San Francisco, California

photography courtesy of Morgans Hotel Group

WHY NOW: Yes, we know. You’ve been to San Francisco before. So you know that every visit to the Bay Area can be wholly different from the last. Sometimes you want to live like a local, shacked up in a friend’s duplex, frequenting neighborhood haunts. But other times you need to blow it out in high style and be the well-heeled visitor that you are. For that we suggest the Clift Hotel (495 Geary St. 415-775-4700., just steps away from bustling Union Square, where some of the city’s best shopping awaits. BIRTH OF A MODERN LEGEND: When hotelier Ian Schrager—famous for being the owner of Studio 54 and, later, for kicking off the boutique hotel trend—decided to buy the landmark, he created quite a stir in a city famous for its Victorians. But the end result was magnificent, a modern interpretation of old-world elegance with a splash of whimsy, thanks to designers Philippe Starck and Anda Andrei. The hotel’s most striking feature is the lobby. Walking in, you feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland, when she was just small: soaring 25-foot ceilings, an 18-foot bronze fireplace mantel, and a supersized Louis XV chair set the scale, but look right to the Living Room and your sense of proportion returns. Velvet sofas, leather chairs, and mood lighting beckon you to sit; “portraits” of plastic toy animals by French artist Jean-Baptiste Mondino adorn the dark-wood paneled walls and lighten up the English library vibe. If you think you’ll never be able to sleep in this designer fantasyland, never fear. Upstairs, the rooms are simple and chic, dressed in soft lilac gray with pops of orange. GOOD EATS: You can’t talk about San Francisco without getting excited about its food. Overwhelmed by the options, we turned to the concierge. On our “casual” night out, we walked to Brick (1085 Sutter St. 415-441-4232. It’s just the kind of restaurant we wish we had in Dallas: trendy but casual, serving thoughtful and interesting food at an unexpectedly affordable price point. The name comes from the 100-year-old exposed brick wall hugging the dining room, but we opted for two seats at the horseshoe-shaped copper-top bar, where we enjoyed tuna carpaccio with hearts of palm and poached halibut with a delicate falafel crust, smear of hummus, and watercress. For a “fancier” meal, we cabbed it to Town Hall (342 Howard St. 415-908-3900., housed in an early 20th-century ship engine manufacturing plant in SoMa. Postrio alums Mitchell and Steven Rosenthal (brothers and chefs) and Doug Washington (front-of-the-house guru) have created a homey restaurant with star power, serving dishes they love—mostly regional American favorites with a California sensibility, such as knockout Chimay-braised short ribs with horseradish jus and buttermilk-crusted fried chicken. Enjoyed under sparkling, spider-like chandeliers, the meal lingers in your memory long after the check is paid.

The locals were most concerned about what would happen to their beloved Redwood Room, the art deco bar added to the Clift Hotel in 1934—a time when, with Prohibition abolished, cocktail lounges were de rigueur. Schrager simply restored the rich wood paneling made from 2,000-year-old trees and reinvented the space, which is again the heartbeat of this lively hotel. Rather than hoofing it up and down hilly streets for a nightcap, simply sip a cocktail at the glass-top bar, where you’ll be as fabulous as the fabulously dressed patrons. The best news is your bed is just an elevator ride away.

Most major airlines fly daily nonstop to San Francisco and Oakland airports. You can take a shuttle (look for Airport Express signs at the airport), taxi, or private car to the Clift. Call 415-929-2354 to make arrangements for a private car, which will cost $105–$156, depending on the airport. From SFO, a 30-minute cab ride will cost approximately $45; from Oakland, a cab will cost about $60. You could rent a car, but you’ll pay out the nose to park it at the hotel ($45 per night plus 14.5% tax), and you don’t really need a car in the city.
Clift Hotel
495 Geary St. 415-775-4700
Rates: $275–$900. Visit the web site for special offers.
Brick, 1085 Sutter St. 415-441-4232.
Town Hall, 342 Howard St. 415-908-3900.


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