City Portrait

San Francisco’s Southern Hot Spots

The best of the city’s Dixie flavor

Photo: Bess Friday


Biscuits and Blues
The biscuits are pretty darn good, but it’s the music that keeps folks coming back. Every night, you’ll find someone wailing the blues-Mississippi and  Chicago style. 


Boxing Room
A youth spent hunting and fishing in the wilds of southern Louisiana forms the foundation for chef Justin Simoneaux’s bayou-centric menu, including Cajun boiled peanuts, deep-fried alligator, and seafood gumbo with house-made tasso.

Farmer Brown  
Farmer Brown is located in the most urban of SF districts (the Tenderloin). But chef-owner Jay Foster relies on a network of Bay Area African American farmers to supply him with fresh-from-the-field ingredients for what he terms “neo–soul food,” such as skillet pork chops with milk-poached sweet potatoes. Try the watermelon margarita, with cayenne salt.



The Front Porch 
Yes, there is an actual porch, but it’s the divey, unpretentious atmosphere inside that draws hordes of homesick Southerners. The fried chicken really does measure up, as does the potency of the drinks. Also on the menu: beignets, fried okra, and Dr Pepper–braised short ribs. 


Hard Water 
Behind the gorgeous marble horseshoe-shaped bar, more than 150 different whiskeys await. If a bourbon served neat isn’t your thing, the cocktail list doesn’t disappoint either. Try a plain-spoken Presbyterian, made with Wild Turkey 101, lemon, ginger, and soda.


Oysters three ways at Hard Water.

Photo: Bess Friday

Oysters three ways at Hard Water.


Hops and Hominy 

Opened by three friends from Ocala, Florida, Hops and Hominy simultaneously celebrates the trio’s Southern roots and adopted hometown. A West Coast–heavy craft beer list meets Southern-inspired fare such as duck pappardelle with mustard greens and braised ham hocks.


Memphis Minnie’s
It may be a long way from Tennessee, but the flavor rings true—no gas-fueled barbecue at this joint. Owner Bob Kantor uses good old-fashioned white oak logs to smoke his pulled pork and brisket.

The breakfast rush at Tartine Bakery and Cafe.

Photo: Bess Friday

San Francisco Treats

The breakfast rush at Tartine Bakery and Cafe.


Tartine Bakery & Cafe
Skipping a Tartine chocolate croissant while in San Francisco is sort of like missing the Golden Gate Bridge. You won’t get in and out fast—locals start lining up at 7:30 a.m. But once you’re in, West Texas–raised baker Chad Robertson’s impossibly soft morning buns and sweet bread pudding are well worth the early-morning wait.


de Young Museum
Built in 1894 and revamped in 2005, the crown jewel of San Francisco art museums is a spectacular modern structure. It hosts the city’s premier art and design exhibits—Vermeer and Rembrandt, as of late. Post-visit, make time for a stroll through Golden Gate Park.


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
In 2001, businessman Warren Hellman gave a gift to his native city: a free bluegrass festival that has become one of the largest gatherings for fans of American roots music. Past artists have included Old Crow Medicine Show and Emmylou Harris. This year’s lineup takes the stage October 4–6. Bring a blanket and join 750,000 other festivalgoers in Golden Gate Park.


Paxton Gate 
Stepping through the doors is a bit like walking into a Gothic fairyland. Part eccentric garden store, part museum of natural science, the shop—created by two former landscape designers—is home to a dizzying collection of oddities: framed butterflies, skulls, antique books and maps, even carnivorous plants.


Pelican Inn Trip
This is strictly a locals’ spot, so don’t tell anyone we told you. After a spectacular drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and along Shoreline Highway, you’ll come to Muir Beach. Pull on your hiking shoes and walk up one of the marked trails for breathtaking views of the city and the Pacific. Refuel with English pub grub at the Pelican Inn.


Taylor Stitch 
In 2008, three fashionable friends set out to modernize and perfect the classic button-down. The group spent two years fine-tuning fit and construction. Today, pick from ready-made versions in poplin, gingham, and madras, among others, or choose a custom creation.

Taylor Stitch



Hotel Rex 
Inspired by the city’s 1920s-era literary and art salons, Hotel Rex is comfortably appointed with vintage furniture and original artwork, and the cozy Library Bar downstairs draws San Franciscans of all stripes for cocktails and billiards. Big bonus: Dogs are welcome.

Huntington Hotel 
This elegant boutique hotel, perched atop Nob Hill, is where to stay if you’re looking for a sumptuous San Francisco visit. The 11,000-square-foot spa is one of the city’s very best. (And this is a spa town, people.) One caveat: If you spring for a room with a view, you may never want to leave.