Ray Delgado, 50. I am a 38-year-old single guy in San Francisco. I worked as a journalist for nine years at the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle and was the Northern California Chapter President of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for six years. I am also on the Board of Directors for the Gay Straight Alliance Network: www.gsanetwork.org.
Sundays = Fundays
Check this place out on Sundays. It's always packed, the music is great and the crowd is friendly. The outdoor balcony is a perfect place to enjoy a cocktail and watch the hordes of gays prance on by.
The French Quarter and Business District are teeming with hotel options that appeal to a variety of tourists. Too many of them are stuffy old places with granny-decor rooms. The Renaissance, thankfully, is very modern and is a very affordable option that is centrally located just two blocks away from Bourbon street. The lobby is terrific for grabbing a drink--the decor has a very New York/Miami feel to it. There's also a nice outdoor swimming pool that offers a good spot to catch a few rays. The rooms are comfortable and exactly what you'd expect out of a mid-range hotel chain. The main drawback was the clunky oversize television. Hotels that scream modern in their lobbies should carry that through to the details in the guestrooms. But it's a small complaint for a nice property that screams affordability.
Shrimp and grits!
If you're in the South, you must try shrimp and grits, right? Now think about it with some andouille sausage added to it. Oh, and a little bit of heavy cream. Sinfully good and hearty. The best of New Orleans captured in one bowl. I would return again and again for this dish (after working out for two weeks solid!), along with several other options that Gott Gourmet offers. Gott offers plenty of really great healthy options (it is a "green" cafe, afterall) so this dish might be best ordered as an appetizer for the table to share. Then you can follow it up with a salad or something lighter to balance out the meal. This is a great option in the Garden District and draws a crowd on the weekends (be prepared to wait a little bit). The neighborhood is also charming, with lots of cute shopts. And Gotts features some great local art hanging from the walls. Get out of the quarter and stop here when you're touring the Garden District.
This place serves the most amazing pesto I have ever eaten outside of Italy. It's like they fly in the basil every morning for that night's meal. Their homemade pasta sheets that are coated in the pesto elevate the entire dish to prime levels. I'd lick the plate clean if this were served in my house. Okay, maybe not, but this is a great dish at a great place. Check out Farina for an impressive date spot, a special occasion or if you need a place that has a private room. The decor is modern, the service is great, and it's one of the best spots to dine alfresco when the weather is cooperating. Modern Italian at its best.
If grease is your thing...
....Then you might like this place. I didn't care for it at all. The pepperoni was super thick, which meant that my slice of pie was covered in orange oil. I squeezed the two sides together and poured off and endless stream of it. Ugh. I don't see what all the fuss is about. I think it's a drunk thing.
Decent Italian food
This place is old-school Italian and you'd likely find better options elsewhere in a bigger city but this restaurant wins you over with its simplicity and charm. And by that I mean the view. Set on a dock, this is a great outdoor dining option with a stunning view of the shoreline and moored boats. Service was friendly and efficient. Our favorite things to try were the stuffed mushrooms and carbonara.
Your Ptown splurge
This is the place to visit when you're looking to splurge on a nice meal in Ptown. Quaint historical charms surround you throughout the property (check out the massive fireplace when you first walk in). Come early for a drink on the patio overlooking the marvelous Ptown shoreline and enjoy one of the restaurant's charming white rocking chairs as you soak in the scenery. The food and service are very good and don't miss the lobster and artichoke fondue.
This place should be on your bucket list
Those who follow fads go to Momofuku. Foodies go to Ippudo. You can get a Starbucks triple macchi-whatever for $4 on any day. Your best $4 is spent, however, on the heavenly pork bun at Ippudo. This is nothing like that doughy ball with chewy red pork inside. This is the Asian version of a taco, where light-as-air bread envelops the most tender and succulent slab of braised pork that you've ever tried. We each ordered one while waiting 45 minutes in the bar and they were so good that we elbowed those models out of the way to order another round. Wow. Simply stunning, no matter how great the deal. But once you're inside, you're in for even more of a treat. If you have a visceral reaction against ramen thanks to your starving student college days, this place will help you get past it, Mary. And soup will never be the same again. I swear they must boil down 100 items for five days to get the most amazing broth you'll ever taste. So rich, so complex, so nourishing. Can this place please bring me a batch when I'm home sick? Everything we ate was stellar. We have since recommended it to gazillions of friends who are going to New York. This place needs to be placed on your bucket list! It truly is a must.
The Castro's best restaurant
After 15 years in San Francisco and countless subpar meals at the next "hot" restaurants that sprung up to go for the gay dollar (Mecca, anyone?), I am here to say that we now have a top-tier offering that is sure to delight for years to come. Frances is, in a word, fantastic. It's everything a neighborhood restaurant should be. Intimate, comfortable, reasonably priced and DELICIOUS. The place encourages you to order an array of nibbles, small plates and main courses to share with your fellow diners and the food is so good it makes you want to order more. We loved the small plates, which focused so well on seasonal ingredients (the menu always changes, but there seem to be a few constants like the fabulous bacon beignets). And Frances satisfyingly showcases a new trend in restaurants: wine poured from a tap that is just as good as much more expensive offerings at other places (just $1 per ounce). The only downside of this place is that the word of how good it is has gone out, so plan well ahead and book those reservations!
Best bet for corporate traveler
So there I am bored and starving on a work trip and I decide to take my copy of Bon Appetit down to the Hotel Monaco's restaurant, hoping to put that expense account to use on a decent meal. Wow, what a treat. I opted for the counter seat by the open kitchen so I could watch the chefs hard at work. If you think you might be tempted to become a chef, spend some time watching the grueling grind of attempting to achieve perfection on every plate while your colleagues bark back and forth as they try and handle the pressure. The tension is palpable. Why do they do this, you ask? Ahh, the food arrives and your question is answered. Every bite makes you look up, expecting to see an Italian grandma in that chef's apron because the tastes are so similar but knowing that there's a very modern touch in the presentation and emphasis on seasonal ingredients. The house-made pasta is heavenly, the yellow sheets of tagliaterri blanketed in a rich tomato cream meat sauce that the chef proudly told me was also made in-house using four different types of meat. The food left quite an impression, so much so that I decided to skip the other places I read about and try the things on the menu that I wanted to order. Everything was just as good and I was treated to several tastes of other offerings by the chefs who were so happy to see my return. And I left my magazine back in the room...this show was just too good to pass up.