Tips on Trade Show Dining in San Francisco

We all share the blessing (or the curse) of eating in restaurants while we’re on the road. You can go the safe route and eat at the convention center or the convention hotel. Or you can be a bit more adventurous and take in the town like a local, wherever you happen to be. That’s my objective here: to give you some suggestions on what to see, do and eat while you’re in The City By The Bay. We checked out Las Vegas [] a couple of weeks ago. Now we’re visiting California’s Golden City, for trade show dining in San Francisco. And there are plenty of reasons to enjoy this place. Here are just a few of the things you can do when you get a break from the show:

Golden_gate_bridge_is the path to trade show dining in san francisco

The Golden Gate bridge is the path to trade show dining in San Francisco.

Twin Peaks
From here, you’ll get the best view of the entire Bay Area (provided it’s a clear day). Located at the west end of Market Street, the view from the top encompasses a 360 degree view of San Francisco and environs. Don’t bother to go unless it’s a cloudless, fogless day (or night). And you’ll want to wear a jacket or sweatshirt, no matter what time of year you visit.

Golden Gate Bridge & Marin Highlands
Sure, it’s just a bridge—but what a bridge it is! Spring for the toll and ride or walk across the bridge. On the north end, there’s a parking lot that provides access to the bridge at the first exit. You’ll want a convertible or a car with a sunroof to really appreciate the dizzying height of the bridge’s towers.

Then continue your drive up into the Marin headlands for the famous and iconic views of the Golden Gate with San Francisco in the background. This qualifies as one of those “bucket list” drives that everyone needs to do once in a lifetime.

For extra credit, you can continue your drive up to the wine regions of Napa and Sonoma. It’s a particularly beautiful drive in the fall, when the leaves on the vines are turning colors.

Touristy? Sure. But it’s worth the price and the time to take the self-guided audio tour. Following a short (and very cold) boat ride, you’ll explore several areas on “The Rock,” including Al Capone’s lock-up, along with the cell from the famous movie “Escape From Alcatraz.”

The audio tour includes recorded interviews with both guards and former inmates, most of whom are long dead. But their memories are interesting, entertaining and enjoyable.

Cable Cars and Historic Street Cars
Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square are two more “must see” destinations in San Francisco. They’re both close to the terminus of two of the city’s three cable car lines. My personal favorite is the Hyde St. line (it ends at Ghirardelli Square). It’s a longer ride and goes up steeper hills. Sure, waiting to board is a total pain, but where else can you do this?

The Mason Street line terminates near Fisherman’s Wharf, and is a slightly shorter ride. The California Street line runs perpendicular to the other two. Frankly, it’s not as exciting or fun as the Mason or Hyde Street cars. You can ride the cable car one way and catch a historic street car in the opposite direction by riding Muni’s “F” line up the Embarcadero.


Now, some ideas on where to eat:

Original Joe’s
Since 1937, this Italian-American style broiler operated downtown on Taylor Street. A fire in 2007 destroyed that location, so they’ve moved to North Beach. Everything here is incredible, from the minestrone to the raviolis to the fresh-baked bread. Even a hamburger here is something special.

They’re also known for excellent seafood, particularly the sand dabs and sole. This is one of those places where you can’t wrong—if you can get a table! For trade show dining in San Francisco, this place is a winner.

Address: 601 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
Phone: (415) 775-4877
Hours: M-F: 11:30AM-10:00PM, Sat-Sun: 10:00AM-10:00PM

Tommy’s Joynt
Another place that’s been there forever, this unusual establishment on the corner of Van Ness and Geary is a cross between a neighborhood pub, German Hofbräuhaus, Barbary Coast bar, and your grandfather’s attic. They take cash only, and the prices are ridiculously low for unbelievably unique food. Try the buffalo stew or pastrami sandwich. Oh, and good luck finding a place to sit! The atmosphere is one-of-a-kind, and definitely “old school.”

Address: 1101 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: (415) 775-4216
Hours: 11:00-1:40AM Daily

Toto’s Pizza
About 15 miles down the peninsula in San Bruno sits an unassuming pizza parlor that makes the very best Neapolitan style pizza I’ve ever had. Five generations of the Spadarella family have owned and operated Toto’s since 1932. Big pies, on fresh sourdough crust (what else?) with awesome ingredients, cooked perfectly.

Spend $30 here and you’ll feed six to eight people. A word of caution: there’s no atmosphere whatsoever, but the pizza is unbelievable! Although it’s technically not trade show dining in San Francisco, the short drive to San Bruno is worth it.

Address: 1690 El Camino Real, San Bruno, CA 94066
Phone: (650) 873-8686
Hours: Sun-Thurs: 10:00AM-10:00PM, Fri-Sat: 10:00AM-11:00PM

Ghirardelli Square Original Chocolate Manufactory
Located in the Clock Tower Building at Ghirardelli Square, this is home to the city’s very best hot fudge sundae. The Ghirardelli Company manufactured chocolate in these buildings beginning in the late 1800’s. The 1960’s saw its renaissance as Ghirardelli Square.

But its original chocolate-making heritage is still celebrated through their retail outlet. Even though there are clones all over, there’s something unique about getting a sundae here. Maybe it’s the aroma of chocolate that permeates the building. The nutty aroma and ambiance is enchanting. If you’re someone with a normal appetite, share one with a friend. They’re huge!

Address: 900 North Point Street, San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone: (415) 474-3938
Hours: Sun-Th: 10:00AM-11:00PM, F-Sat: 10:00AM-12:00AM

Trade shows are hard work. My job is to make your shows more successful and enjoyable. And since you have to be there anyway, why not check out the town while you’re there? In writing this blog, I’ve always tried to make the experience of exhibiting profitable and hassle-free. That’s why I’ve included tips for finding the right exhibit at the right price from us here at American Image Displays, along with tips for making the rest of the trade show experience as enjoyable as possible. Bon appetit! To learn more, call us at (800)676-3976 or email [email protected].


Doing a show somewhere else? Check out our reviews of restaurants in Las Vegas and Chicago.