Alex and I spent a quick weekend away in San Francisco from December 11th-13th. We visited the Bay Area in early 2014 when we visited some friends but haven’t stayed in the city for a few years. It was a quick trip and we didn’t really tell anybody we would be in town because we wanted some time to just the two of us before the holidays hit and we’d be spending more time with family and friends.
Kam Goes To: San Francisco
We stayed at Hotel Zelos near Union Square. It is above Old Navy and Levi’s, has a restaurant/bar inside, and offers a noon checkout, which is awesome for those of us who like to sleep in a bit or always seem to book late flights home. The service was fantastic and I would stay in this hotel again in a heartbeat. The room was spacious and the complimentary tea and coffee in the lobby each morning was a nice way to start our day.
Another reason why we booked this hotel: it’s very close to the BART, which is what we used to get to and from the airport. It’s in a busy shopping area, so expect to hear some city noises at night. We were also able to get to plenty of places to eat within walking distance, and we loved the boutique feel of the entire hotel. Seriously, if you can, book this hotel.
What would a trip recap be without a quick review of some of the restaurants we enjoyed?
Cha-Ya is one of the places we will always (always always) visit when visiting the Bay Area. We were first introduced to it during our January 2014 trip to visit friends and we ended up eating there twice that first visit. This time around, our friends didn’t even bother suggesting meeting someplace else, they knew it was best to just meet us at Cha-Ya. The food is delicious and I’m really upset that we don’t have multiple stomachs so I can order an obnoxious amount of food so I can get a taste of everything there.
It was my first time at Phillz Coffee and I’m hoping Alex and I head out to the new locations in LA soon. I loved the amount of fresh mint in our drinks and I won’t forget the perfect hot chocolate Alex got for me as we were heading back from breakfast during a downpour (I was safely under cover while he ran to the Phillz Coffee truck in Union Square). Each drink is made individually and there are so many options that you’ll need a few seconds to decide which drink will be perfect for you.
Speaking of coffee, Alex and I went to Contraband in the Knob Hill area for a quick caffeine boost (and almond croissant, because croissant) one morning after he heard good things about the chain. We enjoyed the coffee and the pastry we shared was delicious.
Beanstalk Cafe was a great option for us when we needed a quick snack and drinks. We split a grilled cheese and if we were in the mood for something more, the rest of the menu looked really good. We saw a few couples stop in to get food for picnics, which sounded like a great idea while the weather was nice.
Hogwash was exactly what we needed as we stalked the city the evening of Santa Con. Many places in Union Square and the surrounding area had lines out the door and we weren’t interested in waiting in line with dozens of Santas. We arrived at Hogwash and were seated immediately (yay!) and split a homestyle pickle plate and enjoyed drinks while we waited for our sausages to arrive. I ordered the Burnin’ Brock and Alex ordered the Hogless and we really liked them. We have sausage gastropub type places near us and we wish they served a pickle platter like this one!
Dottie’s True Blue Cafe had a small line outside and it was totally worth it. I had a really hard time deciding what to order because everything sounds amazing and I wanted one of each of the desserts/pastries advertised on the large board near the front door. If you love breakfast, go and get in line right now. We ordered omelettes and split a giant pancake. Everything coming out of the kitchen looked delicious and I’m looking forward to going back to taste more great food.
We didn’t get to Bi-Rite but we did hit Humphry Slocombe while in town after seeing one location near the Blue Bottle in the Ferry Building. If you’re interested in ice cream with interesting flavors and combinations (think: Salt & Straw), this is a good spot. It was difficult to narrow down the flavors and I wish we thought to get a small “flight” of ice cream to split with our friends.
Katana-ya Ramen is where you want to go if you are in the Union Square area and need a ramen fix. The layout is a little confusing, but make sure you get your name on the clipboard outside if there is a wait. I was super excited to see a ramen that included Japanese fried chicken (karaage) but wish it was served on the side instead of sitting in my soup but it was still delicious! It’s cozy inside, which is nice on a cold December night.
If you saw my Fitbit data from this trip, you’d think we walked around the entire city the first day of our trip. We walked nearly 14 miles that Friday alone! Saturday and Sunday involved a lot of walking, too, but nothing like our first day.
Our favorite stop was the Japanese Garden, which is something you can visit in about an hour. The paths lead you through different areas of the garden including koi ponds, miniature trees, examples of Japanese architecture, and a small tea house. We sat and shared a matcha while trying to decide what to do next.
We also visited the Wave Organ, which was constructed 30 years ago. It is a giant sculpture just beyond the Yacht Club that is built into a jetty that you would overlook entirely if you didn’t know what you were looking for. As the waves crash around the jetty, the noise is brought up through the pipes to bring the sounds of the waves to listeners at different spots at the installation. We were the only two at the Wave Organ other than two locals fishing nearby. This also gave me my first view of the Golden Gate Bridge. My previous two trips to San Francisco included plenty of fog (aka Karl the Fog) so the perfect weather made for a great view from the Wave Organ. We also got a great view of Alcatraz from this location.
From the Wave Organ, we walked through Fort Mason and followed the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building. This would’ve taken a lot less time to just get a cab or call an Uber, but like I said, the weather was really nice and we weren’t in a hurry.
I felt a cold coming on and wasn’t ready to spend time being soggy in the crowded downtown area as people and cars competed for space. We weren’t able to get out earlier so we stowed our luggage and walked around the (now less rainy) city to get some coffee and kill time before heading to the airport much too early. Thankfully, the airport is nice and we were able to comfortably spend time there while waiting for our flight.
This quick getaway was just what we needed before several weekends at home. We have the first half of 2016 outlined travel-wise and we hope to continue sharing these mini-adventures with you.