restaurant; room service. Pets ok.
Guest rooms at this low-key luxury resort feature open floor plans, contemporary decor, and cave-like stone showers with pebble floors. Special touches include Italian linens, down bedding, and complimentary cruiser bicycles parked by each unit’s door for guests to use in exploring the property and town. All units have private or semi-private courtyards, and some suites also have private hot tubs. The heart of the resort is the bath house, spa, and fitness center (must be age 18+). The bath house features a large 100-degree geothermal mineral pool, plus private swimsuit-optional areas for men and women that each hold a hot tub with presssure-point jets strong enough to nearly topple an adult, a deep cold-water plunge pool, and a really hot eucalyptus steam room. This area also offers the property’s signature Mud Bar, where guests sidle up to a bar and select their fragrance to be mixed by a “mud-tender” with nutrient-rich local volcanic mud, then retire to a room to slather the made-to-order concoction onto their own body, then move on to a “mud lounge” or patio to bake, then on to a soaking tub filled with mineral water, and finally finish it off swathed in warm wraps in a sound chair designed to allow floating into a stress-free state of harmonic balance. The spa provides a refreshing outdoor waiting/resting area, and treatments include trendy Kate Somerville facials for both men and women. An adult pool (age 13+) and an area for families with children under 13--with a large pool, hot tub, and play area—are side by side. They use a salt-water, ozone-based filtration system. All water on the property is geothermally heated. Calistoga Water is bottled right next door and available throughout the resort.
The casual bar and Solbar restaurant (B-L-D daily; $$-$$$.) opens onto a large outdoor terrace with a fire pit/water fountain, bocce courts and views of the Palisades Mountains. The bar serves creative cocktails and has the Napa Valley's largest champagne list. The spacious one-room restaurant and bar boast beautiful beams and natural-wood accents. A smallish eclectic menu offeris comfort food as and well as health-minded cuisine. The winner of local awards and a Michelin star, the restaurant showcases seasonal organic produce from nearby surrounding farms and makes its own delicious butter and biscuits. A large pool-view terrace with a striking fire pit/water fountain provides alfresco dining nearly 10 months of the year. The popular indoor-outdoor bar has Napa Valley’s largest champagne list and draws locals as well as hotel guests.
Located at the University’s main intersection, this small venue has only a few seats but is well equipped to prepare orders for take-out. With the expansive lawns of the University just across this street, this is a good option. Though the owners were inspired by the famous Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” episode, the friendly service actually encountered is anything but. The made-from-scratch soups are, of course, the way to go, but sandwiches and salads are also available. Among the tasty soup selections on the regularly changing menu is a hearty matzo ball that is put together in several steps, assuring noodles and matzo balls that don’t become mush right away (note, however, that as good as this soup is, great matzo balls are found only in NYC). The tasty West African Peanut and minced Turkey Chili with a minimum of beans are also noteworthy. Branches are found in San Francisco, Oakland, and Palo Alto.
Toast NovatoTOAST IS TOAST--CLOSED 5800 Nave Dr., in Hamilton Marketplace, (415) 382-1144. B-L-D daily; $$. This large, clean-lined, barn of a room has a long open kitchen with counter seating, several communal tables, and a central bar area with sports TVs. Children make happy sounds, and sometimes the smell of almost-burned toast permeates the air. The extensive menu offers contemporary American comfort food in the form of custom-made omelettes and scrambles at breakfast (served until 2:30), poached salmon or heirloom tomato sandwiches on bruschetta at lunch, and a chopped salad and assortment of pizzas at dinner. The kids menu features Minnie Mouse pancakes and mini burgers. Sweet conclusions include a classic root beer, banana cream pie, and vanilla Heath Bar bread pudding.
Located just before the Inn Marin property, this extraordinary barn of a store is a wonderland of dollhouses and miniatures, trains and landscapes, and more. More includes operating miniature carnival rides, Halloween and Christmas townscapes, and plenty of dolls. Browsing the website is fun, but browsing the store is positively exciting.
Situated just off Highway 101, at the quiet end of a frontage road, this delightful gem of a vintage motel dates from 1949. It features a 1-story Mission-style architecture, 6-inch-thick slumpstone adobe walls painted in a warm color palatte, and expansive lawns (it sits on 5 acres). Cars can drive right up to the guestroom door, and blue hydrangea-lined walkways lead around the property. Recently renovated to green standards, rooms feature sustainable bamboo floors, soft bamboo fabric bedding, and even bamboo ice buckets, but also flat screen TVs and small refrigerators.
Nicely appointed Rickey’srestaurant ((415) 883-9477. D daily, Sat-SunBr; $$.) features a sedate interior of handcrafted mission-style furniture and custom chandeliers. American comfort food made with fresh local ingredients is the fare, and poolside live jazz is added on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. You’ll want to be there when Frank Sinatra sound-alike Brad Bann is booked in to croon smooth songs from the early ‘60s.
Set in the airy "Yud" Gallery, "Jews on Vinyl" offers the opportunity to sit down on a comfy couch and listen to all kinds of Jews singing all kinds of music. A soundtrack pulled from a display of related kitchy album covers includes Bob Dylan, Johnny Mathis, and KISS. Runs through October 13.
Across the way, "Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater, 1919-1949," uses paintings, costume and set design sketches, and film climps to tell this story of a period of cultural history in the Soviet Union. An audio guide is available at the admissions desk for $5. Runs through September 7.
The "Smooth Jazz Sunday Brunch" at ANZU features KBLX radio 102.9 broadcasting live from the dining room. Currently, music is recordings only. The champagne brunch menu changes monthly. Current selections include bacon and eggs and smoked salmon and bagels as well as salads, sushi, assorted main dishes, delectable desserts, and more. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. $48, 62+ $38, 5-12 $25. Reservations advised. More things to do in San Francisco
Chow 53 Lafayette Circle, in La Fiesta Square, (925) 962-2469. B-L-D daily; $-$$. Delicious, well-priced chow made with top ingredients is the name of the game at this spot that is wildly popular with locals. Fresh-pressed organic juices, sandwiches, salads, pastas, wood-fired pizzas, and meat and fish entrees are all on the menu. Dining here is especially pleasant in warm weather, when all the doors and windows are opened to let in a cooling breeze and when outside dining is an option. After, pick up some produce and to-go items in the small on-site grocery. More things to do in Lafayette. More ideas for exploring Northern California.
To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again. --ancient Egyptian belief
King Tut is back and this time he's brought along his royal relatives. Mystery, intrigue, and history are all part of the show. The boy king ruled more than 3,000 years ago; he died at age 19. The last Tut show here was 30 years ago, in 1979. It was the most successful museum tour of the 1970s, and more people attended it here in San Francisco than at any of its other venues. The current exhibit setting provides the ambiance of stepping into an actual tomb but is far more spacious. Don't miss exhibit #18, an amazing set of nested fetus coffins and a fetus funerary mask. Dr. Zahi Hawass, the secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and an Indiana Jones of sorts, has made sure that this time a portion of the proceeds go back to Egypt for use in antiquities preservation and restoration and to build new museums. Runs through march 28, 2010.
(BTW, it hard not to notice how much the carved image on this canopic stopper resembles the late Michael Jackson.)
Set within a converted 1870 vintage building, this colorful Mexican restaurant’s seating spills out onto a plaza-like, brick-paved front yard. Sitting there amid a sea of blue iron chairs, with a view of the town sign spanning Main Street, is primo in warm weather. It is at its romantic best in the evening when the lights wrapping the trunks of two giant palm trees are turned on. Meals being with thin housemade chips and three flavorful sauces. The extensive menu presents the expected burritos and enchiladas as well as some excellent chicken-stuffed taquitos and a variety of house-specialty shrimp dishes.
Bacar 448 Brannan St./3rd St., South of Market, (415) 904-4100. D M-Sat, SunBr; $$$-$$$+. Reservations advised.
Diners entering this subdued, sophisticated retreat pass a dramatic 3-story “wall of wine” holding 1,000 bottles. Wines are sophisticated and pricey. Meats are particularly good, and sometimes the special is a 32-ounce steak--recently at $99--that is best shared by three or four diners. For desert, the coconut rice pudding is a winner.
Pizza Nostra SFCLOSED 300 DeHaro St./16th St., Potrero Hill, (415) 558-9493. L M-F, Sat-SunBr, D daily. No reservations.
Diners at this inviting, casual spot have a choice of sitting in an oversize wood booth that can squeeze in perhaps 8 people, at smaller tables, or at a counter overlooking the open kitchen. A recent visit spotted tattoos a plenty, mixed with dreads and kids, and Shakira shook things up with her music. A great meal here can be composed of an unoily fritto misto (this night it was calamari, sea bass, and celery hearts) served with aioli dip, a beautiful beet salad with orange-mint dressing, and a thin-crust, Neapolitan-style calabrese pizza topped with salame and onion. A focaccia hamburger and several pastas are also options. The perfect conclusion is a to-die-for espresso panna cotta with fig vin cotto accent. Outdoor seating is available in good weather.
Aerospace Museum of California 3200 Freedom Park Dr./Watt Ave., off I-80, in McClellan Park, in McClellan, (916) 643-3192. M-Sat 9-5, Sun 10-5. $8, 65+ & 13-17 $6, 6-12 $5.
Opened here in 2007 on the former McClellan Air Force Base, this gigantic structure seems a cross between an airport terminal and an airplane hangar. It houses 5 retired military and civilian aircraft inside, and over 30 more outside. Aircraft range from a 1932 one-of-a-kind B-14-B speed wing biplane to a C-53 Sky Trooper that participated in the Normandy invasion. A Morphis ride simulator is available for an extra fee, and the museum participates in the free Young Eagles flight program for kids age 8-17. On open cockpit evenings, visitors can climb inside the planes for a fantastic photo op; admission for everyone then is $5.
Le RivageNOW A WESTIN 4350 Riverside Blvd., (888) 760-5944, (916) 443-8400. 100 rooms. Some fireplaces. Pool; fitness center; full-service spa. Restaurant; room service. No pets. Self-parking free; valet parking $21.
This elegant Tuscan-style resort hotel is right on the Sacramento River and just 10 minutes from downtown. Yachtsmen particularly enjoy coming here because of its dock and 25-slip side-tie marina, and small-plane owners can fly into nearby Sacramento Executive Airport. A variety of celebrities have stayed here, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Clint Eastwood, and Quincy Jones. Bedding is Italian posh, and each bathroom has a modern clawfoot soaking tub and separate glass-wall rain shower. The Grand Lounge common space off the lobby offers an oversize fireplace and leather sofas, plus a stocked game cupboard and table. Activities include a bocce ball court, bicycle rentals (a bike trail runs past the property), and water sports, and riverside fire pits are the place to be on a balmy summer evening.
Espetus Churrascaria 710 S. B St./7th St., (650) 342-8700. L-D daily; set price $23.95-$49.95; drinks and desserts additional.
More spacious than the San Francisco mother ship, this is a worthy clone and serves up the same delicious array of salads and meats. Skewers of meats cooked over an open fire are brought around to each table by skilled carvers and sliced onto diners’ plates. The salad bar is a cornucopia of delights and includes typical Brazilian side dishes. For more description, see San Francisco location.
Free Speech Movement Cafe U.C. Campus, In Moffitt Undergraduate Library, (510) 666-0805. Hrs. vary, open 24-hrs. during finals; $.
Who knew the old days are being celebrated in this cheery campus cafe/coffeehouse? Well, the young students do, the ones who weren’t born yet when the Free Speech Movement was happening. They sit in front of their computers in front of gigantic black-and-white murals of Mario Savio famously speaking (freely) while standing atop that car. Check it out over salads, sandwiches, and coffees.
Sens 4 Embarcadero Ctr., (415) 362-0645. L M-F, D M-Sat; $$$. Reservations advised.
Featuring a lovely interior space with rough-cut stone walls and ceiling accents, artful blown-glass sconces, and a view of the Ferry Building, this restaurant has an ever-changing Mediterranean-inspired menu with strong North African influences. Delicious options have included an appetizer array of pita bread spreads, grilled sea bass with flavorful Romesco sauce and saffron rice, and killer desserts--think chocolate-marshmallow bread pudding. Deep-fried green olives stuffed with veal--a house specialty--are always available. Off the bar, a casual outdoor terrace overlooks Embarcadero plaza; heat lamps make it a year-round option. Hookah happy hours take place there weekdays from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Puffers choose a flavor—guava and peach are prime—and can also order cocktails and bar food. (Each hookah comes with a sanitary disposable plastic mouthpiece.)
Artisan BistroCLOSED 1005 Brown Ave./Mt. Diablo Blvd., (925) 962-0882. L Tu-Sat, D Tu-Sun, Sat-SunBr; $$-$$$. Reservations advised.
Operating on a quiet side street within a converted 1922 cottage, this intimate venue’s decor includes natural wood beams, a stone fireplace, and walls painted with sophisticated muted darker colors. In good weather, an expansive brick patio invites fresh-air dining. Lunch includes a salami-avocado chopped salad, a burger, and sandwiches, while the seasonal dinner menu might offer a thick and tasty artichoke soup with a dollop of marcona almond-mint pesto, an herb-crusted rack of lamb, or a satisfying deep-fried Cornish game hen with mashed potatoes, gravy, and a housemade biscuit. Desserts run the gamut from homey orange-and-caramel bread pudding to a refined goat cheese torte with Port sauce and cranberry sabayon.
This tiny spot is the original location in what has become a mini-chain in the city. Fast, cheap, delicious noodle dishes are the specialty—don’t miss #17, stir-fried flat rice noodles with shrimp, green long bean, bell pepper, Thai chili, and basils—but rice plates, soups, and salads are also options. Many vegetarian options can be prepared by request.
It is surprising on this student-oriented block to find such a fresh venue and such a tasty menu. The brightly colored interior is spacious, open, and airy, with windows open to the breeze on warm days. Selections include the more traditional items as well as fajitas, seafood, and a hamburger; favorites include enchiladas and a deep-fried chimichanga made with a flour tortilla. The lime margarita made with 100% blue agave is simply the best, but cold beer and sangria are also good options.
After, browse the carefully selected collection in the tiny Analog bookstore across the street.
The 32nd annual San Francisco Decorator Showcase runs April 25 through May 25, 2009. Among the creative rooms you'll see in this 1910 four-story Georgian mansion are a puppet theater and a wrapping room in converted closets, an ethereal, cloud-like powder room, and a fully-planted roof garden with a 360-degree view.
San Francisco Railway Museum 77 Steuart St./Market St., in Hotel Vitale bldg. across from Ferry Bldg., The Embarcadero, (415) 974-1948. W-Sun 10-6. Free.
This tiny museum features historic artifacts and archival photography among its exhibits, including fare boxes, the Wiley "birdcage" traffic signal, and a replica of the front end of a Market Street Railway Company White Front car emerging from a mock-up of the west portal of the Twin Peaks Tunnel.
Spicy Louisiana-style Cajun and Creole cooking is the name of the game here, and the atmospheric music and brick wall-decor only enhance the experience. The menu includes everything a southern-food lover could want, including fried chicken, crawfish Etoufee, both brown Cajun gumbo and red Creole gumbo, po’boys, a muffaletta sandwich, and bananas Foster bread pudding. Personal favorites include spectacularly delicious deep-fried cornmeal hush puppies, spicy jambalaya loaded with andouille sausage, and signature voo doo barbecue shrimp. Louisiana beers—how about an Abita Amber, Turbodog, or Purple Haze?—are served in a chilled Mason jar mug; swamp water, sweet tea, and strawberry lemonade are also options. Laissez les bon temps rouler (let the good times roll)!
Shokolaat CLOSED 516 University Ave./Cowper St., (650) 289-0719. Tea (8-4) & D Tu-Sun; $$.
Set way back from the street, with a protected dining patio in front, this spot is decorated in cool grays and blacks and features an open kitchen. A banquette lines one wall, and additional seating is at the bar. Cocktails include a fresh, lemony Persian Fling as well as an international wine list. Though the menu is limited, housemade soups are exceptional, as is quail stuffed with figs and foie gras on the dinner menu. Desserts include a chocolate souffle as well as a pastry case filled with delectable sweets. Best of all is a selection of tiny jewel-like chocolates. Delicious breads and the desserts and chocolates are made at a sister business in San Mateo.
An offshoot of an underground restaurant run from a private home, this cozy little spot operates in a reformated fairytale-style house featuring heavy beams and a dramatic curved floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace. The short-but-sweet menu doesn’t strain the brain and offers an enticing selection of homey fare that changes regularly—perhaps a soothing barley soup with nettle pesto, a oven roasted halibut with a stand-out potato-fennel gratin, a divine chocolate bread pudding that is like a soft brownie. Local and organic ingredients are used when available.
Metro KathmanduCLOSED 311 Divisadero St./Page St., Haight-Ashbury, (415) 552-0903. D Tu-Sun, Sat-SunBr; $$. Reservations taken.
This engaging venue is just one room, colored red and featuring a decorative mirrored chair rail and black wood tables. The specialty is exotic Nepalese cuisine, which is influenced by Indian and Chinese cuisines. Appetizer choices include momo (like steamed Chinese dumplings) and deep-fried samosas stuffed with potatoes and peas. Main courses are kebabs and some curries (don’t miss the very tasty, and spicy, lamb vindaloo), and side dishes include flavorsome sautéed spinach with garlic and several breads—a buttery paratha and the always popular roti. Soju (rice wine) cocktails and a mango lassi are available along with beer and wine. The restaurant is open until 1 a.m. A backyard patio is opened for brunch in good weather. More things to do in San Francisco Way more things to do in San Francisco. More ideas for exploring Northern California.
Dopo 4293 Piedmont Ave./John St., (510) 652-3676. L M-F (11:30-2:30), D M-Sat; $$. Reservations for 5+.
The sophisticated Italian cooking here makes the usual prime-time wait worthwhile. Soups can be interesting—perhaps a deep-flavored lentil with chanterelle mushrooms—and the thin-crust pizza is reliably tasty. The ever-changing menu has offered crostone of pork, lasagna, and a memorable crab tortellini. For dessert, don’t pass up buttermilk panna cotta. Lunch is less crowded, and panini are available.
Situated behind ornate black-iron gates in a renovated 1909 structure that once was home to spa queen Elizabeth Arden, this charming small museum hosts regularly changing exhibitions designed to showcase and interpret the art of craft and design in contemporary society. Past exhibits include: "My First Royal Jewels," by emiko oye--a contemporary reinterpretation of classic 20th-century jewelery; "The Enlightenment Room," by Nick Dong--constructed of 15,000 handmade, sanctified white porcelain tiles, and you can meditate within it for a while. An exceptional, but small, gift shop is browse-worthy.