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  • Diana Brandt

San Francisco: Where to Eat & Stay


San Francisco during fall break for the kids, could anything be more perfect! The weather was amazing, there was a ton of activities to do, there was an overwhelming amount of food to choose from and we had the best location for a hotel.

It was our first time going to San Fran as a family and my second time. My first time to San Fran wasn't a memorable one, as I was quite pregnant and uncomfortable. This time around we did it right! We stayed at Hotel Zephyr, which is right across from the Fisherman's Wharf. I can't imagine there being a more perfect location. We were able to walk across the street to Pier 39, take the street car a couple minutes down to the Ferry Building, and everything else we wanted to see was a short car ride away.

The hotel itself is full of fun and outfitted in a very nautical theme. Hotel Zephyr has plenty of paid parking on premise and when you get inside, you'll find areas to lounge around inside, a game room, and our favorite, a huge outside area to play games, hang around fire pits and of course plenty to eat and drink. Our room was a premium double double room, with the most amazing view of the waterfront. Floor to ceiling windows let us watch all the action outside from the comfort of our room and each morning and night we were able to see the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. We did not spend much time in our room, as we had so much to explore around town.

For lunch on our first day, we went over to Wayfare Tavern. "Upon entering Wayfare Tavern, a journey back to the early 1900’s San Francisco begins. Rebuilt in the wake of the San Francisco Earthquake and Great Fire of 1906, the building at 558 Sacrament Street was salvaged with fire burned bricks from the streets of the devastated City. Wayfare Tavern brings a unique culinary vision and style to San Francisco. Featuring authentic American dishes inspired by the San Francisco restaurant scene of the early 1900’s. Wayfare Tavern’s innovative yet familiar, menu ranges from classic comforts food like fried chicken and baked macaroni & cheese to rustic delicacies such as roasted bone marrow and steak tartare."

Lunch was bustling, as we started with shrimp cocktail and prime beef tartare. My favorite part of the meal was the Sonoma chicken salad tartine with pumpkin hummus, pickled currants, winter squash, spiced pumpkin seeds. You can see more about the restaurant here.

We took a whole day to explore Pier 39. First we took the Blue and Gold Fleet around the bay, where we got an up close look at the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Once off the boat, we went over to the Aquarium of the Bay for a bit to watch the sharks in the water tunnels and the jellyfish gracefully move around their tanks. The carousel is inside all the pier action and the kids had to have a ride, while the adults did the brand new 7D experience. Our trip happened to land on the same week as Fleet Week, so there was plenty of action going on from live music to air shows.

It was exhausting having that much fun, so we finished the night off just a few minutes away at House of Xian Dumpling. Where we sipped on noodle soup, chowed down on dan dan noodle, crispy pork chops, soup dumplings and more.

Our next day had to consist of checking out the Golden Gate Bridge up close. So we parked nearby and walked across part of it, just enough to work up an appetite for a small snack before lunch at Picnix Bistro. Their pork belly and fresh egg rolls were out of this world and I wish we could have gone back to have more.

The Ferry Building was calling our name and we dropped into this massive food and vendor hall for lunch. Gott's Roadside is one of the first things you see walking up to the Ferry Building. While the kids were able to enjoy hot dogs and coconut water, my husband and I tried the poke tacos and baja fish tacos and a side of brussel sprouts.

"Gott’s Roadside was founded in 1999 in Saint Helena by brothers Joel and Duncan Gott. Gott’s California-inspired dishes and seasonal specials use locally sourced ingredients and purveyors such as Niman Ranch beef, Zoe’s bacon, Panorama Bakery breads, and Osprey Seafood. Gott's modern approach to American roadside classics has something for everyone including dishes like the California Burger with a fried egg, Zoe's bacon, and balsamic onions, Ahi Poke Crispy Tacos with sushi grade Ahi tuna, "A" B.L.T. with charred jalapeño mayo, Chicken Kale Caesar, and hand-spun organic shakes."

Heading inside the Ferry Building we stopped for a sweet treat at Humphry Slocombe. They have all kinds of great flavors from chocolate smoked sea salt to Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee. Plus some that are a little more outside of the box but just as incredible, Peanut Butter Curry and Hibiscus Beet Sorbet, to name a few. We tried the secret breakfast a delicious mix of bourbon and cornflakes and a scoop of pumpkin 5 spice and black sesame.

We finished our walk around the building looking at all the little vendor shops from candy to fruit stands, books stores to coffee, this place had it all and we came back quite a few times during our stay. Once we had our ice cream, we went to the back of the ferry building and outside where we could lookout at the water and all the boats going by.

That night we went to Russian Hill, which is only a 10 min drive at most, and swung into the gorgeous Mezcalito for some regional Mexican food. Not only do they have an extensive list of Mezcals but they have plenty of quick bites like guacamole, taquitos, & sopes and sharable regional plates like cochinita pibil, carnitas, and carne asada. I had the best shrimp and steak tacos here and would suggest you stop in to try some too!

Our last full day was now upon us and I needed to have my fill of donuts but not just any donuts, they needed to be mochi donuts. You've probably had mochi as a dessert with ice cream or maybe as a savory dish. Either way, as a donut, it blew my mind and I'm still thinking about them. I typically take a bite of donuts and I'm good but these, I couldn't stop eating. You can find them at Mochill Mochi Donut.

Time for some Modern Indian Cuisine at August (1) Five for lunch. "August (1) Five is a modern Indian restaurant named for the date commemorating India’s independence from British rule. Located in the heart of San Francisco’s Civic Center neighborhood. Influenced by a range of culinary traditions, from colorful street foods to the hidden staples of home cooks, the menu is anchored in the regional cuisines of India. Using the best of the Bay Area’s seasonal organic ingredients, the chef melds traditional Indian preparations with contemporary techniques."

My kids tore through the braised duck leg, while my husband and I had the bison keema, palak chaat, gol guppa, potato and fig kofka and finished with the toffee pudding.

We hurried from our delicious lunch to head down to the Museum of Ice Cream for a ton of sweet treats and plenty of instagrammable moments. The kids were obsessed with the sprinkle pool and we slid into a pool of sprinkles plenty of times.

Although we had eaten at many amazing places over our trip and we've barely scratched the surface of what San Fran has to offer, dinner at E&O Kitchen and Bar was one of my top places that we ate. "E&O Kitchen and Bar is a modern Asian restaurant and lounge in the heart of San Francisco’s vibrant Union Square. Executive Chef Sharon Nahm creates exciting and bold flavors in modern Asian dishes." Ace was super helpful and kind and took great care of us that night. If I could have, I would have ordered the entire menu but we settled for famous Indonesian corn fritters, grilled baby back ribs, steamed duck buns, butternut squash dumplings, chicken satay, pad thai, wood roasted char siu black cod, over roasted rainbow carrots and the most delicious dessert called Mauna Kokoleka mud pie.

While this is a short list of what San Fran has to offer, I can't say enough about what a great time we had there with the whole family. It truly was the perfect vacation getaway and we can't wait to head back soon.


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