An East Bay-er's Guide to San Francisco

My friend Brian DeVito recently approached me, asking for suggestions for what he should do during his spring break in San Francisco, California. My answer for him: everything.

While I realize that this probably wasn't the most helpful answer, that doesn't make it any less true! "What shouldn't he do in San Francisco?" is the real question. San Francisco is an amazing city, full of outgoing people, beautiful sights, and seriously great food. In my opinion, San Francisco is a cleaner, happier version of New York City.

I grew-up in the suburbs of the East Bay, about a 30-40 min drive outside San Francisco, or 1 hour BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) commute. Therefore, I am not, by any means, an expert on the city. The extent of my knowledge of San Francisco comes from day trips with friends and a brief summer internship at the small photography gallery SF Camerawork. While that may not be a lot, I have developed a deep love of San Francisco and become attached to a few favorite spots. From the financial district to North Beach, to to the Castro, there's endless things to see and do in this phenomenal place. So, for any future travelers visiting San Francisco or even California for the very first time, this is for you, a list of SF must-sees, from the perspective of an East Bay-er.

My favorite restaurants:
  • Yank Sing - Honestly the best dim sum I've ever had in my life. In fact, their BBQ pork buns were even featured on the food network! There are two locations within the city so definitely be sure to visit one.
  • Bi-Rite - Best. Ice cream. Ever. Everything is made by hand and with unusual flavors like honey lavender, earl grey and orange cardamom, choosing is never easy. My suggestion? Order a Sam's Sundae (pictured) and go relax in Dolores Park nearby.
  • Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet (formerly Taylor's) - Located outside of the Ferry Building, this burger joint has scenic outdoor seating and phenomenal sweet potato fries. You have to try them. 
  • Firenze By Night - This quaint Italian restaurant is tucked away in North Beach, or the "Little Italy" of SF. Their award winning gnocchi is mind-blowing. Soft, pillowy, yet so simple and fresh. Mmm.
  • Mitchell's - Mitchell's Ice Cream is sort of a tradition in San Francisco. It's been around since 1953! What makes them unique are their tropical ice cream flavors including buko (baby coconut) and avocado. 
  • The Stinking Rose - If you love garlic as much as I do, then you're going to go nuts for the The Stinking Rose. This restaurant prides itself on including garlic in every menu item. Does it get much better?
  • Incanto - Ok full disclosure: I have never eaten here before. But, I hear that it is fantastic. Incanto has quickly become my dad's favorite and it doesn't hurt that it is run by chef Chris Cosentino, a friend of Anthony Bourdain. Incanto is known for its creative menu. Here you'll more than likely find pork blood or any number of internal organs on the menu. Picky eaters beware! 
  • Fish. - While you're in San Francisco, if you have some spare time, I would highly recommend catching a ferry and checking out Sausalito. If you do, go to Fish. This sustainable seafood restaurant offers, among other things, fish tacos, ceviche and the best thing ever... crab roll.  
Other places to check out:
  • The de Young - This sprawling art museum located in the middle of Golden Gate Park is definitely worth a visit. I saw a wonderful Van Gough exhibition here and would highly recommend it to any fellow art lovers. Fun fact: there are buffalo in Golden Gate Park! 
  • SF Camerawork - I couldn't resist an opportunity to mention my gallery, SF Camerawork. This small non-profit supports emerging and mid-career photographers and always has some interesting pieces on display. 
  • The Ferry Building - Perched right on the water, it's hard to miss this iconic building. Inside are stalls of artisan food vendors, perfect for grabbing a bite then walking along the water. If you're lucky, there's a fantastic farmers market (food trucks!!!) nearby on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
  • Golden Gate Bridge - Feeling adventurous? Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge! The sights are breathtaking. It is windy though so be prepared.
  • The Mission District - If you're into street art at all, there are beautiful streets here lined with murals and graffiti that make for a cool photo opportunity. Check out Balmy Ally and Clarion Ally specifically. 
There are hundreds of restaurants and places to see in San Francisco but in my opinion, these are some fun options. So if you happen to be in California any time soon, check some of these places out, have a great time, and be sure to let me know what you think!

Image via & my own escapades