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San Francisco CA – Retro Roadmap Recommendations

Posted on: June 13, 2012


My pal Mini Biggles is heading to San Francisco this weekend, so I’m using her trip as a kick in the pants to share some of the highlights of our visit there with all of YOU!
Golden Gate Bridge Vacation Viewer

With a big mahalo to Anna of Tallboy Records who coordinated our stops!

Dear Mini –
As you know they call me Mod Betty, so  my recommendations do not involve the hippy haunt of Haight- Ashbury, and I’m sure you’ll get lotsta recommendation for the usual touristy things.
But if you want to experience some mid-century inspired modern fun in San Fran, here’s what we did in our all too short visit a few weeks ago:

Smuggler’s Cove for Tiki inspired Cocktails

You’d never know from the unassuming exterior what great ambiance and tiki drinks are located in the darkness of Smuggler’s Cove. Once your eyes adjust you’ll have a great time!

Smuggler's Cove San Francisco InteriorWhile it’s not vintage vintage, its totally inspired by the tiki bars of yore- and done up in exacting and wonderful detail. Their rum based tiki drinks and prohibition era cocktails have won them many awards, and the menu is something to behold.

Sit at the bar and watch the master mixologists at work, but if there are no seat ringside, head upstairs and pose in the peacock chair, where you can also watch the bar below.

Smuggler's Cove San Francisco Drinker(I had my photo taken there too, but Retro Roadhusband looked so debonair, I had to share!)

Smuggler’s Cove
650 Gough Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 869-1900

Vintage shopping at The Other Shop:

The Other Shop San Francisco This shop was next to our  hotel – you’ll love their collection of vintage clothes, housewares, collectibles, tchotskes, mod decorations,vintage  jewelry and more. I know your inner Jan Brady will come out in this stire for sure!

Mod Betty's Fave Colors

The Other Shop
327 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 621-5424

Ride the Cable Cars!

San Francisco Trolley Car Turnaround Don’t sit inside the car, or even sit on the outside seats- be daring and stand on the outside, hanging onto to the poles. If you sit down outside you’ll end up getting someone’s butt in your face when they stand up, so Go For It and hang on!

Get off the cable car and get an Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista Cafe:

The Buena Vista Building Sit at the bar and watch the master at work, creating these tasty – and strong – beverages where they were invented in 1952:
The Buena Vista Bartender Though I’m not a coffee drinker I was totally convinced to try one, and dang was it good! Give it a shot!

The Buena Vista Cafe
2765 Hyde Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 474-5044

The Musee Mechanique – a highlight of our visit!!

The museum is one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines.  And we loved it!

Lauging Sal Scaring Retro Roadhusband (Laughing Sal scaring the beejeezus out of Retro Roadhusband)

 Play vintage pinball, have the gypsy grandma tell your fortune, listen to the nickelodeons, get some smooshed pennies, and have your photo taken in a vintage photo booth, in general It’s The Place To Have Old School Fun!
Photo Booth Photos

Musee Mechanique
Pier 45 Shed A
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 346-2000

Ride the streetcars

San Francisco Heritage Trolley Street Cars 4

Not only are the streetcars a handy way to get around town, they’re all different historic trolley cars.

It’s Tops!

It's Tops San Francisco - Vintage Sign You can’t miss the sign on this vintage San Francisco lunch counter, established in 1925. If you’re in the area and hungry for breakfast or Malt Shop Food, It’s Tops is the place.

It's Tops San Francisco Interior Counter
It’s teeny weeny but adorable inside – so small I think you have to walk through the kitchen to get to the bathroom, but our waitress was a charmer and we loved the knotty pine decor.

It’s Tops Coffee Shop
1801 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 431-6395

Eat at the Saint Francis Fountain:

The St. Francis Fountain is San Francisco’s oldest ice cream parlor, since 1918, but lovingly redone and maintained. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

St. Francis Fountain - Exterior

I had the BEST lunch ever here, it was called The Poor man – Cilantro Chicken Soup over a biscuit. NOM! Cliff had a great grilled cheese and our pal Anna had an amazing breakfast as well.

St. Francis Fountain - Chicken Cilantro Soup "Poor Man"

St. Francis Fountain
2801 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 826-4200

OH! And don’t forget The Tonga Room!

tonga room san francisco 1950s

It wasn’t open the days we were there, but it’s a tiki tastic cocktail place not to be missed! In the basement of the Fairmont Hotel, serving up exotic cocktails and food since 1945, with a floating band! It also has been reported that they may close it, so if you can get there, get there.

The Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel
950 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94108-6000
(415) 772-5278

And if you’re up for a jaunt outside the city, get to Joe’s of Westlake quickly because it’s about to be remuddled (January 2014)

Joe's of Westlake Building
We loved our whiskey sours in the cocktail lounge, relaxing by the fireplace.

Joe's of Westlake Whiskey Sour in Front of the Fireplace

You know I’m a total sucker for well preserved vintage decor, so we were in heaven.

Joe's of Westlake Counter

Joe’s of Westlake
11 Glenwood Avenue
Daly City, CA 94015
(650) 755-7400

Enjoy your trip dearie! Your Pal, Mod Betty


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  • Matt Smallwood

    Open Mind Music? That sounds like a hippy place to Matt. 😀

  • Will you plan my next trip??!!

    • I had some help with this one, but it was an awful lot of fun to find the places to go! We’ll have to plan a trip down towards your neck of the woods Lizzie!

  • Tortillapete

    I would add Red’s Java House on the Embarcadero and the Double Play Bar/Restaurant on Bryant and 16th, across the street from the former site of Seal’s Stadium…

    http://www.javahousesf.com/

    http://doubleplaysf.com/

    • Pete – thanks for the links! Will check ’em out next time we’re in San Fran 🙂

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