Thursday, January 10, 2013

guide to san francisco

• the well-traveled wife's 
guide to san francisco •
my husband and i both grew up loving 
this city, then we got engaged in this city, 
then we moved here to the heart of it. 
safe to say our hearts are in san francisco! 
here is our little guide to some 
favorite eats, treats, & sights..


best + most authentic pizza you can get in SF. 
simple margherita is the very best,
and the brussel sprouts are a must. 
there are two different locations in the city.
delfina is next door, and also great.

Sear's Fine Food
this place may be touristy, but we love the location 
right in union square, the old classic feel, and the 
world famous 18 swedish pancakes on the menu.
this is a fun stop if you're staying in union square.

La Boulange Bakery

a little bit of paris right in SF! my favorite french cafe 
in the city..their soups, salads, and sandwiches 
{croque monsieur} + desserts are fab. there are 
all different locations, but each one feels like
a true french bakery on its own. we love the
hayes valley location, but the pine street
location is the original and you can
attend baker's dinners there. this place has the LONGEST lines, and many 
people decide not to wait...i have had some terribly long waits, 
but let me tell you one thing...the wait is ALWAYS worth it.
french toast + eggs benedict + monte cristo sandwich 
= happy stomach. but i'm serious, prepare for the wait. 
hours long. or, go in the afternoon around 2 PM and it's empty.

this little place is on one of my favorite streets in the city, chestnut street. 
it is a local area down by the marina with so many good restaurants 
and shops. this is the perfect lunch spot with friends,because they have 
fresh healthy salads and the best sandos {including gourmet grilled 
cheese!} i love building my own salad, and we love all the healthy 
options! they have now expanded to polk street as well.

hands down my favorite breakfast in the city.
it's a tiny walk-up with a fresh, incredible
menu that changes weekly depending on 
what's in season. you simply cannot go wrong!

amazing  deep dish pizza! get the garlic bread, 
the deep dish classic, and the white pie pizza.

Boudin Bakery

best sourdough bread in town..go to the location on fisherman's wharf, 
because there is a little museum upstairs all about san francisco. you get
samples, learn about the city, and get to see the sourdough bread factory. love!
it's one of the only worthwhile things to do down by the touristy wharf!

inexpensive gourmet sandwiches made right as you order them..
we love trying out the daily special. not fancy, but delicious. 
right in the financial district, so it's good for a quick lunch.

a new breakfast discovery in the city..this place is SO great. 
all different types of eggs benedict {my dream} great french 
toast, omelettes, pancakes, and more. try the millionaire's bacon! 
i'm not even a bacon fan and i recommend it.

another good breakfast spot! this place is in the tenderloin 
{not the best area}, but that makes it a hidden gem. it is 
such good breakfast and VERY popular, as you'll see 
from the lines. go early! ..and get the specials.

famous for the "best SF sandwich," this place is worth trying.
the names of the sandwiches are hilarious..i like the SF Giants sandwich!

Thai Cooking with Sunshine
if you want some of the best thai
food + a fun experience, this is your place.
i think it was one of our favorite things
we have done in san francisco! see sunshine's
facebook page and blog for more info.
Others worth mentioning:

Taquerias in the Mission
Lemongrass Thai
Liguria Bakery {foccacia bread}
All Good Pizza in Bayview
Frjtz Restaurant {belgian waffles}
Little Italy Restaurants
Lucca Ravioli Company
Flour & Co.
Happy Moose Juice
Restaurant inside Town Hall
Sexy Soup Food Cart
Chez Spencer’s French Food Truck

Lastly for eats, let's talk about The Ferry Building
my oh my..if you are a foodie, this is the place for you! it is sort of an indoor market {think: faneuil hall} with all different food stands and restaurants. the farmers market is on tuesday, thursday and saturday outside of the ferry building, which makes it even better. we go 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. the tacolicious booth is there on thursdays and the tacos are the best. boulette's larder is the BEST, get some breakfast there. 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.
make sure to try some sow juice to make up for all of those treats! :)
this darling bakery is definitely one of my favorite places in san francisco. 
there are a few locations, but the hayes valley one is the best. the macarons, 
chocolate covered gummy bears, and homemade caramels are my favorites. this place is a treat 
for the eyes and for the tastebuds! *you can buy their cookbook or take classes here as well!*

Twirl & Dip Ice Cream Truck

organic soft serve ice cream, dipped in local dark chocolate and sprinkled 
with sea salt. yes, i'm serious. this is probably one of my favorite treats to get in 
the city. you can usually find the truck in golden gate park! we love this
place so much that we partner with them and featured them here!
safe to say that the hour long line outside this place is worth it
when you get your first taste...homemade flavors like roasted banana,
salted caramel, honey lavendar, ricaneles, toasted coconut...the list 
could go on but my mouth is already watering. go on a warm afternoon 
and sit in dolores park after while you eat it! yum.
*if the line is long, walk across the street and down to bi-rite
market to get a pint and take in the cutest grocery store ever!

i would never have noticed this place on my own in chinatown, but i am 
so glad i was tipped off about it. it is just a little bakery right on bustling grant 
avenue in the heart of chinatown, but it has the greatest treats 
on earth..the homemade egg tarts. GO GET THEM!

homemade ice cream...literally they make it right there as you order! 
salted caramel and dark choc are to die for, and the best 
part is knowing exactly what goes into them!

Beard Papa
an entire shop full of freshly made, giant cream puffs. 
life doesn't get much better. get the cocoa cream puff 
filled with vanilla cream. die and go to heaven!!

i am not even a donut fan and i love this place. our friends first took us here 
for a late night donut run {open 24 hrs} and these things are GOOD. 
made fresh from scratch, and all amazing. even the basic glazed is great!

the cutest old fashioned pie shop..the best part? the PIE SHAKES...
a slice of any pie blended with milk and any kind of ice cream. 
it may sounds weird, but everyone loves them!

this is a little bakery with yummy food, and even better treats. 
the coconut cream tart is a winner, and so is the BREAD PUDDING!
for breakfast, the morning bun is the best.

i love this place with homemade rice pudding 
and ice cozy and yummy!

darling little candy shop worth stopping into!

Schulzie's Bread Pudding
fun shop on hayes with all different flavors
of bread pudding, with sauces and toppings.

this is this little hidden fortune cookie factory. fun fact: fortune cookies 
were actually invented in SF, not china! this place is a fun way to see how they 
are made, and you can sample a few. you can also write your own fortunes and order 
some to be made with them inside! it is on ross alley, right off of jackson street.

Twin Peaks Summit
favorite view of the city. you can drive right up to it, park, 
and take in the view. it can be windy, but it's spectacular.

Dolores Park
we love this park right in the mission district. 
go up high on the hill so you can get good view of the city, 
and bring a picnic {or some bi-rite ice cream!}

Palace of Fine Arts
just off the marina, this is 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. i think it has
become one of my favorite spots in all of sf.

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
best stair workout you can get in a fun area of the city. watch out for all 
the stair runners and fitness gurus getting their workout in!

Union Square
this is the best shopping area you can find. 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!

Fisherman's Wharf
the most touristy area, but worth it. go park 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 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
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. 
when we pass it, we always blast the theme song as we drive by.

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.

Lombard Street

named the "most crooked street in the world," it's always fun to 
take a drive down the curveof this pretty street..or walk down it! 
my favorite part is the fresh hydrangeas all over.

chinatown in san francisco is the best! it's a completely different feel, 
but it's fun to walk around, get rice candy, boba smoothies, shop, and especially 
get custard egg tarts at golden gate bakery {see "eats" section}

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.

Golden Gate Park
pretty, giant park with so much to discover. you can rent rowboats on 
stow lake {named after one of my relatives} in the summer..go on runs or bike rides, 
visit the carousel, japanese garden, or california academy of sciences {fun museum}. 
we love this pretty place, and it feels like you leave the busy city whenever you go here.

Crissy Field
the field by the water with a pathway all the way down to the 
golden gate is perfect for walks, kite flying, and 
stopping in the warming huts to get hot cocoa!

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.

The Bike Hut
we love renting bikes from the bike hut
because a) it is a great cause b) 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 our
fun times doing this here and here.

-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
-exploratorium love the new location on the embarcadero, fun with kids.
-walt disney museum
-national martime museum    

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}
  • gigi + rose boutique- darling little shop right down at the bottom of ghiradelli. so worth stopping into.
  • go see grace cathedral on nob hill, and walk the labyrinth to relax.
  • 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.
  • you can go see the famous haight-ashbury district from the hippie days
  • 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!
  • go downtown to see the iconic transamerica building
  • ribbonerie- to go along with the fabrics, this is the best ribbon store ever. love love love.
  • scrap- if you are a crafter, definitely check out this place!
  • fleet week- if you're in SF during october, don't miss this.
  • ____________________________________________________________________________
a quick note on transportation..
one of the best options to see a lot is the san francisco city pass
it's worth it if you are coming for anything 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, and entry to most major museums in the city, it's a great deal!!

if you just want to do the cable car ride, definitely don't wait in the long line at powell & market, 
instead, walk one block up by H&M and get on right there to skip the line! it's $5 
per time, but $11 for a day pass {which counts for MUNI too!}

hopefully this guide helps anyone visiting
or living in san francisco!
any questions, ask away! 
we will update this as 
we discover more about the city..
you can also see our entire bay area bucket list here!
ps..see all san francisco posts & adventures
“san francisco has always been a dreamer's city; 
a far-flung city perched on the edge of the sea 
where far-fetched fantasies have a way of 
catching hold and hatching into reality."



  1. I would love to visit San Francisco...even growing up in Vegas I never made it there.

  2. I love all our your guide posts! I loved them so much that I decided to make my own which I'm working on now! Thanks for the inspiration!


  3. Thank you for this! We've been wanting to go for awhile and these are some gems!

  4. I'm hoping to take a trip to San Francisco this year for our vacation, this will be such a great resource, thank you!

  5. I would love to visit San Fransisco someday!!! Thanks for posting

  6. Thank you so much! I'm heading to SF next month. So excited to try some of your fave spots!! x

    1. how fun that you're heading here soon, you'll love it! glad this can help you plan!

  7. funnnn! richie and i are planning a trip to sf soon! :)

    1. yay i better see you if you come!!!

  8. Literally is one of my biggest wishes to one day go to America, so lucky!

    Ive just followed you from the UK - would love if you could follow back?


  9. If I ever get the chance to go to SF, I will definitely visit La Boulange de Hays, looks so nice!

    1. do it! it's so darling and it feels just like paris.

  10. Oh man, SF is on our must-see travel list! I am so hoping we get there SOON! I am bookmarking your post for future reference. Thank you!!

    1. i'm so glad! you must come soon, you will love it. glad this is helpful for you!

  11. Oh this is great since I'll be in San Fransisco in June. Never been before :)

    1. yay! love will love it, and maybe we'll bump into you! xo

  12. THis is awesome! I remember when you first moved here chase told us about all the city reviews you do. Rob and I have been waiting for 3 months for this one now! We need to make more trips to the city, now we will know exactly where to go!

  13. I went to San Fran on business and loved it. We stayed at the Intercontinental hotel and across the street was this presh little Italian place called Buca di Beppo. We had just landed from a 6 hour flight and were starved. We enjoyed it. We also went to Ghiradelli more than once! :) The Golden Gate bridge is unlike anything this Mississippi girl has ever seen especially on a double decker bus on the second level. Loved it!! There was some prick on the plane beside me right before we landed made a point to point out the windmills and then had the audacity to ask if we Mississippi women knew what that was. I had a few choice words for him which led to him remaining silent for the duration of the flight. I am pretty sure he wasn't prepared for what he had coming! I wasn't looking forward to my visit after that, but he proved to be just a prick and we know that they are everywhere. Everyone else was very kind and helpful to us!

  14. ahh blue barn and mamas are my FAVS. This is a great guide Em!

  15. First of all your coat is absolutely adorable! Second, I've only been to SF once but it completely stole my heart! I'll definitely have to make sure to visit all of these places next time I go ;)
    xo TJ

    1. thank you dear! we are heading to seattle in feb, so i need some good tips! xo

  16. This is such a great post! I love San Francisco but didn't know most of this! I'm excited to go back and explore some of these places!

  17. This is awesome! I didn't know you lived in SF. My friend just moved out there and I hope to join her soon! :)

  18. This post is really, really cool. I've been wanting to visit CA. Maybe I can show this post to the hubs and convince him to take me! I love your blog :)


    1. YES! show him and then come! you'll love it!!!!

  19. I love San Francisco & I love U guYs!! ;-)

  20. oh my goodness i love this!! there are many places i have been to but even more i havent! i cant wait to try some of these out. thank you so much for sharing it with me!

  21. I love reading this blog. Thanks and keep sharing sharing your lovable emotional experiences about San Francisco.

  22. Actually your creative writing skills has inspired me to start my personal BlogEngine weblog now.

  23. San Francisco is my beloved city! I like your list. I love tht you included the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie factory. You must add pizzetta 211 for an European moment...

    1. we will try that out for sure-- thanks!

  24. This looks awesome - great work!


  25. This entire blog is AWESOME!! My boyfriend and I are taking a road trip down the pacific coast highway over spring break. Such great advise for where to go on here! Thanks so much for posting :)

    1. you're so nice! i will have to update the SF guide soon with some new favorites, but hopefully you saw the PCH guide for your fun spring break will LOVE it! Xo

    2. I love that picture of you and Chase in front of the heart background of san fran (the last picture on this page) Where is this at? :)

    3. thanks! that is right in union square, but they change the murals on the hearts every few months so it depends when you go!

  26. My fiance and I have decided to take our honeymoon to SF, Sonoma, and Napa! Great guides :)

  27. Hi Emi!!
    I have been a longtime admirer of your blog, especially the travel guides! They have helped me in many different places including London and L.A.! My sister and I are heading to San Francisco this summer and of course, I came here first! We won't be in town for long, just one night on the way to a wedding up in Napa but I'd love your opinion on the perfect day/evening in San Francisco! We aren't picky about food or activities and are both new to the area... so whatever you can recommend would be fantastic!!
    -Hannah :)

    1. hi cute girl! a napa wedding, dreamy! i'd love to help you with a perfect itinerary for a day in SF, email me at welltraveledwife@gmail and tell me when you'll be here, etc. and i can send some options! yay! xo


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