Like an urban jewel box, San Francisco has a treasure trove of hidden, local gems that lay waiting to be discovered. Even repeat visitors find themselves constantly trying to keep up with the latest farm-to-fabulous bistro, playful speakeasy or pocket park tucked into a leafy neighborhood. We know, so many neighborhood acronyms–NOPA (North of the Panhandle), SOMA (South of Market), et al.–but where do you start?
One of the city’s most buzz-worthy enclaves–a rarefied trifecta where The Fillmore, Pacific Heights and Japantown neighborhoods meet–may not have the acronym du jour, but we think it’s worth exploring. Here’s our shortlist of haute spots to get you started:
Head south into Japantown where an enticing tableau of ramen shops, sushi bars, pagodas and quirky storefronts backed by a J-Pop soundtrack give you sensory dislocation of the very best kind–it’s like Japan without the jet lag.
- Peace Pagoda: Japantown’s signature site, this five-story pagoda was designed by famed architect Yoshiro Taniguchi. (Japantown)
- Kinokuniya Bookstore: Located in the Kinokuniya Mall, this Japan-fan wonderland is filled with books and magazines covering everything from the latest graphic novels to tomes on samurai culture. (Japantown)
- Ichiban Kan: A collector’s delight of thousands of products straight from Japan, like animal-shaped lunchboxes, ceramics, cooking supplies, cosmetics and mobile phone charms and accessories. Some are must-haves, others too kawaii (cute) to pass up. (Japantown)
To the west, the beat goes on in the Fillmore, where the ghosts of beatniks, Deadheads and jazz legends define a lo-fi texture that continues to riff in new and creative ways. This is where to find anything from a cozy jazz joint where Duke blew and Billie crooned to a Michelin-starred restaurant.
- Fillmore Auditorium: This iconic concert venue continues to draw crowds with shows featuring major headliners, up-and-comers and comedy legends. (Fillmore)
- Social Study: Hip lounge that serves gourmet coffee and pastries by day, and craft beer and California wine by night. Taco Tuesdays are also popular with the local crowd. (Fillmore)
- State Bird Provisions: Book way ahead to score a table at this famously popular Michelin-starred restaurant. Walk-ins are also accepted, so another option is to line up early and hope for a little Fillmore magic. Can’t wait? Try their sister restaurant, The Progress, which can be easier to wiggle into and is right next door. (Fillmore)
North points you to Pacific Heights (Pac Heights for short) and its immaculately restored Victorians perched on leafy lanes interspersed with trendy designer boutiques, cushy cafes serving addictive cappuccinos and hip galleries.
- Jane: Popular cafe that’s a favorite spot for locals to sip and surf the web while enjoying top-shelf coffee, teas, pastries and salads. (Pacific Heights)
- SPQR: Celebrated local chef Matthew Accarrino’s award-winning take on modern Italian cuisine. (Pacific Heights)
- Alta Plaza Park: Meditative spaces under large shade trees, inviting expanses of grass and beautiful Pac Heights and bay views make this the quintessential San Francisco hilltop park. Come for the amazing views, stay for events like Pug Sunday (a pug-fest, first Sunday of the month).
And the perfect launchpad for your urban escapades? Tucked away next to Japantown you’ll find The Kimpton Buchanan, a boutique pied-à-terre that is indeed all that.
Recently renovated and new to the Kimpton family, The Buchanan is a property awash in a stylish, hyper-local vibe that somehow manages to deftly integrate influences of each neighborhood. It’s a bento box full of Japanese cultural touchstones: lobby accents rendered from charred Japanese whiskey barrels alongside hand-dyed indigo textiles and earthy pottery deftly infuse the property with a distinctly Eastern ambiance.
Unpretentious “maker” quality fabrics and textures including natural linen, crisp cotton and worn natural leather echo the soulful, indie attitude of the musically-inclined Fillmore. And plush leather furniture, oriental rugs, and bespoke oil paintings speak to the posh upper-crust vibe of Pacific Heights.
A residential-inspired ambiance imbues the entire hotel, from intimate social spaces like the private courtyard to chic guestrooms designed to evoke that urban oasis you’ve always wanted. Curated under the direction of local designer NICOLEHOLLIS, the hotel also showcases the work of local artists including Kelly Ording.
Put it all together and you have a deliciously authentic experience, with the hotel’s extended living room (a.k.a. said trifecta) right outside the front door.