Dawson’s Definitive “BEST OF SF”

Dawson Turner
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With two months of experience living and working in SF, I can confidently put together a shortlist of my absolute favorite things I did while I was here. I’m including the “best of,” my favorite neighborhoods, and most frequented spots. Completely biased in my own tastes, and totally confident in it.

And let me assure you, my budget has never been tighter, so this list is inherently with that in mind. Though okay, not every dollar was spent wisely. Enjoy!

BEST (AND CHEAPEST FOR SUCH) PIZZA: GOLDENBOY

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Residence on Green Street

$4-5 for a perfect slice of pizza. Sicilian style and on the go, I hit this spot many a times. On the weekends there’s always (and understandably) a line, but a normal weekday afternoon is in-and-out. Hell, not even. It’s a street facing window. So out-and-out.

Personally I’m always a pepperoni guy, and in that respect it simply does not get better than the square heaven they serve wrapped to go. Ugh and everyone tells me their clam and garlic is the best, but I don’t know if that’s for me, a boundary I’ve yet to cross.

DOPEST MUSIC VENUE: Great American Music Hall

BEST PARK: Dolores Park

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BEST CINEMA: Castro Theatre

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Visited for the FRAMELINE 47 (Jun 14-July 2) film festival, the largest, longest-running Queer film fest on the planet. Has what must be the most gorgeous large scale interior I’ve ever been in. A treasure to sit and watch a film in, for me worth the $17 ticket I paid. The competition is tough, there many gorgeous historic cinemas here and some I still didn’t get to see.

BEST LATE NIGHT SNACK: Bob’s Donuts on Nob Hill

Go for the crumb donut and thank me later. Snuck a box of four in my tote bag to the new MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE because I can do whatever the hell I want.

You’ve have never stuffed your face with a fresh donut and watched the opening credits of a MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE movie until you’ve stuffed your face with a donut and watched the opening credits of a MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE movie.

BEST JOINT FOR BUD: Okay I forgot the name but it’s next to Tulepo’s in North Beach and it has a secret menu with $5 joints if you’re nice

[***BTW*** The buses are basically free! BART and Muni take you wherever you need to go! I landed in the city and have flourished in these streets without a vehicle. Why isn’t every city in America like this again?]

BEST RECORD SHOP: Groove Merchant Records on Haight

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A catalogue majority consisting of jazz, soul, and r&b. Plus various live music event ads, exploitation posters, art, and pulp novels. A small pocket of the Haight Ashbury I spent nearly an hour exploring.

BEST BAR: Vesuvio Cafe

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Jack Kerouac Alley spliced between Vesuvio and City Lights Bookstore

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Undoubtably the best bar in the city. Two floors of cluttered loud, busy conversation. The balcony that circles the bar. Every person with a story I’d like to hear. This year celebrating its 75th anniversary. (NOTE: It’s a small joint and is often too full for a group, if so walk across the street to Spec’s where the vibe is nearly on par.)

BEST (AND MOST DANGEROUS) HAPPY HOUR: Monroe

[Pictures of this over my dead body]

$1 limited menu of drinks starting at 5pm. Like for real. Drink prices increase a dollar each hour.

Get the stamp early and use it cut the line later in the AM when its crazy 😉

BEST CAFE: 901 Columbus AKA “Great White Cafe”

So you know I don’t drink coffee, and I came here to write. Great blueberry muffins though.

Did you know a huge body of sharks is called a Cafe?

Printed in Calibri font on loose printer paper taped up sporadically throughout the joint are fun facts about sharks, accompanied by framed pictures, artwork, articles. Free wifi and an open-air view of Columbus street, tips of cathedrals in full view when sitting against the furthest wall indoors. An incredibly homey family-run joint that embodies what Oakland-based blog Blackbird Spyplane describes as an “Un-Grammable Hang Zone (U.G.H.Z.),” my highest praise possible.

BEST SEAFOOD: Satto Mare

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Get the Lobster Ravioli and literally any beer (always Stella for me), like hhooOOOOLLLLLY ****. What sauce was leftover was picked apart by their bread and butter. 10/10.

And their mussels (left) are heavenly, something I would never attempt getting in central Texas.

BEST BOOKSTORE: City Lights

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The place I frequented most in all my time in SF. The second home I visited on a whim whenever I had a second. Shelves full of the most well-curated assortment of books I think humanly possible, I could spend hours reading just sorted titles and their descriptions up and down. The bottom floor is reserved solely for non-fiction.

I spent hours in their Poetry Room (above) with a random book off the shelf, grabbed purely off description. I’m sucked into a book and by the next visit I’m completely absorbed in something else. This is the nature of CITY LIGHTS. A space where peace and knowledge are paramount above all else.

BEST TEA SHOP: Vital Tea

No contest, and honestly I barely bothered visiting anywhere else. It just doesn’t get better than this. Free samples of Chinese loose leaf teas of all variety from Black, Oolong (fav) to Red. Personal choice is either Iron Goddess Oolong or Blue People Oolong. “Everyone has their cup of tea,” repeats store owner Kenny. In my many visits to (both) their Grant St. locations I had great conversions with those sitting at the bar and those behind it. Sugar is never welcome.

BEST VIEW: Atop Mt. Tamalpais

[No pics, go earn that sight yourself fam.]

Admittedly a long trip over the bridge and to the top, and only accessible via car, worth the ascent in every respect.

I watched as sea and sky collided into the city to create a blue and pink cotton candy palette. Didn’t even bother grabbing a picture because it would’ve been a useless attempt to capture its colossal, distant absorbing beauty.

Thanks for reading, safe travels!

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