Wow, that's a great guide. I would make two small additions to the list of
fun places to visit. One is the Tonga Room, a classic tiki bar complete with
indoor rainstorms at the Fairmont Hotel. It could be shutting down very
soon; this has been rumored for years, but the threat seems quite imminent
now. So catch the place while you can; it's a hoot.
Another fun excursion is the Cliff House out on the City's Pacific coast, a
great place to have Sunday brunch and watch the seals on the nearby Seal
On Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 10:45 PM, Frederick Zackel <firstname.lastname@example.org>wrote:
> Some months ago I decided against Bouchercon in San Francisco. I lived
> for twenty years, wrote three PI books about it, and have lots of family
> friends still there. I could either visit my old haunts in San Francisco or
> I could hang onto the brass bar rail at the lobby bar at the Hyatt, but I
> couldn't do both.
> But I can help some people's visit there.
> You are going to San Francisco. Fantastic! Everybody’s Favorite City. No,
> that’s not just a marketing slogan. In fact, a few years ago the top 500
> global movers & shakers were asked where they wanted to have their annual
> get-together, and everybody’s first choice was their usual vacation spot.
> But San Francisco was everybody’s number 2 spot. Oh, yeah, San Francisco,
> This list is not a complete one. But it’ll give you some places to get
> started. Dump the list when you start having fun. Oh, and I assume you are
> old enough to drink. In California the legal age is 21. OTOH, every joint
> listed will let you in for a good cup of coffee.
> San Francisco is a great walking city. Be a flaneur! The term flâneur comes
> from the French masculine noun flâneur—which has the basic meanings of
> "stroller", "lounger", "saunterer", "loafer"—which itself comes from the
> French verb flâner, which means "to stroll."
> The naughty French poet Charles Baudelaire developed a derived meaning of
> flâneur—that of "a person who walks the city in order to experience it."
> On the other hand, go ride a cable car. The California Street turnaround is
> out front of the Regency. Shake the hand of your grip man. He's the guy in
> front pulling the lever. No, really, shake his hand. As an occupation, grip
> men do one helluva muscular job, and their handshakes make the Governator
> look like a girly man. If the grip man (the guy in front) is named Randy,
> ask him how the Grateful Dead are doing. Then say hi for me. Do not go
> anywhere with him for a drink after he gets off work. You will wear out the
> knees of your jeans crawling back to your hotel.
> If you are surrounded by crowds, watch for pickpockets. Locals bust them
> when they see them, but a few do slip through. Watch your wallets and your
> Special treat: get off the cable car line at Powell street, at the top of
> the hill, walk downhill two blocks to Bush Street. Turn left on Bush and
> walk down to Burris Alley, above the Stockton Street Tunnel. Sam Spade’s
> partner was murdered at this location, and a large metal plaque that
> celebrates his death is here. Notice the plaque is bolted into the wall of
> the alley, about eight feet up; people kept trying to steal it. Notice the
> plaque says whodunit.
> Don’t tell people who killed Miles Archer!
> Across Bush Street from the scene of that fictional crime is a doorway with
> another plaque: Robert Louis Stevenson stayed there. He was on his
> (with a hot young American divorcee. They went up to Silverado for more
> times. Oh, and he wrote a book at those times, too.)
> (To digress: out on Sacramento Street, oh, maybe a dozen blocks west of
> here, around Laguna, is another doorway that says, Arthur Conan Doyle …ah …
> I’ll let you go look, ‘k? Oh, and the park across the street is called Dog
> S… ah … Dog Poop Park by the locals.)
> Climb back up the hill, up to California Street. (You’ll see the cable car
> line.) At the top of Nob Hill are the big hotels: the Fairmont, the
> Court, and the Mark Hopkins. Yes, the hotels are named after the Big Four
> railroad guys.
> Go to the Top of the Mark in the Mark Hopkins for a drink at twilight.
> Lovely. Look at the streets below. See all the taxicabs working these great
> hotels. When they have passengers, their top lights go out. When they are
> empty, their top lights are on. Around the big hotels, all those cabs,
> lights go on and off.
> Fireflies in the night!!
> Because of the term's usage and theorization by Baudelaire and numerous
> thinkers in economic, cultural, literary and historical fields, the idea of
> the flâneur has accumulated significant meaning as a referent for
> understanding urban phenomena and modernity.
> Which means it’s time for a literary-style drink. (Stick out your littlest
> finger as you sip.)
> Go to North Beach. Visit Lawrence Ferlingetti’s City Lights Bookstore on
> Columbus. Across the alley is Vesuvio’s. Go have a beer in a great beatnick
> joint. If the bar is full, go upstairs and voyeur, another lovely
> French-based word. The martinis are killers.
> Directly across Columbus Street is Spec’s in the Alley. A lovely bar. Go
> play dominos over a beer. Look for Jack London Alley.
> Across Broadway and uphill from there is North Beach, the Italian section.
> Take Fresno Street for the Fresno Street Saloon, which has a very
> distinguished reputation as one of the wildest saloons in San Francisco
> history. Weekends are nuts. If you dance on the safe to the loud music,
> following in distinguished if unsteady footsteps. (I deny that they are
> North Beach has fabulous restaurants and great bars. It has fortune cookie
> factories and Old Country bakeries. This is a great hang-out. It is busy
> and night.
> Stop and eat wherever you are. Trust your instincts. If you see a gelato
> store … go buy a cone now. Also, while you are there, get a loaf of
> sourdough bread, some Gallo salami, or maybe See’s candy. Gorge yourself in
> your room later. Have fun. Get some red wine or Anchor Steam beer,
> If you rented a car -- and why would you do that? -- drive up through
> Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights. (Or walk straight west from Laguna
> Washington. When you read PresidioBlvd., call a taxi to get you home.) See
> the grand mansions. Eat at the Filmore Grill. Is Jack’s Jazz Club at Geary
> Filmore still there?
> If you have time, drive through the Presidio, by the way. Go to the end of
> Pacific Street and turn right. You cannot miss it. Once this was an army
> base. The most beautiful army base in the world. It was given back to us
> Once you get into the Presidio, look for the signs to Crissy Field. They
> will help you discover how to get underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Go
> there when the weather is nasty. Bring all your cameras. A nasty picture
> under the Bridge is much classier than the same old same old.
> On your way back from the bridge, go to Union Street. At Perry’s, all the
> bartenders’ names are Michael. (Tradition.) The front bar is known as
> Divorce Row. On Union Street, shop until you drop. The Balboa Café is
> wonderful. The Mauna Loa at Union and Filmore has a slick pool table. Watch
> out for hustlers. Ask if they remember me.
> Nightlife in San Francisco can be bizarre, and if you think you can handle
> it, the bizarre happens at a couple, three spots. South of Market is the
> biggest area. SoMa is huge. Look for Slim’s as a starter. (It is Boz
> nightclub; great music almost every night.) Follow the crowds. You may
> the Stud, for instant.The Stud may have the weirdest bar crowd you have
> seen. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! But it is safe and it thrives! Ask the
> gay leather bikers leaning against the bar and they'll tell you other great
> joints in the neighborhoods. And yes it is safe.
> The Hotel Utah is forever changing; check it out.
> and is built like a bear, it might be Dave himself. Give him my very best.
> More nightlife is in the Haight Ashbury and in the Castro and a few other
> spots. Minnie’s Can Do is an old haunt of mine back when she was up in the
> Filmore. If you see her, give her my best. She won't remember me. But I
> If you get squemish about the prices at the Regency, go see Dave, the
> bartender who owns the joint at Dave’s between Mission and Market on Third.
> Dave works days (he owns the joint) and he has a great white beard Downtown
> and tired of shopping at the great stores?
> John’s Grill is at 63 Ellis at Powell Street, where the cable cars turn
> around. Have the Sam Spade Special (pork chops & tomatoes) or try the
> scallops (my favorite.)
> Kuleto’s is around the corner, if you don’t want a sit-down place.
> By the way, there are speakeasies under hotels on the streets around here,
> yes, left over from Prohibition. Now the bartenders on the first floor use
> these basement rooms to store the hotel liquor. (Don’t ask me how I know.)
> bunch of us guys used to go below the floorboards and drink until the
> sunrise. Dave may remember. He may not.
> When you walk Market street, check out the Garden Court at the Sheraton
> Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery Street. President Harding of Ohio died
> upstairs. He may have been murdered.
> Chinatown is special after midnight. Oh, go there first in the daytime,
> Go walk Grant Avenue, which is the touristy spot. But walk uphill from
> Avenue to Stockton Street and the neighborhood markets. See the real
> Chinatown scene. The Chinese culture demands absolutely fresh food daily.
> This includes … live fish … and live duck … and live pigeon. (Minced squab
> is a Chinese delicacy, by the way.)
> Buy something cheap and kitschy on Grant Avenue. It’s okay. Everybody does.
> I have this bright yellow T-shirt with a flaming red dragon. Lovely.
> Go eat at Sam Wo’s which is uphill at 813 Washington between Grant and
> Stockton, a classic, a real San Francisco treat. The food at Sam Wo's is
> great, but the ambience is. Going right through the kitchen to get to the
> stairs to the upstairs dining room, ah, that's SF!
> But Chinatown after midnight is open all night, and after the bars close
> everybody goes to Chinatown for its all-night restaurants. Jackson Street
> and Washington Street are your best bets. The Far East has clams in black
> bean sauce, while the Golden Dragon is more sit-down. Speaking of the
> Dragon, across Washington from its main restaurant is its take-out store.
> Char sui bow is barbecue beef. Delicious. Oh, and try the duck.
> Good food outside of Chinatown? Tommy's Joint on Van Ness & O'Farrell. Or
> try Original Joe's downhill from the Hilton. There, order the house burger
> and the steak fries, but save half of it for later, once you get home.
> Try the deli across the street from the Geary theater. Almost like New
> (Or parts of west LA.)
> Check out the Castro; it’s the gay neighborhood and unlike anything you
> ever see in the Midwest. Great stores, great restaurants, and great
> And the street scene is perfect safe for anybody. Do not let your
> preconceptions sabotage a great time. The people there are fine wonderful
> people. And they have a wicked sense of humor! (Thirty years in the closet
> and you came out wearing THAT!!??)
> At Fisherman’s Wharf, do try the crab from the sidewalk vendors. Oh, if
> you're going to San Francisco, bring a fall jacket, or a hoodie, or ...
> a sweatshirt or hoodie with you before you go to the Wharf; it’s cold on
> water! Oh, and that horrible smell! That's low tide (for all our
> You might want to skip the touristy restaurants and have more reasonably
> priced San Francisco seafood at …
> Any bar & grill in the city. A bar & grill caters to business lunches,
> mostly, so each place has to have great steaks, salads, seafood, pasta,
> everything, because so much of their business is done on expense account
> clients. A secret tip? The best steak on the menu is the loss leader in
> almost every bar and grill. The restaurant has to have it on the menu, but
> never can price it what it realistically should be priced.
> Best bar & grills? Moose's 1652 Stockton in North Beach. Taddich’s, of
> course. The Financial District or near the big hotels by Union Square.
> Street (which is not the same as Union Square) which is also called Cow
> Hollow and is in the Marina District.
> Take the Hyde Street cable cars from downtown up and over the hills towards
> Fisherman’s Wharf. Get off at Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the
> world. It was constructed that way so that horse-drawn wagons could get
> off the hills. Notice the sidewalks are … stairs. Walk down Lombard Street.
> Then do downhill into North Beach, north to the wharf, or go climb a street
> back toward downtown.
> If you don’t want the crookedest street in the world, check out Filbert
> street, two blocks south of Lombard and Hyde Streets. That is the steepest
> street in the world. Notice the stairs instead of a sidewalk. It is a 31.5%
> grade. Unless you know what the hell you are doing, DO NOT DRIVE DOWN
> FILBERT STREET. Your cab driver will do it, though, for no extra charge.
> If you have time, and do take the time, take the Sausalito ferry (the
> terminal is by the Ferry Bldg at the foot of Market Street, sort of behind
> the Regency) across the bay, passing the Rock (aka Alcatraz) and go have a
> sexy drink at the No Name Bar at 757 Bridgeway in Sausalito. The sign
> hanging outside on the Bridgeway has nothing written on it. Hence, the No
> Name Bar. Try the Anchor Steam Beer or the Ramos Fizz. And on Bridgeway,
> a souvenir for yourself.
> In Sausalito, go visit the houseboats. Yes, the houseboats. They are north
> of the downtown. I lived on one for three years and I still miss the sound
> of seagulls pacing up and down on the roof, the smell of low tide, the
> house parties where at dawn everybody on the pier saluted the sunrise
> through the bottom of the brandy bottle ….
> A word about the homeless. Ignore them. Do not give them money. You can do
> nothing to change their situations; even the City & County is most often
> powerless. Statistically, half of them are mentally ill drug or alcohol
> abusers. They can be dangerous. They are not harmless.
> Use common sense. If it’s late at night on a street deserted except for the
> homeless, get the heck out of there as fast as possible. If you find
> yourself in a questionable environment, go inside the nearest bar –
> kind of bar it is – and ask the bartender to call you a cab.
> Cabs are the secret treasure in San Francisco. If the city ios busy,
> are 'way too busy to bother ripping you off. Stick with Veterans Cab,
> Cab or Yellow Cab.
> Be careful, be cautious, and realize you are in a very big city, and bad
> guys are not just in the novels we read and write.
> Trust and verify. Most of all, enjoy.
> Have an Anchor Steam for me. I do so miss my City by the Bay.
> Fred Zackel
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