San Francisco: Union Square and Japantown

San Francisco is the closest large city to our hometown, making it our go-to destination for culture, major shopping, and of course a glass of bubbly (or two). We were recently in the city for a quick overnight trip. We arrived just in time to meet up with a friend for happy hour and dinner. The next day we made a few necessary shopping stops and then we headed to Japantown for a day of culture, shopping, and tasty (and some funky) treats. Here is what we were up to!

xxx Ivy & Eve

Stay: We typically stay around Union Square which is the shopping hub of the city. It is easily accessible from the highway, and from here you just grab a taxi to anywhere in the city.

  • Clift Hotel-  The Clift has a modern glamorous vibe. The lobby is larger than life with whimsical and eclectic furnishings and two hotel bars that go from quiet and casual in the day, to lively and trendy at night. We booked through Expedia and since the Clift is an Expedia VIP+ hotel, we enjoyes a free upgrade to a deluxe city view room, late check out, and two free drinks at the bar! The room was well appointed with comfortable and slightly glamorous furnishings and a nice city view even though our bathroom was a bit tight. This is typical of San Francisco Hotels though- as the buildings tend to be pretty old. Overall a great place to crash after a night out! This was our first time staying at the Clift and we will definitely be staying here again. 
 Plenty of cool chairs to pose in!

Plenty of cool chairs to pose in!

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Eat/Drink: These are the places we stopped by on this trip. This is by no means our only recommendations! 

  • Farallon- This is our favorite place to eat and drink in San Francisco, hands down. Located just a block off of Union Square, Farallon is buzzing with locals and tourists alike for their ridiculously fresh coastal cuisine and an incredible happy hour. Our go-to picks are a few plates of 1/2 dozen oysters, charcuterie board, truffled parmesan fries, and a few glasses of sparkling rosé: each $7. We dare you to find a better deal!
  • Brazen Head- We just discovered this hidden gem in the Cow Hollow/Marina district. This restaurant and bar has an old school vibe with dark wood paneling and stained glass windows. The food has a French flair and the drinks are stiff. This is a cozy spot to catch up with friends or hide away from the tourist crowd. 
  • Rambler- Recently opened this spot is part of Hotel Zeppelin near Union Square. We had a wonderful early brunch here. Ivy ordered the cinnamon currant french toast with poached pears and ricotta while Eve noshed on the smoked salmon and fromage blanc toast. We shared a gigantic pot of french press coffee and mimosas. YUM.
  • Nespresso (90 Grant Ave.)- This is technically a store but the Grant Avenue location has a small coffee lounge on the first floor which serves specialty coffee drinks, fresh baked pastries, and you guessed it...bubbly. We head downstairs first to test out the newest coffee blends (free tastings!), buy pods for our machines back home, and then once we has sufficiently caffeinated head upstairs for a pastry and a glass of bubbly. What more could you ask for!
 Happy Hour at Farallon...cheers!

Happy Hour at Farallon...cheers!

 Brunch at Rambler.

Brunch at Rambler.

 Coffee tasting at Nespresso

Coffee tasting at Nespresso

Japantown: After brunch, we headed to Japantown, the oldest and largest of the three "official" Japantowns in the U.S. and is full of quirky shops, tasty treats, and a unique community. The entire district encompasses just 6 blocks which makes it easily manageable to visit in a day. We love going here because everyone always seems SO happy...how could you not be happy when you are full of sushi and mochi!

  • Japan Center Mall and Peace Pagoda- Japantown is centered round a five tiered concrete pagoda gifted to San Francisco by their sister city, Osaka in 1968. On either side of the Peace Pagoda is the Japan Center Mall (East and West). Inside you will find shops, restaurants, and specialty stores. It is a perfect place to spend a rainy day. 
  • Nippon-Ya- Japan Center West. This specialty shop sells a variety of mochi, cookies, tea and gifts. The packaging itself make you want to buy everything in sight. We always buy a few boxes to bring home and share with our family. Bonus: they usually have a box of two at the counter to sample!
  • Chocolate Chair- Located inside the Japan Center West, this shop sells boba tea, made to order nitrogen ice cream, and the infamous Dragons Breath! Dragons Breath is essentially large balls of cereal (tastes a lot like Trix) which they dip in liquid nitrogen. This instantly freezes the cereal and makes them "smoke". When you eat them, the smoke comes out of your mouth and nose making you look like a dragon! While it wasn't the tastiest thing we have had in Japantown, it was super fun to eat. 
  • Kui Shin Bo- Japan Center East. This tiny restaurant is located in Japan Center East. It has a cozy laid back feel and delicious food for a great price. Eve ordered the Takoyaki (savory pancake balls filled with bits of octopus) and shabu shabu (traditional Japanese hot pot with veggies and thin sliced beef). Ivy ordered a Red Dragon Roll and miso soup. We both had a glass of the house wine which was very drinkable and only $4! 
  • Daiso- Japan Center East. Here, you can find everything from sake sets to impossibly cute stationary to false eyelashes. We can spend hours in this shop and the best part is almost everything is $1.50!
 Japantown Peace Pagoda

Japantown Peace Pagoda

 Mochi dreamland!

Mochi dreamland!

 Billions of adorable bento boxes.

Billions of adorable bento boxes.

 DRAGONS BREATH at Chocolate Chair!

DRAGONS BREATH at Chocolate Chair!

 Tasty traditional Japanese lunch spot!

Tasty traditional Japanese lunch spot!

 We love how the Peace Pagoda lights up at night!

We love how the Peace Pagoda lights up at night!