San Francisco, CA

Weekend Away: Sip, Shop, and Stay in San Francisco's Union Square

A. Kuehn

Whether Memorial Day has you hunting for sales or looking for an excuse to slip away for a shopping spree, Union Square has you covered.

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Christopher Chan / Getty Images

Call it pandemic brain, but I can hardly remember the last time I planned a multi-day shopping excursion, tried items on in a store, or treated myself to a mid-shopping tea break, all without a mask. But times are changing, and despite the continued shift of major retailers to online marketplaces, there's still plenty of tactile IRL fun to be had at the shops on Powell Street and the stores to be found in the Westfield Shopping Center and around San Francisco's Union Square.

Stay

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Hotel Stratford

Drop you bags at the recently-remodeled Hotel Stratford, a boutique experience just steps from SF's iconic Powell Street cable cars. The micro rooms are small, but chic, with thoughtful touches and an economic setup. Enjoy gourmet tea, free WiFi, flatscreen TVs, and cushy bedding.

Dine

Fancy a French bistro? Stroll down to Cafe de la Presse for French onion soup and a fresh beet salad, or the plat du jour, which changes daily and varies from steak tartare to bouillabaisse.

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Villon at the Proper HotelManolo Yllera

Or, if a proper tea is more your speed, call an Uber or hop on BART and take a quick jaunt to Villon, a sophisticated dining spot located on the ground floor of Civic Center's Proper Hotel. This New American restaurant offers exquisite Californian dishes, as well as a luxurious weekend tea service including finger sandwiches, fresh scones, and a tiered tray of sweet delicacies. The Proper is also home to La Bande, a Spanish-inspired restaurant offering tapas and cocktails Tuesday-Saturday evenings. Try a white negroni with salt cod croquettes or a red spagliato alongside sumptuous garlic shrimp and spiced olives.

If you prefer dinner closer to "home", try Bartlett Hall, a cozy gastropub & brewery, and sister restaurant of Hotel Stratford. Once seated, you can seamlessly order any and every dish you desire—from a scrumptious kale salad and avocado flatbread to a decadent bacon-topped burger with truffle fries—through ToastTab.

For morning-after diner food, look no farther than Pinecrest Diner, an SF institution that has survived the restaurant slaughter of the past few years and still serves massive plates of pancakes and sizzling hot hash browns day in and day out.

Drink

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The barEmpress by Boon

Take a walk down Grant Street and make your way to Empress by Boon, where you'll find Michelin-worthy dishes and a seasonal menu of creative cocktails. Previously the home of Chinatown's legendary Empress of China, this eating establishment marries modern style with traditional elements.

Bar manager and cocktail expert Emily Parian has created an impeccable menu of over a dozen original cocktails ranging from the fabulous "Too Damn Gorgeous", a quaff that gets its extraordinary magenta color from chrysanthemum flowers and dragon fruit, to the stalwart "Terminus", a spirit-forward beverage that stands up 12-year aged scotch with green chartreuse and the mercurial Zwak. The sleeper on the menu is "The White Violin", a clear but potent blend of tequila, vermouth, and Lillet Blanc and absinthe that pays a fine homage to the Umbrella Academy. A curated wine and beer list is also available.

Shop

Powell Street is full of fabulous shops, from arts and antiques to electronics and eyewear, and accessible brands to luxury items. Check out Union Square Shop for a full list of stores, or simply hit the ground running and see what you find. There's never been a better time to treat yourself to a little get away from reality.

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People are the worst. And the best. And everything in between. They have brilliant ideas and create horrific and fabulous things. I am deeply curious about and fascinated by the human animal, and I love sharing its stories with others. I call San Francisco home, but consider the world an equal-access territory. My work for News Break centers largely on local culture events, U.S. travel destinations, and trends in the food industry at both the macro and micro level.

San Francisco, CA
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