A few Sundays back – before this freakishly warm weather dropped in to send everyone to the beach – we decided to follow the Barbary Coast Trail, developed and maintained by the San Francisco Historical Society.
The trail starts at the Old Mint down on 5th and Mission and then meanders through Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach and Telegraph Hill, before dropping down to the Bayfront wharfs and eventually Ghirardelli Square.
From there you can wait in line for the Hyde Street cable car and admire the view while playing a game of matching country (or state) to the accent of your fellow line-waiters. Or you can say fuck it and walk the two blocks to catch the 47 Van Ness.
The Historical Society has a handy map (available here) that can be printed beforehand; there are also markers embedded in the cement indicating direction. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to explain the significance or various landmarks along the way (the marker in front of the Old Mint is the only one we found). There are tags on the map, but it shouldn’t hurt to produce some sort of podcast to accompany the route. Historical Society?
But the Barbary Coast Trail is also lacking something else, notably where to eat and drink. As an itinerary, the Trail wanders through some of San Francisco’s best neighborhoods for memorable food and drink. (Well, things get a little dodgy after North Beach…) Without putting too much thought into it, I made this shortlist. And there’s an accompanying Google Map (my stab at such a map anyway). Take a look, and feel free to add to this list or directly to the map — it should be public.
(More after the jump…)
Just behind the Old Mint is Blue Bottle Café, which, if you can snag a table, makes for a pleasant start. Otherwise, you could follow the lead of the three or four uniformed police officers milling about outside and get yours to go. (Blue Bottle, 66 Mint St., SF)
Or, if it’s later in the day and a coffee and scone won’t do, take a shortcut through the Westfield Center to the basement food court and visit Out the Door, the baby cousin of the Slanted Door (located in a notably more upscale food court down Market St). You could get your meatball or pork sandwich to go; Union Square is nearby… (Out the Door, 845 Market St., SF)
Or, if you fancy a liquid lunch, Michael Mina’s Clock Bar is located in the St. Francis Hotel, right on the square. (Clock Bar, 335 Powell St., SF)
On to Chinatown…
Admittedly, I don’t know Chinatown’s eateries as well as I probably should. My dim sum cravings usually take me to Clement St. or outer Geary, or they’re a little closer to the North Beach part of the Barbary Coast Trail (see below). So here’s a section of the itinerary that needs some help — suggestions and additions are welcome! Still, there’s one place in Chinatown to stop and refresh, and that’s Li Po. Where else is there a dive bar with a giant shrine? (Li Po, 916 Grant Ave., SF)
Ye Ol’ Barbary Coast…
Choices dry up down here, although once upon a time this stretch of SF was one rolicking good time, with saloons, brothels and all manner of 19th century entertainment. I think that means more saloons and brothels. Or maybe not.
North Beach and the Beats…
The walk is rich with options in North Beach but why stray from the theme when there’s the trifecta of Vesuvio, Specs and Tosca. Although you might have a hard time finishing the walk if you hit all three. Or if you need coffee, the original Caffé Trieste is only one block off the walk. (Vesuvio, 255 Columbus, SF; Specs, 12 William Saroyan Pl., SF; Tosca, 242 Columbus, SF; Caffé Trieste, 609 Vallejo St., SF)
At Columbus and Broadway you’re faced with a choice: Chinese or Italian. Yuet Lee serves delicious seafood until the wee hours; Hing Lung is great for juk. I can’t stand most of the Italian restaurants in North Beach, but I do remember some good meals at Osteria del Forno. Or you can grap a sandwich at Molinari’s and backtrack to Vesuvio or head on to Washington Square Park. (Yuet Lee, 1300 Stockton, SF; Hing Lung, 674 Broadway, SF; Osteria del Forno, 519 Columbus, SF; Molinari Delicatessen, 373 Columbus, SF)
The Washbag, as of yet, is still dark.
Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower and the Embarcadero…
Admittedly we hurried through the last part. Not many options on the rest of the walk until the end. You could count the pretzl and hot dog vendors at Pier 39, or the Hard Rock Cafe. You could also hit up one of the crab stands at Fisherman’s Wharf — despite the tourist throngs, you can get good crab in season. And of course, there’s always In ‘N Out Burger… (In ‘N Out, 333 Jefferson St., SF)
And then there’s the Buena Vista Café, where an Irish coffee will warm things up before a cold wait in line for the cable car. (Buena Vista Café, 2765 Hyde St., SF)