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Welcome to the land of gender illusionists. It is essential to start off your experience at Asia SF with one of their signature alcoholic drinks named after the ladies of Asia SF. And while the food here is not initially the main attraction, the menu offers great dishes that surprise with their creativity and balance. Start with an Asia-dilla—jack cheese, smoked duck and sun dried cherries in a grilled tortilla. Then for an impressive main course dish, try the Miso Glazed King Salmon on a bed of black rice and a tomato-edamame salad; this dish is delectable and surprisingly cohesive. And during it all, you'll be treated to great bar-top performances by the ladies of AsiaSF. After you eat, continue your night in the club, where DJs spin R&B/funk, house, as well as salsa.
The decor of Walzwerk is a cross between upscale California and proletariat chic. There is a lot of metal in the tables, chairs and paneling while the floor is unadorned and unapologetic cement, trying to evoke an industrial East German feel. Despite that, they are a personable bunch that hardly seems likely to foment a revolution. The cuisine is German, featuring potato pancakes, sausages, and Wienerschnitzel, perfect with the great selection of German beers available. Reservations accepted only for parties of four or more.
Located within SF's historic Fairmont Hotel, Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is a kitschy bamboo lounge that is for anyone who always wanted to visit the set of “Fantasy Island.” During the happy hours, indulge in some fruity umbrella drinks, the simulated tropical storm (yes, it really rains), and the intentionally cheesy soft-rock house band to lull you away to that paradise cruise you never took. Snacks and meals are both pricey, but the food's not the main reason for coming here. The Kalua pork is a highly recommended menu item, but you had best order them with a round of Mai-Tais; they're rumored to be the city's finest.
Right by the gates of Chinatown you'll find this Gallic cafe that's a dead ringer for the kind that populate those quaint little side streets just off the Rue Rivoli. It is chic in a determined, downscale way with half of the already cramped floor space given over to French newspapers and periodicals. The centrally located counter jockeys for position with the closely packed tables and chairs. Huge windows alleviate the claustrophobia and the wait staff, conducting serious conversations in rapid-fire French, take you to a different hemisphere. The food can, too. It is upscale cafe fare, heavy on sandwiches, soups (gratinee, but of course) and salads. The desserts change daily and are never less than scrumptious. The crowd is mostly young, sometimes European, and always the height of hip.
It doesn't get more authentic than this classic soda fountain that dates back to 1918. The place was last remodeled with linoleum floors and cozy booths right after WWII, and the Christakes family, which has owned it from the beginning, has not seen a need to change anything since. It is a place where teenyboppers swooned over Frank Sinatra while sipping the same strawberry sodas you can order up today. Virtually everything on the menu is made in-house and from scratch, including the mayonnaise on the egg salad sandwiches, the ice cream and syrups in the sundaes. The homemade soups are a local institution with the patrons who range from students new to old-timers who have been coming here since it was (relatively) new.
This is a happy hybrid selling delectable indulgences and collectible, pop-culture toys. Nothing can compare to savoring a slice of pumpkin cheesecake while simultaneously gloating over finding a fire-breathing wind-up Godzilla or a complete miniature set of the South Park gang. The toys cover the walls, shelves and windows of this turquoise-blue Victorian, while the treats occupy display counters in this whimsical enterprise for grown-ups still in touch with their inner kid. There is both table and booth seating for about 20. Double Rainbow ice cream, Just Desserts baked goods, as well as coffee, hot chocolate and tea are served.