The Hills—and Heels—of San Francisco

By Josie Brown

sfInstead of leaving your heart in San Francisco, why not find it there? Between the Golden Gate Bridge and zig-zagging Lombard Street are hills and thrills galore…


The Marin Headlands

On the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge is the Marin Headlands, a 2,000-acre national park that is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Saved from private development by a group of local citizens led by Sausalito native Robert Conn, the Marin Headlands not only houses a wide array of interesting wildlife-such as bobcats, brown pelicans, coyotes, and hawks-but also a movable feast of visual and performing artists at the Headlands Center for the Arts; and injured sea animals within its Marine Mammal Center. There are miles of trails to trek, with views of both the Pacific Ocean and the county’s crowning glory, the Dali Lama-blessed Mount Tamalpais.

. . . and Heels . . .

Smash Shoes

The elegant heel is this store’s specialty. Because of its wide selection of designer shoes (Luciano Padovan, Claudia Ciuti, Fornarina, Taxto, 96 Hours, Onitsuka Tiger, Sigerson Morrison, L’Autre Chose, Ballin, Cole Haan) and it’s friendly and knowledgeable staff, this is a mecca for San Francisco’s shoeaholics. You, too will totter out in style.

2030 Chestnut Street  (in the Marina District, between Fillmore Street and Mallorca Way)

Shoe Biz I, II, and III

In business since 1979, this triple-location emporium considers its mission to provide stylish streetwear, flats, boots, and clubwear at budget-saving prices. Shoe Biz II is not hard to miss: known as “the Dino Store” because of the dinosaur mascot that guards its front door, you should have absolutely no problem finding it-or a pair of cute slingbacks, for that matter.

1446 Haight Street / (415)864-0990
1553 Haight Street / (415) 861-3933
1420 Haight Street / (415) 861-0313

. . . and Where to Go When You’re Through with Heels (the “man” kind)

Good Vibrations

Sex toys are the pleasure du jour of this eye-popping boutique. It’s inventory may be naughty, but its goods are presented in such a manner that you can peruse without feeling dirty for looking. Best yet, its knowledegable staff can answer all your questions-which is why Good Vibrations has a national reputation for credibility (not to mention an inexhaustible suppliy of bondage and fetish gear…)

603 Valencia Street at 23rd Street
(415) 522-5460

Hot, Haute Shopping

Chestnut Street (in the Marina District, between Lyon Street and Laguna)

  • Rabat Footwear
  • Heavenly Spa
  • William-Sonoma (homegrown gourmet cookery)
  • Books, Inc. (Best independent bookstore in San Francisco, BAR NONE; Several locations…)
  • Ovation Women’s Clothing
  • Chadwick’s of London Lingerie
  • Kimmel’s Stationery
  • Bluebird Gifts

Fillmore Street (between Jackson and California)

  • Neja Cosmetics
  • Smith & Hawken
  • Nest
  • Cielo European Clothing
  • Tojours Fine Lingerie
  • Betsey Johnson
  • My Boudoir
  • Patasseri Delanghe
  • Erica Tanov
  • Marc Jacobs
  • Mango Gelato
  • Mrs. Dewson’s Hats
  • Heidi Says Boutique

Union Street (between Steiner and Laguna)

  • Novella Spa
  • Lush Lift
  • Gity Joon (objects from around the world)
  • Plumpjack Wines (tre chic wine shoppe)
  • Enchanted Chrystal (decorative arts)
  • Twig (American Crafts)
  • Mudpie Children’s Clothing
  • A/X Armani Exchange
  • Cara Mia (cutting edge designer clothes)
  • Bebe (homegrown San Francisco sexy boutique)
  • Lulumon Athletica (yoga wear)
  • House of Cashmere
  • Jest Jewels

Union Square (San Francisco’s downtown shopping district, where Powell, Stockton, Geary, and Post intersect)

  • Macy’s
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Disney Store
  • Niketown
  • Nieman Marcus
  • Agnes b (couture)
  • Borders
  • Babette
  • 77 Maiden Lane Spa and Salon
  • Escada
  • Arcie Lingerie de Marque
  • Tiffany & Company
  • Shreve Co.
  • Richart Chocolates
  • Ecco Shoes
  • Anne Fontaine of Paris
  • Crocker Galleria (Barney’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Border Books)

Seeing, and Making the Scene

Balboa Cafe

One of the oldest saloons in San Francisco, this neighbor bar, under Plump Jack management (Getty and all that implies), has morphed into a trendy hang for tony Pacific Heights crowd. Get your girly cocktail at the elegant bar, or peruse its extensive wine list-including Plump Jack’s house varietals. Casually elegant, for sure.

3199 Fillmore Street
Phone: (415) 921-3944

Harry Denton’s Starlight Room

An adorable bon vivant who hangs with hipsters, Harry Denton has created the perfect ambiance for flirting: elegant yet intimate. On the twenty-first street of the landmark Sir Francis Drake Hotel high above Union Square, you will see the stars do twinkle outside its floor-to-ceiling windows, and the stars (the celebrity types) shine in the banquet beside you. The dance floor is ready and waiting, some sizzling jazz trio always warmed up and ready to go.

450 Powell Street (at Post) a block off Union Square
(415) 395-8595

Trendy Eats


Besides the awesome (and creatively tasty) Meatball Mondays, this Campania-inspired boite creates a mouth-watering burrata,  homemade chacuterie and salumi, as well as a maccaronara pasta with ricotta and tomato ragu that is second to none. With its casual ambiance, no wonder the bar is always packed out. And the open kitchen gives you a great view of the wood-burning stove where meals are seared to savory perfection.

2355 Chestnut Street, between Scott and Divisadero
(415) 771-2216


An institution since 1979, when it was started by the Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm, this vegetarian restaurant always has an innovative, tasty take on seasonal earthly delights. Dishes like the Yukon Gold potato and poblano chili griddle cakes, with masa hirna, scallions, cilantro, and smoked cheddar, served with fire-roasted salsa, creme fraiche, and escarole is not just filling, but bursting with flavors.  Also wonderful is the risotto with black trumpet mushrooms, leeks, savory spinach, drizzled with white-truffle oil and parmesan Reggiano.  With a view of the boats docked in the marina and the Golden Gate beyond, you’ll never feel that eating healthy means missing out.

Building A, Fort Mason Center, where Laguna dead-ends onto Marina Boulevard
(415) 771-6222

Blowfish Sush

For a hipster hangout, this sushi restaurant, on the edge of the Mission district, has a friendly casual feel. You’re sure to be mesmerized by the Japanese animé played on the large flat screen TVs that line the ultra-modern room, but don’t miss out on Blowfish’s creative Asian/Fusion menu. The presentation is always a work of art-and the taste is sublime.

2170 Bryant, cross street is 20th
(415) 771-6222


Despite its South-of-the-border name and the red and green chili lights strung from the walls, Cha Cha Cha looks like it once was: an old Irish pub. There is always a wait for one of its roomy booths (and cozy tables, for that matter) for good reason: the eats are cheap, hearty, and delicious. ChaChaCha’s take on tapas is to serve generous portions of tasty appetizers. A crisp fried calamari fritte works well with the sauteed mushrooms (in a garlic/sherry sauce) and the cajun shrimp (sautéed in a spicy cream sauce). And be sure to say “si, si,” to the fried  platanos Maduros (sweet tropical bananas, with black beans and cream sauce) and and order of black beans and rice. How do you say “heavenly” in Spanish?

2327 Mission Street
(415) 824-1502


If you’re looking for upper class and old school, then Jardiniere fits the bill. A perennial on the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 list, Traci Des Jardins was voted Best Chef-Pacific by The James Beard Foundation last year. Both the food and the ambiance does much to live up to those honors.

300 Grove Street, between Gough and Franklin
(415) 861-5555

Culture Clash

Haight Street

The Haight’s heyday was 1967’s Summer of Love. Still, that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the wish-I’d-been-there-and-done-that vibe that permeates this parkside panhandle neighborhood. And many of the original hippy haunts can still be found, including 710 Ashury (a Grateful Dead flophouse), 122 Lyon Street (Janis Joplin lived there) and 2400 Fulton Street (home of the Jefferson Airplane). Whereas some of the cool Haight shops are long gone, others have morphed into hangouts that cater to a whole new millennium love children, including Magnolia Pub and Brewery, and the Piedmont Boutique, a vintage clothing shop that allows the REAL you to all hang out-quite literally.

Corners of Haight and Ashbury Streets is where you’ll start. Branch out from there.

Magnolia Pub and Brewery

1398 Haight Street
(415) 964-PINT

Piedmont Boutique

1452 Haight Street
(415) 864-88075


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