Instead of a mug, local coffee grounds
Famously shrouded in a blanket of fog affectionately dubbed with the nickname ‘Karl‘, San Francisco’s overcast nature inspires residents to warm up with a cup of joe. San Franciscans are notorious coffee snobs, unwaveringly loyal to their favorite local brews. Instead of picking up a ceramic ‘I Heart SF’ mug from a random tourist store, stop by an indie coffee shop to sip on a cold brew and grab a bag of coffee grounds. Some local favorites include Blue Bottle Coffee, Four Barrel Coffee, Ritual Coffee Roasters, and Sightglass Coffee.
Instead of a T-shirt, something from a local clothing line
Clothing can be a great gift, but be sure to get something authentic. Pier 39 will try to lure you in with the hats peeking out of Krazy Kaps and the bright colors lighting up the Sock Market window display, but stay strong. Thinking a tie dye t-shirt from the street vendors in the Haight-Ashbury district would be a better bet? Still tacky. Instead, check out one of San Francisco’s independent clothing lines, like San Franpsycho, BetaBrand, True SF, or Gravel and Gold. Your loved ones will thank you for dressing them like true San Franciscans.
Instead of Ghirardelli Chocolates, Dandelion Chocolates
Downtown San Francisco famously hosts the Original Ghirardelli Chocolate Manufactory, making Ghirardelli chocolates a staple among standard San Francisco souvenirs. Instead of shuttling yourself through the throngs of tourists in Ghirardelli Square, locals will tell you to head south to the Mission district, where you’ll find Dandelion Chocolate. There, you can take a tour of the chocolate factory or grab a seat in the cafe with a Parisian-style hot cocoa and watch the chocolatiers turn cocoa beans from around the world into chocolate bars before your eyes. Bring home some bars or a box of chocolates to give friends and family a taste of something that can truly only be found in San Francisco.
Instead of Boudin Bread, Chinatown fortune cookies
San Francisco is famous for its sourdough bread, especially that of Boudin Bakery. Instead of crowding into the Boudin next to the always busy Union Square, wander northward to find a shop that many locals have never even been to. Nestled among the colorful streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown sits the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. There, you can enjoy the truly unique experience of watching workers cook and fold fortune cookies. You can even make your own custom fortunes, so bring home a bag and enjoy the surprise on your loved ones’ faces when they crack open their cookies to find some very personal predictions.
Instead of a landmark replica, a piece of local culture
Every major San Francisco landmark has a hundred replicas for sale around the city, like the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, and Alcatraz. Instead of settling for a touristy trinket from the Cable Car Museum, come home with a piece of San Francisco that is truly representative of the city and its culture. If you’re in the North Beach neighborhood, pick up a book from City Lights Booksellers, famous as a hub for the most prominent writers of the Beat Generation. If you find yourself in the Haight, stop by Amoeba Records to bring home some music for your family to enjoy. If you’re really set on some landmark memorabilia, at least pick up something from a more unique landmark, like a souvenir from the Maestra Peace Mural at the Women’s Building in the Mission.