Ever year at GDC I see swarms of people crowd into the same spots right beside the Moscone Center, with lines going down the street.
But, if you are willing to walk a block or two away, you can beat the GDC lines. Here are a few of my favourite spots near the Moscone Center.
I need something to eat
Address: 48 5th St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Menu: Bahn mi
The cheapest spot to get a Bahn Mi in San Francisco that I know of so far. It’s not the most glamourous joint, but damn it gets the job done, and a Bahn Mi sandwich always satisfies. Plus, it is almost never busy.
Directions: Standing on Mission St. with your back to Yerba Buena Gardens (that’s the park with the big lawn and the waterfall), turn left and walk down Mission until you hit the second junction. Cross to the far side, and turn right onto 5th, walking towards Market Street. It’ll be on your left a little bit past the large San Francisco Mint building.
Address: 115 New Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94105
This “minimalist spot” is so minimalist it doesn’t have a sign that says “The Bird”. Instead, look for a sign with a wolf making off with a hunk of chicken. On any given day, even without a convention going on, there is usually a line. But, the line moves very fast and it’s well worth the wait.
Absolutely top notch fried chicken sandwiches, and no fancy-pants “choices” here. Say if you want it Spicy and if you want it with Fries or not. Done. Dig-in. NEXT!
Directions: Standing on Mission St. with your back to Yerba Buena Gardens (that’s the park lawn with the waterfall) turn right and walk down Mission. Turn right at the second junction you cross and walk down New Montgomery St. If you don’t like the look of The Bird there are lots of other options on this street too.
Address: 860 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94107
“Ooh La La” as I have to call it in my head to remember its name, is a real nice little spot I found recently. It’s a cozy, but classy little hip bar that serves good food which doesn’t break the bank.
I’d highly recommend making it to out Oola if you need a quieter spot where you can get away from the convention hustle for bit. Great for lunch meetings too.
Directions: Stand on the Corner of 4th & Howard, facing Moscone West (the building that stands by itself) with the rest of the Moscone Centre behind you. Turn left, walking down 4th. Walk one block and then turn right onto Folsom St. Walk half a block down and you’re there.
Hours: Closed on Mondays, every other day its open from 5:30pm. Thurs-Sun its open in the mornings as well.
I really need to Pee
A critical question indeed, and San Francisco is known for its complete absence of public toilets. No Starbucks or McDonald’s is going to save you here either.
If you’re desperate and can’t get back into the Moscone Center fast enough here are some options.
THE SF MOMA
The Museum Of Metropolitan Art is right across the street from the Moscone Centre, and has toilets immediately on the left by the Coat-Check.
They’re not public toilets though, so please leave them clean or I might get in trouble for writing this blog. If you’re visiting from out of town, why not grab something from the Gift Shop on your way out to say “Thanks for letting me pee SF MOMA”!
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Same deal as the SF MOMA, walk in and continue past the reception desk to find the toilets. This place is right by the Yerba Buena gardens, so it may be filled with other convention goers trying to find a loo. Be kind and respectful, and hey, maybe pay the price of admission to take a break from the convention. You might get some inspiration from the contemporary art on display!
I need a meeting spot
So you’ve arrange to meet someone this GDC, but if you say “Let’s meet at the Yerba Buena Gardens” you will be trying to pick them out of a crowd of about a thousand other people doing the exact same thing.
Let’s walk a street or two over and make this easier.
THE JEWISH CONTEMPORARY MUSEUM
Directly across from the Yerba Buena Gardens is the Jewish Contemporary Museum. It has a nice wide paved area in front of it, with a few spots to sit. It’ll probably be also full of GDC folks looking for someone they are waiting to meet, but if neither of you want to go far, this spot will at least makes thing a little easier.
Just a few blocks over, and you can have it all: Latte Express’ Bahn Mi, Blue Bottle Coffee and a quiet little “mini-plaza” where you can actually hear each other talk. Agree to meet your person here and you will have a nicer time and it will be much easier for you to find each other.
Directions: Same as Latte Express. With Yerba Buena Gardens behind you, turn left and walk down Mission st. one block. On the opposite corner you will see a large, imposing building that stands on its own, speratated from the other buildings in the street. That’s the original SF Mint. Make your way behind it and you will find the cute plaza area.
Yeah it has nothing to do with the show, but it does have a very nice little park, with cute spots to sit and have a chat. Plus, there is a Blue Bottle Coffee near here too (no Bahn Mi to my knowledge though).
Take a stroll through this relaxing park with the person you are due to meet, and you’ll both appreciate this great respite from the GDC hustle.
Directions: Guess what? It’s South of where you’re standing! Exit the Moscone. You are standing with Mocone South behind you, and Moscone North in front of you. Moscone West is to your left. Turn right onto 3rd St, and then turn Right again. Walk 3 blocks, going under a highway overpass. You will then see the park on your left.
I need to impress someone with Beer
The true San Francisco experience: getting a drink at a craft brewery. Joke all you want about American beer my European friends, but trust me, there is an incredible collection of domestic beers that you need try.
Now I’ll be honest, I’ve only been to Black Hammer out of these two, but beer breweries are pretty much the same across the Bay Area. They’re all good.
21ST AMENDEMENT BREWERY
Address: 563 2nd St, San Francisco, CA 94107
One of my favourite local beers, I highly recommend the “Hell or High Watermelon” if it’s available. They’ve also got some decent pub food including ribs and tater tots.
Directions: The same as South Park except you will walk through the park to the far end! With the Moscone Center South behind you, turn right and then turn right again. Walk down 3rd street for 3 blocks going under an overpass. Walk through the park across, turn right around the corner and you will see it on the far side.
BLACK HAMMER BREWING
Address: 544 Bryant St, San Francisco, CA 94107
A cozy little brewery, with a decent selection. They also sometimes do events, like scientific talks by real professors (in fact it turns out Vicon is having a meetup there).
Directions: Similar to South Park and 21st Amendment. With Moscone South Behind you, and Moscone North in front of you, turn right onto 3rd, then turn right again. Walk down 3rd for 3 blocks, going under the overpass. Then turn right onto Bryant (if you see the park, you have gone too far). Halfway down the street and you will find it. If you reach 4th, you’ve gone too far.
This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list, but whenever I am attending a con at the Moscone, these are my go-to spots for my daily needs.
If you have any recommendations yourself, I’d love to check them out!
A Comment on Safety
So, San Francisco is safe enough, but it’s far from what I’d call a clean city. In fact it’s pretty filthy. If it’s your first time in SF I suggest you keep a hold of your valuables, watch out for what you might be stepping in, avoid eye contact with strangers and if you park a car on Folsom St it will get broken into. I guarantee it.
This isn’t meant to scare you away from San Fran, or give you anxiety about coming here. I just want you to leave with fond memories. If you don’t have a buddy this GDC, find someone else with a badge and make a new friend. Have a safe GDC!