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San Francisco is a town filled with foodies with very high standards, which means you can expect a high quality dining experience nearly everywhere. But the food scene changes as quickly as the weather. To stay up to date with what is in or what is out, check in with the town’s top food critics and bloggers. See San Francisco Chronicle food critic Michael Bauer’s annual list of the Top 100 Bay Area restaurants, the frequently updated EaterSF’s top Eater 38 listings and Tablehopper’s 10 Places to Eat Now.

For those out to impress guests with fine food, gorgeous atmosphere and prompt service (and a check that only an expense account could love) look into: Gary Danko, a restaurant with an enduring reputation for outstanding food and service that makes up for an its awkward Fisherman’s Wharf location; Michael Mina for Japanese-French fusion in the Financial district; Benu for its unforgettable 17-course, $180 tasting menu; Taj Campton Place Restaurant, which serves up California cuisine with a sprinkle of spices from India in an elegant dining room off Union Square;  or Waterbar where you can decide which is better, the sustainably sourced seafood or the view.

In-the-know locals tend to avoid the previously mentioned establishments, except when entertaining out-of-towners or clients, in favour of a more dynamic, experimental, fresh, local (sometimes very noisy) food scene in outlying neighbourhoods such as the Mission or SoMa. So jump in a cab and join the locals at Range, a consistent favourite on walkable Valencia Street; Bar Tartine for fresh local produce prepared in eastern European fashion; AQ, whose menu and décor change with seasons, Prospect for its quiet, contemporary space and prompt service; Foreign Cinema as a solid choice on a sketchy stretch of Mission Street;  and Zuni Café where locals have long loved its pricey-but-worth-it pizza-oven roasted chicken.

Off the clock
If you have a few hours or a full day free, rent a car and head north over the Golden Gate Bridge (celebrating its 75th anniversary this year) to Marin County. Just across the bridge and not more than 20 minutes from downtown, visit Point Bonita, a windy, rugged spit of land where you will find a lighthouse operated by the US Coast Guard, hiking trails and dramatic views through the iconic bridge into the bay (bring your camera!). Farther north, take a tour of the area’s booming artisanal cheese making industry on the Sonoma-Marin Cheese Trail, a collection of 27 cheese makers open for tours and tastings.

While on the San Francisco Bay, keep an eye out for regattas and competitive sailing in cutting edge boats as the city prepares to host the America’s Cup in September 2013. Trials and practice events leading up to the big race will take place in late August and early October of 2012. The best perches for viewing the competition are Fort Mason and Crissy Field.

Also, the California Academy of Sciences opens its much anticipated earthquake exhibit on 26 May, where you can experience a high-magnitude jolt in an earthquake simulator and learn more about the impact of the city’s great quake and fire of 1906.

Go local
For a truly local dining experience, forget about fine dining, locavorism or fresh produce. The quintessential San Francisco food, served up by hundreds of taquerias and food trucks all over town, is the San Francisco-style (aka Mission-style) burrito — a warm, foil-wrapped favourite so ingrained in the local culture that it even has its own Wikipedia page. Everyone has an opinion about which burrito is best. (My personal favourite: Pancho Villa on 16th St in the Mission.) So ask around and you are sure to get an answer… or at least an opinion.

Don’t do this!
Locals cringe when visitors call their hometown “Frisco”. They groan when they hear “San Fran”. In some cases, you might get by when writing or saying simply “SF.” But for most locals, there are only two ways to refer to the city by (never “on”) the bay: San Francisco or simply, “the City”.

 

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