Like the consummate Californian, the City by the Bay is continually experimenting, working on self-improvement, getting in shape. Neighborhoods devastated by the 1989 earthquake are more magnetic than ever. The waterfront is reawakening. Major civic projects like the Yerba Buena Gardens are changing not just the face but the focus of the city. There is much to take in, yet it all seems manageable when taken neighborhood by neighborhood: the hills are steep, but the streets are close. Whether you hit them strolling or striding, you will fall in love all over again with this city -- and your newly toned legs. San Francisco, here we come...
OFF TO A GOOD START:
Power Breakfast -- CAMPTON PLACE RESTAURANT 340 Stockton St.
Flower Power Breakfast -- FLOWER MARKET CAFE 698 Brannan St. 415/495-7162
Italian Continental -- CAFFE ROMA 414 Columbus Ave. 415/391-8584
Longshoreman's Continental -- RED'S JAVA HOUSE Embarcadero at Pier 30 no phone
French Continental -- CAFE DE LA PRESSE 352 Grant Ave. 415/398-2680
Brunch (Caribbean) -- MISS PEARL'S JAM HOUSE 601 Eddy St. 415/775-5267
Brunch (Pancakes) -- DOIDGE'S KITCHEN 2217 Union St. 415/921-2149
WITH STAYING POWER:
Fish -- HAYES STREET GRILL 324 Hayes St.
The Scene and the Food -- STARS 150 Redwood Alley 415/861-7827
Business Lunch -- JACK'S 615 Sacramento St. 415/986-9854
Ladies' Lunch -- BALBOA CAFE 3199 Fillmore St. 415/921-3944
Vegetarian -- GREENS Building A, Fort Mason Center 415/771-6222
Chef's Special -- JOYCE GOLDSTEIN'S SQUARE ONE 190 Pacific Ave. 415/788-1110
California Cuisine -- POSTRIO 545 Post St. 415/776-7825
OF THE MOMENT:
Fish -- AQUA 252 California St.
The Scene and the Food -- LULU 816 Folsom St. 415/495-5775
Business Lunch -- RUBICON 558 Sacramento St. 415/434-4100
Ladies' Lunch -- PLUMP JACK CAFE 3127 Fillmore St. 415/563-4755
Vegetarian -- VAL 21995 Valencia St. 415/821-6622
Chef's Special -- BRADLEY OGDEN'S ONE MARKET 1 Market St. 415/777-5577
California Cuisine -- BOULEVARD 1 Mission St.; 415/543-6084
SWAN OYSTER DEPOT 1517 Polk St. Shellfish salad
CHINA MOON CAFE 639 Post St. 415/775-4789 Noodle pillow
LULU CAFE 816 Folsom St. 415/495-5775 Oysters
MARIO'S BOHEMIAN CIGAR STORE CAFE 566 Columbus Ave. 415/362-0536 Focaccia sandwiches. Thursdays: polenta and sausage.
TADICH GRILL 240 California St. 415/391-1849 Seafood cioppino.
The drink of choice has turned from white wine to red to...
Champagne -- REDWOOD ROOM Four Seasons Clift Hotel 495 Geary St. The drink matches the setting in elegance and verticality.
Between The Sheets -- BIX 56 Gold St. A sexy glass of rum, brandy, Cointreau, and lime glows on a lamplit table in this glamorous supper club.
Mai Tai -- TONGA Fairmont Hotel 950 Mason St. Polynesian restaurant and hurricane bar complete with rain and lightning.
Faux Cappuccino -- TOSCA 242 Columbus Ave. Sip this comfort with a kick (steamed milk, chocolate, and brandy) to the strains of a Callas aria.
Martini -- RITZ-CARLTON HOTEL 600 Stockton St. In the lobby lounge, select from the martini menu and roaming vodka cart.
Margarita -- CAFE MARIMBA 2317 Chestnut St. You can't help but be happy under the twinkly tin-roofed bar.
Night and day, the Sherman House (2160 Green St.; ) is the one -- the hotel for romantics. By day the room to have is the Leander Sherman Suite, with a panorama of the city running like a wall mural above the parapet of the vast terrace. By night, every room is seductive (lights on dimmers, wood-burning hearths, feather beds), especially the Jan Paderewski Suite, with its bathroom fireplace and canopied four-poster.
The city has cornered the niche market with accommodations for...
Filmmakers -- HOTEL MILANO 55 Fifth St. Starkly modern hotel housing production facilities, Michel Richard's new Bistro M, and Nintendo in every room.
Sailors -- DOCKSIDE BOAT &BED Pier 39 Rock yourself to sleep aboard a sailing or motor yacht. Sea lions are your wake-up call.
Design Hounds -- TRITON HOTEL 342 Grant Ave. A one-stop compendium of every recent interiors trend.
Bathers -- MANDARIN ORIENTAL HOTEL 222 Sansome St. Get deliriously soaked in select tub-with-a-view rooms of this high-rise
Nostalgists -- HUNTINGTON HOTEL 1075 California St. For tradition, comfort, and unforced hospitable service, it can't be beat.
Modest Budgets -- SAVOY HOTEL 580 Geary St. A standout among the small hotels to the west of Union Square delivering good value.
Businesswomen -- CAMPTON PLACE HOTEL 340 Stockton St. Trade a view for quiet, secure, elegant surroundings, excellent room service, and in-house laundry.
Japanophiles -- MIYAKO HOTEL 1625 Post St. Most rooms have deep soaking tubs with jasmine-scented bath salts; four have tatami, futons, and tokonoma alcoves.
Musicians And Groupies -- THE PHOENIX 601 Eddy St. Groovy motor lodge with pool has attracted 10,000 Maniacs -- both the group and the fans. Expect little privacy and lots of noise.
Opera Lovers -- INN AT THE OPERA 333 Fulton St. Steps from the Performing Arts Center; offers guests prime ballet, symphony, and opera tickets at cost.
Swimmers -- SHERATON PALACE HOTEL 2 New Montgomery St. and HOTEL NIKKO 222 Mason St. ; Both have indoor pools.
Indulgent Executives -- NOB HILL LAMBOURNE 725 Pine St. Arrive during Friday or Saturday happy hours for a complimentary neck and shoulder massage before checking in to your computer and fax-equipped room.
Civic-minded San Francisco is currently awash in projects. The coming years will see a surge of new openings and other inspiring changes. Stay tuned for . . .
- The ongoing conversion of the historic and scenic Presidio military post into a national park -- expected to draw more visitors than Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks combined. Already in place: a visitor center (102 Montgomery St.; 415/556-3111) and a variety of tours, both organized and self-guided. Slated for 1995: the opening of the bowling center, and the likely conversion of several buildings into bed-and-breakfast inns.
- A new aquarium, Underwater World (Pier 39; 415/705-5500), opened in spring 1996. Visitors will be transported through a variety of habitats on a moving walkway within a 400-foot-long transparent tunnel.
- The California Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park (415/750-3600), reopened in November 1995 after extensive renovations and the addition of six underground exhibition spaces and a new restaurant.
- The reopened landmark Geary Theater, home of the American Conservatory Theater, after some earthquake retrofitting.
- A new main branch of the Public Library, just down Larkin Street from the present one -- with special centers for Chinese, African-American, and gay and lesbian collections.
- A variety of additions -- an IMAX theater, a 15-screen multiplex, an ice-skating rink, bowling lanes, and a children's cultural center -- to Yerba Buena Gardens, the development that has already changed South of Market from skid row 'hood to thriving culture complex. In the next few years, this area will welcome the relocated Mexican Museum, a Cartoon Art Museum, and a Jewish Museum, joining the already hopping Center for the Arts (701 Mission St.; 415/978-2700), the Ansel Adams Center (250 Fourth St.; 415/495-7000), and the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (151 Third St.; 415/357-4000).
treasures of japantown
KABUKI HOT SPRING Japan Center 1750 Geary Blvd. Relaxing and rejuvenating baths and shiatsu massage. Reserve ahead.
KINOKUNIYA STATIONERY AND GIFT Japan Center 1581 Webster St. Handmade art paper and origami paper in virtually all colors and patterns.
IKENOBO IKEBANA SOCIETY OF AMERICA 1737 Post St. Flower-arranging supplies, books, and workshops.
ISOBUNE 1737 Post St. Sparkling sushi arrives on boats via a countertop moat.
SOKO HARDWARE 1698 Post St. Japanese tools, hardware, garden supplies, and cooking utensils.
setting the scene
Before You Go Essential Read: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (1978)
Essential Rental: Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (1958)
While You're There
Déjà vu: 2640 Steiner St., the house managed by nanny Robin Williams in last year's Mrs. Doubtfire.
Burger Island (701 Third St.; 415/541-9196),where Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry delivered the unforgettable threat, "Make my day," in Sudden Impact (1983).
Golden Gate Park, which doubled as Sherwood Forest for Errol Flynn's green knight in the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood.
636 Cole St., once home to the city's most notorious dysfunctional "family," the Manson cult.
-- Heather Smith MacIsaac