When I first moved to San Francisco, I chose to live in the Financial District purely because of convenience, as it was only a 10-minute walk to my school. But now, almost a year after graduation, I still live in the same building because I love my neighborhood (and maybe partly because of the rent control too).
Most people see the Financial District only as a place to work that dies after 6 p.m. But there’s much more than meets the eye in this neighborhood that’s sandwiched between SOMA, Chinatown, and Union Square. Aside from bustling with some of the most exquisite restaurants, hidden spaces to chill out, and a couple of very interesting bars, the Financial District has a really unique history. The area was once called Yerba Buena Cove. In the 1850s the cove was filled, burying underneath what is now a jungle of skyscrapers the remains of dozens of abandoned or sunken ships.
Here are a few of my favorite spots in the neighborhood.
Cigar Bar is by far my favorite watering hole in the city, so I will be extremely biased—YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. If there’s one social group that is hated more than Marina bros and glassholes combined, it’s smokers. We’re not allowed to smoke at concerts, within 20 feet of any window/door, or in our own apartments.
Sometimes when you’ve stocked enough good karma points, you run into places like Cigar Bar. Here you can sit at the indoor patio, order a couple of vodka tonics and a tortilla platter, and smoke a cigarette without reproachful glances. This place also has awesome live salsa music on Fridays and Saturdays and is open almost every day until midnight. (So yes, there is something open after 6 p.m. in the Financial District.)
Old Ship Saloon
Old Ship Saloon used to be a ship (literally a ship), a hotel, and a brothel. I always devour the Monte Carlo burger (with guacamole) or the Curly burger (with fried egg) when I’m here. Say goodbye to your arteries, though, if you decide to go for either one, and don’t forget to do yourself a favor and order a margarita when you visit.
The Coffee Roaster
As soon as you walk into the Coffee Roaster, you’ll know you’ve arrived at the right place when you see the “Friends don’t let friends go to Starbucks” sign.
Lana, the owner, is one of the first people I met when I arrived in San Francisco, and she is hands down the sweetest person I know. Her cafe has a tasty selection of homemade pastries (red velvet cake being my favorite) and a wide range of breakfast bagel options.
Farmers’ Market at Crocker Galleria
This farmers’ market is a great alternative to the sometimes overpriced and touristy one at the Ferry Building. Conveniently located in the middle of the Financial District at the Crocker Galleria (between Sutter and Kearny Streets), it happens every Thursday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. I usually stop by on my way back to the office from lunch and get some fresh veggies.
The vendors are extremely nice, and you can sample almost anything here (I would recommend the cheeses, fudge, and fruits). P.S. There’s a really nice flower stand as well in case you ever find yourself without a birthday/anniversary present on a Thursday afternoon.
Transamerica Redwood Park/1 Kearny Rooftop
If you’re looking to connect with nature and find a little escape in the Financial District, there are two spots I love that you should definitely check out. These hidden gems are available to the public (although you do need a photo ID for the 1 Kearny Rooftop).
The Transamerica Redwood Park offers ample seating and a tranquil ambiance for you to enjoy lunch among some tall trees. The rooftop garden at 1 Kearny will also give you a quiet space to disconnect as well as breathtaking views.
Once considered the French Quarter in SF, this alley offers a plethora of dining options for all tastes and budgets. My favorite places here are Plouf, Taverna, and Sam’s Grill. If there’s one thing I must suggest, even though most people will not follow this advice, it’s the calf’s liver at Sam’s Grill. It’s the best liver I’ve had in San Francisco so far, and I’ve had my fair share.
I highly recommend anyone with a French-accent fetish to stop by Belden Place Alley on July 14, as this street is taken over by French people and Francophiles to celebrate Bastille Day (the beginning of the French Revolution).
Oasis Grill and Crêpe & Curry
This is what I call the Friday night/Saturday morning combo. You know that feeling when Friday arrives, and you’re ready to get inebriated as soon as possible. You can get your carb/protein fix before hitting the bars in the form of a delicious chicken shawarma at San Francisco’s Oasis Grill on Drumm Street.
Then, on Saturday, while you’re trying to piece together your night and fill those empty memory spaces with the typical “I’m sure I didn’t do anything stupid,” you can head to Crêpe & Curry for the best hangover cure available in the Financial District: a chicken masala or strawberry banana Nutella crêpe (depending on the level of self-loathing caused by the actions of the night before).
I could go on and on about other amazing places I’ve found in the Financial District, like Piperade, 5A5 Steak Lounge, and the Hidden Vine, but instead of reading about it, you should come and explore. I suggest sticking around after work or coming to visit on a Thursday night.
Check out more neighborhoods that we covered in our "Why I Love ..." series here.