Steep hills, swanky hotels, cable cars, and historical buildings make up the signature San Francisco neighborhood of Nob Hill. Once home to the mansions of the Big Four railroad barons, Nob Hill is full of beautiful architecture and sweeping views. The neighborhood runs from Broadway Street to Bush Street and Van Ness to Powell Street, and, true to its name, is one of the hillier districts of the city.
After living in the area for 3+ years, I feel like it's the perfect place to feature in my first San Francisco Neighborhood Guide! These guides will give you an insider's tips on the best way to enjoy each neighborhood, broken into four categories: Eat, Drink, Walk, and See.
Best for Breakfast
Mymy - there's always a long line at this popular brunch spot, but it's worth it. My husband and I came here over the holidays, when the city was quieter, and were able to skip the usual long wait. Oh my goodness, everything we had was so good.
Basik Cafe - açaí bowl lovers, this is your spot. We default to Basik for a "healthy" weekend breakfast. I love the Islander (with extra almonds) and my husband loves the Banyan (with extra peanut butter on top). I'm not actually sure how healthy these bowls are (hello, sugar!), but they're delicious. The line gets pretty long on the weekend, so be prepared to wait.
Best for Lunch
Hot Sauce & Panko - this hole in the wall takeout restaurant specializes in one thing: chicken wings. And they do chicken wings really, really well. We've tried everything on the menu, and our favorites are the satay, green, and Korean flavors.
Za - the best no frills neighborhood spot. The pizza is pretty good, but not outstanding. I like to go here more for the vibe of the place - maybe because it reminds me of something that would be in the town I grew up in.
Best for Dinner
Venticello - hands down my favorite spot for pasta in the city. It's all homemade, never changes, and is always good. The rest of the menu is great, too, but I always default to the fettuccini, and Garrett goes for the Carbonara. It's a beautiful, intimate, romantic restaurant - great for a date night or family dinner.
Harris' Steakhouse - this is the best steak in the city. We love going here for special occasions, celebratory dinners, or just when we have a mean hankering for red meat. We prefer to sit on the bar side - there's usually live music - and even better, at the bar itself.
Del Popolo - I love this pizza spot! They have a pizza truck, too, but I prefer the stuff made at the restaurant. Beautiful dark green walls and flaming brick oven make this place cozy and warm on a typically cool San Francisco night.
Swan Oyster Depot - okay, this is the one spot on my list that I haven't been to, but I'll get there soon! It's a tiny hole in the wall restaurant with only 12 counter seats - so a line forms pretty quickly. It's been featured on numerous Food Network shows, has the best of the best fresh seafood, and has a secret menu for regulars (which, unfortunately, I am not).
Over are the days of us staying out late into the night getting drunk off of cheap liquor and beer. (Well, for the most part. There are some exceptions.) Below are my favorite spots for after-work cocktails and pre-dinner drinks. And, okay, okay, one recommendation for a late night bar.
The Big Four - think swanky, dark, old-world charm with mahogany walls and green leather upholstered chairs. We especially love going here during the holiday season for a cocktail or two (as a stop on our Nob Hill hotel bar crawl). The burger is pretty great here - but at $18, definitely worth splitting between two people.
Top of the Mark - on the 19th floor of the Mark Hopkins Hotel, this lounge can be touristy, but has always been a favorite of mine. With sweeping 360º views of the city, it's a great spot to bring out of town visitors.
Tonga Room - my one late-night spot on the list! In the basement of the Fairmont Hotel, the entrance is a little...odd, but don't let that fool you. Complete with a pool and fake rain, this tiki bar is fun for a night of rum cocktails and dancing.
Sure, this part of the city is full of steep hills. But the quad workout is worth it, especially if it's followed by a carb-heavy meal at Venticello or Del Popolo. Really, though, Nob Hill is full of wonderful little vistas that will make your hike worthwhile. Here are some of my favorite streets to walk along—flat and steep alike—for their views, neighborhood charm, or great little local spots to stop in on.
Hyde Street - oh, Hyde Street, you're so beautiful. With your cable car tracks and arching trees lining your streets, you're represent the best of San Francisco.
Polk Street - full of restaurants, bars, boutiques and book shops, Polk Street is the perfect place to wander around for an afternoon. Plus, it's (remotely) flat!
Huntington Park - located at the top of Nob Hill and nestled between Grace Cathedral, the Pacific-Union Club, and the big hotels, this park is picture pretty and often full of cute dogs and happy families.
Cable Car Museum - learn all about the iconic San Francisco cable cars in one place with a collection of cars, photographs, and mechanical displays - then hop on one for a ride.
Grace Cathedral - a beautiful, Gothic style Episcopal cathedral famed for its stained glass windows, labyrinths, and many other wonderful features (including an AIDS Chapel altar piece), Grace Cathedral is a worthwhile stop - whether you're doing yoga on the labyrinth, attending mass, or just popping in randomly.
So there it is - my guide to the best of Nob Hill. I hope you get out there and enjoy this beautiful neighborhood soon!