South Beach makes sense for a weekend snack before or after adventures on the Embarcadero. I liked the Crossroads Cafe, which opened recently at 699 Delancy St. and includes a small bookshop, a gallery space and a pleasant courtyard garden. I have some concerns, though, that its databases may be stacked.
Night 3: SoMa, baby. The rough-and-tumble, semi-industrial district around 11th Street sprouted its first hip nightclubs and eateries in the 1980s, and many remain, such as Slim's, Julie's Supper Club and Hamburger Mary's, the Folsom Street greasy spoon where many clubbers end up after last call. But Internet wealth is changing things, and with the upstairs loft rehabilitations have come a few new restaurants, shops and clubs.
The neighborhood still includes many blocks that I'd rather not walk alone after dark. But most of the night life is concentrated on 11th between Harrison and Folsom streets.
On that block, I took my taste of the neighborhood at Butter, an of-the-moment hangout that opened nine months ago with a yellow front and interior walls crawling with psychedelic colors and projected film clips from forgotten NASA missions. A DJ's table is built into the bar. The place's most distinguishing characteristic, however, is the menu: "white trash bistro" cuisine, which amounts to classic junk food and anything that can be prepared in a microwave oven. The food comes out of a trailer in the back. Really, this is a club masquerading as a restaurant. But if ever you've dreamed of sitting in a restaurant, consulting the menu while club music throbs, then ordering the Swanson's frozen dinner No. 2 (Salisbury steak) for $6, this is your place.
And now the egress: Board a southbound plane in daytime hours at SFO, as I did, and peek down when the jet bank-turns; you'll find yourself staring into an abyss. That's right: Candlestick Park, a.k.a. 3Com Park, the late and long-reviled, cold and windy home of the Giants before Pacific Bell Park came along. Now grassless, gray and idle, the stadium shrinks to nearly nothing, then vanishes in the distance, as obsolete as a red streetcar in L.A.
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Staying and Playing in the City
Getting there: Southwest offers round-trip fares between LAX and SFO starting at $112, followed by United, American, Delta and Alaska at $118. United and Southwest also have LAX-to-Oakland, Burbank-to-SFO and Burbank-to-Oakland service beginning at $112.
Where to stay: Trendy, 198-room Hotel Palomar is better for grown-ups than for kids. Brochure rates for standard doubles begin at $325, but weekend specials go as low as $175, especially if you book months in advance; 12 4th St. (at Market), telephone (877) 294-9711 or (415) 348-1111, fax (415) 348-0302, Internet http://www.hotelpalomar.com. For the hotel's Fifth Floor restaurant (main courses, $25 to $39; a chef's tasting menu, $75), tel. (415) 348-1555.
The renovated Argent Hotel feels more like a boutique hotel than any 667-room convention lodging I've encountered (formerly the ANA Hotel, a block from Moscone Center). Brochure rates for a standard double room begin at $249; weekend specials can drop to $169; 50 3rd St., tel. (877) 222-6699 or (415) 974-6400, fax (415) 348-8207, Internet http://www.argenthotel.com.
The W San Francisco, a year old with 423 rooms, is even hipper. Brochure rates for standard double rooms start at $369, with corporate discounts as low as $289; 181 3rd St., tel. (877) W-HOTELS or (415) 777-5300, fax (415) 817-7823, Internet http://www.whotels.com.
Minimalist-design Hotel Milano opened in 1994 South of Market. Doubles begin at $179, but I got a room for $149; 55 5th St., tel. (800) 398-7555 or (415) 543-8555, fax (415) 543-5885, Internet http://www.hotelmilano.citysearch.com.
Hotel Griffon is a 62-room boutique hotel with double rooms starting at $230 (but weekend specials go as low as $165); 155 Steuart St., tel. (800) 321-2201 or (415) 495-2100, fax (415) 492-3522, Internet http://www.hotelgriffon.com.
Next door, the Harbor Court Hotel's brochure rates for double rooms begin at $195; through May 28 a limited number of weekend "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" specials are $99 per night; 165 Steuart St., tel. (800) 346-0555 or (415) 882-1300, fax (415) 882-1313, Internet http://www.harborcourthotel.com.
What to do: Pacific Bell Park, tel. (415) 972-2000, Internet http://www.sfgiants.com. Teatro ZinZanni box office, tel. (415) 438-2668, Internet http://www.teatrozinzanni.org. Metreon, tel. (415) 369-6000, Internet http://www.metreon.com. Yerba Buena Ice Skating & Bowling Center, tel. (415) 777-3727, Internet http://www.skatebowl.com.
For more information: San Francisco Visitor Information Center, 900 Market St., P.O. Box 429097, San Francisco, CA 94142; tel. (415) 391-2000, fax (415) 362-7323, Internet http://www.sfvisitor.org.