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By Diana Korte
It's walkable and loveable (people do leave their hearts here) and according to many travelers, boasts some of the best food and wines anywhere.
If you're yearning for a big-city vacation and have a weekend to spare, why not come to San Francisco, the city on the bay.
Dine, wine, shop and get around on cable cars and buses when it's too far to walk.
Wear flowers in your hair, especially in the charming Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of Victorian homes, and enjoy the many bargains from hotel discounts to meal deals at fine restaurants all over the city. You can always put your feet up when you get back home.
Here's info about convenient places to stay and restaurants to rave about:
Chinatown is only six blocks away, flower stands are on every corner, and the Powell Street cable cars are right here.
With only three nights and two days in the city, we chose bustling Union Square as our home base.
It's a park in the heart of the downtown shopping district and a neighborhood where new and renovated hotels bloom like daisies. In the winter, the ice-skating rink was open, too, and it was full of skaters well into the night.
Here are three hotels each a stone's throw from the Square.
They vary in accouterments and price, but they all offer great beds and service.
KENSINGTON PARK HOTEL (www.kensingtonparkhotel.com)
A chic boutique hotel with an upholstered bench for guests in the elevator and a cozy fake fur throw in your guest room for a cuddly quick nap in the afternoon or extra warmth at night.
VILLA FLORENCE (www.villaflorence.com)
A recently renovated hotel that looks like a piece of Italy. When we arrived before our room was ready, the manager stored our bags and brought me some tea. And this, on a night they were sold out.
WESTIN ST. FRANCIS (http://www.westinstfrancis.com)
The grand dame landmark of Union Square. It has more rooms than any of the neighboring hotels, dates back to 1904 and has the best views of Union Square. This is a full-service hotel, including a spa.
Dine in San Francisco's Neighborhoods
The San Francisco area is home to a lot of food firsts from the invention of the Popsicle to the ever-popular seafood salad, Crab Louis.
A more recent foodie preference is Northern California cuisine or New American Fare, as it's also called.
It's food served at the peak of freshness, often organic, always flavorful and usually raised locally and sold at farmer's markets. Menus change frequently to reflect seasonally available foods, and the food often comes on the plate in such a pretty fashion that it's really edible art.
Like all big cities, San Francisco is home to numerous neighborhoods away from the city center, and that's where this food can be found.
Here's a list of restaurants that we squeezed into our weekend. They are all devotees of this tasty dining and offer extensive wine lists no matter the economy. All were busy, so I suggest you make reservations.
LARK CREEK STEAK (www.larkcreeksteak.com)
Located not far from Union Square, this classy steakhouse offers the best in steaks from grass-fed to USDA prime for all you meat eaters.
But that's not why this place is a must stop.
It's the Steak burger, fries and a float for $17.95. Might sound pricy for this humble fare, but it's the Lark Creek steak burger is the "King of Burgers."
The burger is so good you'd eat it happily without the bun and the bun is so good you'd eat it all by itself. You get the picture.
JACK FALSTAFF (www.jackfalstaff.com)
Located in the SOMA, or south of Market, neighborhood. We were lucky enough to be there for their Sunday Supper served family style. This $40 four-course meal is the best buy in this city.
Come hungry the portions are generous.
MISSION BEACH CAFE (http://missionbeachcafesf.com)
In the Mission District neighborhood, despite its upscale food, is where you could pop in for morning coffee and pastries, have a soup and sandwich for lunch or comfortably sit over a lingering dinner.
But it's the pie that will bring many a food lover back and it's surely one of the reasons the wait line sometimes extends out the door.
When we tasted Pastry Chef Alan Carter's pumpkin hazelnut mousse pie, we were sorry it was our last day in San Francisco.
ZARE AT FLY TRAP (www.zareflytrap.com)
Located in the SOMA neighborhood, is friendly and intimate.
Our food adventure here began with cinnamon-braised lamb tongue and spice-roasted bone marrow, not your usual American appetizers, but easily the best meal starters of our trip.
Executive Chef Hoss Zare, who is from Iran, sprinkles Persian specialties throughout the menu from lamb burgers to goat cheese cheesecake.
ABSINTHE BRASSERIE & BAR (www.absinthe.com)
A corner restaurant in the Hayes Valley neighborhood.
Even a breakfast sandwich here is special. A fried duck egg with Tasso ham, topped with Taleggio cheese and served on griddled brioche.
Save Money with the San Francisco Cards
To get the most out of your San Francisco stay, visit www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com or call (800) 637-5196.
The Website has information on how to obtain the San Francisco City Pass (www.citypass.com/city/sanfrancisco), good for up to nine days, which lets you cruise the bay, ride without limit on city buses and cable cars (a single trolley ride without the City Pass is $5) or get access to no-waiting-in-line tickets to museums and two aquariums, including the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.
There's also the Go San Francisco Card (www.gosanfranciscocard.com), a pre-paid ticket to a different group of San Francisco's best museums, tours and attractions. This card comes with a guidebook divided by neighborhoods and can be bought for a day or two or a week.
HOW TO GET TO SAN FRANCISCO:
The nearest airports for travelers on numerous international and domestic airlines are San Francisco International Airport (www.flysfo.com) and Oakland International Airport (www.flyoakland.com).
You can also travel here by rail on Amtrak on regularly scheduled service or on the storied Coast Starlight and California Zephyr routes (www.amtrak.com).
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Travel | San Francisco Weekend Getaway - Diana Korte World's Fare