That’s What He Said: My Guide to Do, See, Shop and Be in San Francisco


Well, it’s that time of year again, and I am doing all I can to get into the holiday spirit and support the local economy (my wife, however, will lament the topic of this blog, since in our relationship I am the shopper and she is the saver). But this is business, I’ll argue, and she would have to agree (or at least take a breath to hear me out).

I have spent the majority of my career observing, analyzing and applying brand-to-consumer messaging, strategy and communications; it is the cornerstone of what I pride our agency’s award-winning work on. Fineman PR also has a strong lifestyle public relations practice with our experience in food, wine and hospitality. So, I’ll tell her, I must have inspiration, first-hand knowledge and ideas (and, I’ll say it all with a straight face, because it’s true). In San Francisco, expectations of visitors run high, as they should. The city is spectacular, expensive, and wrought with tourist-traps all the same.  I have to know where to recommend that clients shop, dine, relax and have a glorious time while they are visiting. We host conferences here for public relations agencies from around the world (IPREX network,, I attend professional conferences here, and I travel to other cities to speak, learn and attend to client business.

I also know the impact of peer-to-peer recommendation and word of mouth marketing for a business’ reputation and growth potential. It’s only natural for me to practice what I preach.  Whether by reflex or perennial practice, I can’t help but take note when I encounter an exceptional customer experience. That is why, in the spirit of the holiday season, I’ve compiled this not-so-short list of a few of my favorite things to do, see, shop and be in San Francisco (ho, ho, ho):


Best wine and spirits retailers

  • Cask – 17 Third St., San Francisco
  • Draeger’s Market – 222 E. 4th, San Mateo – Also in Menlo Park, Danville and Los Altos
  • Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant – Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, San Francisco
  • Jug Shop – 1590 Pacific Ave. (off Polk), San Francisco
  • K&L Wine Merchants – 855 Harrison St., San Francisco – Also in Redwood City
  • PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – 3201 Fillmore St., San Francisco
  • Weimax – 1178 Broadway, Burlingame
  • Whisky Shop – 360 Sutter St., San Francisco
  • Wingtip – 550 Montgomery St., San Francisco – (wine & spirits in the back)
  • There is always Bevmo, highly commercial, but excellent selection (stores throughout Bay Area)


Best men’s retail stores in S.F. Bay Area

With some further qualifications – you won’t find highly swanky or ultra-modern shops mentioned here, although all listed below are upscale. You won’t find for “youth only” clothing that wouldn’t fit you anyway. What you will find are upscale labels, tailored, off-the-rack, tasteful men’s clothing for guys from 35 to 75+. You’ll find help that knows their business and knows how to fit their customers in straight forward, stylish threads, whether casual or for more dressed occasions. Some of them are more casual than others, and some offer custom made as well. If you know a store in other parts of San Francisco or the Bay Area, let me know, and I will be happy to review for inclusion here.

  • Couture, 395 Sutter St., S.F.
  • Gene Hiller, 729 Bridgeway, Sausalito
  • John Varvatos, 152 Geary St., S.F.
  • Sarrtori, 740 Laurel St., San Carlos
  • Ted Baker, 80 Grant Ave., S.F.
  • The Hound, 140 Sutter St., S.F.
  • Wingtip, 550 Montgomery St., S.F.

*Also, in San Francisco, three top-shelf department store men’s departments – Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom (both downtown Westfield Center), and Sak’s Fifth Avenue Men’s at 220 Post St., San Francisco.


Best sights, activities and views while in San Francisco and the immediate Bay Area

  • Ocean Beach and the Cliff House restaurant and view point just above
  • Ferries
  • Tiburon, Sausalito, Angel Island (S.F.’s Ellis island for Asian immigrants)
  • Fort Point and Fort Baker and the Golden Gate Bridge linking them
  • Marin Headlands (the views, Point bonita Lighthouse, Marine Mammal Center)
  • Mount Tamalpais – drive, bike or hike all the way up
  • Jack London Square Oakland
  • Bezerkley
  • Point Reyes and Lighthouse
  • Sutro Baths
  • Hwy 1 from S.F. and Great Highway to Santa Cruz or north to Bodega Bay
  • Legion of Honor
  • Belden Alley
  • City Lights Book Store
  • Haight Ashbury via the Magic Bus Tour
  • The Embarcadero – walk the waterfront for miles or hike between the distractions on the way
  • Beach Blanket Babylon
  • Ferry Plaza – one of the great Embarcadero distractions; shopping and dining, ferries and views
  • Twin Peaks – high point in San Francisco
  • Mount Davidson – also right in the city
  • Berkeley Hills and Tilden Park
  • Union Square – shopping, people watching and home to Fineman PR
  • Golden Gate Park – hiking, biking, museums
  • Land’s End – you’re at the edge; stunning
  • Alcatraz – worth it I promise
  • Treasure Island – look back for a spectacular view of the downtown skyline
  • Mount Diablo – one of the highest points in the entire region; hard to fathom you are a short drive from downtown (not at height of commute time)
  • Crissy Field and Marina Green
  • Presidio – former military post, now national park
  • Crystal Springs Reservoir
  • And not to be forgotten, the mainstays: Coit Tower, Ghirardelli Square and The Cannery, cable cars, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, and crooked Lombard Street


San Francisco neighborhoods

  • North Beach – Columbus Avenue, Italian flavored, vestiges of old bohemians, restaurants and bars
  • Castro – LGBT-centered, edgy
  • Marina – Think singles, Chestnut Street, Bay views
  • Noe Valley – gentrified, families, 24th Street shopping
  • Chinatown – touristy but authentic
  • The Mission – still Latino but more and more the younger folk in hip restaurants and bars
  • Fillmore – lots of shops
  • Haight-Ashbury – where it’s still the ‘sixties
  • Richmond – down Clement, think fog
  • Sunset – down Irving, think fog
  • Union Street – near and related to the Marina
  • Hayes Valley – a “scene,” near San Francisco’s Civic Center
  • Potrero Hill – Think Bullitt car chase, street scenes up and down, up and down, up and down
  • Pacific Heights – Billionaire Row
  • Bernal Heights – Cortland Avenue shopping village thoroughfare


Watering Holes with views

  • Top of the Mark (Nob Hill)
  • Top of the Marriott Marquis The View Lounge (downtown)
  • Waterbar – along the Embarcadero, almost underneath the Bay Bridge; also good fish and seafood
  • Epic Steak – next to Waterbar
  • Cliff House (on the ocean)
  • Slanted Door – in Ferry Plaza; also known as one of the best restaurants in the U.S. (Vietnamese/Pacific rim)
  • Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39 – several
  • Scoma’s Sausalito
  • St. George Spirits (distillery on the Bay in Alameda)
  • Sam’s Tiburon
  • Beach Chalet (near Cliff House)
  • Green’s – wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Fort Mason along the Bay
  • The Waterfront Restaurant
  • Coqueta – a personal favorite
  • La Mar Cebicheria – Peruvian; a beautiful space along the Embarcadero, right on the Bay with terrific food
  • Skates – on the Berkeley side of the Bay
  • Claremont – spectacular views from the Oakland hills
  • McCormick & Kuleto’s – in Ghirardelli Square
  • Cavallo Point – at foot of Golden Gate Bridge on Sausalito side


Extended Stay/Exploring Nearby

  • Wine Country (Napa and/or Sonoma)
  • Russian River
  • Carmel/Monterey
  • Half Moon Bay
  • Santa Cruz
  • Point Reyes
  • Stinson Beach
  • Muir Woods
  • Tahoe
  • Yosemite
  • Palo Alto (Stanford, heart of Silicon Valley)

2 responses to “That’s What He Said: My Guide to Do, See, Shop and Be in San Francisco”

  1. Mike Murnin says:

    Who says research isn’t fun? Happy Holidays, Michael and Lori.


  2. Terry Peckham says:

    Fantastic list Michael — kudos! Love your suggestions and see a few new places to try.

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