City Guide: San Francisco

frog has studios in nine cities in the US, Europe, and in Asia. Starting with San Francisco, here’s a frog’s-eye view of some of our favorite spots.



Hotel Biron ($$)

Hayes Valley
45 Rose St. @ Market

If you were to resurrect the Hitchcock spirit to film a neo-noir in San Francisco, Hotel Biron’s Parisian style bar could be the opening scene. The wine list is meant to be poured over, and the small space seems to exist on its own time continuum; an hour passes in 10 minutes. Luckily, it’s open until 2am.

Loosen the Tie

Empress of China ($$)

838 Grant Ave. @ Clay

Where kitsch is unconscious. Look away from the junky ground-floor giftshop and towards the elevator bank surrounded by framed photos of passé celebs and former heads of state. A man in a red jacket will direct you to the top floor, where a surreal scene awaits. Mixed drinks, mixed crowd.

Wear Flip-Flops

The Ramp ($)

Potrero Hill
855 Terry Francois St. @ Illinois

Lose the loafers and enjoy The City by the Bay from a kicked-back “marina” post that’s literally on-the-water. It’s the utter opposite of San Francicsco’s better-known Marina neighborhood, but the beer tastes better here. Hoary rigs and dingies set the scene (take that to mean what you will).


Thoughtful Presents

Rose and Radish

Hayes Valley
460 Gough St. @ Grove

Forgo the soulless airport giftshops and pick up something that has been carefully curated by this florist-cum-giftshop/gallery. Then take all the credit for it. Every three months the gallery/store morphs to showcase a new theme; a very San Franciscan presentation of exquisite and easy-to-pack design objects from around the world.

Design Destination

William Stout Architectural Books

Jackson Square
804 Montgomery St. @ Jackson

If you’re looking to while away the hours just beyond the hustle and bustle of the Financial District, head to historic Jackson Square’s William Stout Architectural Books. A former architect (and college roommate of Steven Holl), Stout gave up toting hard-to-find tomes home from Europe and opened a press, and store, 20,000 titles full.

Easy Score


If your dogs are barking, crack the laptop. TCHO is San Francisco’s first true chocolate factory (don’t let Ghirardelli Square fool you), but for now, their dark, delectable wares can only be purchased online. New beta batches are produced as often as every 36hrs, based on customer testing (and yes, the tech lingo is intentional).


Modern Masterpiece

Farina Focaccia & CucinaItaliana ($$$)

The Mission
3560 18th St. @ Guerrero

If you’ve never had Ligurian cuisine, you don’t know what focaccia is meant to be. This is not mama and marinara, but Genovese-style (down to the basil) pastas made from centuries-old recipes passed through the family line. Order pesto-everything. Modern design. A delightful din.


PPQ Dungeness Island Vietnamese Cuisine ($$)

Outer Richmond
2332 Clement St. @ 24th

Beware before boarding a plane: you’ll waft garlic for 24hrs. The three-course prix fixe for two ($49) centers on a gargantuan, roasted Dungeness crab. Save your swimming in circles for the plate of melted butter, and pay to park in the lot next door. Service: your bib will be tied for you, and the tablecloths are actually cloth.

Diamond in the Rough Red Box Sushi ($$)

Civic Center/Tenderloin
581 Eddy St. @ Larkin

“Firecracker balls” are actually a good thing. This square-shaped hole-in-the-wall establishment is the kind of surprise you want to find in one of SF’s more notorious neighborhoods. Their fish is so magically delicious, it may just be mermaid flesh.


Rise Above

Bernal Heights Hill

Bernal Hill
Folsom St. @ Bernal Hill

Get out of the stuffy office air and catch the constant breeze on SF’s most-underrated overlook. A “hike” that can be done in heels thanks to the paved (no cars) road that spirals to the top. But be sure to look down as well as out: it’s also a favorite park for dog-walkers.


Clarion Alley

The Mission
Mission/Valencia St. @ 17th/18th

Need to spice up that headshot? Get ready for your close-up. Clarion Alley has been home to vibrant murals since the 60s, and although none of the original works remain, up-and-comers on the contemporary art scene (like Tauba Auerbach) have provided a heady backdrop for the near constant photo-ops that take place here. Whatever you do, don’t call it graffiti.

Starchitect Face-Off

California Academy of Sciences / de Young Museum

Golden Gate Park
50 Tea Garden Dr. @ Fulton and 8th
415-379-8000 | 415-863-3330

Fall of 2008 marks the opening of the Renzo Piano-designed California Academy of Sciences, sitting squarely across the plaza from Herzog & de Meuron’s de Young Museum. Enjoy the sculpture garden (and James Turrell installation), but don’t pay for admission; outside is just as good as in.

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