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So S.F., It Hurts: Four Only-in-the-Bay Phenoms We Almost Hate Ourselves for Loving (but Actually Really Love)

Sorry not sorry.


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Photo-illustration: Clark Miller

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Photo: Robert Castro

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Photo: Courtesy of Ember

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Read more Best of San Francisco 2018 here.

The Aspirational Plant Bar

If, like me, you’ve gazed longingly at SFMOMA’s living wall or double-tapped through green-thumbed friends’ #terrarium plantscapes but lack the skill (or, frankly, the attention span) to Gwyneth your way to best-life-living glory, Succulence will be a balm to your soul. Drop in to the charming Bernal Heights nursery any day of the week and head to the Planting Bar—essentially a Build-A-Bear for plant cuddlers—where you can pluck moss from a rainbow of colors (even an inky “black reindeer moss”) and nestle it into one of the shop’s multiplicity of glass globes or an item from its curated collection of ceramics. If the thought of even this level of DIYing still scares the organic cow manure out of you, Succulence staffers will helpfully DIFY (do it for you), fashioning a “nonliving and maintenance-free” moss wall to your specifications (pricing varies with size and materials). You’ll have to lift a finger, but only to point to the types of moss and frame you want. Alternatively, learn to build your own plant wall while sipping wine—a bougie combo if ever there was one—in a two-hour Vertical Gardening DIY class ($65). You’ll walk out with a vertical garden of your very own, and the liquid courage to build some more. —Kelsey Lannin

The Celeb Souvla Run
To be fair, San Francisco restaurants aren’t Anderson Cooper’s usual beat. Still, the CNN anchor wasn’t spreading #fakenews when he told his 1.5 million Instagram followers about the pineapple pizza at Che Fico a week after the NoPa hot spot opened, gushing over the “best food [he’d] had in a long time.” Granted, Cooper is pals with one of the restaurant’s co-owners, the actor Jonathan Tucker. But the guy also almost never posts about food. So it goes with San Francisco, a city that might not be as celebrity-filled as New York or Los Angeles but certainly feeds its famous visitors well. In this past year, noted ice cream lover Joe Biden stopped by for a scoop at the Ayesha Curry–helmed International Smoke, and self-styled wellness guru Gwyneth Paltrow popped in for “bomb boba” at Boba Guys. Former first lady Michelle Obama had such a craving for Souvla’s fast-casual Greek fare that she ordered more or less everything on the menu for a plane ride back to D.C., later writing to thank the staff for the “wonderful meal.” And the Chronicle reported that rapper Kendrick Lamar and his party liked the buttermilk dressing at Brenda’s French Soul Food so much that they started drinking it. Meanwhile, a fellow by the name of Lebron James has taken to spending a chunk of June in the Bay Area every year. Right before the start of last year’s NBA Finals, he was spotted in SoMa ordering 10 fried chicken sandwiches from the Bird. He wound up losing to the Warriors by 22 the next night—but you’ve got to admit, the guy has good taste.

The Inevitable Weed-Tourist Bus
What do you get when you combine two of the things locals most detest about San Francisco, tour buses and hoary tie-dyed weed clichés? Shockingly, amazingly, and flying in the face of all reason: an awesome time. Beginning in June, tour-bus operation Magic Bus began running a new cannabis-history-themed tour, operated by San Rafael’s Antenna Theater, in a Timothy Learyed–out converted school bus called the Magic CannaBus (groan). But hear us out, because it’s actually pretty great. The bus picks riders up near Union Square and drives through the financial district, where guides rail against the bloodsucking corporate squares. Then it’s on to Chinatown, where they discuss the history of anti-immigrant drug legislation, followed by North Beach, the Haight, the Castro, and Mid-Market, where the tour takes a pit stop at Barbary Coast Collective dispensary for a quick fill-up of the latest ganja products (riders get a 10 percent discount). At various points in the tour, screens roll down over the bus’s windows and all the stoner tourists are treated to the requisite Jefferson Airplane–scored light show, as well as impromptu history lessons on Reefer Madness, Just Say No, and Prop. 64. Well-trod territory? For sure. A worthwhile trip down memory lane in the heart of canna-culture? Absolutely. Or maybe that was just the brownie talking. —Jules Older

The High-Tech Coffee Mug
I am vociferously anti-gadget. High-tech or low-tech, I don’t discriminate. Offer to demonstrate how your iPhone-synced thermostat works and watch my eyes glaze over. Want to get my blood boiling? Suggest I need an egg slicer. My anti-gizmo sentiments stem partly from being a design minimalist and partly from being raised by parents who believed that microwaves were for people too lazy to turn on the damn stove. But my Luddism does have one exception: I require hot-ass coffee. My mornings consist of lots of things—getting my two kids dressed, making breakfast, blow-drying my hair (if I’m lucky)—which means that I’m constantly sipping cold joe and usually dumping half of it down the sink in pathetic surrender. So when I learned about the Ember ($80), I broke my gadget ban. It’s a minimalist ceramic mug, created in partnership with San Francisco design firm Ammunition, that keeps coffee at an exact 135 degrees for hours thanks to an internal battery and heating device. No exaggeration: It’s changed my life. I used to stare helplessly across the room at my mug while I breastfed my baby (who also demands that his morning beverage be served on command, in his case at an exact 98.6 degrees) and know my coffee was getting colder by the moment. Now a subtle light glowing near the bottom of my cup is a reassuring beacon, a patient signal to do what I gotta do—my coffee will wait for me. I even synced it to my smart phone. Wanna see? —Erin Feher


Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco 

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