NFT San Francisco Nob Hill / Tenderloin

Nob Hill / Tenderloin

Essentials
Elegant hotels with commanding views, old money old-timers, and prominent landmarks define Nob Hill. Nearby, Chinatown's hectic streets hold islands of calm, like pungent Chinese herb shop streets, bakeries where you'll probably have to use sign language to order your meat-filled dumpling (but will be amazed by how much food a dollar buys) and trinket shops that all sell pretty much the same inexpensive tchotchkes. Union Square is bordered by bustling department stores as well as the gritty but soulful Tenderloin.

Sundries/Entertainment
In general, the closer you are to the top of Nob Hill or Union Square, the ritzier the shops and services. The theater district and Tenderloin to the west is a sometimes seedy grab bag of bare-bones food spots, nightclubs, residential hotels, rare booksellers, drug deals, and liquor stores.

Dottie's True Blue CaféSee more.

> does breakfast about as well as anyone and Brenda's French Soul Food has great beignets. Big 4 at the Huntington Hotel and Swan Oyster Depot are two mainstays, and Fleur de Lys and Campton Place are both splurge-worthy. Shalimar and Tai Chi are some good inexpensive options.

Foot Worship is great for shoes while thrift shopping at Out of the Closet benefits AIDS research. Lombardi does sports gear and duds, and for art supplies it's Blick Art Materials.




         


This Neighborhood Featured in...
People Soup: Tourist Tourism

By Dan Bollwinkel
Tourists: Graceless, smelly, and reminiscent of an M.C. Escher lithograph. Or so Dan Bollwinkel would have us believe. But that doesn't mean the fools are all bad. After all, they sure know how to pick a pretty bridge to photograph, and they do serve as visual examples of how the other 49 states live. So swallow your pride, and flagrantly violate the eponymous creed of our books and website. Follow the tourists!

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Free & Cheap for Kids in the Bay Area

By Jody Ryan
Kids? In the Bay Area? Jody Ryan knows how to deal with that and no, a lighthouse-turned-prison-turned-recreation-center is not involved.

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Entertaining Crazy Uncle Charlie

By Jess Horrible
Crazy Uncle Charlie don't need no guidebook. Crazy Uncle Charlie don't act no fool. Take Uncle Charlie on a city tour he never saw coming with J. Horrible's step-by-step guide to keeping the tub-thumper fine and dandy.

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School Days

By Catherine Wargo
It's not just a popular 1907 song, it's a sentimental prayer for the past. But now that you're old and grey and the wheels of time cans't be rewound, indulge in some childish acts, from language-learning to craft-making to graffiti-tagging. Catherine Wargo will show you the way.

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On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Carolyne Rohrig
Photo:  Carolyne Rohrig

Tout Sweet
Tout Sweet San Francisco is a feast for the eyes as well as your palate. As soon as you come into the store you feel like you're in France. The clean, colorful, modern California design of the store showcases the many mouth-watering delights. French macarons, petit gateaux (small cakes), verrines (layered parfaits), tarts, cookies, and other stunning desserts beckon you from the display case. Made with the freshest ingredients from the farmer's market, Yigit Pura, the designer-chef, finds his joy in his inspired flavor combinations that make your mouth sing. Come in and taste the Tesla or a Jessica macaron. Then pick up some extra for family and friends. That is if you don't eat them before you get home.



Posted By:  Cristian Cartes
Photo:  Cristian Cartes

Cako Bakery
San Francisco is slowly joining the cupcake craze that invaded NYC years ago. There are few places in the city that specialize in cupcakes and I hope that this one, located in the tourist mecca that is Union Square has the power to stay because it does have potential. This is a tiny shop that has a tasty assortment of cupcakes. From the ever classic Red Velvet to more inventive flavors like Apple Pie, Smores or Banana Split, they are beautifully presented and often quite good. My personal mission is to try every flavor, so I'll buy a different one everytime I go downtown. I tend to have rather high expectations when it comes to sweet treats and a rather large sweet tooth and these cupcakes satisfy the craving. They are so beautifully presented that I have to remind myself they are there to be eaten as opposed to be gazed at and salivated over. But with the first bite it's a sugary, buttery, heaven.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Heart of the City Farmers Market
Civic Center isn't exactly teeming with attractive lunch options, unless you don't mind coating your arteries with grease. But twice a week, those looking for something both quick and wholesome will have the option of getting some real food at the Heart of the City Farmers Market, operating on Sundays and Wednesdays. There I found myself one such Wednesday, intent on filling myself with something other than oil-drenched imperial rolls or an order of ginger fish large enough to feed a family of four. I opted to skip the falafel and the Indian paratha and samosas and went for the tamales, joining 75% of the lunch crowd congregating in Civic Center. It was worth the wait, and at $5 for two tamales, it was way more satisfying than most of the options in the environs. But if you still need a snack afterwards, you can pick up some fresh produce, nuts, dried fruits, bread, and even almond brittle. And if you're still unsure of what you're going to have for dinner, consider picking up a rotisserie chicken (or a portion of one) along with some potatoes. Seriously, why can't the market be there every day of the week?



Posted By:  Cheri Lucas
Photo:  Cheri Lucas

Nook
The name of this tiny spot on the corner of Hyde and Jackson in Russian Hill says it all: it's a cozy little nook of about a dozen small tables, the majority occupied by laptoppers and latte sippers during the day. Here, you can surf the wireless network for free during business hours. It's a prime location, as the Powell-Hyde cable car zips around the corner and then treks up Hyde, eventually making its way to Fisherman's Wharf. As trolleys ding their bells as they zoom by, you gaze at tourists through the restaurant's windows as they stare right back at you, charmed by the looks of this cute neighborhood establishment. In addition to getting your coffee fix, Nook offers small plates and sandwiches, and come happy hour (5 pm), glasses of wine are just $2.95, while special soju cocktails are $4.



Posted By:  Cheri Lucas
Photo:  Cheri Lucas

Katana-Ya
Why is it that the best ramen joints in the Bay Area are always cramped or crowded, with perpetual long lines down the sidewalk? As the instant ramen noodle inventor Momofuku Ando once exclaimed, "In a line, you can see the desires of the world." And here, in the line at Katana-Ya, this is no exception. (At least the restaurant leaves a clipboard outside the door, so you can write your name down and not physically have to wait in a line.) This spot, across the street from ACT theater and a few blocks from Union Square, has various types of ramen for just under $10 a bowl: there's regular ramen (with soy or miso sauce, for instance), but other kinds like spicy tofu or friend chicken ramen. The combo of ramen with kimchee fried rice is a popular pick, too. My favorite spot to sit is the table at the front window: it's less cramped, and a nice little nook to dine with your companion--or solo with a book. (Just don't linger for too long--there's a line, remember?)



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Miller's East Coast Deli
Recently on a trip back East, I did the unthinkable: I neglected to enjoy a hot sandwich of roasted meat on rye at one of its famed delis. Nope, not even at the site of Meg Ryan's famed orgasm. But in an attempt to right this wrong, I headed for Miller's East Coast Deli as soon as I returned home. For a fraction of a basic hot sandwich at New York's most iconic deli, I got a hefty turkey pastrami reuben thick enough to feed two, along with a side of potato salad and a pickle, but without the East Coast attitude. OK, so maybe it didn't completely make up for my previous oversight, but it was enough to suffice until my return. I promise I won't forget next time.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

A La Turca
Wandering the TenderNob in search of a bite before meeting up with a friend, I wasn't exactly jonesing for Indian or Vietnamese, which make up about half of the restaurants in the vicinity. Running across A La Turca, I walked right in, knowing that a delicious meal would await. I went for the spinach and feta gozleme, kind of like a Turkish quesadilla, which came with green salad, a deliciously light departure from the usual kebabs and rice. I only wish I had been hungrier, with the menu featuring about 70 items, from hummus and baba ghanouj dips to meat pies and doner platters. But most likely I'll be back soon. Any place where you can watch Turkish music videos and order from an extensive selection of food and definitely merits multiple return visits.



Posted By:  Molly Riordan
Photo:  Molly Riordan

Whiskey Thieves
I hated Sunday School, but it turns out Sunday is the best time to get yourself an education of a different distillation. For it is then that the high priests of Whiskey Thieves will bestow upon you the psalms of single malts, the gospels of grains, the holiness of its namesake hedonism. In the high holy hours of a recent afternoon, I alighted upon a bar stool beneath the amber glow of yonder altar to alcohol and confessed my grievous sin: my whiskey-knowledge ends at Makers. I was not chastised, nor condemned to fiery flames, unless that's what my esophagus craved from a straight scotch. My seraph of spirits openly inquired as to my tastes and my budget (he guessed correctly on both), and gave me a generous tasting of three very different, phenomenally delightful domestic whiskies. I chose among them, drank, and was saved: saved from ignorance, saved from shame, and saved from the cheap n' cheeky $5 PBR-Bushmills deal the kids swill down here on days of labor and lusty living. But on a day of rest, may I suggest elevating oneself to a higher purpose as disciple at Whiskey Thieves.



Posted By:  Meat Meister
Photo:  Meat Meister

Canteen
After Chef Dennis Leary left Rubicon as its youngest chef de cuisine, he decided to go the opposite course to take total control of his culinary career. Canteen is his funky 22-seat hideaway, and Leary is its farmer's market shopper, prep cook and chef. When he's working the four burners with his sole sous chef, they're spicing and flipping and dodging in a fierce ballet of culinary kung fu. He'll often serve lesser-known items like lamb neck, squab, sea urchin or scud to perfection in a puckish, lending library-meets-Woolworth's counter decor. There are just 11 items on a daily menu (posted online) that denotes the number of weeks Canteen's been open, and the vanilla souffle is the only guaranteed staple. Advance phone reservations are a must to get one of the three seating times, and Tuesday nights are a solid bargain with the 3-course prix fixe. If the foodies who return here with religious frequency sit next to you, they will attest that Canteen is among the best dining experiences you'll find on the West Coast.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Cable Car Museum
You've probably had relatives from Ohio visit and complain about the long waits and exorbitant cost to ride the cable cars. Next time that happens, send them to the San Francisco Cable Car Museum for their cable car fix, where they won't have to pay a penny or contend with any crowds. While it won't be the same as riding up the hills, they can learn all about the history and mechanics of our city's iconic street cars. In fact, it's a fun excursion that you might be tempted to tag along on. Engineers will enjoy watching the engines and winding wheels that pull the cables, as well as a few cars from the 1870s. For a faux-cable car experience, watch a documentary about the efforts to revitalize the system in the 1980s in a mini-theater constructed to resemble the front of a street car. Even if it's a bit touristy, you'll realize that there's still so much about San Francisco's history that you never knew.



Posted By:  Cheri Lucas
Photo:  Cheri Lucas

farmerbrown
At the corner of Mason and Market, where bustling downtown meets the unpredictable, gritty Tenderloin, farmbrown fuses soul food with sustainability. This spot supports local and African American farmers, and uses organic, biodynamic, and sustainable ingredients when possible. Art and prints of musicians, noted African American figures, and scenes from the city's musical past adorn the space. (You'll even find a funky, artsy collage of a smiling President Obama on the wall.) The green ceiling and "unfinished" dark walls give off a slightly industrial effect, as if you're in a converted warehouse, but the R&B and hip hop sounds of the DJ--and the energy of the live jazz during the weekend buffet--add a whole lot of soul to the experience. At its popular all-you-can-eat brunch (for $15), you sip water garnished with cucumber slices, drink zesty Bloody Marys, munch on crunchy, tasty bacon, and feast on fried chicken, grits, biscuits with gravy, dessert, and other items. The waitresses are friendly, the decor is thoughtfully planned yet feels unforced, and a cool, casual vibe is definitely present.



Posted By:  Cheri Lucas
Photo:  Cheri Lucas

Bigfoot Lodge
Wander into this Polk Street watering hole and transport yourself to a lazy, quirky "lodge" that feels like it's smack dab in the middle of the forest. With its wood-paneled walls, deer heads and stuffed furry animals on display, rustic decor, "antler chandeliers," and old-timey feel, you forget you're in Lower Nob Hill. In the afternoon, a mix of middle-aged men and happy hour enthusiasts scatter themselves up and down the bar, while the drunks of Polk Street nightlife crowd the space come evening. Try the Sasquatch, one of the joint's special cocktails, or stroll in between 3 and 7 pm, when well drinks are $4 and other selections are a buck off.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Orpheum Theatre
Chances are, the only vacation you'll be taking this summer is a staycation. Those plans for show-hopping in New York or London will just have to wait. But you shouldn't be too bummed about being in San Francisco, though. You've still got great museums, restaurants, parks, and day treks. And this summer, you can get your fix of musical theater, too. Wicked has returned to the city in which it premiered and has extended its run. The show's cast may have changed, but its magic has not. Elphaba, Glinda, Nessarose, and Fiyero are just as entertaining as ever, delighting audiences whether they are watching for the first time or the fifth. Fans of the Wizard of Oz who have yet to be enchanted by this adaptation should definitely put it on their list of summer activities. So maybe staying home this year wasn't such a bad deal.



Posted By:  Cheri Lucas
Photo:  Cheri Lucas

Lush Lounge
This laid-back, hip establishment on the corner of Polk and Post never fails me, particularly on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Nostalgic decor and movie memorabilia overtake the walls; odd, funky artifacts decorate the space; and an eclectic playlist of music blasts through the bar. The Bloody Marys are spicy, the mojitos are tart and refreshing, and the cocktails are made with care, especially if it's just you, the bartender, and a few regulars sipping their elixirs. You'll get popcorn to munch on, too, while you watch hipsters, bums, and trannies alike pass on through.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Saigon Sandwich
If you happen to find yourself working at the main library on Sundays and need to step out to grab some lunch, you'll quickly find that there just aren't many options available on that day of the week. Block after block is lined with restaurants locked up for the day. But if you're patient enough to walk up a few blocks in the Tenderloin and wait, Saigon Sandwiches, one of the area's most reliable spots, is open for business. You can't go wrong with the $3 banh mi, with their sumptuous meat and veggie fillings stuffed into a crusty baguette. Paired with one of the colorful coconut jelly drinks you won't spend more than $5. It's no-frills, for sure, but when you don’t need anything fancy, it hits the spot.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

San Francisco Main Library
Now that the economy's down, we need to make use of everything that's free. And one of the best free resources we have is San Francisco's Public Library system. Pretty much any book you've wanted to read can be found here, as is the case with many films you never got around to watching. Who needs Amazon or Netflix? Hundreds of U.S. and international newspapers can be found on its online database, as well as art museum images and sheet music. You can even use the Rosetta Stone Language Learning Program for free, so you can brush up on your Spanish or French or pick up Mandarin or Japanese. If you don't have a library card yet, signing up is quick and easy. There's really no reason not to.



Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

Lori's Diner
The ubiquitous Lori's Diner can be found on Mason, Sutter, and Powell Streets, and on Ghirardelli Square. And yes, its omnipresence and its appeal to "nostalgic diners" can draw in many a tourist. If you don't time it right, the line on the Powell Street location can start snaking its way down the steep flight of stairs. But on our last visit on New Year's Day, my friend and I timed it just right and got there before the crowds. We were immediately seated, then greeted by a waiter who was charming and bubbly and therefore understood when we ordered bubbly (hair of the dog) mimosas. The food was tasty, the coffees (and mimosas) were strong, we were surrounded by much touristy happiness, and the fact that most of the clientele were out-of-towners reassured us that we could dine incognito after a long night of reveling.




Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

Ti Piacera
My friend and I bumbled upon this restaurant on New Year's Eve at about 6 pm. When we told the host we had no reservations, he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'll seat you before the big storm hits." We immediately felt the ridiculous pressure that can sometimes mount on New Year's to be whisked away. Although we spent a few minutes deliberating over the drink menu, we knew we would both end up ordering Bellinis to toast the night. My friend had the whole wheat spaghetti con pollo, and I had the sea bass with a raspberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and a medley of green beans, zucchini, and broccoli, and there wasn't much left on either of our plates. We split a delicious tiramisu and took down some coffee to make sure we made it until midnight, and our waitress didn't rush us, even after the promised "storm" hit and customers began to flood in. Good food, good service, and an absence of stress. The restaurant name promised, "You will like this." And we did.




Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Golden Era
Don't try sneaking your KFC into this restaurant, because no animal products are allowed on the premises. The menu at the Golden Era Vegetarian Restaurant can be misleading though--you will still find most traditional Asian dishes like sweet and sour chicken and beef pho, but made with imitation meat that looks and tastes just like the real thing. Which works great for me, since I'm making an effort to wean myself off animal flesh. This way, I can still enjoy some of my favorite tasty dishes that just wouldn't be the same without "meat." And the offerings aren't limited to stereotypical Chinese fast food options--there are also some intriguing specialties like the tamarind fish clay pot and spicy lemongrass tofu. If only this place was closer to work, the meatless lifestyle would be a snap for me.



Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

Big 4 Restaurant
Come share a drink with the oldest party animals you'll ever meet at The Big Four. There's no better way to feel young and rich than by drinking port in an old hunting lodge with a bunch of World War I Vets. A classy hotel bar amid those kinds of apartment buildings that have 24-hour security guards and Italian sculptures in the lobby, The Big Four offers the kind of cinematic old-San Francisco charm that makes you want to smoke a cigar and drink dry sherry out of a little tulip-sized glass. Try one of their gourmet snacks, and learn to sit like a lady/gentleman while you enjoy the people-watching. Maybe if you strike up a conversation, some lady with a Swarovski-encrusted purse will foot your bill.




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