San Francisco’s Nob Hill – Like a Local

by Tiffanie Wen  |  Published December 18, 2015

One of San Francisco’s original “seven hills,” Nob Hill peaks at the intersection of Jones and Sacramento Streets and is one of the steepest and most famous hills in San Francisco.

Nob Hill at Sundown (Photo: Marc Tarlock via Flickr)

Nob Hill at Sundown (Photo: Marc Tarlock via Flickr)

Nob Hill, which is still one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city, is appropriately known for its wealth, both in terms of its iconic real estate and rich history. Head down the hill to bustling Polk Street to find rows of lively bars, restaurants and shops.

Nob Hill is situated in the Heart of San Francisco. With North Beach and the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf to the north, Downtown and theater district to the south, and the beautiful Pacific Heights neighborhood to the west, Nob Hill is the perfect blend of local flavor with the fun crazy touristy venues.

Seven Hills Restaurant (Photo: Seven Hills)

Seven Hills Restaurant (Photo: Seven Hills)


At Nob Hill’s Seven Hills chef Tony Florian is keeping things local. “We procure 100 percent of all of our produce from many of the local farms here in Northern California. And we try to source as much of our meats and seafood from local sources as well,” he says. They even create a prix fixe menu in conjunction with local farmers a few times a year, and diners get a box of veggies to take home.

Polk Street is also teeming with culinary delights that subscribe to the local movement, like 1760, which serves contemporary ingredient-driven food in a sleek modern space.

Swan Oyster Depot boasts some of the freshest seafood in the city. The tiny restaurant only has bar seating, where seafood experts and chefs serve up fish that was sourced the same morning; best enjoyed raw, or nearly raw, and by chef recommendation. Consequently, there are no reservations, the wait can be long, and when they’re out of something, they’re out.

Prime rib lovers shouldn’t miss The House of Prime Rib, or “Hopper” as it is known to some locals. A San Fran institution that has been serving English style prime rib since the 1940s, tradition has it that if you finish the largest cut of prime rib, known as the King Henry VIII, and are hankering for more, another slice is served on the house. With gigantic salads, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and creamed spinach accompanying every meal however, it’s not an easy task.

Family owned and operated, Olea serves up Californian cuisine for brunch and dinner in its small space. With accommodation for tables of 6 people or fewer, you’re sure to get the kind of friendly service only found in neighborhood restaurants.

For more casual fare, the Mymy Coffee Shop located at 1500 California serves classic American breakfast and brunch while Miller’s East Coast Deli brings a taste of the East Coast, including toasted hoagies, Phillies and Sicilian pizza to California.

View From Nob Hill (Photo: Kate Geraets via Flickr)

View From Nob Hill (Photo: Kate Geraets via Flickr)


For the most stunning views of the city, head to the Top Of The Mark. Located on the 19th floor of the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental, the bar and lounge boasts cocktails, tapas and live entertainment several nights a week, along with 360 degree views over San Francisco.

Though you won’t get views of the city across the street at the Fairmont’s Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar, the atmosphere is definitely not lacking. Opened in 1945, the tiki themed bar includes a former swimming pool that hosts bands, DJs and artificial thunderstorms.

Oenophiles should head straight to Amelie, an award-winning wine bar that hosts local jazz performers on Sunday and Monday nights. Owner Germain Michel is proud of Amelie’s Polk Street location and says Nob Hill is one of the best neighborhoods for representing the diversity of San Francisco.

In fact, meander down Polk Street and you’re guaranteed to stumble upon plenty of bars overflowing with locals, like Harper and Rye, Robberbaron, Hi-Lo Club and The Pourhouse, to name a few. Other unassuming local favorites in the neighborhood include Soda Popinskis, which has an original Nintendo hooked up to a flatscreen, Hyde Out, which features board games and Zeki’s Bar with its roaring fireplaces.

Kayo Book Store (Photo: Tiffanie Wen)

Kayo Book Store (Photo: Tiffanie Wen)


Located on Polk, Picnic is a fantastic little boutique filled with carefully selected clothes and accessories. It’s also a great place to snag a non-cheesy San Francisco-themed souvenir or gift, likely created by local designers.

You’ll find another gift shop called Terrasol Boutique down the street, where you’re guaranteed to find several things for your home that you didn’t know you needed.

Nob Hill also loves vintage. Belle Cose and Molte Cose feature high-end vintage and consignment pieces for both men and women.

If niche, used book stores are your thing, head straight for Kayo Books on Post Street. One of the last remaining small book stores that used to dot the area, Kayo specializes in paperbacks from the 1930s to the 1970s in addition to vintage magazines, comics, erotica and original illustration artwork. “The store presents a history of popular culture which mirrors the neighborhood. Specialties including gay/lesbian pulp, noir and urban fiction, vintage erotica, and both low and high brow magazines and artifacts from the past,” says co-owner Ron Blume, “Dashiell Hammett once lived on our block and reportedly wrote The Maltese Falcon there.”

Nob at Sunset (Photo: Marc Tarlock via Flickr)

Nob at Sunset (Photo: Marc Tarlock via Flickr)

History & Culture

Originally called California Hill, Nob Hill was renamed after the four railroad tycoons that built the Central Pacific Railroad— dubbed Nobs, a British term for a rich socialite—who built their mansions here in the 1870s. It was also the Nobs who installed the cable car line that still runs up California Street.

Today, several luxury hotels in the area are named after the famous Nobs, including The Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, the Stanford Court and the Huntington Hotel, named after Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford and Collis Huntington respectively, who, along with Charles Crocker, lived in mansions perched 376 feet above the bay until they were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire.

Located across the street from the Mark Hopkins, The stunning Fairmont Hotel, whose outer structure survived the quake, was named after mining millionaire James Fair.

All are located down the street from the mysterious Pacific-Union Club, a top secret gentlemen’s club headquartered in the first brownstone ever built on the west coast (one of the only buildings in Nob Hill to survive the historic quake), the iconic Grace Cathedral, famous for its 19th century mosaics by Polish painter Jan Henryk de Rosen and Huntington Park, the former site of Collis Huntington’s residence, which was donated to the city by his widow after the earthquake destroyed the building.