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Save or Splurge: San Francisco

14savesplurge600.1ON $250/DAY

SLEEP Carved out of a 1920s hotel, the new Hotel Vertigo in Nob Hill (940 Sutter Street; 415-885-6800; recently emerged from a cinematic makeover inspired by the Hitchcock classic. If the orange-and-white color scheme doesn’t make you dizzy, the spiraled mirrors and corkscrew staircase might. The 102 rooms are spacious, a loop of “Vertigo” (which was partly filmed here when it was the Empire) plays in the lobby and, during the check-in, you’ll receive a list of the best places in the city to “get vertigo,” including Twin Peaks and the top of Coit Tower. Cost for a double: $139.

EAT Have a feast for under $20 in the multiethnic Mission District, where there’s a taqueria on nearly every corner and the great burrito debate rages on. Top contenders include: El Farolito (three locations in the city, including 2950 24th Street;, a local chain that serves brick-size “super burritos” stuffed with half an avocado for $6; El Metate (2406 Bryant Street; 415-641-7209), where the chile verde pork burrito ($5) shares star billing with the fish tacos and watermelon agua fresca; and Papalote (3409 24th Street; 415-970-8815;, where the lard-free beans and tofu mole are a godsend for vegans. Burritos and agua fresca for two: about $15.

SHOP For quirky objects with an artistic bent, check out Park Life (220 Clement Street; 415-386-7275;, a shop that carries a well-curated cache of art books, clever housewares and limited-edition objects — like salt and pepper shakers inscribed with the words “cocaine” and “heroin” ($125). If that’s not creative enough, pop into the adjacent gallery, which features monthly exhibitions of emerging artists from San Francisco and beyond (priced from $20 to $2,000). Silk-screened T-shirt by the Bay Area artist Tucker Nichols: $28.

PARTY San Francisco has its share of slick, stylish nightclubs, but if you crave something smaller and more intimate, head to Little Baobab (3388 19th Street; 415-643-3558;, a tiny Senegalese restaurant that hosts one of the city’s liveliest dance parties Wednesday through Saturday nights. Revelers of all ages and ethnicities pack the sweaty, shoebox-size dance floor, while D.J.’s spin an eclectic mix of world music (salsa one night, Afrobeat and dancehall the next). The ginger and hibiscus-based drinks are strong and cheap, $5 and $7. Cover charge is $5 on weekends. Cost for entrance and cocktails for two: $24.

SAVE Postcards may feature painted Victorians, but San Francisco also has stunning new architecture. Start your design tour at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park (50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive; 415-750-3600;; $10 entry), wrapped in a perforated copper skin by Herzog & de Meuron. Its observation tower offers jaw-dropping views. Nearby is the California Academy of Sciences (55 Music Concourse Drive; 415-379-8000;; $25 entry), a “green” steel-and-glass building designed by Renzo Piano that contains three museums: an aquarium, a natural history museum and a digital planetarium. And downtown, there’s the Contemporary Jewish Museum (736 Mission Street; 415-655-7800;; $10 entry), housed in a 1907 brick building converted by Daniel Libeskind into a glittering blue steel monument. Total cost of admissions: $45.


ON $1000/DAY

SLEEP From its large contemporary art collection to its miles of dark wood and thick-pile carpeting, the St. Regis San Francisco (125 Third Street; 415-284-4000; embodies refinement and good taste. It offers a gigantic spa and fitness center, a buzzing lobby bar and a pair of noteworthy restaurants: Vitrine, popular with power-lunchers, and Ame, which serves creative sashimi like kampachi with sea urchin sauce. The 260 guest rooms feel like luxury apartments with their white oak cabinetry, creamy marble baths and, on floors 17 and higher, eye-popping views. Centrally situated in SoMa, the hotel is a quick walk to the shops of Union Square and a fleet of cultural offerings including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. On weekends, ask for a room facing away from noisy Mission Street. Cost for a deluxe room with a city view: $429.

EAT Incongruously set amid tacky strip clubs in North Beach, Coi (373 Broadway Street; 415-393-9000; is a magnet for culinary thrill seekers. The chef Daniel Patterson has garnered a bevy of honors since opening his restaurant (pronounced “kwa”) in 2006, including two Michelin stars. The main dining room has a Zen aesthetic — grass-cloth walls, backlit panels of rice paper — and seats just 29. The mind-expanding 11-course tasting menu ($125) offers flourishes of molecular gastronomy, like the gelatinous orbs of milk-and-honey that pop in your mouth, and unexpected flavors like ice cream flavored with Douglas fir needles. Reservations are required in the dining room but not in the adjacent lounge, where dishes can be ordered à la carte. Tasting menu for two: $250.

SHOP Fashionistas could blow their budget on a single frock at Philanthropist (3571 Sacramento Street; 415-441-1750; and still feel good about it. That’s because 100 percent of profits are donated to local charities like the Raphael House, a shelter for homeless families. Hot items include $260 jeans by the cult-brand Goldsign and an “I ♥ SF” gold pendant necklace by the local designer Zoë Chicco for $590. Since it’s a recession, pick up a Lucite bangle bracelet inscribed with feel-good slogans like “Philanthropy is beautiful.” Cost: $132.

PARTY The Slow Food movement has invaded cocktail hour. Witness the industrial-chic bar in Haight-Ashbury, Alembic (1725 Haight Street; 415-666-0822;, where bartenders tinker with dehydrators and smokers to crisp garnishes and flavor syrups. A similar approach can be found at Clock Bar, a new bar in the Westin St. Francis (335 Powell Street; 415-397-9222;, where the mixologist (don’t say bartender) Marco Dionysos whips up fresh fruit purées and housemade grenadine, and raids the kitchen of the restaurant next door, Michael Mina, for exotic ingredients like Peruvian aji amarillo peppers. Cost for two English Breakfast cocktails, made with Earl Grey-infused gin topped with frothy egg whites and a black tea liqueur: $26.

SPLURGE Wondering what to do with those heirloom carrots and watermelon radishes you fondled over at the Ferry Plaza farmer’s market? Find out at Tante Marie’s Cooking School (271 Francisco Street; 415-788-6699; One of the city’s oldest culinary institutes, it began full-time operation in 1979 and offers a Simple Seasonal Cooking class built around organic and farm-fresh ingredients. It also offers courses in global cuisine, from Thai to Moroccan. Five-hour cooking class: $185.

TOTAL COST $1,022.