by Kerri Zane
For many years San Francisco has been lauded as the top foodie city in the U.S. and for good reason. There are 4,415 restaurants in this 7 x 7 city; that equates to one eatery for every 100 residents. Fifty-four of those restaurants have Michelin stars and eating out here is the #1 activity for tourists, so it makes sense that a girlfriend getaway in the Golden City should involve dining.
You cannot go wrong staying at one of the oldest hotels located in one of the most upscale districts of the city, the 5-star Taj Campton Place. It is perfectly situated on Stockton Street at Union Square, surrounded by amazing architecture and world class shopping. Step out of the front door and you’re in the epicenter of Geary Street, Maiden Lane and walking distance to hop on one of the iconic cable cars. The system is the world’s last manually operated cable car system. There was once 23 lines now only three remain: two routes from downtown near Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf, and a third route along California Street. Otherwise take a quick car ride to the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, North Beach, Nob Hill or Embarcadero.
U.S. News has ranked the 110-year-old Taj property as #14 best hotels in the city, but for me, it was my #1 pick of all the properties I have stayed across the globe in the last year. Top to tail, this place is about service. From the moment the doorman addresses you by name, to the superior front desk staff, and delicious gratis morning muffins and coffee in the lobby, you know you are in a special place.
Even with the thousands of restaurants to choose from, you would be remiss to not fine dine at Taj Campton’s on-property Campton Place Restaurant. It has been a landmark dining destination for more than two decades and in 2016 the eatery earned rarified status with its second Michelin star. In large part this is due to its stellar executive chef Srijith Gopinathan. Chef Srijith has an imaginative palate blending California fresh ingredients with smoke and fire. The menu offers multi-faceted South Indian fusion fine dining dishes with aromatic spice blends influenced by Srijith’s Grandma’s kitchen. The Garden Pot appetizer is literally a piece of art!
The eating out roots run deep in San Francisco as the residents have made restaurant going a way of life since the 1850’s. One of the oldest restaurants still serving the finer palettes of the city is the iconic Cliff House. Its history on the landmark promontory began in 1863. It burned down and has been rebuilt a number of times, the most recent in 2004. The Cliff House serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and has hosted luminaries such as Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill and a handful of US presidents. Order one of their award-winning Bloody Mary’s or Ramos Fizz while you’re waiting for your table, as they don’t take reservations. Try the classic San Francisco style Cliff House Cioppino and ask about the Chef’s Pasta du Jour.
Built out of the rubble and fire of the 1906 earthquake, Fisherman’s Wharf is a definite San Francisco “DO.” If 75% of visitors put it on their list, why shouldn’t you? Is it touristy? Yes. Is it worth fighting the crowd? Yes. Can you say, “fresh clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl?” Yes! Meander through the souvenir shops and stalls and be sure to buy some crab legs to go with your chowder. Take stunning selfies of the San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz in the background. There’s also a colony of sea lions, historic ships to tour, and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory for sweet sampling.
Take a stroll through the Ferry Building, renowned throughout the country as one of the top farmers markets to visit. On any day, especially Saturdays, you’ll likely pass by one or more of San Francisco’s most famous chefs or farmers. The Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop is beyond good. You’ll know when you’re near because the line to order is always LONG.
There are lots of hills in San Francisco and with a good pair of sneakers, the city is very walkable. We chose to do a tour of little Italy with San Francisco Native Tours. Our guide, Stuart, is a born and bred native, so we got a real taste of the best places locals go. We visited Café Roma, Molinari Delicatessen, Stella’s Pastries, and my absolute favorite the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory where we got to make our own fortune cookies..so much harder than the little Chinese lady sitting at the machine whipping them out made it look.
If you find an extra day in your schedule visit Napa. There is so much good food and wine it deserves its own girlfriend getaway. Make sure to visit Raymond Vineyards. Their Theater of Nature is an immersive site, sound, smell and taste experience. Don’t miss out on their opportunity to be a Winemaker for the Day. It is a super fun vino-experiment. Definitely make reservations as it is a popular tour.
Marin County is across the Golden Gate Bridge. To get there, take the Sausalito exit and head up the road for a stunning view of the Golden City from the Marin Headlands. Then head out to Muir Woods for a walk amongst the 1200-year-old coastal redwoods. Federally protected since 1908 these gentle giants rise above sea level 258 feet! Be mindful as there is no cell service, wifi, camping, picnicking or dogs allowed. A few miles further is Stinson Beach for a relaxing afternoon of whale, dolphin and sea lion watching before heading back to the hubbub of the city and your next… you guessed it…SF dinner.