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San Francisco Eats: The Ultimate Walking Tour
December 5, 2005By: Mary Winston Nicklin
San Francisco GG Bridge

The best way to see the city's unique and colorful hoods? Why, eat your way around town! Close to the country's most prized and productive farm land, the organic-minded San Francisco is brimming with tasty delights. A mecca for restaurateurs who know their quality cuisine, the city is jam-packed with gems in every distinctive neighborhood.

Rise and shine, with a California sky that blue, it's impossible to sleep the day away.

For the perfect morning coffee, head to Noe Valley's Martha and Bros., a local Latina-owned cooperative that boasts daily delicious roasts. With its boutiques and neighborhood charm, Noe Valley is picture-perfect-cute. Stroll past Noe's colorful Victorians (and charge up the city’s famous inclines) for the next stop in the Mission. Got to feed that growling stomach! Not far from the sloping green of Dolores Park, with the famous mission glowing white in the California sun, Tartine beckons with its exquisite crossaints (oozing chocolate) and beautiful pastries. The line curling out the door and around the block advertise that this is absolutely the best bakery in the city. While in line-- as the aroma of hot bread wafts out of the kitchen-- try not to eat your arm off waiting for the shortbread, bread pudding or Mexican wedding cookies.

Stuffed with bread, head out the door to enjoy a Mission morning. Walk by walls covered in brilliant murals, or artistic graffiti, storefronts plastered with political profanity. And there's people-watching aplenty: from hipsters, to funkified artists, to dog-walkers, to Mexican futbolistas, and beautiful couples from the vibrant gay community of the neighboring Castro. Tired already? Nothing like a quick pick-me-up in the Lower Haight to lure you on. rnm is a paradox of sorts: outrageously hip, yet mellow and laid-back, like its Lower Haight environs. Like most major metropolises, San Francisco succumbed to the "little plates" invasion a few years ago, and rnm has perfected the trend, with plates-to-share like truffle oil pizza. Just to die for. They're not open this early? Knock, knock. I bet you can get take-out. Beg, plead. These guys are cool—after all, this is the Lower Haight. If you can't score some wanna-be tapas, head to Thep Phenom, the best Thai restaurant in town, just two blocks away, for a small bowl of pad thai.

Continue your hike to Hayes Valley, the recently revamped stretch of blocks that all the mags are talking about these days. The tiny little neighborhood somehow emblematic of a "San Francisco renaissance." As if San Fran has ever been uncool? Though right now, Hayes is the height of hip. Boutiques are full of fashion: from shoes to vintage French posters. Your lunch destination? Absinthe, of course, on the corner of Hayes and Gough. In addition to gourmet burgers with Niman Ranch ground beef, gorgonzola, sauteed mushrooms and onions, the weekend brunch is one of the best in the city. Another option is the glass-walled lunch-destination of Zuni Cafe, for its famous raw bar. Enjoy the signature roast chicken for two (spilling delicious stuffing) and buzzing atmosphere, at this prime spot overlooking Market Street.

Full? Too bad. There's too much good stuff in this town! Afternoon delights await! Continue your walking tour to the top of Fillmore and Broadway in Pacific Heights, for a breathtaking view of the bay, golden gate, and small white-houses of the Marina. The land and seascape are almost Mediterranean. Get your caffeine fix at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and then stroll through one of the city's finest shopping streets.

Continue down the hill to Union Street, for more great shopping amongst the yuppies of Cow Hollow. A fabulous walk commences at Fillmore, continues on Union Street over Russian Hill, then down into the land of Italian bistros and cozy cafes in North Beach. Gawk at another vista point, atop Telegraph Hill with the flock of wild parrots which has made the Coit Tower environs its home. Another afternoon coffee break awaits at the famous Caffe Trieste, where the Beat Generation used to wax poetical. Rest your weary feet and daydream about your dinner options: the exquisite Gary Danko, or long-time city favorite, Boulevard, located on the waterfront in the historic Audiffred Building. Ahhhh, San Francisco treats.


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