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Welcome to the 7x7

Sunsets in San Francisco

Welcome to the 7x7

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!

Welcome to the 7x7—it's 7 miles by 7 miles, with 7 famous hills (and a plethora of supporting character hills). If you're ready for more than the Golden Gate Bridge or seal watching at Pier 39, the best way to explore this city is to sample each neighborhood. Our little neighborhoods are very distinct—you can cross a street in Italy and all of a sudden be in China, or walk down a rainbow sidewalk minutes after leaving Mexico.

Put on your walking shoes, download your favorite rideshare app, and check out a new neighborhood you may not have seen before:

Dogpatch

This neighborhood used to be all industrial, but in the past five years has experienced a ton of incoming restaurants and amusements to keep up with the tech boom. Most recently, it's the site of the new Chase Center, home to the Golden State Warriors!

For fun: A $20 day pass at Dogpatch Boulders gets you into the largest bouldering-only gym in the city. Work out all of your aggression on the walls, and work out your glutes as well (you're going to need them for all of those hills). It's very popular with locals but so massive, there's always space!

For libations: Mission Rock Resort is a lovely place to sit in the sun and see the beautiful bay from the southern point. They do a delicious Bloody Caesar with Old Bay seasoning to pair with your oysters.

The Mission

The Mission is often warmer and sunnier than other neighborhoods in SF, thanks to our micro-climates. It's a vibrant neighborhood, with a mix of Hispanic influence and working professionals, and has some of the most interesting shops and restaurants in the city to peruse!

For fun: If it's daytime and at least 65 degrees, it's time to go to Mission Dolores Park. Grab a blanket (sometimes the grass is damp, thanks to our permanent resident, Karl the Fog), and chill out while you people watch. There will be AcroYoga, Smash Ball, live music, and hundreds of adorable dogs. There's also a man who, for $10, will open you a coconut, ask you to drink from it, and then fill it back up to the very brim with rum. Warning: These coconuts are dangerous. You will only need one! He also accepts Venmo, because San Francisco. If you meet the famous truffle man, be warned these truffles are special. If you prefer your marijuana government-regulated, stop by any of our dispensaries on the way to the park. They are all friendly and easy, and all you need is your ID.

Mission Dolores Park

If the park doesn’t seem like your thing, stroll down Valencia between 16th and 22nd. You'll hit a number of window-shopping gems one after the other. From north to south, grab a sample at Dandelion Chocolate, made here in the city. Pick out one of the hilarious handmade cards at Serendipity. Definitely don’t miss a visit to Paxton Gate, which is hard to summarize…it's a shop where you can buy plants or taxidermy, gemstones or human bones. Finish up at Ritual Coffee, where they take their beans as seriously as any San Franciscan can but are always ready to answer your questions about the current selection. Then brag about how you, of course, love Philz or Blue Bottle for on the go, but Ritual is for those in the know.

For libations: Zeitgeist is the most popular place to go, with a cool backyard and killer burgers. But don’t pass up the small dive bar 500 Club, which makes the best Bloody Marys in the entire city (and you can tell them Elsa said so), or get some music on at The Chapel if you've always secretly wanted to get drunk in a church. If you want more food, see if you can get a table at Loló, where the extra brave can sample their delicious cricket tacos!

South Mission

Although most don’t readily call it "South" Mission (we usually clarify by our Bart stations instead), locals will know what you mean when you head to 24th Street Bart.

For fun: South Mission is best soaked up by some aimless wandering, though if you need direction, start your stroll east from the Bart station down 24th to get a feel for the modern-retro while you hop in and out of the used record and book stores. But first, grab a movie ticket at the Alamo Drafthouse. Is it a bar, or a theater? Yes. Along with awesome perks like pre-picking your seat (no need to rush in early), the highlight of this place is ordering food and drink while you watch the show and having them hand-delivered to you by a server who is well practiced in bending low to avoid the screen. Their menu is expansive and delicious, and it includes movie-themed cocktails. So, do you want a milkshake, or a martini? Yes. After you're done, go next door to El Techo, arguably the "only" "rooftop" bar in the "city."*

*Just trying not to get sued here, but attempt to find a few other rooftop bars in SF, and you'll see what I mean.

For libations: Try Flour+Water, who handmake their own noodles in-house, or Beretta, where, after so many years, it is still hard to get into on a weekend. Wise Sons Delicatessen is good for brunch, lunch, and dinner. But I need to get those out of the way before I zero in on what people really come to this area for, and that is tacos y burritos. You won't find us all in agreement, so you'll have to sample them yourself: Don’t miss the local late-night hotspot at El Farolito, but after that, it's hard to go wrong. Follow your nose, and let me know your opinion on the best Mission-style burrito, right from the Mission itself. You'll be glad you ate after you check out all the bars down here. South Mission is home of the casual yet quirky: Try Phone Booth for a peculiar hole in the wall, Velvet Cantina for a killer margarita, or El Rio for the cheapest beer in the neighborhood ($2 Tecates during Happy Hour), complete with lively outside patio (though if you haven’t already figured this out by now, it's always fall here, so work those layers and bring a jacket).

The Tenderloin

There's no way to sugarcoat this: The Tenderloin is the neighborhood with the highest crime rate in SF. That being said, I lived happily in this neighborhood for over five years. It has low-income housing, lots of volunteer opportunities, some of the best ethnic foods in the city, and a rich history. A tip from a local: there's no need to avoid it completely—just know where you're going! If you're only poking around, stay north of O'Farell, and east of Leavenworth.

If you want to try something "fun," I recommend a walking tour: http://www.tlwalkingtours.com/, or catch a play at one of the theatres, but the TL is really all about the libations, so here's a very hard-to-narrow-down list:

White Chapel: An extremely cool gin bar built to look like an old Victorian London subway station, with a cocktail list the size of a bible, yet somehow the bartenders seem to know them all by heart. Ask them for a recommendation, or a few times I've simply gone for the oddest choice in the book to attempt to watch someone look up a recipe, but I've never succeeded!

Brenda's Soul Food: This was such a popular brunch spot they had to open a second location, but the original in the TL will always be the most legit. If you want to do it the elitist SF "don’t admit you did this" way, send a task rabbit to write your name and party number on the wait list for you, and they'll text you the wait time so you know when to show up. I have a friend who swears it worked for her! Wait times on weekends can be over two hours, but order everything on the menu, and it's all worth it.

Piano Fight: This bar is sometimes a comedy night, sometimes a drunken theatre (one comedian takes five shots of whisky and improvises with five other sober comedians), sometimes a magic show, and always something new and fun. Check out the calendar online for the expansive list of events

Mensho Tokyo: For the best ramen in the city (and yes, I will fight you over this), you have to come here. The owner, Tomoharu Shono, was famous in Tokyo, and when he decided to open his first restaurant in SF, we loved that he chose us over New York, and we loved even more that out of everywhere he could have picked in SF, he picked the TL. Don’t be too discouraged by the line—it moves pretty quickly, Tokyo-style!

The Library: This is a small part of the larger speakeasy Bourbon & Branch, which operated during Prohibition, but it's the part you can get to without making a secret reservation. Find the unmarked door on O'Farrell under the sign that says "Anti-Saloon League," and knock on the door. When it opens, the password is "Books." If you want to get even deeper, I encourage you to do some digging—there's a bar within a bar within a bar, but it’s usually only open to guests in lucky and specific circumstances (hint: as with most things in this city, start online).

Presidio

The lands in the Presidio are still government-owned but open to renters and visitors, and visit is what you should do if you want to feel like you're in a different world. The sounds of the city fade away, and you're surrounded by so much nature that there are coyote warning signs. You can almost forget there's a city just a 10-minute ride away.

For fun: It's all about the hiking here, but you don’t necessarily need a full gear getup! The Lovers' Lane trail is a picturesque stroll through the neighborhood to the tree canopies. The Lobos Creek trail is just under 30 minutes across boardwalks built to protect the natural environment. See if you can find the hike to Marshall's Beach—SF's own naked beach (not that we need much of an excuse to get naked in this city). But no swimming please! The naked men may not be dangerous, but the water sure is.

Lovers' Lane

For libations: I love Sessions at the Presidio. It's classy but not overly done. If you get a seat on the deck you'll have a pretty view of the trees while you share your small plates. They also have an impressive beer collection, about a hundred craft beers with a rotating couple dozen on tap—there's always something new to try!

And for those who go the extra mile (literally):

Sausalito

This point just across the Golden Gate is where to go if you want to do something a little special that day but with zero advance planning.

For fun: Skip the windy, touristy bike ride across the bridge. Instead, hop on the ferry! It's your basic commuter ferry (i.e., cheap for a boat ride) and one of my favorite things to do with visitors because it's an easy way to get out on the beautiful bay, get a close-up of Alcatraz and Angel Island, and have one of the coolest views of the entire cityscape that you just can't get by land. Plus, there is a bar on the ferry! Yes, you heard me right. Order a glass of wine and hang out on the top deck until you tire of the knotty wind. After a short 30 minutes, you're in Sausalito!

For libations: Definitely Bar Bocce. You can feel fancy at one of the pricey seafood restaurants if you want, but Bar Bocce is where you'll find the rest of us. They make their pizza on SF sourdough, and while you eat it, you can hang out on the back patio and play a round of bocce ball with the other locals. Walk all the way through the restaurant to relax on the sand by the marina (or Karl the Fog starts creeping back in). Watch your ferry return times, but if you miss one, an Uber or Lyft ride home won't break the bank.

Treasure Island

Just because something is man-made doesn’t make it fake. This is a world's fair site turned military base turned over to the city and county in the late ’90s, and obviously we had to put something fun on it. To get here, pull up your rideshare app, and depending on where you are in the city, it's probably a quicker ride than you think…

For fun: Any music festival they throw here is a good one, but most people come here for the monthly flea market. As with Sausalito, you'll have a spectacular view of the city while you check out the combo shop stalls/food truck/live music extravaganza we call TreasureFest. Tickets are cheap, book online! If timing is off for the flea market, or if you're a military history buff, this island is a laid-back yet interesting place to explore on its own. Rent bikes, paddleboard, or picnic, or there's even a beach where you can swim at Clipper Cove (a rarity in this city)!

For libations: Wine tasting. It's important to point out this is not Napa, and that is exactly what makes it so amazing. There are no $50 tastings with 3 oz. pours here, no sir. In fact, I'm pretty sure the last guy who served me here had never even heard the word "dainty." I spent years in wine country, and I can snob it up with the best of them, but there's just something special about day-drinking a full pour in a mini airplane hangar while you're only a 15-minute Uber or Lyft ride home. Vie and Sol Rouge are right next door, making it super convenient to crawl from one stool to another. Go one more down to Sottomarino, where they serve wine in a submarine training vessel they call the USS Buttercup. There are more to try, but I didn’t make it. Maybe you will?

Treasure Island
San Francisco

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