Hang out in the European quarters of San FranciscoApparently, SF's cable cars, rolling hills, coffee shop culture, and bright orange suspension bridge bear more than just a resemblance to the bustling European city of Lisbon. As you walk through the city of San Francisco, you'll quite a few little neighborhoods where you can get a taste of Italy, France, and even Russia.
It's an old-architecture-preserving and sidewalk-café-kinda city for reals. People are always spilling out onto sidewalks for brunch on the weekends and sitting close to neighboring tables is so acceptable you'll find it quite easy to carry on a conversation with complete strangers. Neighborhood farmers markets with fresh local produce are similar to those you would find in France, and several neighborhoods do an awesome job of filling your Euro-fix before you leave for your next Eurotrip.
Little Italy/North Beach
Craving pasta, marinara (not from the can!), tiramisu, and strong coffee? Stroll on over to Little Italy, home to many ristorantes, caffes, and gelaterias reminiscent of your favorite Italian towns, where the history is as rich as the Italian pastries dotting Columbus Avenue. There is sidewalk seating and frothy cappuccino making cafes a-plenty, while ristorante owners stand outside yelling at each other in Italian. Caffe Trieste, opened way back in 1956 by Papa Gianni, serves a mean espresso, and you'll need two scoops of Gelateria NAIA's whisky gelato on a sunny day.
Try to catch an Italian wedding at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Washington Square Park. If you miss the wedding, cross the street to Linguira Bakery for fresh focaccia.
Claude Lane and Belden Place
Claude Lane is a tiny area of land near the French consulate with little French restaurants and dining al fresco. Read your morning newspaper in French at Café de la Presse coffee house and enjoy your classic Foie Gras, Coq Au Vin, and Steak Tartare at Cafe Claude at night. Not too far away is Belden Place, a cool brick alley between Pine and Bush Streets. This tiny alley is super vibrant and the European awnings, hanging lights, and French restaurants give off definite European feels.
Plouf, a tres bon! mussel house is well-known for their pots of mussels soaked in different delicious broths. Like, so delicious you'll try to drink the broth down after the shellfish have been devoured. If you decide to bust out the French you learned in high school, keep it simple, because your waiter will speak back to you in French! The Euro-vibes in this alley go on throughout the night, with live music, cigars, and apertifs.
Inner Richmond District
Inner Richmond is where you'll find Russia! Technically Russia is not Europe...anyway, you'll know you've found the spot when you start seeing men huddled around storefronts clutching bottles of vodka to their chests. Just kidding. What you will find is piroshkis to your heart's delight, hearty meat dishes, blinchiki crepes, and borscht soup served up with Russian accents galore. Shop owners, employees, and most customers in this area are Russian – that's my guess, since they speak Russian and look Russian.
If I were taking votes, Cinderella Bakery would be the top pick here because there is always a line out the door, and if all the customers are Russian, the bakery's goods have got to be good, right? Then, run on over to Holy Virgin Cathedral Russian Orthodox Church for service, even if you're not Orthodox, because you'll need a picture in front of the gold onion domes and the impressive interior covered with mosaics and icons under a beautiful chandelier.
Hayes Valley was the natural pick for French retail, Acote, to open their shop because of the neighborhood's natural European atmosphere. For splurgers and non-splurgers alike, discover need-to-know labels, boho, and vintage looks until you stop for a bite at 20th Century Café. Modeled after cafes in Vienna, Prague, and Hungary, the cafe's Eastern European ambiance is especially gratifying for anyone looking to get their fill of Hungarian baking. Everyone who comes in gets the Potato Knish and the 10-layer Russian Honey Cake - listed on San Francisco's top 100 dishes to eat before you die.
Miette is where I go when I'm looking for a hard-to-find European candy. This bright, charming shop imports their sweets from all over Europe, including the best gummy bears from Germany and British toffee. They make their macarons in-house, and although they're not Paulette's, Miette's macs are really good.
Christina Wong is a Bay Area native who loves to travel the world, but always finds her way back to California.