US Travel | 6 Six Ways to Eat & Drink Your Way through San Francisco by Foot
Lombard St, the crookedest street in the world (image: brothergrimm)
by: Xander Kameny
If you love touring by foot, San Francisco is the city to visit. After six months here, I am still finding new neighborhoods and areas to explore on foot. But even more remarkable is the density of fascinating architecture, history and culture on a single street or block; every time I walk down my street I discover a previously unnoticed Victorian home or a hidden rooftop garden.
For the health-conscious, don’t be afraid to succumb to the temptation of San Francisco’s numerous and diverse array of dining and drinking establishments. From hours spent on foot exploring and conquering the city’s usually steep terrain, your body will cry out for frequent and rich nourishment. Rest assured that in the U.S. only one or two cities challenge San Francisco’s quality and selection of food and drink.
Planning a visit of San Francisco can be a bit overwhelming because there is so much to do and so much to eat. My recommendation is to plan based on a combination of foot touring and cuisine. Pick a neighborhood or area with many points of interest that also harbors your cuisine of choice.
Here are six ways to eat and drink your way through San Francisco by foot:
1. Climb Russian Hill and Descend Into North Beach.
Russian Hill is packed with some of San Francisco’s most beautiful homes and magnificent Bay views, and is one of my favorite places to walk. Make your way to the Crooked Street and then descend into North Beach’s Italian enclave for an espresso, antipasti or a glass of wine. North Beach also has a vibrant night life so you may want to end up there in the evening.
2. Experience Chinatown and Lower Market.
If I close my eyes in Chinatown, I actually feel like I am in China. Let your senses take over and investigate the smells, sounds, sights and tastes. Dim Sum, vegetable markets, souvenir stores and imitation Chinese architecture abound. Spend some time in St. Mary’s Square for a glimpse of typical Chinese park activities. Then head to Lower Market and the surrounding blocks to window shop at upscale retail stores. Be sure to hit Union Square, especially during the winter holidays!
3. Explore the Mission.
The Inner Mission is great for Mexican and Latin American cuisine as well as hopping bars. The area attracted artists such Aaron Noble and Rigo; so look for murals and art on the exteriors of buildings and homes. Walk down Dolores Street to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Rest up in Dolores Park if you get tired and soak up the sun, or stop into the Dolores Park Café for a homemade lemonade.
4. Discover Fisherman’s Wharf.
Fisherman’s Wharf seems to be the number one tourist destination, but it is worth a visit. Start from the Hyde-Beach Cable Car station. Docked at the Hyde Street Pier and Pier 45 are old ships you can tour. Also visit the Musée Méchanique. The culinary special in this area is whole Dungess Crab. Grab a crab at an outdoor staul because the restaurants are overpriced. Always be on the lookout for Bush Man! Pop into the Buena Vista Café for a drink; supposedly it was the first place in the U.S. to serve Irish Coffee. If you want to walk more, stroll down the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building for some nice seaside views.
5. Find a Festival.
There is always a festival or event going on in San Francisco and usually there is food. Festivals are a great form of free and diverse entertainment. Festivals such as the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown, Bay to Breakers, Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival, San Francisco Blues Festival, Folsom Street Fair and the Chinese New Year’s Festival are among the larger ones. Check out what event is going on before you come and incorporate it into your walk and meals.
6. Road Trip to Wine Country.
I suggest Sonoma, Russian River and Calistoga. They are friendly and less expensive. You will have to drive to get to them from the city and if you are brave, you may want to mix in some biking with the walking. Sampling wines here is fun as some of the best wines in the world come from this area, and the vineyard landscapes are breathtaking. The distances between the wineries are too great to walk, but you can rent bicycles to visit 4 to 6 wineries a day – make sure to pack a picnic. The local Bed and Breakfasts are wonderful to stay at and prepare excellent meals. The restaurants in wine country are some of the best in the Bay Area and use locally grown produce.
Many thanks to Xander Kameny for this wonderful article. Xander graduated from UNC KFBS in 2007. Before his MBA, he lived and worked in China for six years and developed a passion for overcoming cross-cultural communication challenges. He recently moved to San Francisco to pursue a career in cross-cultural consulting.