San Francisco is a beautiful city at any time of the year, not least of which because it's one of the most vegetarian friendly and beer-centric cities that that United States has to offer. You could spend weeks there and not see everything, so here's a day you might want to try out if you've only got 24 hours or so in the Bay Area to combine our trio of passions: food, travel and beer.
We stayed in the historic Nob Hill area, and as a film lover, the refurbished Vertigo Hotel is the place to be. In Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), it was the seedy Empire Hotel between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, and now the Sutter Street location is a boutique gem. The very orange lobby has the film playing on a loop, and the well-appointed rooms are a great place to flop at the beginning and end of each day. Staring down their staircase from the top floor will also let you recreate your own Vertigo experience.
Just around the corner from the Vertigo (walk down Leavenworth and turn onto Post) is a wonderful breakfast and lunch place called farm: table, and as the name implies it's all about fresh and locally sourced foods. It's also a very active coffee place in the area, using local roasting companies and milk from Clover Farms in Northern California's Petaluma. Soy and non-dairy is available for vegans, and there are plenty of tea options as well. Their house cereal is a good kick-starter, also available in gluten free and vegan varieties, but their pastries, specials and daily toast options (a slice of fresh Pain De Mie topped with their own mixed mascarpone and local farmers market fruits) is a must. Grab a pastry for later before you jump a tram heading north.
No trip to San Francisco is complete without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, the bafflingly large Palace of the Arts, a glimpse of Alcatraz, a slice of the film industry and some pretty nature walks. To fit all of these things in to your one day, ride one of the buses or trams heading towards the northern tip of the SF peninsula to the Presidio. (TIP: ask the driver for a transfer, and let them know to signal you when it's time to change. Our driver actually waved at our oncoming connection to hold on for us!) Historically a Spanish fort, it's now part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area, and filled with some 800 buildings. You'll catch some early morning glimpses of the Bridge before heading into the Walt Disney Family Museum, hands down one of the best curated exhibits in town, chronicling Walt's entire life through early animation, his entire filmography, and the Disney Parks. Coupled with rare memorabilia, interactive animation and animatronics labs, one of the highlights is a massive 3D map of southern California's Disneyland. (There's also a really great view of the Bridge). Follow the path behind the museum along Lincoln Blvd, wandering past the National Cemetery, taking in the breathtaking views of Crissy Field, a former airfield, and now a big park. Follow the signage until you hit the icon you've been waiting for: a multitude of angles to shutterbug the Golden Gate Bridge. Head back along the waterfront in the direction of that big dome in the distance, and you'll see Alcatraz Island in the water. (Booking to go see it by boat might have to wait for another day). Eventually you'll hit the Palace of Fine Arts, a monolithic structure of columns around a rotunda on a scale that has to be seen to be believed. Built in 1915, it was rebuilt in the 1960s almost from scratch, but it is no less impressive. Fun fact: those are Australian eucalyptus trees fringe on the eastern shore of the lagoon. Before you leave the Presidio area, head into the labyrinth of buildings that includes the Letterman Digital Arts Center, and the corporate headquarters of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light and Magic. There's a statue of Yoda out the front of their entrance, and plenty of Star Wars memorabilia inside the office lobby, which the staff seemed happy for us to photograph.
That was a huge day: need a drink?
Back in the city, there are plenty of places to get a drink, but the Golden Gate Tap Room (on the corner of Sutter and Powell Streets) is centrally located near Union Square and a fun visit at any time. There's a large selection on draught, with a few dozen taps of beers and ciders to go around, and a heavy emphasis on the local brews. If sport is your thing, you will find most of the big games on the many screens across multiple floors of the venue.
Staying nice and local, Sweet Woodruff offers amazing casual dining with vegetarian tacos (pictured above) and a small but well curated set of bottled and canned beer.
UPDATE: Sadly, as of March 2016, Sweet Woodruff closed its doors. However, they have another location called The Square to the north, on Powell Street, along with their Dark Hill Farm home in Santa Cruz. Their flagship, Sons & Daughters - a few blocks up on the parallel Bush Street - has a farm to table philosophy, and a mostly vegetarian selection with a deep wine list.
One of the best places to sample local beer widely is at Liquid Gold on Hyde Street, a unique experience in that it is a smallish bar with a massive selection of 30 taps, coupled with an equally large fridge full of bottles to go. Beer flights start at a humble $3 per glass for a 5oz pour (about 150ml), up to $9 for the more expensive drops, so it's very easy to sample widely. There's more Californian brews to be had here, typically including Fieldwork, Coronado, and Track 7, and the folks on both sides of the bar are happy to recommend. A lovely young man also told us about The Beer Hall down on Polk Street, which was "near the Twitter building." Even better: Liquid Gold is only a short stumble back to the Vertigo Hotel around the corner in Sutter Street, so you can get close nap before you travel out again.