July 5, 2022

Insider Guide: San Francisco, California

Meenal Patel, artist, illustrator, designer, and children’s book author, shared with us where she hangs out in the Bay Area.

Laura Drake/Getty Images

Sunset’s Insider Guide series highlights seasonal diversions and secret travel tips from local experts. Follow along as we learn where to eat, drink, stay, and shop.
Meet the insider: Meenal Patel, owner of Meenal Patel Studio
Meenal Patel
Meenal Patel. Photo by Sarah Deragon

Meenal Patel is an artist, illustrator, designer, and children’s book author who loves spending time hiking and doodling. Her most recent book, Priya Dreams of Marigolds and Masala, was published in 2019 and received a 2020 South Asia Book Award. Patel previously collaborated with Cloud9 Fabrics to create whimsical garden-inspired patterns that show how people are intertwined with nature. Here’s where she hangs out in the Bay Area.

WHERE TO EAT:

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For a foggy-day meal, head to Mandalay to experience a bright yellow façade and great food. “This is such a cozy restaurant with the warmest staff. I love Mandalay’s samusa soup and tea leaf salad.” Patel also loves visiting Twirl and Dip, an ice cream truck parked in the museum concourse of Golden Gate Park on the weekend. “My favorite is their signature: Strauss creamery vanilla bean soft serve, dipped in TCHO dark chocolate, sprinkled with flaky sea salt, in a waffle cone.”

WHAT TO DO:

San Francisco Botanical Garden - succulent garden
San Francisco Botanical Garden

© Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic

You can’t visit San Francisco without a trip to Golden Gate Park. “Spend a day getting lost on the many trails,” Patel advises. “I especially love the endless plant inspiration from the giant redwood trees to all the tiny buds blossoming in the [San Francisco] Botanical Garden.” Don’t forget to stop by Stow Lake for a paddle boat ride and picnic. For sweeping views of the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge, hike the trails at Lands End in the city’s northwest corner.

WHERE TO DRINK:

Flaming cocktail at The Alembic bar
The Alembic

Kelly Puleio

“I haven’t been out for a drink in a long time thanks to the pandemic but an old goodie is The Alembic,” says Patel. The bar shares a wall with The Booksmith, making it a great place to drink craft cocktails while reading your new favorite book.

WHERE TO SHOP:

Black Bird Bookstore in San Francisco, California
Black Bird Bookstore

Lauren Hanussak

Rare Device shop and art gallery features many items produced by artists and small business makers—many of whom are local. “The gallery within the shop has monthly art shows and community events,” Patel says. She also loves visiting TANTRUM, a gift shop for the littles in your life. “I’m a kid at heart!” Patel says. Or, visit Case for Making, which offers its own handmade watercolors along with a thoughtful selection of art supplies, and Black Bird Bookstore, a well-stocked, kid-friendly bookstore. “Plus they have a beautiful garden tucked in the back for readings!”

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