(This is part of an email interview series we’re sharing this week in advance of WWDC. Since so many people come in from out of town to attend the conference, we thought it would be helpful and fun to get some advice from long-time attendees and SF residents about how to make the most of your trip to the Bay Area)
We pinged Buzz Andersen (@buzz) for his thoughts on the topic. As a long-time WWDC attendee, former SF resident and established food and drink connoisseur we knew he’d have a great set of recommendations for us. We’re sad he won’t be making the trip this year but we’ll frequent a few of his favorite haunts in his honor.
Are you going stay near the Moscone Center when you’re in town for WWDC?
I usually stay with my brother, who lives in the Mission–partly because it’s cheaper, but partly because it’s a more interesting neighborhood. I think it’s kind of a sad thing about San Francisco that most of the hotels are in places (generic SOMA, the crack-addled Tenderloin) that don’t give visitors the best impression of the place.
What ONE place would you say WWDC attendees from outside of the Bay Area have to go?
As other people have said, I think it really behooves WWDC attendees to try to get out of the SOMA/Tenderloin area at least once. To a lot of people who attend WWDC year after year, that area basically *is* San Francisco, which is too bad because the city has a lot more to offer.
It’s hard to pick one thing, but when I was working for Square and flying out to SF every 6 weeks or so, I had kind of a tradition of taking the N Judah out to Ocean Beach every Sunday to have a cappuccino at Trouble Coffee, brunch at Outerlands, check out a few shops I like out there (General Store and Mollusk Surf Shop), and then walk along the beach up to the Cliff House. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even walk back through Golden Gate park and catch the N in the Haight. It’s exactly the kind of uniquely California experience you want out a visit to SF.
What is your favorite place to grab a drink and run into random WWDCers?
That’s a tricky question, because a lot of my favorite bars in SF aren’t exactly the best places for mass socializing. Rickhouse, which is run by the same people who own craft cocktail institution Bourbon & Branch, is a good bet not too far from the Moscone Center. It offers quality cocktails and great bartenders, but has enough space for casual group socializing.
One of my personal favorite bars in SF, Mr. Lew’s Win Win Bar & Grand Sazerac emporium appears to be closed for a reboot – Bill Couch and others from Twitter recommend Local Edition in its stead. They take walk-ins but reservations are recommended – make them here.
Smuggler’s Cove, a tiki-ish bar near the Civic Center (and thus a bit further afield for WWDC attendees) is also becoming a perennial WWDC favorite, and justifiably so. It’s a decent sized place and thus can accommodate large groups, and umbrella drinks always guarantee a high fun (and drunk) factor.
If you could lead a field trip for 15 WWDC attendees where would you take them?
I did help Daniel Jalkut lead a large group of people on a Mission taqueria run one year at WWDC. I guess if I did it again, I might even go for a full-on taqueria crawl and hit up all my old favorites: Pancho Villa, Cancun, El Farolito, Taqueria Vallarta, La Palma Mexicatessen, Papalote (editor’s note: best salsa ever!), etc.
What is the best cocktail you’ve had in San Francisco and where did you have it?
I can’t choose just one! In terms of “invented in SF” cocktails, I’d have to say my three favorites are:
- The Laphroaig Project from Bourbon and Branch (but also available at Rickhouse): Basically a Last Word variation with Laphroaig scotch. Incredibly well balanced and delicious. Actually manages to make scotch refreshing, warm weather affair.
- The Single Village Fix from Beretta: A simple combination of Mezcal, lime, and pineapple gum syrup. Wonderfully, smokey, a little bit sweet and a little bit tart.
- The Supernova from Nopa: A champagne cocktail with vanilla tincture and just a few drops of the insanely, over-the-top smokey Ardbeg Supernova scotch. A brilliant idea.
Where is the best beer in San Francisco?
Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for Poppy Jasper Amber, which is made by El Toro brewery in Morgan Hill, just south of San Jose. It’s usually available at SF outdoor drinking mainstay Zeitgeist and tastes incredible with a plate of carnitas.
As far as beer destinations, everyone will tell you the Toronado in the Lower Haight, which is great (if a bit loud and crowded). I haven’t been there yet, but Jasper’s Corner Tap, which is actually close to Moscone, looks like a really solid bet.
When I worked for Square, one of my favorite things to do was go get a sandwich at the incredibly awesome (and I say this as a sandwich snob New Yorker) Deli Board and take it to the nearby City Beer Store to eat with a beer. They have a great selection and a license to serve beer on premises.
Have you found a coffee shop worth working in and skipping WWDC sessions for? If so, where is it?
This is kind of an insane question for SF, because there is probably no city in America with a higher per-capita concentration of excellent coffee places. The question is whether you’re looking for the best cafe to work in, or the place where you’ll get the best coffee, because they’re not usually the same place.
For the former, I’d recommend Coffee Bar. I suspect there’s no better coffee shop for work in America. Wifi is consistent, outlets are plentiful, coffee is decent, good food and non-coffee beverages are also on offer, and you’re guaranteed to feel productive in the middle of an entire cafe full of startup types writing Rails code. The only problem is that Coffee Bar is that the original Coffee Bar is in a bit of an inconvenient location (out in the Potrero), but I’m told there’s a new location not far from Moscone.
Epicenter is also very much on the SF “coffice” map and is mere blocks from Moscone in SOMA.
As far as the best places to get amazing coffee, I’m always partial to Sightglass. I know the owners from the early days of Square (Sightglass was the original Square testbed) and they’ve gradually built an absolutely stunning space since opening. It’s not far from Moscone, and as far as SF tech celeb spotting goes, it can’t be beat.
Four Barrel, in the Mission, is also a coffee destination worth a visit–partly just because it’s a great place to soak up the Mission neighborhood vibe.
Blue Bottle is probably the closest good coffee option to Moscone, and one of my SF rituals for years has been to stop by at least once a trip for a cappuccino and their excellent belgian waffle (two great tastes that taste great together).
What’s the best meal you’ve had in San Francisco and where did you have it?
I’ve always loved the burger on the late night menu at Zuni, which is kind of a classic of the SF restaurant scene. The beef blend is fantastic, it’s served on delicious house made ciabatta, and accompanied by shoestring fries.
I also absolutely love Pizzetta 211, a tiny, hidden gem of a Neopolitan-style pizza place way out in the Richmond. Their menu changes constantly depending on what fresh, local ingredients they can get that week, and it’s always a pleasure. Who says SF doesn’t have good pizza?
What’s the most fun thing you can do in San Francisco that you’d recommend to visitors?
Living in New York now, I think the thing I really appreciate about SF is availability of wonderful outdoor experiences right in the city. Central Park is beautiful, but it feels a manicured English garden. Golden Gate Park is wild, and places like Land’s End, Ocean Beach, and the Presidio feel like the ends of the Earth. When I go back to SF now, those are the kinds of experiences I’m craving.
What’s the most unique thing you can do in San Francisco that you’d recommend to visitors?
Aside from the Ocean Beach trip I recommended earlier, I’ve always loved the Russian Hill Stairway walk. It takes you through some great hidden spaces and offers incredible views of the Bay at points.
What one thing do you bring home from SF every time you visit?
Probably either a bag of Sightglass coffee beans, a bottle of some local spirit I can’t get in New York (like St. George Spirits’s lovely Rhum Agricole), a jar of Papalote’s crack-like salsa, or a box of vegan donuts from Pepple’s Donuts at the Ferry Building (for my fiancé Briana, who has a dairy allergy).
Thanks for sharing Buzz – you’ll be missed this year!