Elizabeth An's San Francisco
Elizabeth An has a love affair with food and fashion.
Elizabeth An has a love affair with food and fashion – two passions that are obvious to anyone dining at either of her two stylish restaurants, AnQi at South Coast Plaza or Crustacean in Beverly Hills. It’s no wonder her favorite city is San Francisco, one of the nation’s most stylish cities, where food and fashion reign supreme. The city by the bay has other draws for her, too. She and her family landed there after the fall of Saigon in 1975. “Growing up there, it will always feel like home to me,” she says. – She spoke with Rosemary McClure
Why San Francisco?
There is a unique energy that San Francisco has that no other city duplicates. It has history, diversity, architecture, breath-taking views and a tremendous food culture with some of the nation’s best chefs. It has a distinctive California flavor, balanced with sophistication and tradition; yet it’s fresh and contemporary.
Time Is Right
Spring is my favorite season, although, generally speaking, San Francisco is always a great place to visit year-round, since it is never too cold or hot. It’s also a user-friendly city. You can walk almost everywhere or hop on a bus or cable car. The city is small, but there are so many things to do, and all of them unforgettable.
The Union Square area rivals Rodeo Drive with luxury brands. Great streets for shopping are Maiden Lane, Geary and Sutter streets. Years ago, I had my own boutique, Mondiella, while simultaneously working in the family restaurant business on Sutter. For quaint locally owned boutiques, shop Union, Chestnut and Sacramento streets, which are wonderful shops with some great local designers. If you’re looking for something culturally unique, go to Chinatown. There are beautiful tea shops and places that sell all sorts of teas you won’t find anywhere else.
Put on some comfortable shoes, hop on a bus or cable car and take in the city. San Francisco has one of the safest metro systems in the country, and it’s fast and efficient, coming every 15 minutes. San Francisco is the only city that I actually look forward to riding a bus in. The metro system is a great way to get to know the city on a more intimate level.
The cable car is a wonderful way to see San Francisco, and don’t miss the very steep Lombard Street, which is famous for its eight hairpin turns. You get the same rush you feel when you’re at the top of a ski slope looking down and can’t tell where the bottom is. If you’re feeling adventurous, park your car and walk or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito for a little coffee or a light lunch. Another must-see is the Cliff House, with its phenomenal view. It has an extra special place in the hearts of my family, because when we went to see it, we stumbled upon the Italian deli that would later become Thanh Long, our very first restaurant. Little did we know it would become the foundation of our livelihood in America.
If you like breakfast, and have a sweet tooth as I do, an absolute must is b. patisserie, (2821 California St., bpatisserie.com). The kouign amann (a buttery Breton cake pronounced kween ah-MON) are to die for. They are perfectly flaky and great with a cappuccino. For dinner, head up to Nob Hill for an old-school mom-and- pop Italian dinner at Franchino (347 Columbus Ave., franchinosf.com), where you can get steaming platters of pasta or gnocchi with red wine served in jugs. Other favorites: for contemporary cuisine, visit State Bird Provisions (1529 Fillmore St., statebirdsf.com); for dim sum, Yank Sing, clean, simple and a family favorite (49 Stevenson St. and 101 Spear St., yanksing.com). And finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention San Francisco’s ‘best kept secret,’ according to the San Jose Mercury News, Thanh Long, our family restaurant (4101 Judah St.). You’re not a true San Franciscan until you’ve experienced Thanh Long, SF’s first Vietnamese restaurant.
San Francisco has great jazz. And I can’t mention great jazz without mentioning Bimbo’s 365 Club (1025 Columbus Ave., bimbos365club.com). It’s an incredible venue dating back to 1931. Check their calendar for some great jazz acts.