I am so grateful to share a City Style segment today on San Francisco with the fabulous Brittany Hawkins as your tour guide! I became good friends with Brittany during my sophomore year of college when we both embarked on an internship in NYC! Brittany was interning at The Met and I was at Donna Karan- allowing us to share and attend the perfect mix of art and fashion parties during our time in the city! The following year, Brittany and I studied abroad in Florence at the same time and had a blast (to say the least). I must say that Brittany is naturally glamorous and since I have known her, is one of the most amazing vintage shoppers I know. Seriously, she finds the most incredible jewelry and handbags– it’s actually unreal.
Since then, I’ve made it out to San Francisco for both work and leisure. On each visit, Brittany has certainly been a most excellent and knowledgeable hostess. Growing up in St. Helena, she is extremely comfortable with the city and surrounding areas and definitely knows the must-visits. With help from her friend Lucia, they have shared their absolute favorite spots in San Francisco. And, growing up in Napa, Brittany has a love for a wine as well and works on the Swirl It! app team – which helps you pick and find your favorite wines at restaurants around the country! This is a must-download.
Name: Brittany Hawkins (completed with her friend, Lucia)
City & how long: 5 years
Favorite Brunch Spot: Ella’s is my go to brunch spot. Everything at Ella’s is perfect, expect for the huge line that lasts all day on Saturday and Sundays, but it is absolutely worth it. They are famous for their chicken hash, which is a must try, but their pancakes are irresistible as well and since the line is so long I usually get both. I deserve it, right?
Favorite Cocktail & Where: Classic Negorini at Tosca in North Beach. Tosca has been a San Francisco standby for a million years. There are regulars that seem to be permanently attached to the bar stools and can regale you with stories about North Beach in it’s heyday. There is always opera playing on the jukebox and it is a perfect San Francisco experience.
Favorite After-Work Spot: Bix is a great spot to unwind after work. It’s tucked away in an alley in Jackson Square and is the perfect spot to rub shoulders with your boss’ boss. Dress up, you will meet your next husband here ;)
Must-visit museum: The Academy of Sciences epitomizes San Francisco’s innovation and sensibility as the greenest museum in the world. It has a Sci-Fi looking living roof and is built completely sustainably. Inside the museum there’s a planetarium, an albino crocodile and a 4 story rainforest. The best time to go is on a Thursday night when they serve cocktails and host a DJ.
Favorite boutiques/shopping & why: You can’t go wrong on Union St. in the Marina. I can confidently say that this single street comprises half of my paycheck.
Best Hidden Secret: A short drive or bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge will land you at Cavallo Point. This place is the perfect mixture of modern design and historic charm. The Colonial style houses were once used as Officer’s Residences during the war and are now considered part of the resort residences. The rooms don’t come cheap but the spa, restaurant and bar are considered one of the best in the Bay. I like to get a glass of wine and post up on the porch looking onto the Bridge.
Best books/music/art on your city: City Lights bookstore is a famous independent bookstore in North Beach that features books about the arts and progressive politics. It’s not the place to go for a beach read but the people watching is bar none.
Best place for a Sunday stroll: Eat and drink your way through the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero. What you shouldn’t miss: (1)Gott’s Ahi Tuna Burger (2) a cup of Blue Bottle coffee (3)Oysters from Hog Island (4) A glass of California wine from the Wine Merchant. There’s also an extensive farmer’s market on the weekends that will turn you into a sustainability snob.
Must-Visit Dinner Spot: NOPA is a must do on any trip to SF. The gorgeous space in a newly hip neighborhood, paired with “urban rustic” cuisine and artisanal. This is San Francisco locavore cuisine at its finest, there is even a beehive on the roof so they can have their own homegrown honey. Go to NOPA, get perfect cocktail, order the porkchop and have your tattooed waiter help you schlep through their huge wine list. It is the quintessential nouveau SF dining experience, and it is magnificent.
Most romantic restaurant: Sociale is one of the city’s best kept secrets. You have to walk down a brick pathway off of the main street to come upon this French style bungalow tucked away in a courtyard. The lights are low (i.e. your skin looks great) and the food is excellent.
Most Scenic Spot: Take a walk down Crissy Field and gaze right up at the Golden Gate Bridge. Make sure to stop at the Warming Hut for a cup of coffee.
Brittany and Adam
Best place to dance or celebrate a special occasion: Le Colonial is a French Polynesian restaurant that will not disappoint. Their food is great for sharing and the excellent wine list will give you plenty of liquid courage to enjoy the dancing on the 2nd floor after dark.
Your favorite thing to do: Taking a day trip up to Napa or Sonoma is one of the greatest aspects of living in SF. In just a little more than an hour you can go from sirens to silence and you’ll save yourself the time it takes to get to Italy. Sonoma is known for having smaller, quainter wineries that serve pinot noir, a varietal that is suited for the area. Napa helped put California on the world map for being a wine region. You’ll find a mix of large wineries that have their own kitsch (there’s even a castle with a moat and a torture chamber) as well as small production wineries that focus on making some of the best cabernets in the country. Either way, you’ll be tipsy so you can’t lose. I have made it a personal goal to visit every winery in Napa and Sonoma. It helps that my parents live there too!
Where to stay on a visit: In true SF style, you should embrace startup culture by using Airbnb, a company that catalogs a list of local rooms or apartments for rent. By steering clear of the tourist-oriented hotels in Union Square you can stay in one of the vibrant neighborhoods that natives are so proud of.
What do you love most about where you live: I think the best part about living in SF is the sense of creativity, adventurousness and entrepreneurial spirit that flourishes in all parts of the city. As an entrepreneur myself, I have found an enormous community of people that are excited to create new ways to make an impact on the world.
Traveling tips/anything to steer clear of:
- Avoid walking through the Tenderloin
- Homeless people are everywhere downtown, just put on a city face and ignore them and they’ll leave you alone.
- The hills are not a joke
- Just because you’re in California doesn’t mean it’s always hot. Bring a light jacket.
Thank you, Brittany! I can’t wait for my next trip! In the meantime, be sure to download Brittany’s fabulous wine app: Swirl It!