Dining and Entertainment in San Francisco’s Theater District
It’s easy to be complacent in your surroundings, unaware of the excitement lingering nearby. San Francisco is one of those places, especially in and around the Theater District near Union Square. After major renovations, new hotels and restaurants have opened in the area and they’re worth a closer look.
My husband and I experienced the scene at the Hotel G and its dining options Klyde Wine Bar, 398 Brasserie, and Benjamin Cooper (next to the hotel but under different ownership), as well as at The Warwick and its European Bar & Lounge and Aveline Restaurant.
Hotel G is a modern hotel offering comfortable accommodations and a relaxed setting in a historic 1908 building. The interior is decorated with soft earth-tone colors, mixing contemporary and classic mid-century furniture and bursts of color in works by local artists. The art is for sale through a partnership with Creativity Explored, an art center for the developmentally disabled.
We stayed in a spacious 12th-floor corner room (with seating area) overlooking the Theater District. Bathrooms are stocked with CO Bigelow toiletries. Find original flooring in the rooms and hallways—there’s concrete on the top four, while lower floors are wood (which can be cold and a bit noisy).
Water conservation efforts include using low-flow toilets and showerheads and giving guests the option to reuse linens and towels.
398 Brasserie is open all day and boasts European-inspired dishes at dinner. The interior combines industrial chic with the building’s original ornate plaster high ceiling and columns in addition to velvet banquets and a zinc-topped bar.
Charcuteries and cheese boards are specialties. Try the brown butter scallops and the beef cheeks, which are rich and tender and melt in your mouth. We had creative cocktails to start and a 2013 Ventana Rubystone Grenache/Syrah blend from Arroyo Seco. The butterscotch pot de crème is a must.
For breakfast, try the 398 with scrambled eggs, bacon, and the restaurant’s special crispy potatoes. (Items mentioned are usually on the menu.)
Klyde Wine Bar opens at 4 p.m. and serves wine and dinner in a casual bistro environment. Sit in front of the cozy restaurant that looks out on Geary Street or toward the back at the small bar or tables/banquettes made from reclaimed wood. Cheese, charcuterie, tapas, burgers, pasta, and an interesting selection of wines are featured. There is a happy hour offered daily.
Benjamin Cooper is a hot bar in a cool setting, just upstairs from 398 Brasserie. The owners, Brian and Mo, know their stuff and are dedicated to serving great cocktails and delicious oysters. When I was in, I loved the Solid Gold Soul cocktail (tequila, golden beet, and Strega liqueur) and Bees in Alaska (gin, Gentian liqueur, sherry, and vermouth) among others. The menu here changes frequently.
Located in a Beaux-Arts style building designed more than a century ago, the Warwick San Francisco maintains its historic character with the original lobby chandelier hanging prominently from a domed ceiling, ornately framed mirrors, intricately carved gargoyles in the hallways, old photographs, and refurbished headboards and armoires in guest rooms. Modern furniture adds to the upscale look and feel.
Known for an abundance of daily sunshine (one wall in every bathroom is painted bright yellow commemorating that fact), our bright corner room had city views. As with the Hotel G, the Warwick also has low-flow toilets and showerheads and lets guests decide if they want to reuse linens and towels.
The European Bar & Lounge is intimate and sexy and serves cocktails inspired by its name. The space stretches from the bar in the front to a cozy setting in the back. Creative, well-made drinks, including the Love Letter (vodka, ginger hibiscus syrup, and lemon) and Smoke Without Fire (gin, Italian liquor, scotch, and rosemary) were favorites. The menu changes seasonally.
Aveline is a light, airy restaurant where tables have a bird’s-eye view of the kitchen. Brunch offers an array of egg dishes and heavier fare mixed with health conscious choices, including these freshly baked options: breakfast bread (with jam and ricotta) and morning pie (the restaurant’s take on pecan pie with cinnamon, honey, toasted nuts, and seeds). Kick it up with a spicy Bloody Mary.
At dinner, we started with the roots and Brussels chips served with sweet and spicy mustard and heated up with chili flakes and the vanilla beets with roasted cardamom turnips garnished with yogurt and spiced chocolate. The moist rainbow trout came with savory lemon curd and fava beans. We paired a 2009 Sierra Cantabria Crianza Tempranillo with the meal. The menu changes seasonally.
Living in San Francisco, we have favorite places to play and shop, but this trip was about the Theater District. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy great performances at the Curran, the American Conservatory Theater, and the San Francisco Playhouse to name a few. San Francisco Theater has the complete guide.
Union Square Park, a historic urban space that dates back to 1847, is always full of people. The square is either open with benches for people watching and an art show or huge tents housing special events. Internet access is free.
In addition to high-end stores just off the square, you’ll find numerous art galleries nearby as well as H&M and Uniqlo for fun shopping.
Patty Burness can be found at @pattygb.