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The Inquisitive Traveler
My favorite San Francisco hotel restaurants and lounges

By Patty Burness
Photos by Bo Links


When our editor in chief, Susan Dyer Reynolds, mentioned she was writing about her favorite food dishes in 2009, I started thinking about some of my favorite hotel restaurants and bars. They have come a long way from the days when you ate anywhere but in a hotel, and now we’ve got some of the best right here in San Francisco. Check out some of my favorites …

… lounges for drinks and small bites

Poached EggThe Ritz-Carlton Bar, The Ritz-Carlton, 600 Stockton Street, 415-773-6168,
Everything about the Small Bottles/Small Bites experience at the Ritz Bar is sexy – from the menu concept to the intimate feel and rich décor to chef Ron Siegel’s innovative dishes, as well as the large selection of half bottles of wine. Don’t miss the poached quail egg with golden Osetra caviar and cedar smoke – it’s magical, especially paired with a 2006 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay. And the chocolate Manjari caramel cake with a 2005 El Molino Pinot Noir is heavenly. Sink into the leather chairs, relax and enjoy.

Redwood Room, Clift Hotel, 495 Geary Street, 415-775-4700,
Venerable redwood and a 1930s-era bar dominate the hip décor in this cool room. The Starck-designed furniture, Art Deco lights, and even the digital art blend seamlessly with the rich tone of the original wood. The hand-etched Venetian mirror on the bar is a knockout. Classy cocktails boast fresh juices and house-made simple syrups, as in the tasty lavender lemondrop and the Mandarin lemongrass martini. Crispy jerk fries, sliders, sashimi plates, and burrata brushcetta are all favorites.

… luxurious lunch spots

The Campton Place Bar and Bistro, Taj Campton Place, 340 Stockton Street, 415-781-5555,
Slip into this cozy corner of the hotel and enjoy a slice of heaven. The service is first class and friendly. The bistro menu is infused with spices and flavors from chef Srijith’s India. Try the distinctive palak paneer curry with Indian-style ricotta cheese cooked in spinach gravy, a classic cheeseburger, or the delicious sashimi platter. There are lots of choices for wine and cocktails, which you can enjoy at a small table or at the marble bar while people watching.

Silks, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 222 Sansome Street, 415-986-2020,
Marco Polo and his discoveries along the Old Silk Road are the inspirations for the sumptuous décor at Silks. The food is a blend of farm-fresh ingredients with Pacific Rim influences. The Dungeness crab starter with a soy-ginger emulsion is an explosion of flavors. Go for the Business Lunch and savor the char-grilled mahi mahi with garlic stir-fried broccolini, basil whipped potatoes, and a Thai yellow curry sauce. Pair with just the right wine and don’t miss the passion fruit crème for dessert.

… pretheater menus

Restaurant Michael Mina, The Westin St. Francis, 335 Powell Street, 415-397-9222,
Reserve one of two seatings before show time for the three-course prix fixe menu and experience the chef’s luscious cuisine. The Wolfe Ranch quail has a truffle-stuffed breast with pistachio bread pudding and a confit leg finished with pomegranate aioli. The Elysian Fields oh-so-tender lamb chop is served with an amazing lamb presse (seasoned braised breast topped with butternut squash). Choose your wines and you’re set for a delightful meal in an elegant setting. Save room for the root beer float and warm cookies for dessert.

Grand Café, Hotel Monaco, 501
Geary Street, 415-292-0101,

You’re transported to Paris in this lively brasserie where the three-course prix fixe theater menu is terrific, and the theater is only steps away. The Alsatian flammenkuche is warm and luscious with pears, candied walnuts, goat cheese cream, and a burgundy glaze on wood oven crispy flatbread. Savor the tournedos of salmon with a beurre blanc sauce, then try the bittersweet and white chocolate terrine or the Meyer lemon meringue pie, each paired with your favorite wine.

… views

Top of the MarkTop of the Mark, The Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel,
One Nob Hill, 415-392-3434,

Visit this timeless location for an only-in-San Francisco experience. Situated 19 stories up, the former penthouse offers a 50-mile panoramic view. Settle in for a complete meal or head straight to the corner bar for cocktails and small bites. Known for their 100 Martini menu, there are unusual and delicious options such as the 3Gs – vodka with lemon juice, OJ, ginger syrup, ginger ale, and ginger. Live music in the evening and a great sunset make this a prime destination.

Harry Denton’s Starlight Room,
Sir Francis Drake Hotel, 450
Powell Street, 415-395-8595,

This lofty late-night party place sits 21 floors above Union Square and boasts a nonstop view. Fuse the allure of the 1930s with the nightclub scene and you’ve got just the spot for a spirited evening. Enjoy an array of cocktails and hors d’ouevres (truffled potato chips are a must) while you kick up your heels and groove to live music, D.J.-spun hits, or recorded sounds.

… and, my favorite tiki bar

The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco, 950 Mason Street, 415-772-5278,
This iconic tiki bar and restaurant hasn’t lost a beat since opening in 1945. The tropical décor, thunder and lightning storms, and lagoon (formerly the hotel pool) make the perfect setting to sip parasol-decorated mai tais and drinks in pineapples with tasty Asian cuisine. The aloha pork ribs are luscious as is the green papaya salad, firecracker prawns and Mongolian beef tenderloin. If you can’t decide, go for the Tonga and Pacific platters. Dance the night away to the beat of the trio playing from a thatch-covered barge on the lagoon.

Patty Burness is the travel writer for Northside San Francisco. E-mail:

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