San Francisco staycation
My brother has recently said via text, “for only living there six months, you guys have had a remarkable amount of visitors.”
Why, yes we have. And every time we get a visitor, we put together a little itinerary that feels like a vacation for us in our own ‘hood.
This weekend we welcomed Dave’s Dad to stay with us and explore Everyone’s Favorite City.
On Friday evening we had plans to visit three places.
First up, it was the swanky W Hotel San Francisco, located just steps away from our apartment. When we arrived at the W, there were swarms of business men in black suits, clearly in town for a convention at the nearby Moscone Convention Center, following a woman with a sign with “Audi” on it. After they cleared out of the congested lobby bar area, known as The Living Room Bar, we were introduced to a very cool setting, with intimate high-top square tables and bar seating that seemed to be both upscale yet also relaxing. It’s not your average bar. The room was pretty dark and there were little twinkling lights that change color built into the actual bar where we sat, not to mention polka dot pattern on the walls that could make you dizzy if you stared for too long. Well-designed and aesthetically pleasing to say the least.
As locals, Dave and I recently received a VIP card entitling us to an extended happy hour at W San Francisco. Once we sat at the bar and showed the bartender our card, he told us we could begin our first experience there with a complimentary wine tasting of the featured wine — which we did — and then he gave us the happy hour drink menu. Dave and his Dad ordered a pomegranate take on a Moscow Mule beverage, something I see on the cocktail list quite frequently in the City, and I stuck with a standard dirty martini.
The stop at the W was not only to show Dave’s Dad a chic hotel bar, but it was also a reconnaissance mission for Dave and me.
Secretly, Dave and I have been searching for a “regular spot”, which we can go to happy hour on Friday evenings. Although we have enjoyed trying entirely new places every weekend, we long for the return of a special place we shared in Orlando early on in our relationship. There was an adorable little restaurant bar in downtown Orlando just steps from our building called The Black Olive (which has since closed down), where we went nearly every Friday after work during the first year of our relationship and had so many great evenings where we got to know each other, had important conversations and brought quite a bit of friends to experience and enjoy. We even became friends with the musician who played the piano at The Black Olive, and she sang during our wedding ceremony and attended our wedding reception – (thank you to the talented Heather Friedman).
That being said, with its close proximity and inviting setting, The W Living Room Bar just might be a place we could return. Dave’s Dad was certainly impressed with the contemporary vibe, and we liked it too. And about The Black Olive, may its memory live on, and may its soul rest in peace …
Stop number two. After a quick Uber trip across town, we arrived at The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco for our dinner reservations at The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar. The Tonga Room is definitely not very “San Francisco.” This is a touristy-high-energy-themed-entertainment-atmosphere, which is not in line with the understated cool and minimalist urban vibe of most San Francisco restaurants and bars. With a live band playing top-40 music from a floating barge in the center of the restaurant’s pool, drinks served in coconuts with umbrellas, fake periodic light rain storms and thunder sound effects, (which luckily do not get guests to the restaurant wet), and a dance floor on a converted ship, The Tonga Room is clearly designed for people looking for a good time, either on vacation or celebrating something.
We were celebrating having Dave’s Dad in town, so it was fitting for us. We enjoyed the Pacific/Asian cuisine and also spent some time on the dance floor, which we shared with a bride and a groom and some other energetic patrons. Many locals had told us we had to try The Tonga Room, so what better time than with a visitor. Apparently the restaurant has been delighting guests with tropical libations since 1945, so perhaps we enjoyed a bit of history by taking in the entire experience. We had a great time, and didn’t feel like it was a regular Friday night. Something about The Tonga Room makes you feel like you are carried away on a beach vacation, not in the center of an urban area where the windy chill of the night air actually requires coats and scarves.
The first two stops already provided swanky cocktails, island-inspired food and dancing, and the third stop was still to come.
After a short walk downhill in the chilly air, we arrived for late-night cheesecake at the top of the Macy’s building in Union Square.
During our first weekend visit to the Bay Area, Dave and I visited The Cheesecake Factory for dessert and have gone back so many times, for so many reasons.
Yes, it is a common restaurant chain. Yes, we did have The Cheesecake Factory in Orlando. But, this one is definitely worth the repeat visits.
The cheesecakes are huge and awesome (I like a hearty dessert on the weekends, so this is key), and the view offers a from-the-top look at the tall lighted buildings of the City’s core. Getting there can be fun too, because you actually access the restaurant through Macy’s. It’s not your average Macy’s either. It’s huge. It’s the flagship Macy’s in the center of the urban core and has several floors and all the latest and greatest merchandise (like individual designer boutiques inside the store) … but I digress. Usually even during late-night hours, you can take the escalators inside the store up to the top floor to reach the restaurant, but on Friday night we settled for the elevators because for some reason the escalators were closed. Once we arrived, we sat at a table outside huddled up to some heaters and enjoyed indulgent cheesecake and the view of the City. Dave’s Dad was surprised we had The Cheesecake Factory listed on our line-up of events for the night, but totally got the “wow factor” once we emerged from the elevators and loved it.
Three stops down and a lovely walk home, left our little group full, happy and a bit tuckered out. Can you believe we stayed out until midnight?
It’s fun to stay in a one-mile radius from our apartment and still get the feeling like we are completely on vacation. We hope the visitors continue, because we have plenty more activities to fill up an awesome San Francisco itinerary.