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By Jeani Hunt-Gibbon
Marketing & Communications Manager
Union Square Business Improvement District
There was a time before I understood how special this place is. I thought of it as a shopping area and not the thriving, vibrant frenzy of life that it is. That’s why I’m sharing my own personal perspective— five reasons why Union Square is a truly fabulous place to work!
Lunchtime Shopping Bonanza
I like to think of this as research for my job marketing Union Square. During my lunch breaks you can catch me dashing off to fashion-forward shops like Zara for clothes that transition easily from work to play, taking advantage of Friends & Family sales at our flagship Macy’s or the always elegant Theory shop on Maiden Lane, getting T-shirts at the understandably cool Vince shop on Geary Street or getting expert advice on the perfect pair of jeans from the trendsetting folks at Industrie Denim. Oh, and did I mention the Westfield San Francisco Centre? I go there, too, to get my hands on the hard-to-find prim and pretty clothes at Karen Millen or the crisply stylish clothes at Club Monaco and the flowy, feminine pieces at Aritzia. With a job at the center of the Square, I know when all the best sales are coming up and have built up an enviable wardrobe on a city girl’s budget.
Like most San Franciscans, I love a good happy hour, especially in a charming setting. When I’m feeling very Noir, I pop in to my friends at the Burritt Room for a Berlinetta (a take on a Manhattan). Surrounded by lush red and dark wood vintage décor, it sometimes feels like you’re enacting a sultry scene in an old Noir movie (did I mention the bartenders wear suspenders?). For a classic SF treat, I stop by Cantina. This pirate-themed bar pioneered the use of fresh ingredients. One of my faves to this day is their Laughing Buddha with Buddha’s Hand Vodka, chilies, ginger and lemon— yum! If I’m feeling more low-key, a glass of bubbly in the adorably retro Library Bar (meant to resemble a French literary salon) at the Hotel Rex is just the ticket. On a wine and cheese night, I know just the spot – Eno Wine Bar is tucked away in the Westin St. Francis and offers a wide variety of delicious wine flights and even cheese flights! For a very San Francisco experience, you can wander across the impressive lobby at the hotel to Clock Bar for carefully crafted drinks in a sleek setting.
I go to a lot of events, so I need go-to spots for yummy food to soak up the champagne and supplement the passed apps. Luckily, Union Square has some top notch places for a delish dinner. I love, love, love the Pad Thai at E&O Asian Kitchen. I could eat it every day, but it’s basically a mountain of noodles and veggies and Thai magic, so it’s probably best to stick to once a week. Start with the corn fritters and you’re in tropical food heaven! When I want to indulge my inner Francophile, which is pretty often, I love a meal at the classically French Café Claude on the adorable Claude Lane. Just down the street you can get a more contemporary take on Cali-French cuisine at Café Claude’s little sister restaurant Claudine. We’ve also been graced with a whole slew of new restaurants that are shaking things up around here! For modern gastro-pub fare, I now stop by Bartlett Hall, where they’ll soon be serving up house-brewed beers. Plus they have a variety of fresh salads, flatbread pizzas and fun bar bites. Another go-to spot for post-work dining for me has always been Jasper’s Corner Tap. Do yourself a favor and get the shishito peppers. Get them, the grilled cheese and a Manhattan and you have achieved post-work bliss! For something a little more exotic, my new restaurant of choice is Kin Khao. There you can get authentic and fresh Thai cuisine unlike I’ve ever had before (and I’ve had a lot of Thai cuisine!). Dishes like the Yum Yai salad with raw and tempura-friend seasonal veggies and house-made chilli jam sauce really shine at this spot tucked in the Parc 55 Hotel.
It’s Show Time
Whenever I want to inject a little culture into my life, I know I have dozens of options right here in Union Square. It’s simply a choice of whether I want to see a big Broadway production of Once at SHN or a world-premiere play like The Orphan or Zaho at our most lauded local theater group A.C.T. or something a little more edgy and intimate like Into the Woods at SF Playhouse. I can also wander into a number of local galleries and catch exhibits like Everybody Needs a Superhero at Scott Richards Contemporary Art Gallery or catch the colorful, post-Harlem Renaissance pieces of world-famous artist Romare Bearden at Jenkins Johnson Gallery. Plus, I can see live jazz at venues like Biscuits & Blues and Feinstein’s at the Nikko. I can even dance my heart out at world-class nightclubs like Ruby Skye, Vessel and Infusion Lounge.
My Secret Spots
I almost hate to tell you about these, dear readers, but you must know, there are many hidden secret experiences and little-known spots in Union Square. OK, perhaps you know of Maiden Lane and its many international designer shops, but did you know that the only Frank Lloyd Wright building in SF is right there? The Xanadu Art Gallery boasts a beautiful brick façade that’s worth a looksee. Head up Grant Ave. from Maiden Lane, and you’ll find some of my other favorite gems. Want the perfect latte? Stop by Nespresso, where they don’t do to-go coffee, forcing you to sit and savor their delicious creations. Up on Sutter St., there are a number of uniquely local businesses. Ethos is a wonderful place to get hand-crafted, unique and extremely well-made clothing and accessories. Further down, you can get super-cute, super fashion-friendly jewelry that’s all made in an atelier above Shreve & Co. at FAVOR. One of my favorite new additions to the ‘hood is the Brit & Co. Makeshop, which is nestled in an old art gallery space on Sutter Street and offers an eclectic mix of DIY tools and hand-made gifts, plus workshops on everything from Calligraphy to laser cutting! OK, that’s enough secrets for today!
To tell you the truth, this is just the tip of the iceberg! I’ve learned a lot in my 3 years in the Square, but mostly, I know I’m a lucky duck. I live in one of the most amazing cities in the world and get to market and experience one of the most fabulous places in the city— a place folks come from all over the world to experience and buzzes with excitement every day: Union Square San Francisco.