Best of Bay Area (Destination Favorites) | Illustration by Wondershins

Best of Bay Area

At the beginning of August, I flew down to the Bay Area to visit my family for some big-time barbecue-ing and a giant dose of incredible memories. So I figured, rather than doing an end-of-the-month favorites for August, how about a destination favorites? I have been trying to travel more and visit more new-to-me places, and I realized that this illustration layout is perfect for recording travels and vacations. And what better place to start with than my hometown?

For anyone new here (welcome!), I am born and raised in the Bay Area in California, but two years ago, I moved to Oregon with my boyfriend. However, that has not stopped me from flying back to California often! In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve done a whole lot more flying and traveling in these two years than I have done in all my years of living.

Things in the Bay Area always seem different whenever I go back, but I thought it would still be fun to capture some of my favorite things. I couldn’t fit everything I loved in this illustration, so I’m pretty sure there will be a part two in the future. In the meantime, enjoy this little illustrative getaway!

Best of Bay Area (Destination Favorites) | Illustration by Wondershins

1. Boba Everywhere!

Boba is my all-time favorite, and in the Bay Area, you can’t walk ten steps without stumbling upon a boba shop. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but also not really. I have been to so many boba shops, but there are still a lot to try! My favorite place to get boba is Bobabia in San Mateo. The people working there are so nice, the place itself is comfy, and their teas are impeccable.

To be honest, I’m quite unadventurous when it comes to drinking boba. I only order plain green tea with boba, less sweet. I know, so boring. But I like what I like! So unless you are also a green tea aficionado, then I may not be a very reliable source for reco’s. However, I do also enjoy Sharetea (San Mateo), Asha Tea House (San Francisco), and Wonderful Desserts & Cafe (Sunset / San Francisco).

2. Shandong Deluxe

This Chinese restaurant is a recent discovery for me, when my family first took me here in February for Chinese New Year. I have gone back a couple more times when I visit, because I am obsessed with their dried bean curd noodle salad. It’s savory, spicy, and if you saw my June Favorites, you’ll know that I love dried bean curd!

They also have a few options for vegetarian dumplings, which is a total win in my book! As a long-time vegetarian now, I don’t always get to participate in dumpling eating because they tend to be filled with meat. I love it when I get to have options, and Shandong’s egg and chive dumplings are so good. You’ll also want to try their specialty cold noodle salad that comes with shredded cucumbers and a spicy peanut sauce. It is saucy goodness!

3. Exploratorium

There is a soft spot in my heart for the Exploratorium, an interactive science and art museum, because I have been going here ever since I was a young’un. Back then, it was located next to the Palace of Fine Arts in a big, open warehouse-type building. Now you can find in on the Embarcadero, all fancied up, but it still has my favorites like the Shadow Box. The Tactile Dome, a pitch-dark maze where you have to feel your way out, is definitely a good experience as well.

4. Chinese Buns

There is no bread better than Chinese bread (called bao)! Even a perfectly crusty Italian loaf studded with olives and dipped in the best olive oil and balsamic vinegar cannot sway me from saying otherwise. Baked or steamed, bao always steals my heart. They are best bought in popular bakeries in San Francisco, since the high foot traffic means constant fresh baked buns. In all honesty, I never went to buy them myself, since my dad is literally the breadwinner when it comes to bao. (For real, sometimes they sell out of the good stuff!)

Pineapple buns are a tasty classic, but my all-time favorite are Mexican buns. They have a sweet-slightly-salty topping and a super fluffy interior. Mr. Bread Bakery, which is several storefronts down from Shandong Deluxe, has really tasty Mexican buns – you should probably call ahead to reserve some, though! And of course, steamed custard buns that you find in dim sum restaurants are always winners. My favorite ones can be found at Hung To Seafood Restaurant in South San Francisco.

5. My Family!

Okay, my family isn’t a reco, but they are one of my best things about the Bay Area! ^.^ My entire family – both my mom’s and dad’s sides – lives in the Bay Area, with the exception of an aunt and uncle in Los Angeles, and a cousin and his fiance in New York. (And now me in Oregon!) Everything about the Bay Area can change, but I know I can always count on my family being there and showering me with new restaurant recommendations and wonderful memories.

6. Fog Blankets

I was born and raised in Daly City, a place that resides in perpetual fog. The fog can get annoying at times, especially when you just want some sunshine … but seeing blankets of fog rolling in is still a sight to behold! I feel like I’m entering some fantasy world when that happens; the fog gets so thick, it feels surreal. I particularly love seeing fog blankets on mountains, as if they are scarves wrapped cozily around stone giants.

7. All Star Donuts

Let’s just keep adding to my list of carby, fatty foods, shall we? My dad introduced this 24-hour donut shop to me several years ago, and it has been my number one ever since. Their yeast donuts are so perfectly fluffy and fried, and the fact that you can get fresh donuts at midnight is incredible. It’s probably not a good idea to eat donuts at midnight, but sometimes you do what you gotta do. I am so smitten with their classic sugar yeast donuts, I can easily overlook the chocolate glazed ones (my usual go-to).

8. “Fish” & Chips by the Ocean

Being a vegetarian, I don’t eat fish, so I love it when fish and chip shops offer fried vegetables! Ah, I absolutely love taking a trip to Half Moon Bay and stopping by the take-out window at Barbara’s Fish Trap and ordering the vegetable tempura (hold the carrots!) with chips. Perfectly crunchy vegetables, thick chips, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and tartar sauce equals so much deliciousness. Eat them outside while gazing at the ocean for more amazingness.

Another favorite fish and chips joint is Camelot Fish and Chips in Pacifica. I have never eaten their chips while gazing at the ocean, although it being located next to the ocean, you can do so if you wish! But the inside of the pub is a cozy delight to enjoy fried mushrooms (the best) and fried zucchini.

9. Asian Markets

I know, I know, I have a ton of Asian things on this favorites list, but that’s because one of the best things about the Bay Area is having access to so many Asian goodies. It is definitely something I took for granted and did not realize until I moved to Oregon, where the Chinese restaurants are mediocre, the boba is disappointing, and I have to drive 15 minutes to an Asian market. Where my parents live, there are three Asian markets in the vicinity, and two of them are walkable!

Asian markets are great because you can find all sorts of Asian ingredients and foods at a cheaper price than at a western grocery store. While there are some things I prefer to buy at western markets, there are other, Asian-centric things that are cheaper at Asian markets (soy sauce, rice vinegar, fresh shiitakes, loose leaf Asian teas) and plenty of other things that you may not find at your local Safeway (fresh lemongrass, bitter melon, preserved bean curd, egg roll cookies).

Now cue the cravings!


PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS:

Are you from the Bay Area, or have you ever visited? Let me know your favorite things about the Bay, so I can consider them for Part 2!

If you’ve never been to San Francisco, comment with something that you would love to try or do there. There are plenty of places I have yet to explore, despite living there for 31 years!

Comments

  1. YES to all your reco’s, and heart eyes all around for your super cute drawings! 😍 Having lived in the Bay Area all my life and not truly knowing what life is like in other cities, I can’t quite say what it is about the Bay Area that I love and is unique to the area. I do like the weather here, though. I like two types of weather: (1) sunny yet chilly and (2) foggy and breezy, and where I live has a lot of that. (Although it’s been getting a bit too warm for comfort for me recently…)

    • Thank you so much, Mandy! I’m happy to be able to have experienced majority of these favorites with you! Before I moved to Portland, I didn’t realize how much I liked these little things, so I totally know what you mean. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, right? And of course, if you ever think it’s too warm in the Bay, you can always visit me here! (Just wait a couple months, hahaha!)

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