The Insider’s Guide To San Francisco

It’s hard to not love San Francisco. Sitting on it’s very own peninsula up the northern coast of California surrounded by three bodies of water, it’s pretty much a landscape dream. Not to mention, it’s just a drive away from Silicon Valley, a quick flight (or fun road trip) to San Diego, Los Angeles and Arizona. And, in spite of its 40 rolling hills, you can walk or bike everywhere making exploring all its unique neighborhoods easy peasy. It’s really no surprise this cool city is filled with so much creativity and talent. We happen to know some of the best: the boutique owners and designers. Just look at the six rad ladies above, showing off the gorgeous city. These San Francisco designers make the most beautiful clothing and accessories that we obviously love to wear on the daily. We wanted to find out more about the city and the hidden gems no Trip Advisor would know, so we asked all our SF pals for the best places to eat, drink and people watch. You may as well check your Air Miles now.

Lead image by Robby Durler

From left to right: Danielle Colen designer of Waltz, Sharareh Koehler designer of Lotfi, Anna Chiu designer of Kamperett, Nikki Garcia designer of First Rite, Valerie Santillo designer of Kamperett, and Karen Potesta designer of Micaela Greg

 

WHERE TO EAT

From drool-worthy seafood to the most comforting Italian dishes, San Francisco has absolutely no shortage of good eats. “I have so many favorites! At this very moment it is Cotogna (above). Such delicious Italian food and a really beautiful space. Plus, their cocktails and wine selection are fantastic,” reveals Sydney Pfaff owner of Legion.

Cotogna, 490 Pacific Ave

Tiffany Tam from Refined also admits that the city is filled with endless gems. “There is so many… it’s hard to pick just one.” But she was able to narrow it down to her top four: Tartine Manufactory, Liholiho Yacht Club, Bellota and Ju-ni. Sharareh Koehler, designer of one of our favorite bag lines Lotfi, also has a soft spot for Tartine. More specifically, “a loaf of Tartine bread.”

Tartine Manufactory, 595 Alabama St

Liholiho Yacht Club, 871 Sutter St

Bellota, 888 Brannan St #110

Ju-ni, 1335 Fulton St

For more Italian treats, designer Danielle Cohn of Waltz suggests “Tosca Cafe for modern Italian food in a bar that’s been around since the 20s.” Sounds like a fun night to us.

Tosca Cafe, 242 Columbus Ave

Mira Pickett, boutique owner of Mira Mira, has two must-go places. “Traditional Dim Sum is always a good idea, I love Ton Kiang on Geary, and Bar Crudo (above) is probably my favorite spot on earth. Can’t come to SF without having seafood.” Okay, that platter looks amaze.

Ton Kiang, 5821 Geary St

Bar Crudo, 655 Divisadero St

Daniel Lee and and Natasha Wong from Seldom Seen also have two top choices: Taqueria and Cala. Both places serve amazing Mexican cuisine so you better prep yourself to eat endless tacos and burritos.

Taqueria, 2889 Mission St

Cala, 149 Fell St

“If I am going to go out to dinner, I love to go out for sushi, and one of my all time favorite places I discovered when I first moved to San Francisco years ago is a tiny place called Sushi Zone. It is a bit of a hidden gem off of Market Street in the lower part of the Mission. With only two tables and a few seats at the bar, you really have to get there right when they open or be prepared to wait, but everything is so fresh and delicious it is totally worth it,” reveals Valerie Santillo, part one of two of the womenswear label Kamperett. The second design half, Anna Chiu, has more than one favorite spot. “Seed + Salt for clean, organic and locally sourced food that’s quick and easy, Plow for brunch, Rich Table for dinner, Taqueria Cancun for the best burritos.”

Sushi Zone, 1815 Market St

Seed + Salt, 2240 Chestnut St

Plow, 1299 18th St

Rich Table, 199 Gough St

Taqueria Cancun, 2288 Mission St

WHERE TO DRINK

“15 Romolo (above), hands down,” reports Sydney. “They make the best drinks around. I’ve lost a lot of hours (maybe more like days) to that bar.” Just by looking at that drink we know that would totally happen to us, too.

15 Romolo, 15 Romolo Pl

Tomra Palmer from Gravel & Gold recommends one of our all time favorite places: “In the park on a blanket on a warm day.” She then added, “But since heat waves are rare here I’ll take a bloody mary at the classic Zuni Cafe or a wildly strong margarita at the dingy but charming Latin American Club. Also, (local tip!) the Local Cellar wine shop has free tastings on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. They sell and serve lots of groovy small batch CA wines.” Meet us there.

“Our street is a danger zone. There are two fun bars within crawling distance of the shop. Latin American is a real old school, legit Mission bar. Their margaritas are lethal weapons,” says Mira. Okay, this bar is definitely on our list now.

Zuni Cafe, 1658 Market St

Latin American Club, 3286 22nd St

Local Cellar, 2801 22nd St

Nikki Garcia the talented designer behind First Rite has two suggestions. “Holy Mountain in the Mission to avoid the crowds or Vesuvio in North Beach is always a classic.” Noted.

Holy Mountain, 680 Valencia St

Vesuvio, 255 Columbus Ave

Photo by Kassie Borreson

When looking to grab a drink, Valerie likes to stick close to home. “If I am going to go out for a drink, I usually like to stay in my neighborhood in Bernal Heights. One of my favorite local bars is The Royal Cuckoo. I like the dim, loungey vibe, down to earth atmosphere and their greyhounds are on point. They have a live band (including an organ!) on the weekends and otherwise they only play vintage records which keeps in line with the low-key ambiance.”

The Royal Cuckoo, 3202 Mission St

Tiffany is all about “The Riddler (above) for bubblies and caviar.” Seriously though, who doesn’t love a good glass (or bottle) of champers?

The Riddler, 528 Laguna St

Heading over to the Mission district we have two favorite drink spots. Marie Potesta, co-designer of Micaela Greg, choose the ABV. A trendy bar with all your favorite cocktails, beer, wine, plus a beautiful large-scale mural to admire while you sip on your drinks. Danielle went for the Lone Palm. A nice and cozy bar with the best selection of vodka. Sign us up.

ABV, 3174 16th St

Lone Palm, 3394 22nd St

WHERE TO PEOPLE WATCH

Photo via @mrbrandonmiguel

“Dolores Park (above) definitely is the place to be on any sunny day. Kooks from every walk of life, all on the same grass. There is an actual map of the park itself, each area is represented by a different SF crew. It’s kind of funny (and sad) how accurate it is,” explains Mira. Daniel, Valerie and Anna also all noted Dolores as their favorite place to people watch. Must be a gem.

Dolores Park, Dolores St & 19th St

Tiffany heads to Hayes Valley: “the weather is always nice there so grab an outdoor seating at a local cafe.”

Sydney suggests, “Washington Square Park in North Beach. I live nearby and it’s always a pretty entertaining people-watching spot. Such an eclectic neighborhood with a lot of characters.” Tomra also loves this neighborhood. “At first glance you might assume it’s overrun with tourists but it’s full of family run, legacy businesses and old timer residents that have been there for many many years, holding down the alternative/outsider vibe of this city.” She has three spots in North Beach to hit up: Washington Square Park, Specs and Caffe Trieste.

Washington Square Park, Filbert St & Stockton St

Specs, 12 Williams Place

Cafe Trieste, 601 Vallejo St

Photo by @bradystarkpenn

Marie is also a fan of North Beach. “Mario’s Cigar bar in my hood in North Beach (above) is a nice outdoor corner spot by the park to sit and watch the summer tourists.” Sharaeh loves to go to Four Barrel on Valencia street. A sleek and rustic coffee shop that specializes in drop coffee. Nothing better than a cup of Jo and some good ol’ people watching.

Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe, 566 Columbus Ave

Four Barrel, 375 Valencia St

And last but not least, Nikki’s favorite spot is the iconic Golden Gate Park. You definitely can’t go to San Francisco without stopping by there.

Golden Gate Park

Bonus tip: the West Coast Craft Fair is happening this weekend! Don’t miss this fun exhibition of artists and designers including some of our pals like First Rite, Ace & Jig, and Gravel & Gold. It’s free and totally worth going by!

The Insider’s Guide to Portland

It’s time to put aside the Portlandia references and actually get down to what this rad city is all about. Nestled between the mountains and the ocean, Portland is filled with fresh air and a community of welcoming, open-minded, genuine people. Seriously, it’s no shocker when people go out of there way to help others here. The creative energy is high, the support system is strong, and “the food, it’s really f**cking delicious,” according to local Marisa Howard, designer behind Seaworthy. And that’s no exaggeration. We knew finding Portland’s treasure spots was a must so we asked Marisa along with our favorite Portland designers, boutiques and style bloggers on the best places to eat, drink and people watch. You might want to ask for vacation time now.

WHERE TO EAT

tusk-food
Photo by AJ Meeker

Choosing where to grab a bite to eat might be a little difficult and not because of a lack of options. It’s the exact opposite. “There are so many good places to eat in Portland,” says 100 Year Party‘s Noel Weisenbacher. “If you’re craving a classic like pizza, Handsome Pizza is delish. If you want authentic, fresh Mexican, Taqueria y Panaderia Santa Cruz in St. Johns is a must—I’m dreaming of their tacos right now. If you want killer rotisserie chicken Pollo Norte is the place,” she adds.

Handsome Pizza, 1603 NE Killingsworth St

Taqueria y Panaderia Santa Cruz, 8630 N Lombard St

Pollo Norte, 5427 NE 42nd Ave

Shea Christner from Open Air Museum is currently crushing on Tusk (above): “A modern take on Mediterranean food. I think about their hummus and flatbread everyday. Oh, and the Eastern Maid cocktail. I die. It has the perfect Palm Springs vibes that I crave living in a damp and overcast city. It is an escape!” Lindsay Reif, designer of REIF, chimes in. “The food is delicious, and the decor is beautiful.” The praise didn’t stop there. Kristen Robinson, founder of Minoux, also loves it there and swears that their “vegetables that will change your life.”

Tusk, 2448 E Burnside St

In the mood for Mexican? Then Tonya Smith, the Portland style blogger behind @themoptop, swears by Porque No. “The margaritas and chips are great!”

Porque No, 4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd

la-moule-portland
Photo via @localhaven

Sarah Donofrio from One Imaginary Girl divulged that La Moule (above) is one of the best places to eat in the Clinton neighborhood. “A restaurant based around mussels and fries?? Sign me up.”  Us too, please.

La Moule, 2500 SE Clinton St

Laura Housgard, owner of Johan, let’s us in on Portland’s best ramen. “Afuri! The truffle miso is vegetarian and will 100% blow your mind.” For some more vegetarian options we looked to designer Laurs Kemp: “I’m vegan/vegetarian, and I’m constantly on the lookout for new restaurants! Here’s my perfect food day. Brunch (and the city’s best Bloody Mary) at A.N.D. Cafe. Lunch at Van Hanh, a Vietnamese restaurant run by Buddhist nuns! And I’d cap the night off at Revelry, a fantastic new late-night spot.” Sounds like a (yummy) plan to us.

Afuri, 923 SE 7th Ave

A.N.D. Cafe, 5420 E Burnside St

Van Hanh, 8446 SE Division St

Revelry, 210 SE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd

Sweedeedee’s will forever have my heart,” reveals Jen Vitale, owner of Association Shop. “It has the best breakfast/brunch in town hands down. The honey cake and breakfast rice bowl are favorites.”

Sweedeedee, 5202 N Albina Ave

milk-glass-market-portland
Photo via @ttothen

“I love Milk Glass Market (above), it’s a tiny cafe close to my house in North Portland that is never too busy (at least on the weekdays). They serve farm-to-table style dishes that are insanely delicious. The Veggie Sandwich comes highly recommended,” says Lizzie Falkenstein designer of Primecut. They also have an endless array of sweets that change up on the daily.

Milk Glass Market, 2150 N Killingsworth St

Diana Kim, owner of Stand Up Comedy, favors Rose VL for the best Vietnamese. It also happens to be the most colorful space with purple and yellow hues to brighten up those gloomy gray Portland days.

Rose VL, 6424 SE Powell Blvd

In August we took a virtual trip to Portland with Jen Szeto, the style blogger behind @windowofimagination, and she revealed some of her go-to spots. Firstly there is Nong’s Khao Man Gai (which also happens to be on our top three things we love in Portland list): “their famous thai-style chicken and rice is so simple, yet delicious.” For dessert she recommended the soft serve at Cheese & Crack.

Nong’s Khao Man Gai, 1003 SW Alder St

Cheese & Crack, 22 SE 28th Ave

WHERE TO DRINK

Circa33-portland
Photo via @circa33

It’s happy hour in Portland so, where do you go? “I love the cocktail selection at Circa 33 (above), and their neighbor, Aalto lounge, has $2 happy hour cocktails. You can’t go wrong on Belmont S.,” Sarah reveals.

Circa 33, 3348 SE Belmont St

Aalto Lounge, 3356 SE Belmont St

Britt Hawkes (@seaandpattern), another Portland style crush of ours, heads to the Sandy Hut to get her drink on. “Make sure to order their Chi Chi cocktail which is similar to a piña colada and will make you feel like you’re sitting by the ocean.”

Sandy Hut, 1430 NE Sandy Blvd

When Brookes Boswell, milliner of the best hats and owner of Shop Boswell, is sticking close to her studio she likes to head to “a brewery called Commons which also has a cheesemonger inside and brews unique saison and not-so-hoppy beers. For a fancy cocktail I go to Holdfast, which is a tasting menu restaurant, except on Monday nights they have an a la carte and cocktail menu that is exceptional.”

Commons, 630 SE Belmont St

Holdfast, 537 SE Ash St #102

“If you like a good dive bar then head to Sloan’s Tavern,” says accessory designer Sara Barner. With a semi-truck built into the wall and the best jukebox in town, this place is truly one of a kind.

Sloan’s Tavern, 36 N Russell St

Bye-and-bye-portland
Photo via @byeandbyeportland

“The summer is coming and it’s all about patios and sunshine and day drinking. That means the Bye & Bye,” Seaworthy‘s Marisa Howard tells us. “I might be biased, because my husband is one of the owners and my brother bartends there (he’s the one with the huge beard and the tattoos…haha!) but it really is my favorite bar in the summer.” The drink pictured above is the infamous Bye & Bye (peach vodka & bourbon, lemon, cranberry juice and soda). It is promised to cure just about anything.

Bye & Bye, 1011 NE Alberta St

Owner of WM Goods, Whitney Goodman admits, “I’m the biggest homebody of all time and suck at drinking, so on the rare occasion that I go out, it’s usually to the Multnomah Whiskey Library. The food is awesome, they are super knowledgable about their booze. Also, the place is gorgeous.”

Multnomah Whiskey Library, 1124 SW Alder St

Dame is our favorite and fanciest female-owned establishment that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside while sipping a tall glass of their best French cider,” explains Alicia and James Buford, owners of Infashuated.

Dame, 2930 NE Killingsworth St

Erik Prowell from Portland’s Bridge & Burn has three go-to spots: “Sweet Hereafter, Bazi and Reel M Inn.”

Sweet Hereafter, 3326 SE Belmont St

Bazi Bierbrasserie, 1522 SE 32nd Ave

Reel M Inn, 2430 SE Division St

Well I have two small children, so I don’t get out drinking much these days,” explains Shana Beth, the designer behind womenswear line Beth. “I did recently have day drinks at Victoria Bar and that was dope. I also like this super low-key place called My Couch. They always have exactly want I want and you can wear your PJ’s and watch movies.”

Victoria Bar, 4835 N Albina Ave

Never-cafe-portland
Photo via @ktewoji

Taking our minds off happy hour and onto our other favorite beverage: coffee. There are countless cozy cafes in Portland. Never Coffee (above) is Kristen’s favorite. “Who knew coffee could be even more perfect? The Oregon latte with Cascade hops, dulce de leche and Jacobsen Sea Salt” is a must-try.

Never Coffee, 4243 SE Belmont St

For coffee Britt hits up Commissary. “A laid back coffee shop tucked away in the alphabet district serving Water Ave. coffee and fresh baked snacks.”

Commissary, 915 NW 19th Ave

Self-taught designer Kate Towers loves “Coquine for coffee, pastries, and a walk on Mt. Tabor,” which is also one of Sara’s favorite places to people watch “if it’s nice out.”

Coquine, 6839 SE Belmont St

Mt. Tabor

Laurs speaks on coffee’s frenemy: “if you’re looking for a hot drink, Tea Bar has marvelous non-coffee options. And it’s also woman-owned! Woohoo!” This spot has the world’s best selection of teas sourced from family farms from around the world.

Tea Bar, 1615 NE Killingsworth St (+ 2 other locations)

“It’s been so long since I’ve really enjoyed a meal out or a cocktail, so I don’t think I’m much help here. Currently all I want are Blizzards from Dairy Queen,” reveals Amber Arambul from ARA. This is because she is seven months pregnant! So, big congratulations and blizzards for everyone!

WHERE TO PEOPLE WATCH

Pioneer-courthouse-square-portland
Photo via @downtownpdx

“There are so many unique personalities in this city, that it’s hard to narrow down one inspiring spot,” explains Sarah. But we managed to get our experts to confess the best of the best. Lizzie makes clear that Portland’s Pioneer Square (above) in the heart of downtown is “the most condensed people watching.”

Pioneer Square, 701 SW 6th Ave

The next spot, The Ace Hotel, was a fan favorite of many. Kate goes straight to the lobby while Whitney likes to “pull up to a stool in the Stumptown Coffee at the Ace Hotel for some pretty prime people watching.” And then there is the Sundaze Collective: “A curated monthly fashion pop-up featuring Portland’s favorite designers and makers located in The Ace Hotel event space,” explains Kristen. Laura adds on that “Sarah from The Yo! Store puts it on, we (Johan) participates every other month. It ends up drawing a huge crowd and is always a blast—like one big party in the heart of Portland.”

It’s a fact: “Anywhere around the Ace Hotel is great people watching. It’s a mixture of tourists and locals, and you’re sure to catch some amazing street style,” expresses Lindsey.

The Ace Hotel, 1022 SW Stark St

Stumptown Coffee, 1026 SW Stark St

Learn more about the Sundaze Collective here.

farmers-market-portland
Photo via @downtownpdx

“There’s always lots of people out and about, so taking a stroll through the Japanese Gardens, Laurelhurst park or farmer’s markets (above) can give you a great peek into local culture,” explains Brookes.

Japanese Garden, 611 SW Kingston Ave

Laurelhurst Park, SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd & Stark St

Laurs Kemp has her people watching day mapped out to a T. “For daytime people-watching, I’d start with a coffee at Courier Coffee and then go to PICA (Portland Institute of Contemporary Art) and get a bird’s-eye view from their rooftop—which is open to the public during their weekday business hours! You can also peruse their art book library while you’re there! For some nighttime people-watching, I’d suggest The Lovecraft Bar, a goth-themed dance bar!”

Courier Coffee, 923 SW Oak St

PICA, 415 SW 10th Ave #300

The Lovecraft, 421 SE Grand Ave

“I absolutely fell in love with this landmark (Ira Keller Fountain Park). The fountain is located in the heart of downtown, and is an architectural sight for sore eyes,” explains Jen. This beautiful fountain brings a lot of people to one space so it often doubles as a pretty awesome people watching spot.

Ira Keller Fountain, SW 3rd Ave & Clay St

Tonya says that “pretty much any of the main streets of Portland such as Hawthorne, Division, Alberta or Mississippi” are great. “There’s always people walking around!”

So, when it comes down to it the answer is clear: “in Portland, anywhere,” admits Noel.