7 Ways to Keep Cozy in San Francisco

2nd December 2009


San Francisco is a scarf and gloves town year round, especially at night, but in December the wind off the water will make you whimper. Fortunately, it’s the kind of chill that can be cured with a cup of cocoa — as opposed to, say, Chicago chill which can only be cured with something much stronger, like emergency resuscitation.

If you’re planning a visit soon, these are some of my favorite ways to keep toasty while you’re sightseeing:

1. Sip a cup of soup from scratch at the Crissy Field Center Cafe.

This place offers the same affordable organic food as Alice Water’s Warming Hut up the way, but it’s half as busy — so take your pick of tables with showstopper views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Watching the steam rise from my soup while the fog burns off over the bay always makes me feel grateful to live here.

2. Take tea at the Samovar Tea Lounge.

Watch the leaves tumble in your glass pot and warm your nose over the steam. Samovar offers a restorative selection of beautiful leaves and herbs. There are three locations now, but I’m still partial to the original, which lives in the Castro.

3. Escape the rain in City Lights Bookstore.

If you’re the kind of person who learns to love a city through its bookstores, duck in to City Lights and leave your umbrella by the door. This San Francisco institution is the city in miniature — smart, charming, and eclectic.

4. Have an all-souffle dinner at Cafe Jaqueline.

All the portions are made to share at this tiny, all-souffle restaurant, which makes it one of my favorites for dates or celebrating with a close girlfriend. Call ahead to see if you can secure a spot at one of the five or six tables. The restrooms are through the kitchen, where you’ll find a bottomless bowl of eggs resting on the counter.

5. Settle in at Bluebottle Coffee.

Worst possible neighborhood, best possible coffee. Bluebottle roasters are obsessive, so enjoy a perfect cup in one of the cutest cafes in the city. You see the people working on their computers? Remember what I said about the neighborhood? Yeah. I wouldn’t do that.

6. Watch the steam curl over your noodles at Suzu.

This small noodle place in the Japantown mall isn’t much to look at, but the fresh noodles and broth have a dedicated following. There will be a line, so parties of two or singles have better luck.

7. Stir hot chocolate brandies at Tosca.

The bar at Tosca is lined with glasses and teaspoons in anticipation of the demand for this signature cocktail. It is small and deceptively potent. Rise from your barstool to stretch every so often to make sure your sense of balance is still in working order.

Cheers. Welcome to San Francisco.

24 thoughts on “7 Ways to Keep Cozy in San Francisco

  1. Sarah

    This makes me wish I lived closer to the city, or at least that I could do a quick day trip without the guilt of either bringing the toddler (who hates the car and wouldn’t really fit in with many of the places on the list) or leaving him behind.

  2. alphafemme

    this totally reminds me to be happy about living here. and I’m 6 for 7… never been to Tosca, so I’ll have to remedy that! hot chocolate brandy, mmmm.

  3. Nora

    Today is insidiously cold. I’m sitting here on the couch with a wool blanket, knit cap, scarf and dog, and I’m still chilly.

    Oh, and not to be all promote-y, but if any SF folks want to warm up and look at art, my boyfriend has a show up at the Bean There cafe in the Lower Haight (at Steiner and Waller). Here’s a link to his art if you want to check it out before braving the chill.

  4. Melissa Summers

    one of our good friends is there right now. I just sent this along. Well played Mason. (You know, again.)

  5. Jo

    Awesome! Planning a trip to San Francisco on the 18-20th & definitely anticipating that chill — thank you for the suggestions :)

  6. Marie

    Could be worse, could be Boston. I’m moving from Cambridge to SF in 3 weeks, and am giddy at the prospect of leaving in a snowstorm and arriving in the rain. My boyfriend and I were psyching ourselves up last night- “and the food there is so good, and there are so many places to take walks, and the people who work in bagel shops are so nice, and THE WEATHER!!” Because that is how desperate we are to not have freezer-burned faces this March. Thanks for the suggestions, I’m excited to do some exploring, come 12/27 :)

  7. Karen

    Oh good golly, doesn’t that jolly? If I ever make it to San Francisco, I’ll be sure to try at least one of these lovely ideas. The brandied cocoa sounds like an antidote right about now…at 10:30am.

  8. Nicole

    Oh that all sounds lovely. I’ll be in SF in two weeks for my husband’s Ph.D. graduation at UCSF and while I am not looking forward to the cold weather, I am looking forward to the city. I might have to convince him to try some of these places.

  9. Shevon

    I (unwillingly) moved from Northern California to San Diego years ago, and while I sit in my short night gown with bare feet and look out my window at blue sunny skies, I find myself wishing I was in SF with the fog tingling my cheeks, and a huge cup of tea in my gloved palms. I’m so homesick I could cry!

  10. mydogwontbite

    i live here and i haven’t done half of these things! very excited about the noodle recommendation and the brandy hot chocolate and the souffle place…mmmmmmmm. nice, maggie! :)

  11. Aryn

    I was there for the first time in February and I’ve been begging my husband to take time off for another long weekend ever since. He really liked Bluebottle – maybe I should try bribing him with and afternoon devoted to coffee next time? ;o) thanks for all of the new suggestions, too.

  12. Clair

    Awesome list. I’d add have an Irish coffee at the Shamrock in the Sunset, while watching the fog roll through Golden Gate Park.

  13. elisabeth

    Your timing could not be more perfect! My boyfriend and I are flying into SF tomorrow morning. We don’t have big plans, as we’re on a super tight budget but we’re looking forward to exploring this city for his second and my first time.

    Thank you!

  14. norm

    This arrives just in time for me to miss the AGU Fall Meeting at the Moscone for the first time in like ten years! Alas. Hopefully it’ll be still be sound advice for next year.

    Although I’m not going to miss walking from Caltrain to Howard Street in the cold and rain, that’s for sure ;)

  15. kdblya

    We’re moving to San Francisco in a couple of weeks because we have to, and it is so good for me to hear so many people say they love it. Thanks for all the suggestions.

  16. bluejeanamy

    hurrah, thank you!

    i’ve lived here about 3 years now (new england transplant) and am still discovering things around the city. a few new treats on your list i’ll have to treat myself to. (because oh MY it suddenly just got c-h-i-l-l-y!)

    especially excited about #1 — i love crissy field and always hit up the warming hut. didn’t even know there was another option. yip yip!

  17. Sazzy

    There HAS to be a #8. Go to Buena Vista Cafe for a hot Irish Coffee!
    And this is from a former San Francisco resident who stupidly moved out East where we DO need a mild emergency resuscitation.

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