Historic San Francisco
Two brothers want to learn more about San Francisco's culinary offerings and its history, from the Spanish era to the present.
"Can you recommend any San Francisco sites relating to the gold rush?"
The San Francisco City Guides, an all-volunteer group, leads Gold Rush City tours through the Financial District on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (415/557-4266, sfcityguides.org, free). The guides have lots of stories about the Wild West.
For a glimpse of the lavish exuberance of San Francisco's post¿gold rush Gilded Age, visit The Haas-Lilienthal House, in the Pacific Heights neighborhood. The turreted Queen Anne Victorian home, built in 1886 for entrepreneur William Haas, is exquisitely maintained by the San Francisco Architectural Heritage organization. The house is open for guided, one-hour tours during the afternoons on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays (2007 Franklin St., 415/441-3000, sfheritage.org/house.html, $8).
"We're always hearing about the Bay Area's artisanal food. Where can we find some?"
The Ferry Building Marketplace, on the Embarcadero at the end of Market Street, showcases northern California food. The market stalls and small restaurants sell fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, olive oils, smoked and fresh seafood and meats, and fresh pastas. Some highlights: Far West Fungi for specialty mushrooms, Cowgirl Creamery for the organic cheeses (try the Mount Tam), and Recchiuti Confections for the handmade chocolate truffles. There are also prepared take-out foods--grab lunch and step outside for one of the most amazing views in the U.S. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, a vast and bustling farmers market sets up shop outside (415/693-0996, ferrybuildingmarketplace.com).
"We'd like to know of any good--but affordable--restaurants."
San Francisco foodies love to claim that their city has more restaurants per capita than any other major U.S. city. (The residents of Boston and Seattle are quick to disagree; the three are neck and neck for the top spot.) There's a great range of restaurants along Polk Street, which traverses the Tenderloin, Nob Hill, and Russian Hill neighborhoods. A few favorites: Hahn's Hibachi, where you can fill up on Korean barbecue (1710 Polk St., 415/776-1095, hahnshibachi.com, entrées from $7); Le Petit Robert, a bistro with simple, tasty French fare (2300 Polk St., 415/922-8100, baybread.com, entrées from $12); and Swan Oyster Depot, a landmark that's been serving crab Louis at its raucous counter since 1912 (1517 Polk St., 415/673-1101, crab Louis $17.50).
In North Beach, south of Fisherman's Wharf, go to L'Osteria del Forno for rustic Italian (519 Columbus Ave., 415/982-1124, losteriadelforno.com, entrées from $10, cash only), or try The Stinking Rose if you're in the mood for garlic (325 Columbus Ave., 415/781-7673, thestinkingrose.com, entrées from $15).
If you take the Bay Bridge, you'll pass through Oakland, and you'd be crazy not to stop at Uncle Willie's Original Bar-B-Que and Fish. The tiny spot is known for its ribs (614 14th St., 510/465-9200, unclewilliesbarbq.com, ribs $14).
Bring along a copy of Historic San Francisco: A Concise History and Guide by Rand Richards. The book traces the city's history from 1542 to the present and includes several walking tours.