By Divina Infusino
This story originally appeared in the November/December 2016 issue of Elite Traveler.
The epicenter of the tech world, San Francisco, has evolved into a destination that seamlessly merges creativity, innovation and luxury. These qualities are prevalent in its 30 Michelin star restaurants (49 in the larger Bay Area), its burgeoning neighborhoods exploding with cutting-edge cuisine, an expanding art district, an influx of designer shops and one-of-a-kind accommodations. Surging towards the future without losing sight of San Francisco’s storied history, god-gifted geography, and progressive values has been a precarious balancing act. Yet the interplay of these power the city’s dynamism, creating the San Francisco of the moment.
BEST FOR CULTURE
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in the city’s South of Market district tripled its gallery space in 2016. Gagosian Gallery has launched its first San Francisco location nearby and some of the city’s better galleries are also moving into the area. For performing arts, world-renowned San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera still light up the Van Ness Corridor around City Hall.
BEST SHOPPING DISTRICT
Noticing the city’s new wealth, international designers Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Christian Louboutin, Kiton, Brunello Cucinelli, Vera Wang, Maison Margiela, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana and Marni have all opened shops around Grant Street and Maiden Lane, near Union Square. The area has also been attracting pop-up stores, with recent visitors including Gwyneth Paltrow’s GoopMRKT; ethical fashion shop,Maison de Mode; and stationery, art and home decor marketplace Minted. A block or two away, the other end of the retail spectrum resides in the city’s landmark establishments – Gump’s for heady, East-meets-West home decor and jewelry, the impeccable Shreve & Co. for high quality jewels and watches, and Wilkes Bashford, which has dressed San Francisco’s most elegant in the likes of Ermenegildo Zegna and Lanvin for decades.
BEST FOR COCKTAILS
Whitechapel transports its patrons into a steampunk fantasy of a Victorian London Tube station, while offering 600 different types of gin (one of the largest gin collections in the world), 105 gin cocktails, and vintage and rare gins, such as Anty, distilled from red wood ants. Ask for “ginnoisseur” Keli Rivers. Spirits industry insiders savor the creative concoctions at Pacific Cocktail Haven. Try the Oh Snap with muddled sugar snap peas, the Lime in da Coconut with salted pistachio and coconut-lychee milk, or the Miso Old-Fashioned.
At The Treasury, mingle with the Financial District crowd and imbibe the seasonal creations set in a 1915-era Beaux Arts building.
MOST VIBRANT NEIGHBORHOOD
The colorful streets of the Mission are home to some of the city’s most creative restaurants, including Al’s Place.
BEST OUT-OF-THE-WAY DESTINATION
At just five miles from the city center, The Presidio is a beautiful park and former military base with historic buildings, bay views, the Walt Disney Family Museum, the destination restaurants Arguello and The Commissary, and plenty of parking.
Once home to the infamous Barbary Coast – San Francisco’s red-light district of the 1900s – Jackson Square entered a decades-long quiet with virtually no signs of life after 6pm. Then, in 2003, Quince restaurant moved in, followed by its rustic Italian sister Cotogna and the elegant sushi of Roka Akor. Now speciality shops such as Shinola, Filson and Jake, founded by local TV alumnus Jake Wall of Project Runway, are stimulating retail action. Yet for all this, the genteel nature and antique shops remain, making Jackson Square a hidden gem that is regaining luster.
WHERE TO SHOP
Specializing in skincare and make-up without toxic ingredients, Credo Beauty epitomizes the city’s obsession with clean living. Credo carries many smaller brands, such as Suntegrity sun-care and lash and brow enhancer Plume Science.
2136 Fillmore Street
With its hills, San Francisco begs for footwear that is chic but durable. Enter Freda Salvador. Their stylish boots and brogues, handcrafted in Spain, play with leather textures and geometric shapes.
2416 Fillmore Street
Set in the edgy Tenderloin neighborhood, Hero Shop was founded by former Vogue staffer Emily Holt. An eclectic fashion and lifestyle concept store, filled with global fashion brands, Creatures of the Wind and Edie Parker, alongside local talent, Stevie Howell and MMClay.
982 Post Street
Sourcing innovative designers from Italy, Japan and Los Angeles, Susan sits on Sacramento Street, alongside enticing antique furnishing and home goods stores such as Sue Fisher King, élu, and March. The Ribbonerie boasts an amazing selection of French ribbons, and Twiga ancient African art.
Few lines incorporate San Francisco’s techno-driven lifestyle like Betabrand. Its customers co-design and crowdfund executive hoodies, dress yoga pants and sweaters.
780 Valencia Street
Using sustainable fabrics and eco-conscious manufacturing methods, Amour Vert has earned plaudits for its stylish use of Merino wool, organic cotton and Indian silk in designs that look chic while doing good.
437 Hayes Street
Focused on small European and US labels for men and women, Acrimony contains a tightly curated, distinctly streetwise mix of forward fashion.
333 Hayes Street
For some San Francisco originals, head for Heath Ceramics. Working with local artists, they have expanded the world of colorful minimalism in cookware.
2900 18th Street, 400 Gate Five Road