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The 5 San Francisco Areas You Should Visit And What To Do When You Get There


Local knowledge from agencies in Oakland, Berkeley, The Presidio, Downtown, and Sausalito

The 5 San Francisco Areas You Should Visit And What To Do When You Get There

It’s a well-documented fact that San Francisco is an expensive place to both live in and own a business - we have written about the very thing in this publication. But in San Francisco, as with other pricey cities around the world, as centre-of-town fees rise, pockets of cheaper and often more laid-back areas are cropping up around its perimeter. Neighbourhoods like Oakland, Berkeley, the Presidio and Sausalito are all examples of this - and each one boasts its own particular peculiarities. LBB’s Addison Capper caught up with different agencies from each area to find out what makes them unique and why we should all go visit.


EVB - Daniel Stein, Founder and CEO

What is Oakland and your office like? 

We are located in a four-story building in the Uptown District of Oakland at 18th Street and Telegraph Avenue. The space was once a Woolworths department store and still includes much of the facade, flooring, tiles and fixtures from that period. The space is just a few steps from the 19th and Broadway underground station, which can get you to San Francisco in about 10 minutes and the Oakland airport in about 15 minutes. The area is growing and changing very quickly. Each week there seems to be a new restaurant, bar or boutique-y shop opening up nearby. There are also many new tech companies and startups moving into the area. Most of them have been forced out of San Francisco for one reason or another. The area has been compared to Brooklyn in New York, Shoreditch in London or Venice Beach in Los Angeles, which are all areas that have grown quickly from the influx of startups, tech and internet companies.

Creatively, what makes the area unique?

The area is quickly becoming the art and design heart of San Francisco. We are sandwiched between the historic Fox and Paramount Theaters; the Oakland School of the Arts is across the street; and the city's ‘First Friday’ art walk happens right outside our front door each month. Our building also has ground floor retail space that will double as our lobby and retail art gallery.

Which other companies should we know about that are based nearby?

Uber just announced that it will be moving its headquarters from San Francisco to Oakland in the coming months and will be taking over 330,000 square feet in the historic Sears Building. The Clorox headquarters is also very close. There are also many advertising and design agencies that have made the move to Uptown Oakland in recent months, including Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Huge, Fluid and 99 Designs.

Where should we eat?

There are countless places to eat near our office. The area is quickly becoming a gourmet ghetto. My favourites are:

- Belly, if you are just looking for the best taco you've ever had;

- MUA for the fried chicken; and 

- Boot & Shoe Service for wood-fired pizza.  

To give you an idea of just how much food there is in Oakland... this article came out recently...

Where should we drink?

Oh man, I could go on forever here. My wife actually complains that, ever since we moved to Oakland, I spend too much time going out after work. Again, here are a few of my favourites: 

- The Trappist - Belgian style beer and food

- Drakes Dealership - this is the brewpub for Drake's Brewery and it is in an old Dodge Dealership

- Lost & Food - An awesome outdoor beer garden

- Fauna - Classic bar with amazing cocktails

And where should we sleep?

Unfortunately, the number of cool boutiquey hotels is something that is still in development in Oakland. The Claremont in Berkeley is a very cool and historic hotel and spa. There's also a place called the Waterfront at Jack London Square. Or you can also stay in SF, which is a short underground ride away.

Any parting thoughts?

The decision to move from San Francisco to Oakland after 15 years was not an easy one. San Francisco was part of our identity and we have a lot of love for the city. We just felt that the most interesting and creative momentum in the Bay Area right now is happening in Oakland and we wanted to be part of that energy.

EVB photo credits: Andria Lo

The Presidio

Camp + King - Roger Camp, Founder and CCO

What is The Presidio like? 

The Presidio is a park and former military base and is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Creatively, what makes the area unique?

The place is magical because while it's technically in San Francisco, it doesn't feel like the city at all. It's comprised of trails, historical buildings and architecture, ridiculous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the palace of fine arts, Chrissy field, Presidio Golf Course and more. Whenever I need to clear my head, I can just step outside, go for a walk, or hit a bucket of balls at the driving range or sit in the grass and stare out at the bay.

Which other companies should we know about that are based nearby?

The Presidio is home to dozens of companies. Letterman Digital Arts Center (home of Lucasfilm), web analytics company Alexa, Intel has an office here, and the Walt Disney museum is also located here.

Where should we eat?

There are four really nice restaurants – The Commissary and Arguello are offered in partnership with award-winning Bay Area chef Traci Des Jardins. And there's also Sessions, which is located in the most haunted location in San Francisco, and was the old hospital during the war. And then there's The Officers’ Club which has been beautifully updated but is literally as the Officers’ Club was back in the day.

Where should we drink?

Presidio Bowling Alley is good for cheap beer and some delicious fried food. Sessions has dozens of craft brews. Arguello is housed in the very first building ever constructed in San Francisco. Or you could sit outside on the pitch of commissary and sip some fantastic drinks overlooking the Presidio main lawn. Or spend some time in the sun seated on the outdoor patio of the Officers’ Club, or step inside to have a drink at the bar, which has served thousands of soldiers.

And where should we sleep?

Inn At The Presidio has done a great job of restoring the historical beauty of the old buildings. As you walk to your room and past the old pictures on the walls you actually feel like you're stepping back in time.

Any parting thoughts…?

Honestly, I'm a little nervous to say all these things because I don't want other agencies to come here! It's been our little gem. So... I think if you're an ad agency you probably wouldn't like it here in the Presidio. Especially if you have people with allergies to trees and stuff. Yeah, you should probably NOT come here, and maybe you should look at SOMA instead. 


John McNeil Studio - Catherine Nolan, Studio Assistant

What is Berkeley and your office like?

West Berkeley is an eclectic mix of industrial businesses and warehouses, art studios, restaurants, and homes. An aquatic park is just a few blocks away, freight trains blow past every few hours, and we have an incredible view of the Bay and San Francisco. Over the years, JMS has expanded into a campus of six buildings within a one-block radius. While there’s a lot of movement and energy between spaces, our first building remains the hub of activity. We throw monthly gatherings affectionately called Thursday Social to preserve that small-studio feeling – exchanging stories and victories over a homemade meal.

Creatively, what makes the area unique? 

The patchwork variety of businesses in the area means there’s always something to surprise you around the corner. Our neighbours are photographers, printmakers, vintage car restorers, and architects. Not many people come to West Berkeley by accident, so the area is full of hidden gems that you have to seek out. 

Which other companies should we know about that are based nearby? 

- Standard Fare – Delicious eats and pantry goods made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients.

- Envelope A+D – Architecture and design firm that focuses on modern and sustainable spaces.

- Paulson Bott Press – Fine art printmaking studio specializing in limited edition intaglio prints.

Where should we eat? 

The Fourth Street area in West Berkeley has a charming collection of shops and restaurants, like Iyasare, Bette’s Oceanview Diner, and the Pasta Shop. We have to mention Vik’s Chaat where you can dine on Indian street food in a cafeteria-style setting.

Where should we drink?

Missouri Lounge, which is a few blocks away, is your standard, slightly grimy dive bar with a big patio. It’s always a low-key place to grab a beer with co-workers or play some pool. In Emeryville there’s Prizefighter, which has a well-trafficked happy hour. They boast a good drink selection without the pretence – great patio, delicious cocktails, a wide selection of mezcal, and the pizza place down the block will deliver. Plus the bartenders are knowledgeable and friendly enough to exchange a story with. The Takara Sake factory has a tasting room alongside a small sake museum. It’s inexpensive and just the right distance off the beaten path.

And where should we sleep? 

Our neighborhood has a lot to appreciate, but no hotels. Airbnb is the best way to experience the local flair. If you have access to a bicycle, that’s even better. The streets are flat and brimming with good bike routes to take you across Berkeley, Emeryville, and Oakland.

JMS photo credits: Andria Lo


BarrettSF - Rafi Kugler, Director of Recruiting

Tell us a bit about Downtown… 

We’re located at 250 Sutter St., which is at the edge of San Francisco’s Union Square, a 2.6-acre central public plaza surrounded by several blocks of shopping, hotels, the Theatre District, and the Financial District. We moved to this location in May from our Battery and Jackson location—we basically outgrew our old space. The floor we now call home previously belonged to a market research group and had lots of one-way mirrors. I’m sure they were conducting riveting focus groups about canned soup. We were able to gut it and design it from scratch. Compared to our last location, the area is definitely more thriving. 

Creatively, what makes the area unique within San Francisco? 

We're at the intersection of the city’s financial and retail districts and also Chinatown – we get that nice mix of local and tourist. And also crazy. You’re not in SF without some crazy. There’s even this tiny French pocket, Claude Alley, which has little cafes and boutiques. It feels like you're never too far from any one place. 

Which other companies should we know about that are based nearby? 

We’re situated about halfway between two great agencies – Venables Bell + Partners and Goodby Silverstein & Partner – and we have a lot of history with both places so it feels like the right place for us. There are more creative and design shops in the area as well.  

Where should we eat? 

Hops & Hominy. It's a California eatery with influence from the Southeastern United States. Amazing. Or try one of the carry out options on Kearny Street. The Ramen Underground always seems to have a line. They’re doing something right. Who knew there could be such a demand for top ramen? 

Where should we drink?

The Irish Bank is quickly becoming a barrettSF favourite, and it’s not uncommon to run into crews from neighbouring agencies here. The outdoor seating is casual and social. Our co-founder/ECD Jamie Barrett recently met some Belgian roadies who were on tour with AC/DC at this bar. They shared a table and some road stories then proceeded to generously pick up the tab. Stuff like that happens at The Irish Bank. 

And where should we sleep? 

San Francisco is a great city for hotels, with everything from luxury Nob Hill palaces (The Fairmont and The Ritz) to rock star motor lodges. I’ve heard good things about the Hotel Triton, and there are other boutique hotels nearby too. Union Square has a plethora of options. Though many are higher priced because of the tourist factor, there are some hidden gems to be found, especially in the era of Airbnb and last-minute travel apps.

Any parting thoughts…?

It’s nice being on a street that has so much San Francisco history to it. Apparently back in the Barbary Coast days, Sutter Street used to be known as the main thoroughfare of the Garment District, where men could get outfitted in snazzy three-piece suits and top hats, and women procured ornate gowns. You don’t see too many of those stores anymore, but some, like Cable Car Clothiers, and many independent tailor shops, are still around. 

BarrettSF photo credits: Andria Lo


Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners - John Butler, Executive Creative Director

What is Sausalito like? 

Sausalito is beautiful and scenic. Our building was once used to manufacture Liberty Ships during WWII, and some of the spaces still exhibit tracks where those ships were supposed to have been pushed into Richardson Bay upon completion. (The war ended before one actually rolled out into the Bay, or so we are told.) Our place is Northern California laid-back.

Creatively, what makes the area unique? 

There is just something refreshing about being around artists and tourists (the real people) rather than shoved into ‘ad agency row’. We like it out here, it gives us some perspective.

Which other companies should we know about that are based nearby? 

Spaulding Wooden Boat Center – known as '’The Cathedral of Boats’ – is a working maritime museum and educational centre built by Myron Spaulding. There’s this creative boutique called Division of Labor, run by two of the nicest guys you’ll meet – unless you’re pitching against them! And Sea Trek, where many a BSSP employee can be seen blowing off steam on the Bay.

Where should we eat? 

- Le Garage: it’s steps away from our office with a great view sitting at the Bay’s edge.

- Saylors South of the Border: Taco Tuesdays…and tequila. We’re told Sammy Hagar hangs out there. But we’ve never actually seen him.

- Bar Bocce: Wood fired pizza while playing Bocce by the Bay.

Where should we drink?

- Smittys – it’s the real Sausalito experience away from the tourists. You get to know the people that really live in the community.

- Saylors Landing – this has a beautiful outdoor garden patio with excellent margaritas

- Salitos – a scenic outdoor patio on the bay.

And where should we sleep? 

Cavallo Point is situated at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge and ranked #1 hotel in the San Francisco Bay Area by Travel & Leisure. Experience the rich history of Fort Baker, a former U.S. Army post, with a stay in one of the amazingly restored historic guestrooms. These historic buildings – formerly officers' residences – are located on expansive green space encircling the parade ground with hillside or San Francisco skyline views. Also, The Acqua Hotel is just one famous bridge away from San Francisco and right next door to the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma, and the natural splendours of nearby Mount Tamalpais, Muir Woods and Point Reyes. 

Any parting thoughts…?

Come and visit. It’s a great place to live. Just don’t start an ad agency here. Two of them is more than enough.

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LBB Editorial, Tue, 20 Oct 2015 17:24:21 GMT