San Francisco Neighborhood Stroll: Pac Heights

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Approaching San Francisco with clear skies.

San Francisco is often referred to as a walking city. As someone who is accustomed to the level land of New York, (the steepest hill I can recall is the slight escalation of Park Avenue in the low 60s), I might classify San Fran as a hiking city. Good thing, however, because with the amount of incredible eats around town, a built-in thigh master is practically a necessity.

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Coit Tower in the distance

Because a map of San Francisco does not forewarn which streets are strenuously steep and which are only mildly challenging, I did as the locals do and pretended not to notice the hills as I traversed the city. With the exception of Chinatown, I quite enjoyed my explorations. I enjoy the spaciousness; I do not need to step sideways to let hoards of people pass, and I can walk many a peaceful block with only a handful of passersby. For a city that offers so much, it feels remarkably relaxed and uncompressed. It’s inhabitants are intelligent, extroverted, and hard-working, but their laid-back demeanors have enabled a well-balanced lifestyle. They seem to be the antithesis of perpetually stressed New Yorkers.

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Popped into a cheerful flower shop in Pac Heights..

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Shopping on Union Street.

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Cinemascope-ready Pacific Heights

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Dutiful dogs waiting for their owners outside Lower Pacific Heights shops

The Pacific Heights outpost of Delfina Pizzeria is packed at all hours of the day. Although this location doesn’t have the same selection as the original Delfina in the Mission (apparently they have the world’s best pasta and red sauce dish), you are sure to be hit with menu indecisiveness. If you can’t get a table, non ti preoccupare; order a pizza porta via (to go) and enjoy your clam pie in nearby Alta Plaza Park. Also try Locanda, chef Anthony Strong’s newest Roman restaurant at Valencia and 16th.

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Delfina

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Delfina

If you live near Cottage Row, or if you are simply a sweet tooth in the know, you probably start your day with a brown butter cinnamon bun from Baker & Banker, an unassuming, wildly popular bakery and cafe. I was unabashedly elated to have stumbled upon its quaint pink signpost after a local highly recommended it. Unfortunately, I made my discovery in the late afternoon, when the baked goods were picked over and the ovens were shut down for the day. The young lady at the counter suggested that I return the next morning at opening for the freshest selection.

I made a point to arrive first thing Sunday morning. I wasn’t the only one. About 6 other neighborhood locals were eagerly awaiting the opening of the blinds as well, two of whom I had just seen jogging up and down nearby hills. “First we run, then we get our almond brioche toast,” the athletic one said. It was slightly refreshing to see athletic people allowing themselves the occasional sweet.

Chocolate chip and pecan sticky buns sell out first. Brown butter cinnamon rolls are equally popular. Seasonal scones vary from apricot white chocolate pecan, to double cherry and candied hazelnut, to fig and candied ginger. Warm muffins include nectarine raspberry crisp, raspberry chocolate chip, and peach strawberry. The list of divine goodies goes on. Be sure to have an equally divine dinner at the romantic cafe adjacent to the bakery. The menu is made up of local and sustainable ingredients from nearby farms, and of course the desserts are not one bite short of phenomenal.

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Macaroons the size of my hand at Baker & Banker


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