It's Finally Summertime In SF—Time To Drink It In
Staycation station, y'all.
September 16, 2017 ● 4 min read
By Michelle Matvey | Image iStock
Everyone knows summer in San Francisco starts after Labor Day—except, it seems, literally everyone who comes to see the city in July.
After grouching around from June 'til August, with a few sunny days in between, BOOM, the summertime gods grace the city (where no one owns or knows how to operate an air conditioner) with waves of record-setting heat (but keeps the strange misty mornings and nights so that you never know what to wear). The change of pace is a perfect excuse for that staycation you've been meaning to take.
For a better vantage point and a new perspective of the Golden Gate Bridge and the surrounding scenic cliffs, start at Baker Beach. The nearby Legion of Honor is the perfect-sized museum for a casual visit - neither sprawling nor barren — with towering forests and peaks dotting the coastline. If it's foggy and you can't see anything, the sea air is still good for you! Best of all, now you’re in the Outer Richmond.
Since this is a vacation, we feel very comfortable recommending pizza for a late breakfast. You can’t go wrong with the mouthwatering pies at Pizzetta 211, a tiny sit-down spot open from 11:30 am. Chef Mourad Lahlou is pretty sure the San Marzano, Mascarpone, and Arugula is the best pie in town. "It's all about balance with this one: sweet and acidic tomatoes, bitter arugula, and creamy cheese," he says. "Ask them to add anchovies (and give them a big smile)." Dig in, and watch the fog roll in from Ocean Beach. If you're craving more traditional breakfast bites — think eggs, toast, and bagels — hit up Marla Bakery with the confidence that comes from a stamp of approval by local bagel maestro Chef Evan Bloom. "Hand rolled and cooked in a wood oven, you can tell these are made by a long time baker," he says. "The everything bagel has gone all California with seedy toppings, and they make their own farmer cheese which is the perfect shmear. Worth the trek."
Make your way through Golden Gate Park. Stop at the De Young, California Academy of Sciences across the grass, and the Japanese Tea Gardens (don't forget to get fresh mochi at the café). Post-park, snake through to the Outer Sunset and plop down at Andytown for an expertly-pulled espresso or a solid drip. Chef Richie Nakano heads here for the pastries and coffee made by a husband and wife team who roast their own beans and bake everything in-house. Chef Rocky Maselli, like the rest of the neighborhood, swears by the Snowy Plover: espresso, sparkling water, brown sugar simple syrup and heavy cream. "It's like an espresso float," he says. "Great spot for a coffee date, [and] the pastries are fantastic. Shout out to the sausage roll." Peruse the shelves at Green Apple Books while you digest.
In true tourist fashion, brace yourself and head to historic Haight-Ashbury to scour thrift shops and record stores and buy yourself a crystal or two. Steer clear of the small packs of wandering high schoolers strutting like they own the place. Escape them at Magnolia Cafe and Brewery for craft brews at staycation-friendly hours. As Chef Ravi Kapur puts it, “Eating BBQ and drinking beer in an amazing environment—what's better?" From there, make your way south and cross over into the Castro, where options are endless. Chef Alejandro Morgan would have you know that Starbelly’s housemade chicken liver pate is “fucking phenomenal," so start there. “The mustard, sweet onion marmalade, grilled bread and chef Adam’s pâté... That is how you make babies," he says. "It helped me get through the foie gras ban. I’ve also heard you can add the pâté to a burger. Are you kidding me?!"
Guess what, the Mission's a mere BART ride away. When it comes to lunch options, we won’t suggest the obvious (Tartine), or your tried-and-true (every taqueria), because this is about trying new things, remember? Do Farmhouse Kitchen Thai for the kai yang that won the heart of Chef Robin Song. “Honestly, I haven't had anything bad here," he says, "but this is the jam. Spicy and juicy. So much flavor!”
Take a break here to sunbathe in Dolores Park (if you can claim a patch of coveted grass) with Bi-Rite Ice Cream for company. Chef Melissa Perello is a sucker for the salted caramel. "I love the creamy consistency of this ice cream and depth of flavor that the salt adds—it's in perfect harmony with the caramel," she explains. "When the mood strikes, I buy this flavor in pints." Sit back, digest, rest your little legs, and wait for dinner. If you’re still lingering around the Mission as evening sets in, start your night at ABV for a killer aperitif or two.
If the opera or the symphony is on your radar, battle the crowds at the classic to beat all classics, Zuni Cafe. Chef Brian Fernando, a Caesar salad fanatic, crowns Zuni’s version as one of his favorites. “This is one of the best that I have tasted," he says. "The croutons are particularly amazing. These delicious croutons soaked in the non-emulsified dressing are my favorite element of this classic dish." Pair it with another classic, the Aperol cocktail, which Chef Jennifer Puccio declares “gorgeous-colored and so refreshing. Aperol, grapefruit and lemon.”
If it’s a Saturday and you’ve somehow managed to get through all of the above before 8 pm, pop into the MOMA for late-night viewing amidst pleasantly thin crowds (check the schedule for film screenings!). Otherwise, head straight for tourist-friendly romps and people-watching. Stop by Ryoko’s for late-night sushi and the occasional live DJ. Chef Liza Shaw opts for cold, crisp cucumbers with a simple miso dip as “a great snack with your sake or cold beer.”
Morning after. We don’t know what happened last night, but it looks like you’re still on this side of town. If it’s Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, complete the final stretch with a trek to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. Then, seek out chef favorite Boulette's Larder, where the poached eggs are “an extremely civilized way to start the day...healthy and delicious,” says Chef Emily Luchetti. The cabbage rolls are a must-have for Chef Nicolaus Balla. "When Amaryll and Lori put cabbage rolls on the constantly changing menu, it is worth changing all plans to have some. Amaryll is Hungarian, and makes cabbage rolls better than all of your mothers." And if you ask Chef Anthony Strong and Chef Ryan Farr, the Canelé De Bordeaux are all you need: “I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but these things are insane," says Strong. "I swear I could suck down six of them right now without ever stopping to take a breath."
Finish strong and sufficiently stuffed. Back to the grind.