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.