Choosing the best eats and activities in San Francisco

I’m still getting used to the fact that living in San Francisco means having an endless amount of activities available to you at any time.

There are too many festivals (you know my love of festivals), too many concerts, too many street fairs, too many pop-up tastings and even too many sporting events to do it all.

Over the past year in the City, Dave and I have done our best to make use of our weekends and explore.  We’ve done some traveling outside of the Bay Area, hiked many a mountain and dined at 105 restaurants.

People always ask me how we (let’s be honest, how I) select the restaurants and activities.  Well, it’s a combination of word-of-mouth and online research.  I take into account recommendations from friends, and I also read local news sites everyday, usually 7×7 and its Eat +Drink, This Week’s Hottest Events and Drink Here Now columns, as well as my trusty go-to for dining, Yelp.

Most recently, I did research to prepare for two things:  Dave’s birthday dinner, which took place earlier this week and my Mom’s visit to San Francisco, taking place this weekend.

How do you choose a restaurant?

  1. First, I decide:  Do we want to walk or do we want to take an Uber (black car taxi service).  If we want to walk, then I know our restaurant selection needs to be in our neighborhood, which is Nob Hill, or the surrounding neighborhoods.  Yelp is a great way to search restaurants by their physical location.  We usually walk if it’s less than a mile.  And on those nights, I have to be okay with wearing flat shoes.
  2. Second, I decide:  Do we want to spend some money or be frugal?  Frugal dining in SF is still expensive.  If we get out of dinner spending less than $60, it’s a cheap night.  And after a year, that’s starting to get easier to digest, because it sure wasn’t at first.  If it’s a special occasion, if we have visitors, or if we are dining out with friends, we’ll opt for a more expensive option. For instance, on Dave’s birthday, we dined at 5A5 Steakhouse in the Financial District.  I was looking for a modern steakhouse (without stuffy white table-clothes), that was dark, fancy and young.  5A5 was the perfect match.  Our meal started with an amuse-bouche from the chef and continued to impress as the night went on.  To top it off, our waitress put a candle in Dave’s dessert in honor of his birthday.  Just love that!
  3. Third, I decide by availability.  I always try to make a reservation online, since restaurants here fill up fast.  I started picking the restaurants for my Mom’s visit two weeks ago, and yet some of the places I wanted to take her were already booked.  In the past, we’ve had reservations at popular places more than a month out, and I probably should’ve taken that into account. Everything is lined up now, with some great options including an older San Francisco staple in Union Square, a recently reopened waterfront dining spot along the Embarcadero, and a trendy Mexican place.  All reservations were made on OpenTable, and choices were made to include variety.

Here’s a look at that tasty mini-crabcake bite that started our meal off right at 5A5 — so much flavor packed into one little nibble.

5A5 Steakhouse

How do you choose activities in San Francisco?

For a regular weekend, I’ll keep tabs on the upcoming festivals and events via Twitter or local email lists (Sosh is another great resource), and we’ll shoot for at least one outdoor activity if we can.  

Since my Mom is on her third visit to San Francisco, we’ve already crossed off many of the tourist staples (as did Dave and I during our first few weeks here), and now we are on to the good stuff, which is less talked about.  I looked at TripAdvisor forum discussions on the best activities to do with a Mom in San Francisco, and I selected activities in walking distance to my apartment for the weekdays to make it easy.

We’re going to a service at a gorgeous historic church, shopping in Chinatown, picnicking at Golden Gate Park and even strolling through one of the City’s first bookstores.  Last time she was here, we went to wine country, Sausalito, a tea room, a dance show and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and spent time off-the-beaten-path, so my Mom has seen a lot of “Everybody’s Favorite City”.

Here’s a shot from Dave’s birthday at 5A5 — oh how it felt good to dine on fancy food on a weeknight.

5A5 Steakhouse

While there are plenty of other sights to see and restaurants to dine during her visit, the itinerary I’ve created for my Mom’s trip is full for now.  This will be her first time seeing our new apartment and neighborhood, and I know she’ll love the old buildings and charm.

Come on weekend, let’s get going!

, , , ,


  1. Thank you, Nicole! One of my favorite things about having a visitor is it allows me to go into “vacation eating” mode with due cause. You know what that means? 🙂 Hope you’re doing well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.