Welcome to SF SIDEKICK...
A FREE, simple, easy-to-use guide to San Francisco, California. Works on any smartphone, tablet or computer, and nothing to download. Visit the Cable Cars, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, North Beach, Chinatown, Coit Tower, the 'Crooked Street', Cliff House, AT&T Ballpark and more...with plenty of Restaurants, Bars, Best Views and a little History...
Scroll down and 'tap' on the thumbnail pictures in the main menu. Also 'tap' the bright colored text in the content area of pages for more details (a website, address, directions, menu etc.) This will open in a new window, so when you're done make sure to hit the 'back' button on your device to return to SF SIDEKICK. 'Tap' the blue banner at the top of any page to return to the main menu or use the arrow < > buttons at the bottom for navigation. View the pictures in order as a general itinerary, or skip around for desired interest...
Board the "Powell/Hyde" cable car at Powell & Market Street (there are 2 Cable Cars...the other is the Powell/Mason... don't take that one). Try to grab a spot on the outside right rail if you can, hold on tight and wait for stops to take pictures! About halfway is the 'Crooked Street' (Lombard Street) for some quick picks. Continue to the end of the line and you'll be at Fisherman's Wharf.
A one-block section of Lombard Street in the Russian Hill neighborhood is considered the 'crookedest' street in the world. The Powell/Hyde cable car stops here from downtown or Fisherman's Wharf for some picture taking. If you wish to walk, it's a hike up those hills! A few blocks away downhill is Fisherman's Wharf.
At the end of the Powell/Hyde cable car line and across the street is the Buena Vista Cafe, home of the original "Irish Coffee". But there is much more. One of the best places for breakfast and a view of San Francisco bay, with a great selection of lunches and dinners. Day or night the Buena Vista is a must stop in the city, and don't forget the secret 'gin fizz' cocktail, served like a milkshake. A couple of these and you're in San Francisco heaven...
Stroll along Fisherman's Wharf with its many restaurants, crab stands, novelty shops, entertainers and attractions. Click here for more information. For seafood, Scoma's (down the alley at Pier 47) is popular for lunch or dinner. Try the Clam Chowder, Crab Cakes or Cioppino. The Blue & Gold Fleet has bay cruises for the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge & Alcatraz, and a ferry boat going across the bay to the seaside town of Sausalito, for window shopping and waterfront dining.
You can walk, drive or bicycle across the bridge with more information here. But the best way to get up close and take pictures is the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise, or a Ferry to Sausalito located at Fisherman's Wharf. One is a general cruise around the bay under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz for great pictures. The second is a ferry boat that goes to Sausalito, a scenic waterfront town across the bay. Do some window shopping and have lunch at the Trident Restaurant along the waterfront, then return on the ferry to San Francisco.
Alcatraz, a rocky island about a mile off San Francisco Bay, is famous for being a federal prison from 1933-63 and housing notorious criminals like Al Capone and 'Machine-Gun' Kelly. Also known for its countless escape attempts, the most famous being depicted in the movie "Escape From Alcatraz" starring Clint Eastwood.
There are tours to Alcatraz from Pier 33, usually having to get tickets in advance online. Or, a better alternative might be the Blue & Gold Fleet's 'Escape From The Rock' cruise easily located at Fisherman's Wharf, taking you under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz with a Wi-Fi audio tour. No waiting, with first-come-first-served at the gate.
Pier 39 has many attractions, performers, live music, shopping, events and dining. For more information click here. Walk down the pier and visit the sea lions, learn a magic trick at Houdini's Magic Shop or get lost in Magowan's Mirror Maze. Fog Harbor and Swiss Louis are both very nice seafood restaurants. With many options, stroll along and check out the menus posted outside each restaurant for other types of fare.
Two of the best views in the city are the 'Top Of The Mark' at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, and Coit Tower. Right before sunset is best, and the easiest way (you can see both in 45 minutes) is to take a cab, Lyft or Uber to Coit Tower and ask the driver to wait a few minutes while you take in the view and some pictures. Continue to the Mark Hopkins Hotel and be dropped off. Enter the lobby and take the elevator to the top for the best 360 degree views of the city. Then, you can either walk down a couple steep hills to Chinatown, or take a short ride to the North Beach area for dinner or drinks.
If you've gone to the Mark Hopkins Hotel for the view and care for a cocktail in a classy hotel, walk a half-block down California Street to the Scarlet Huntington Hotel Bar. Enter the lobby and make a right. Stylish green leather chairs, a piano player and wall paintings of the 'Big Four' who started San Francisco. This is where you hide out and feel important...
Wander along the streets and alleys in Chinatown day or night. Window shop and pick up some souvenirs. One favorite place is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory @ 56 Ross Alley. Talk nice to the boss and maybe he’ll let you make one yourself. For pastries and desserts visit the Garden Bakery and grab some egg custard tarts or pineapple buns. For lunch, maybe try a little dim sum at the Great Eastern restaurant, or for great Chinese food it's Hunan Home's for lunch or dinner with tasty crab dishes, sizzling prawns in chili sauce, moo-shu pork or pot stickers. If you're in the mood for a cocktail you gotta' have a Mai Tai at the Lipo Lounge dive bar...
North Beach is an Italian neighborhood between Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf with restaurants, nightlife, sidewalk cafes, and side trips. Walk along Columbus Avenue between Union and Pacific streets. Need coffee? Cafe Trieste is a coffee & literary landmark. The best pastries are at Stella Pastry & Cafe (you must have their specialty 'Sacripantina'). For breakfast it's Mama's or Mo's (also best hamburgers) For a quick bite Golden Boy (best slice pizza) is an institution...day or night. Or get a take-out sandwich from Molinari's Deli and eat at Washington Square park up the street across from St. Peter & Paul church. Have lunch & people watch at Calzone's sidewalk cafe. The best Italian dinners are at Sodini's with friendly staff and great conversation. Sotto Mare for the best Cioppino and fish dishes or Tommaso's for pasta and pizzas. Drinks? Gino & Carlo is the local favorite, with the best bartenders, T.V.'s for sports and 2 pool tables. Around the corner on Grant Ave. there's Maggie Mcgarry's Irish Pub, and The Saloon just down the block has live blues music seven nights a week. One block south on Columbus Avenue is Tosca Cafe, a cozy spot for a drink (food service is closed temporarily). In the alley next door is Spec's, a classic watering hole with nautical artifacts from around the world. And across the street you'll find Vesuvio, the famous literary & arts bar (check out the balcony) with City Lights Bookstore right next door.
Sodini's Restaurant has the best Northern Italian food in a home style setting where the owner, bartenders and waitresses treat you like family. Frank Sinatra and the 'Rat Pack' would feel right at home in the corner booth. Saddle up to the bar for a conversation or two, and maybe some old San Francisco stories. Just go...quickly!
Just a short cab ride away from the North Beach area is the best Prime Rib in town. Work up an appetite as the portions are hefty at the House Of Prime Rib. Huge, meaty slabs of salt-cured prime rib with some creamed spinach and house salad served tableside. Old school charm and friendly waiters. Call in advance, as it gets very busy.
Also a short cab ride from the North Beach area is one of the best steaks in town at Harris' Steakhouse. With comfortable high-back leather booths, old school charm, and Jazz played nightly in the Bar/Lounge area. Walk-ins are allowed or reservations. Call ahead to make sure.
Gino & Carlo bar is classic old school. Family owned for over 50 years where locals and wandering tourists stop for drinks and feel right at home with the city's best owners and bartenders. Great stories, cocktails, T.V.'s for all sports...go Giants!!!, and 2 pool tables.
Established in 1861, The Saloon is the oldest bar in the city. Hang with the locals and listen to stories during the day with stiff, cheap drinks and a great jukebox. At night The Saloon turns into the best Blues Bar in town seven nights a week, with no cover charge and a cozy dance floor.
AT&T Park is home to the SF Giants baseball team. When the team has a home game there's no better place to be with views of the bay, a hot dog and beer in hand. The Palace of Fine Arts is a great spot for some quick pics if you're driving north over the Golden Gate Bridge. Fort Point is secretly tucked under the foot of the bridge, but worth the visit, with spectacular views from the rooftop! Golden Gate Park is home to The Steinhart Aquarium, Japanese Tea Garden, de Young Museum and the California Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Cliff House for breakfast or lunch and expansive views of the Pacific Ocean is a must if heading south out of town.
( 'click' on pictures for information )
In 1847 there were only a few hundred people living in tents atop the hills of the city. By 1849 the population had grown to 25,000 with the influx of gold miners, railway workers, prostitutes and thugs. Taken from an article in 1876, the following describes best the section of town currently known as North Beach, where the 'Barbary Coast' was formed…with a few remnants still left today.
"The Barbary Coast is the haunt of the low and the vile of every kind. The petty thief, the house burglar, the tramp, the whoremonger, lewd women, cutthroats, murderers, all are found here. Dance-halls and concert-saloons, where blear-eyed men and faded women drink vile liquor, smoke offensive tobacco, engage in vulgar conduct, sing obscene songs and say and do everything to heap upon themselves more degradation, are numerous. Low gambling houses, thronged with riot-loving rowdies, in all stages of intoxication, are there. Opium dens, where heathen Chinese and God-forsaken men and women are sprawled in miscellaneous confusion, disgustingly drowsy or completely overcome, are there. Licentiousness, debauchery, pollution, loathsome disease, insanity from dissipation, misery, poverty, wealth, profanity, blasphemy, and death, are there. And Hell, yawning to receive the putrid mass, is there also." - Asbury, in Benjamin Estelle Lloyd's Lights and Shades of San Francisco (1876)