Questions about San Fran & Hawaii

So I'm heading to SF & Hawaii soon and need a few tips from my US friends on where to shop & eat. : ) I'll be in SF for a week and Hawaii for five days. My questions are mainly for the SF folks since I'll be staying there longer. (And they're mostly about food since one of my favourite pastimes is eating...)

My boyfriend & I would like to know the best (or your fave) places in San Francisco for...

  1. dim sum
  2. a Hong Kong style restaurant
  3. a good brunch/breakfast place (We'll definitely be going to iHop even though we have a location here.)
  4. other places to eat in the morning?
  1. sushi (we like all-you-can-eat places!)
  2. a pho place
  3. a good izakaya
  4. a popular restaurant everyone MUST try
  5. a popular bubble tea (boba) restaurant where people go there to sit, drink, chill, use the wi-fi, etc. (Not sure if they have those in the US??)
  6. seafood/oysters restaurant (We're thinking of going to the Fisherman's Wharf for this. We just need a good recommendation.)
We're open to anything here.  Fun foods like froyo, crepes & other desserts, unique places, etc.

We kind of have an idea of where to go since these things are easy to Google. Market St., right? And we'll probably visit a mall or two, etc. The brand name/designer stuff are what we're going for since it'll be cheaper for us in the US. I'm actually looking for the Ann Taylor Perfect Pumps, but the store locator says they don't sell shoes at the SF locations? :S

Golden Gate Bridge, Aquarium of the Bay.... etc. We're open to anything when it comes to this touristy stuff.

P.S. We'll be in downtown SF.

And for Hawaii...
We don't have many questions about Hawaii mainly because we think we're just gonna be relaxing on the beaches. We'll be staying in Kona, so if you have any suggestions for activities and restaurants, etc., please let us know!

Thank you so much for reading this and answering our questions! Feel free to email me if you have more suggestions. My boyfriend & I really appreciate your help. : )


  1. Aquarium of the Bay! I volunteered there for a senior project in high school... I had to clean tanks and whatnot. haha. Memories!

    Even though I live near SF I don't go there often enough to recommend a place to go :( I'm still a tourist there honestly!

    ooh Kona! :D Still have to go there one day. :) I'm excited to read about your trip!!!!


    dim sum - Hong Kong Lounge
    a Hong Kong style restaurant - Cafe Bakery and Restaurant
    a good brunch/breakfast place (We'll definitely be going to iHop even though we have a location here.) - Brenda French Soul Food
    other places to eat in the morning?


    a pho place - Turtle Tower
    a popular bubble tea (boba) restaurant where people go there to sit, drink, chill, use the wi-fi, etc. (Not sure if they have those in the US??) - T pumps (In San Mateo )
    seafood/oysters restaurant (We're thinking of going to the Fisherman's Wharf for this. We just need a good recommendation.) - Hog Island Oyster Co ( in Ferry Building ... still near the pier )

    Malls around SF besides Downtown .. Stonestown Galleria

  3. I just came back from SF last month! I'm also a foodie so that's mostly what I did on my trip.

    Market street is THE place to go for shopping. Chinatown is really close to there and there are a ton of dimsum places. The Ferry Building on Embarcadero is really nice for food and a morning stroll.

    I would def recommend any Thanh Long establishment and eat their garlic noodles - they're famous! There is a food truck near Presidio (where the Golden Gate Bridge is) that also has awesome garlic noodles. Also Kim Thanh for their salt-baked crab, and their garlic&scallion lobster. They have super fresh seafood in tanks out front.

    For oysters, I recommend Waterbar by the Bay Bridge. They have $1 oysters every day from 11:30am-6pm. Fisherman's Wharf is fun to walk around, but it's often too crowded to actually sit down at a restaurant to eat. Usually I just go grab clam chowder in a bread bowl there and take pictures of the sea lions.
    I recommend Japantown for good sushi and izakaya. There's a sushiboat restaurant called Isobune sushi inside the mall by the pagoda, but the fresher sushi is outside. Also near there is a really good all-you-can-eat korean BBQ restaurant (don't remember exact location but it's a few buildings away from the Shiseido store).
    Things I'd def see: Lombard street (the crookedest street) - there's always a line to drive down it, but it's fun to walk there too! Your calves will burn! Also, the Fine Arts Palace at Presidio is gorgeous, and it's right next to the Golden Gate Bridge. Alcatraz is worth a visit too; tons of history there. If you have time, Golden Gate Park (not to be confused with Presidio where the Golden Gate Bridge is located), has lots of fun things to do like a beautiful botanical garden.

    Have fun in SF! (Wow this was a very long comment!)

  4. I am not a San Francisco native, but I did visit there recently with my boyfriend so hopefully it's enough for me to leave you with a few places that we'd recommend. My boyfriend and I stayed in Japantown, so that is where I'll tell you what we found was amazing to eat at and shop at.

    For dinner we would eat at the various restaurants at Restaurant Row (in Japantown in the West/East wing mall). There is a Benihana, a sushi boat place (literally - sushi on boats), and bento boxes. We tried every restaurant there and it was absolutely amazing. It's definitely more for the experience than it was the reputation of the restaurant. Though Yelp and Foursquare are cool - not everyone shares the same experiences and similar tastebuds.

    In the East/West wing malls in Japantown, there are plenty of places that you can shop at from Daiso to Ichiban (mini convenient store). In fact, there are a lot of places for you to shop for Japanese-related things like clothing items, stationery, and adorable stuffed animals. There's even a really popular crepe place that you can't miss (a lot of people are willing to wait in line for it).

    There is always Union Square where you can shop your usual department stores both high and low end. I'd definitely check out the Nike Factory if you are into athletic wear, but there are plenty of other stores for you to look at such as Macy's, Tiffany & Co, and more. They are literally all in one area and there are plenty of places to eat at Union Square like Boudin (which for some reason I find to be on every corner - but it could have been a coincidence).

    Market Street is pretty neat as they do have malls there, but I go there to do more touristy stuff like visiting main attractions (Pier 39, Aquarium of the Bay, Ripley's Believe it or Not/Mirror Maze, etc.).

    As for Hawaii, my boyfriend (who lives in Hawaii currently) says that the one place that you should try out is Ken's House of Pancakes for breakfast and for dinner Hilo Bay. Apparently it's a hit over there.

    I hope you have fun!


  5. I use to live in SF and am there almost every weekend.

    dim sum - Hong Kong lounge. There is usually a long wait but it is worth it.
    a good brunch/breakfast place - Zazie, B Star (I frequently brunch here since its close by to where my bf lives)

    sushi - it is not all-you-can-eat but definitely worth it is Okina Sushi. Opened only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays the fish is super fresh and its a very chill traditional style.
    a pho place - there are many pho places and all are decently priced: Yummy Yummy in the Sunset district, for a north vietnamese style pho Quan Bac in the Inner Richmond, Turtle tower, Pho Garden (can do the pho challenge), and in the Tenderloin you will find a lot of pho places as well.
    a popular restaurant everyone MUST try - If you like crab, you MUST try R&G Lounge in Chinatown.
    a popular bubble tea (boba) restaurant where people go there to sit, drink, chill, use the wi-fi, etc. - There are tons of Quickly's throughout the city. I generally frequent the one in inner richmond but again, you will find them just about anywhere.

    seafood/oysters restaurant (I have never been, but I think there is a Hog's Oyster at the Embarcadero area. I have been to Hog's in Napa and it was my first time trying oysters. It also converted me. I believe the oysters are locally grown just north of SF)

    We're open to anything here. Fun foods like froyo, crepes & other desserts, unique places, etc.
    - Places I can recommend are: The Ice Cream Bar, Japanese Crepes at Sophie's Crepes in Japantown or Genki Crepes in Inner Richmond, there's a pinkberry that opened up in Union Square/downtown area,

    - The Gaultier gallery at De Young is up until August 19 so if you can catch it. De Young itself and Legion of Honor are great museums to visit. Walking across Golden Gate Bridge is always fun and going up to Twin Peaks gives you a nice view of the City. Other touristy things that have probably already been mentioned are: Pier 39, Alcatraz, Chinatown, Ghirardelli square.

  6. When I visited San Fran years ago my favorite tourist attraction was Alcatraz. I think I did a guided walking tour.

    Have fun!

  7. I grew up in the SF Bay Area, but am creature of habit, so I don't know a lot of the new happening places and I'm really looking fwd to the responses here.

    HK cafe - I like to judge based on milk tea, and at the moment my favorite is Washington Bakery & Restaurant in Chinatown.

    brunch/breakfast - Farm:Table by Union Square is a pretty unique little spot for a quick breakfast/lunch. Small servings but everything is very fresh.

    pho - If you venture into Tenderloin, it's all good. I rarely do, so I just go to Golden Star Vietnamese Restaurant in Chinatown.

    sushi - not all-you-can-eat and not in SF, but my favorite at the moment is Ichiro in Oakland (walking distance from BART station).

    seafood/oysters restaurant - Swan's Oyster Depot is one of the best in terms of quality and value, but Hog Island Oyster Co (in Ferry Building) is definitely famous for oysters and they have half price happy hour Mon-Thu 5-7.

    popular restaurant - House of Prime Rib if you like steak/meat. The meal comes with amazing sides. They get booked, so make reservations now!

    boba cafe - There are tons of these, but I think all are mediocre. I like Teaway, b/c you can add your own "toppings" (boba, tapioca, pudding, jelly, etc.).

    other - I love coffee and Philz Coffee (multiple locations) is probably my favorite coffeeshop/cafe. I crave their Mint Mojito Iced Coffee and their Jacob's Wonderbrew (hot w/ cream & sugar). For unique delicious sandwiches, Ike's Place in Castro/Mission. For ice cream, Bi-Rite Creamery in the Mission. You can even go to all 3 of the above in one round and sit at Dolores Park. When in Chinatown, go to Golden Gate Bakery and get egg tarts (if they have french roll/bun, get a few of those, too).

    Shopping - Union Square (Market Steet) is really all you need, but sometimes sale items might be cheaper at Stonestown. Keep in mind, sales tax is cheaper in Hawaii.

    Things to do - Twin Peaks is my favorite site seeing spot in SF with 360 view of the city (go on a clear day before sunset...enough sunlight for some photos and then oh so beautiful/romantic during sunset).

    Hope you have a great time!

  8. I recommend to get the Yelp App on your phone....I love San Fran....Shopping will be fantastic downtown...Don't forget to check out Fisherman's Wharf...alcatraz...and if you like wine book a tour to napa Valley.

  9. How exciting that you're visiting SF!

    I recommend Mama's for breakfast but you have to wake up super early to get in line since the wait gets crazy long! Another great brunch place is Zazie.

    Another place that I highly recommend is a sandwich place called Ike's Place. I've waited on average, an hour for their sandwiches but it's very well worth the wait!

    If you get a chance to go to Japantown, I recommend getting Sophie's Crepes. They make the best sweet crepes I've ever had :)

    Other random restaurant suggestions:

    -Marnee Thai for Thai food
    -Koo for Japanese :)


    As for things to do, I really like Turtle Hill aka Grandview Park and Golden Gate Park!

    I think that's all I have for suggestions. I hope you'll enjoy SF! :)

  10. Bi-Rite Creamery!!! I was in SF last year and I am STILL craving their salted caramel ice cream! DROOOOOOLLLLLL. There's usually a line, but it is sooooo worth it. I promise!

  11. No suggestions from me, but please do a post of your trip! I want to see where you went, and more importantly, what you ate :D

  12. No problem, glad I can help. You are right that Tenderloin is a shadier area. I have been there many times and find it is safe during the day/evening as there are many people around. There are a lot of homeless people who will stop and ask for money, which turns many people off. As with all cities you just need to be careful with your belongings and be aware of your surroundings. Other than the Tenderloin, I think the Inner Richmond and Inner Sunset district have a lot of good pho places too and would be much more pleasant to walk around as there are usually other cafes/shops within close proximity that you can stop by. Hope that helps. You will have fun in SF, there is always something to do.

  13. Everything we head up to northern California we try to stop by San Francisco. We usually just go sight seeing. My husband love cioppino's and San Fransciso is the only place so far that make good cioppino. The resturant we usual go to is Cioppino which is along Fishwerman's Wharf.

  14. Thank you, everyone, for all of your detailed recommendations. There were a lot of overlapping suggestions, which helped me decide which ones I had to visit. I'm making my whole itinerary based on everything you've suggested. I'll make sure to take lots of pics for you to see!

  15. Born and raised San Franciscan here :) but currently living in the East Coast right now.
    For dim sum: I recommend Yank Sing (featured on Food Network).
    Breakfast/Brunch: Mama's (the wait is kinda long though but def worth the wait)
    For bakery: I recommend Golden Gate Bakery. If you like daan tat (egg tarts) this is the place to go. There is usually a line but definitely worth the wait.
    Bubble tea: Wonderful Food Co on Irving (really legit, like taiwanese style)
    Shopping: Downtown. Goyard, All Saints, Bloomies, Barneys, Tory Burch, Prada, Gucci are all near by one another. Btw, if you are into Uniqlo, we just opened one! FYI, theres a Ann Taylor in the Embarcadero and they sell the perfect pumps.
    Oh yeah, if you are into food trucks and good food, make sure you go to Off the Grid SF.

    & Lastly, remember to take the cable car. Get the weekly pass (its more worth it!)

    Have fun!

  16. Long time reader, first time commenter from Hawaii (Oahu, though)

    Don't forget to eat Hawaiian food and other local specialties. Here are some things you won't find anywhere else:

    Luau food:
    Lau Lau
    Kalua Pig
    Lomi Lomi Salmon
    Chicken Long Rice

    Only in Hawaii:
    Spam Musubi
    Loco Moco
    Meat Jun (at all the Koeran BBQs)
    "Plate Lunch"
    Portuguese Sausage, eggs and rice for breakfast (You can even get this at McDonalds)
    POG (Passion Orange Guava juice)

    And since you'll be in Kona, get yourself some 100% Kona Coffee!

  17. Hi! I'm a blogger who lives in SF, so perhaps I can help. :)

    A few ideas for some of the categories you mentioned----

    dim sum - Yank Sing
    a good brunch/breakfast place -


    sushi -

    a pho place - Pho Garden has a pho challenge (1 lb. of meat, 1 lb. of noodles, 1 lb. of broth) - if you can finish it in X amount of min, your bowl is free

    a good izakaya - I love izakayas! There's izakaya sozai in SF (though it's a bit of a hole in the wall). If you can make it to the South Bay (CalTrain perhaps?), my absolute favorites are: Gochi in Cupertino, Tanto in Sunnyvale, En in Santa Clara

    a popular restaurant everyone MUST try - This one is tough... too many to list! For nicer dinners: Gary Danko, French Laundry (if you can make it up to Napa wine country and are splurging for a special occasion)

    a popular bubble tea (boba) restaurant where people go there to sit, drink, chill, use the wi-fi, etc. - Yup, these are popular! My favorite is Verde in Mt. View since they use real fruit in some of their slushee bob as

    seafood/oysters restaurant (We're thinking of going to the Fisherman's Wharf for this. We just need a good recommendation.) - Hog Island Oyster Co. at the ferry building is good!


    For something more unique - Forbes Island is a cute restaurant on a floating, man-made island with a lighthouse (you take a ferry out from SF to get there - it's a short 10-15 min ferry ride), Foreign Cinema is a cool restaurant where you can sit in the courtyard and watch a foreign film while you eat, Supper Club lets you eat dinner in giant beds (though the food is just OK in my opinion), and Asia SF serves Asian fusion food while you watch hot trannies dance on a bar. There's also Stinking Rose, a garlic-themed restaurant. It's slightly touristy, but I do like their garlic ice cream (maybe an acquired taste)! Speaking of unusual ice cream, you can also try some interesting flavors at Humphrey Slocombe (secret breakfast, salt and pepper ice cream, etc.). There's also Teatro Zinzanni - it's a circus dinner show. On Friday nights, there's also a large Food Truck Festival at Off the Grid.

    There's shoes at the Ann Taylor at the Embarcadero Center in SF - I've bought some perfect pumps from there in the past (not sure if they have the pair you want at the moment, though, so you may want to call ahead).

    The Union Square and Westfield areas are best for mainstream SF shopping. If you can manage to get out of SF, there's decentoutlet shopping up in Vacaville, down in Milpitas, and in Gilroy.

    Too many to list! :)

    If you can get out of the city - Napa for wine tasting tours (check out Castello di Amorosa especially, a winery/castle, do wine tastings, and book a hot air balloon ride), Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk, a tour of Stanford University in Palo Alto (I'm biased.. I went to university there ;)

    In SF itself, a fun thing to do is to take a segway tour and ride up and down the hills that way...I did one with Electric Tour Company once. For museums, there's plenty - there are nightlife events on Thursdays at the Exploratorium, Academy of Sciences, and MoMa, where you can drink cocktails and look at the exhibits. If you're looking for a place to go out at night, my favorite bar is Bourbon and Branch. It's built in an old library and you go through a bookshelf (with a password) to get through to a secret back room (must book ahead online).

    Hope this helps, and I'd love to hear where you end up on your trip! Feel free to drop me a line if you need more recs! :)

    Love, S

    I'm hosting a giveaway at my blog! Enter via link above

  18. Just wanted to come back and say thank you again, to those who posted after my previous thank you post!

    I can't wait to go through these suggestions to complete my itinerary! I hope to reply most of you individually when I get the chance. : )

    If anyone knows a good ramen place, feel free to suggest one or two! :D

  19. Ooh yes! The best ramen by far is in the South Bay (a drive or CalTrain ride from SF). My favorites are in this order: Ramen Dojo (spicy garlic pork ramen) in San Mateo, Orenchi Ramen in Santa Clara, Santouka in San Jose if you can make it down there! There's a few places in SF, but they're not as good, sadly (in my opinion) - such as Katana-ya and Ramen Underground. Hope this helps! :)

    Love from SF, S

    I'm hosting a giveaway at my blog in case you'd like to enter. :)