Golden Gate National Recreation Area
The next time you’re in San Francisco and you have a few hours to spare, head to the Mission District for one of mankind’s greatest inventions: The Rebel Within. Contemporary pâtisserie Craftsman and Wolves has elevated a savory breakfast muffin to cult status. Made with asiago cheese, pork sausage, green onion and encasing a runny soft-boiled egg, this muffin will be one of the best things you eat all year.
How is it that I made a beeline for a muffin when SF abounds with a million and one tourist attractions? Well, I was with a couple of friends, one a journalist with a storied expertise in food and restaurant critiques and the other a member of the U.S. Armed Forces with a penchant for delicious baked goods, and we were on a food crawl through the Mission District. Ham and cheese croissants at Tartine Bakery: check. Sampling chocolate varieties and talking about cocoa beans with an actual “chocolate maker” at Dandelion Chocolate: check. Pupusas made of quesos y frijoles at SF’s best Salvadorian eatery, El Salvador: check.
Not wanting to give beverages the short end of the stick, we later headed to Bitters + Bottles in South San Francisco, a cocktail and spirits destination which stocks craft spirits, mixers and tools that range from the essential to the exotic. If you don’t live nearby, Bitters + Bottles’ monthly cocktail subscription service ensures that you’ll have all of the ingredients and know-how needed to make classic cocktails at home. The shop itself, housed in a century-old warehouse, is a sight unto itself: shelves of whiskeys, gins, and tequilas interspersed with shakers, tumblers and a million things you know you don’t need but can’t help but want. I was particularly taken with a set of four shot glasses that collectively read “May you never go to Hell but always be on your way.”
And then the food coma set in, so dense and heavy that it demanded a respite from eating. We drove through Golden Gate Park and walked along Crissy Field with its views of the Golden Gate Bridge, fishermen idly sitting in the shadow of the iconic structure alongside their rods in bouts of interminable waiting. We shopped (really I shopped and my friends indulged me) at boutiques strewn about the city: BellJar in the Mission District whose tagline “Gorgeous Little Things” is no understatement; Sausalito’s Heath Ceramics with its beautiful handmade tiles and tableware; and Nest, located in the heart of the Fillmore District, a boutique filled with bedding and home accessories inspired by the owners’ travels to the south of France.
Intermixing a little art into our afternoon of food, beverages and shopping, we strolled through street art-saturated Clarion Alley, located between Mission and Valencia Streets and 17th and 18th Streets in the Mission District, where murals decry gentrification and concentration of wealth. A quick walk through the Castro District provided a thorough education on the heretofore unknown depth and variety of sex shops, and, with clouds parting and the ever-fickle SF weather becoming downright pleasant, I settled down alongside my friends on the grassy slopes of Mission Dolores Park to watch dogs chase frisbees as locals drank beer and smoked pot atop picnic blankets. A quintessentially San Francisco sort of day: check.