NFT San Francisco Marina / Cow Hollow (East)

Marina / Cow Hollow (East)

Life is simply fabulous -- and clean -- in the Marina and Cow Hollow, SF's enclave for young adult professionals. "Marina types" is an insult in all other parts of the city but the people here could care less. Fort Mason, a onetime military outpost, is now a cultural destination with museums, experimental theater, and acres of open space.

Cow Hollow's stylish main drag is Union Street, brimming with boutiques, salons, trendy restaurants, and pickup bars. Like Chestnut Street in the Marina, it's an ideal destination for preening, strolling, window shopping, and flirting over the evening's first lemon drop (especially at Betelnut Pejiu Wu, the Balboa, or See more.

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This Neighborhood Featured in...
Free & Cheap for Kids in the Bay Area

By Jody Ryan
Kids? In the Bay Area? Jody Ryan knows how to deal with that and no, a lighthouse-turned-prison-turned-recreation-center is not involved.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

The Brazen Head
There's nothing cooler than leading a guest into a place with no sign. Allured by this ego-boosting potential, I took a trip to The Brazen Head with new friends, only to pass it three times, thus negating my urban expertise. In any case, the unexpected cozy interior, reminiscent of an authentic old world pub is impressive in its own right. The kitchen does a decent take on French classics, serving the full menu until 1 am, and the servers don't have that buy-another-bottle-or-I'll-spit-in-your-ice-water upselling thing going on. There aren't too many places where you can get a steak and a white Russian at midnight without spending sixty bucks and listening to a remix of "Sensual Seduction." So come on down, but stop at the ATM (cash only), and look for the door with the Christmas lights.

Posted By:  David MacFadden
Photo:  David MacFadden

Here’s a new take on the cocktail: Put the fixings in a Ziploc bag and call it good. At least that’s the thinking at Michaelis Wine & Spirits, where the staff agrees that this remarkable innovation was a group effort. It’s like “Shake and Bake,” but for adults. Here’s the deal: Grab three airline-sized bottles of related hooch (my recent selection comprised of two bottles of Jack Daniels bottles and one of Seagram’s Whisky), toss in a suitable mixer (Coca-Cola, natch) and sell it as a package deal. That’s three cocktails for somewhere between $6.99 and $7.99 (plus tax; cups not included). There are many fine things in Michaelis, like an impressive selection of frozen yogurt, but their novel approach to the tradition of American cocktails is really a treat. Good for trips to the park, the beach, or just the odd and friendly alleyway. It’s also great for parties. Liquor in a bag: It’s the best reason to stop by the marina.

Posted By:  Cynthia Popper
Photo:  Cynthia Popper

Fort Mason Center
Here’s one locals barely know about: Big cheap book sale at the SF Public Library on the first Friday of every month. When I say big I actually mean not big, but enough selection to make it worth the trip. When I say I cheap I actually mean almost free: fifty cent paper backs and buck hard covers. And they aren’t all 1998 Farmer’s Almanac crapola that no one wants. One choice trip yielded five paperback classics, an antique thesaurus and a flawless 1939 Grapes of Wrath for under seven bucks. Books whores may now prance with glee. And if you missed the humungous book sale going in September at Fort Mason Center, not to worry. It will return next fall, so mark your calendars now. In the mean time stop by the Book Bay Fort Mason for all your cheap book needs. The best part is that all the proceeds benefit the San Francisco Public Library.

Posted By:  Caroline Palmer
Photo:  Caroline Palmer

If you're looking for a way to squeeze into those apple bottom jeans and shed a bit of your beer gut, it may be time to head to the Marina for an hour-long workout that is like no other. Leave the Bikram Yoga studios for dirty people. You don't need a 120 degree stinky room to shake off those extra LBs. Bar Method is the wave of the future and you better believe Jenny Aniston is doing two-a-days down there in the West Hollywood franchised shop. With a combination of isometrics, ballet, yoga-type stretches, and pilates-style core work you will wake up the next morning feeling like someone threw you off the Golden Gate Bridge. But then you'll go back for more—not because you're a sadist but because you know beauty isn't on the inside anymore. As with any exercise joint in the Marina, you will find more diamonds in one class than you would in the display case of any Shane Company outlet, and your neighbor's jazzy outfit probably costs more than your monthly rent. No matter! Men are welcome, but you will be the only one.

Posted By:  Sarah Date
Photo:  Sarah Date

A new restaurant that has opened its doors in a location which has gone through numerous iterations in recent memory generally is approached with trepidation. The latest venture at this address on Union Street is a wine bar with an Italian bent called Ottimista (which tellingly means optimist in Italian). Opened at the end of last year, so far it is holding its ground. Sample a few of the small plates or share a couple of larger dishes and pair them with a selection from the extensive wine list which features many interesting choices by the glass. On a recent visit, the popular gnocchi with peas, grilled asparagus, and an organic mixed greens salad with delectable smoked walnuts were loving a glass of Argentinean Torrontes—a beautiful, florally dry white. Granted, not an Italian grape, but it is good to see that the owners are diversifying their offerings, which is perhaps where the optimist comes into play. Sit at the bar for the best service, at the communal table for an informal bite, and on the streetside patio for weekend brunch in good weather.

Posted By:  Benny Bleiman
Photo:  Courtesy of Betelnut

For many San Franciscans, Betelnut is more than a restaurant—it’s the restaurant. Offering savory, not-too-small plates of inexpensive Asian fusion food, impeccable service, and a mesmerizingly cool atmosphere, Betelnut doesn’t just set the bar for casual San Francisco restaurants, it launches the bar into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Of course, like anything so good, there is a downside—the freaking place is always packed. (Hour-long waits on Sunday nights, hour and a half on Mondays—and those are the quiet nights.) Luckily the bar area is cramped but fun, and the specialty drinks are refreshingly strong. Or if you don’t feel like dealing with the crowd, you can put your name on the list and stroll down Union Street, San Francisco’s feeble answer to Park Avenue. When you finally settle down to eat, you will be awed by the fluidity of the Betelnut machine. Who would have believed that not only do they fuse the food, they also embody the operational efficiency of Asia as well? Here’s a tip: while dining at Betelnut, stay away from the main courses—they are small and slightly more pricy than the rest. If nothing else, make sure you order the Szechwan green beans; they will change your life.

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Restaurants (23)
Nightlife (14)
Shopping (15)
Landmarks (3)