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Market Street Railway


Though I grew up in Hawaii, I’ve been working at TransPerfect’s San Francisco office for eight years now. After a year spent sailing in the South Pacific, I recently returned to this city and fell in love with it all over again. San Francisco has some extremely well-known tourist destinations that are definitely worth a visit, but I wanted to write a guide for those who desire to explore San Francisco like a local. The more layers you peel back, the quirkier this place gets; it’s weird, it’s dirty, it’s fantastic! Sure it’s expensive, but we could move if we wanted to, and we choose to stay awhile. Maybe you will, too!

The City of Love became the City of Tech so fast we're still not sure where one ends and the other begins, and SOMA is one of those neighborhoods your realtor would describe as "up and coming" if it didn’t already cost so much money to live here. That being said, lots of us work (and play) every day in this area and love it. You may want to cast your eyes down to watch where you step, but SOMA itself is looking up! Here are some location-based suggestions for your enjoyment:

Butter: This is not just a favorite bar in SOMA but a favorite bar in SF, period. It's all-ages, all-types welcome and has a retro trailer-park vibe (complete with an RV that is the owner's secret office). They serve food here but only if they can make it in a microwave or a deep fryer. They'll make you an Old-Fashioned if you ask, but most like to dive into the atmosphere with an After School Special (vodka and grape soda) or a 40 oz. (served in a paper bag). If you want something a bit more adult-sounding, pretend you're 22 and order the Jell-O shots! It's lucky if you're here on a weeknight, because on more crowded weekend nights the DJ starts spinning, and the bar turns into a dance floor. I recommend the more laid-back and elbow-roomy weekday visit.

The View: If you just read the above and everything sounded like a nightmare, then I have literally the exact opposite yet equally wonderful option for you at The View. Find this place on the top floor of the Marriott Hotel, open to all. It has a gorgeous classic art deco interior with sweeping views of the city all around. There's no wrong side to sit on, but if you can, try to catch the Bay Bridge light up after dusk. This bridge doesn’t get as much tourist attention as its cousin, the Golden Gate, but it's definitely the local's favorite. The impressive LED art installation you're watching was meant to be temporary, but we love sparkly things so much here we demanded it return, and now it's a permanent light show after dark, just for you.

Robots: Cafe X at Market or the Metreon is the place to go if you want to watch a robot make your coffee, and what could be more San Francisco than that? Probably the fact that this robot will serve you oat milk as an option (if you haven’t tried this milk substitute yet, it makes a damn good latte). Hungry? Burger robots! If one robot isn’t enough, head to Creator to watch another churn out your burger order. The menu is surprisingly impressive—I recommend the "Tumami Burger."

Sightglass Coffee: If you've already tried Philz and Blue Bottle, Sightglass should be next. It's a sibling-owned private roastery in SF that truly respects the green bean and seasonal sourcing, so you're always getting the best to offer here. There's one close at the SFMOMA, or the original a few blocks away.

Marlowe: The more amazing places there are to eat in a city, the harder it becomes to suggest one, but Marlowe has never failed me. Somehow both fancy enough for a date yet casual enough for a family, they take their service seriously and their food even more so. It's better for small parties, but you can book reservations online!

ThirstyBear Brewing: If you want to eat and drink with a larger crowd, ThirstyBear comes highly recommended, as SF's first and only certified organic craft brewery. The plates are for sharing and all are delicious, though order extra of the patatas bravas (you'll thank me later).

Salesforce Park: Reminiscent of Singapore, this is the highly anticipated and newly opened sky park. A glass elevator takes you up, though those with height complexes can use the regular escalators. There's an amphitheater, native flora, and an abundance of places to stroll or settle in for a bite to eat.

Our Sky Park

21st Amendment: Celebrate your right to drink at this popular brewery. They have delicious seasonal beers and update their taps constantly, so there's always something new to try here.

Coin-Op Game Room: San Franciscans love to eat, drink, and play games, and this is a great spot to do all three! Games range from traditional to modern, though I recommend Killer Queen, which can be played with up to 10 people. The game spawned its own highly devoted subculture, and it's nearly as fun to watch as it is to play!

Tempest Bar: This is a low-key bar with a surprisingly decent rotating selection of beers, complete with pool tables. There's no kitsch here—this is a real dive bar and a local favorite. It shares a wall with Box Kitchen, serving creative, flavorful comfort food, where you can order from and bring back into the bar as you wish.

Zombie Village or Pagan Idol: This is not technically SOMA because it's north of Market, but we love tiki bars in SF—and there are two within one mile of you! Pagan Idol is a bit more classic, with sharable bowls (some of which are lit on fire), stars on the ceiling, and the occasional rain shower. Zombie Village is a progressive tiki-bar-slash-voodoo-lounge, spinning Japanese surfer jams, and somehow it's all working!

A Few Union Square Standouts:

Hops and Hominy: Come here if you're hungry for a modern take on southern dining. This union-square-adjacent restaurant can get a little loud, but that's only because it's so popular. Try the amazing cocktails (bacon whisky, anyone?). Enjoy the skillet cornbread, which comes with a mouthwatering lavender-honey butter!

Le Colonial: A French-Vietnamese restaurant I love. It's old-school style (they still use tablecloths), with great food, and they also do live jazz in their lounge on Tuesdays.

Golden Gate Taproom: If there's a game on, this will be the place you either want to be, or want to avoid. This bar is extremely large by SF standards, with multiple floors, but depending on the night, might not be enough space to house all the nearby sports fans. It's got shuffleboard, some basketball hoops, and an extensive beer collection (with a surprise spin wheel), so this place can be a lot of fun whether or not you are a sports fan.

The Cheesecake Factory: Wait wait, hear us out—if you're into this sort of thing, the SF Cheesecake factory is located on the very top floor of Macy's, so it has a beautiful view of Union Square, and it's a great way to experience a touch of tourism without fighting the crowds down on ground level. Order the Strawberry Martini (it's made with fresh strawberries and sugar muddled directly into your vodka), and enjoy the view for a bit! You can also try Burger Bar for the same view, also on the top floor of Macy's.

You Don’t Necessarily Have to Choose One…
San Francisco

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