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Welcome to a world of travel, entertainment and culture, curated from a global collective of writers, photojournalists and artists. Each article of our award-winning magazine is sure to inspire, no matter which of our destinations you call home.
 
 
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Financial District, San Francisco

27 November 2016

Words: Marina Kay / Images: Vincent Long

San Francisco’s central business district looks like a virtual checkerboard. Block after block, dot-com headquarters – Uber, Yelp, Twitter, Airbnb, Salesforce – occupy pricey squares of real estate. Though tech brands lay claim to bricks and mortar, the city keeps a firm grip on its architectural riches. Nowhere is this more keenly felt than in the Financial District, where well-preserved buildings, symbols of a bygone era, impress with marble facades, Corinthian columns and ornate lampposts sheathed in patina. The Transamerica Pyramid and Pacific Stock Exchange may house new tenants (the latter is occupied by luxury fitness company, Equinox), but their magnificent exteriors remain unchanged.

Aside from the district’s beautiful streets, perhaps the ultimate throwback is its vintage cable car that rolls from the top of California Street all the way down to the Embarbadero. Built in the 1800s, now buoyed by modern technology, this popular attraction proves that you can’t pin a price on simple thrills.

MICHAEL MINA

Here’s the thing about the Financial District: it bustles by day, but at night the action transitions inside. Such is the case with Michael Mina, a Michelin-starred restaurant that requires reservations even on Sundays. The celebrity chef’s eponymous flagship – all high ceilings, solid columns, dim lighting, large mirrors – is serious about food, but has fun making it. An inventive prix fixe menu, only offered at dinner, lists three courses comprised of signature dishes as well as seasonal trios, meaning the chef presents a key ingredient three ways. For example, in summer, wild Atlantic striped bass arrives with a bounty of sides, such as Kadota fig, basil and pistachio; corn, pepper and Meyer lemon; and heirloom tomato, scallion and red miso. Come dessert, the Valrhona chocolate platter closes things out in some considerable style. The chef’s presence shines throughout and the table service deserves a gold star.

252 California Street

San Francisco

CA 94111

Tel: +1 415 397 9222

michaelmina.com

Also in the area...

The Treasury

A gilded bar tucked in the historic Standard Oil building. Relax with a pre-dinner cocktail – the Rich & Rugged mixes ‘Prohibition’ whiskey, blackberry and black pepper shrub and lemon.

200 Bush Street #101
San Francisco
CA 94104
Tel: +1 415 578 0530
thetreasurysf.com

CITY LIGHTS BOOKSTORE

Before Amazon, before social media, before online chat rooms, bookstores encapsulated the zeitgeist. When poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin founded City Lights in 1953, their shop became the gathering spot for the Beat generation, including author Jack Kerouac, whose titles still stand front and centre (Kerouac describes this shop in the opening pages of Big Sur). Today, City Lights holds sway over three storeys – it feels like a giant treehouse bound together by uneven staircases and floorboards that creak underfoot.

The literary landmark keeps good company with the extensive selection of politics, philosophy, spiritual and out of print titles; it has also stocked its own collection, Pocket Poets Series, since 1955. This is arguably America’s best independent bookstore, and everything from the staff recommendations (pithy reviews typed on cards) to groups debating poetry between bookshelves will have you lingering past the midnight closing hour.

261 Columbus Avenue

San Francisco

CA 94133

Tel: +1 415 362 8193

citylights.com

16 Stoddart Street

citylights.com

Also in the area...

Beat Museum

Located in an area once filled with beatniks, the independently-run museum pays homage to the 1950s generation of artists through its extensive collection of memorabilia.

540 Broadway
San Francisco
CA 94133
Tel: +1 415 399 9626
kerouac.com

MINAMOTO KITCHOAN

Fans of traditional Japanese sweets – or wagashi – get their fix at this quaint confectionery store, a welcome respite from the hubbub of Market Street. Polished glass counters display colourful selections of individually wrapped desserts, all imported from Japan, including the popular yokan, a jellied adzuki bean paste first introduced in the 14th century by Zen priests. Green tea lovers must sample the maccha mochi, a tender, chewy rice ball filled with red bean paste, then dusted with matcha powder. Another rendition of the red bean mochi ball is kurogoma ohagi, delicious for its outer layer of black sesame seeds. Decorative canisters, packed with loose leaf green tea sourced from Kyoto, Chiran (Kagoshima), and Shizuoka, pass for tableware. And Japan’s love of Swiss-style cakes comes in the form of kasutera, a light sponge flavoured with vanilla, green tea, or chocolate. Online shopping is available.

648 Market Street

San Francisco

CA 94104

Tel: +1 415 989 1645

kitchoan.com


Also in the area...

Blue Bottle Coffee

This local coffee chain elevates coffee-making to theatre. Try a Hayes Valley espresso, named in honour of the brand’s very first kiosk location.

115 Sansome Street
San Francisco
CA 94104
Tel: +1 510 653 3394

bluebottlecoffee.com

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