San Francisco Travel Guide
For Scott Raskin, CEO of Mindjet, San Francisco blends culture, amenities and eclectic charm.
“San Francisco is so culturally stimulating and intellectually stimulating,” says Raskin. “I look at it as having the whole Bay Area as my backyard. There’s so much to experience. I call it Wonderland, because it’s like entering into this gigantic, wonderland country club with all this great stuff all around you.”
Mindjet creates productivity software to help executives and project managers discover opportunities and organize their ideas. Its flagship product, Mind Manager, is the leading mind-mapping application on the market. Being based in San Francisco is critical to Mindjet’s success, as it puts the company at the heart of the American tech industry, just a short drive from Silicon Valley.
Sitting just at the outskirts of San Francisco’s financial district, where the city’s business center melds indiscernibly with the tourist havens of Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, Mindjet’s red brick offices are reachable by all of the transportation options, from BART, Muni and the city’s signature cable cars to the row of Vespa scooters lined up at the sidewalk out front of the low-slung building.
Raskin uses public transportation as the mood and weather suit him, and his morning commutes are often dramatically picturesque (when they’re not shrouded in fog). When the weather is wet, Raskin makes his way to work from his home in the tony suburb of Sausalito, just across the Bay, over the iconic red girders of the Golden Gate, where the expanse of the Pacific Ocean meets San Francisco Bay. On warmer, drier mornings, he boards one of the many ferries that ply the waters around the city, gliding past the verdant green hills of Angel Island and the stark, mottled gray walls of the historic Alcatraz prison—known colloquially as The Rock—as the bustling waterfront of San Francisco surges into view.
“That’s the great thing about living in Sausalito,” says Raskin. “I get to shake it up a little bit. [Mindjet is] a 10-minute walk from the Ferry Building, so I get this transition from home to work as I come across the water.”
Raskin even occasionally bikes to work. “I bike across the Golden Gate Bridge when I know I don’t have to carry a bunch of stuff,” he says. “They only open the ocean-side bike lane on the weekends, so on weekdays you’re kind of dodging the tourists. But other than that, it’s pretty nice.”
Raskin’s first word of advice for visitors to his chosen city: Dress in layers. “Definitely bring a jacket and light layers,” says Raskin. “Even if it’s a sunny day here, you know the temperature is going to drop 20 degrees after the sun goes down.” Referring to the hordes of tourists walking Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf clad in San Francisco–logoed sweatshirts and jackets, he warns of the common tourist trap in which visitors leave their hotels in shorts and find themselves desperate for warmth by early evening. “Bring some extra, lightweight layers, or prepare to be branded by the city,” he jokes.
With his office nestled at the intersection of the financial district and the tourist waterfront, Raskin enjoys the wealth of dining options both areas afford. San Francisco’s financial district, jam-packed with extraordinary restaurants of every price scale and ethnic influence, offers enough dining variety to keep any foodie fascinated. Raskin likes to mix it up throughout the week, depending on his mood, the occasion or the company he’s keeping.
“For me, Kokkari is an incredible place,” says Raskin. “It’s easy to reserve a table during the week for lunch. It’s probably the best Mediterranean restaurant in the city.” Known for its crackling fire pit, in which executive chef Erik Cosselmon and his staff spit-roast everything from lamb and suckling pig to quail and fresh fish, Kokkari consistently rates among San Francisco’s finest restaurants.
“Whether you want a light snack or a full, big meal, that’s number one on my list,” Raskin says. “If you want a nicer place for a sophisticated meal, or you just want something more casual, Kokkari works well either way.”
Another consistently outstanding destination for lunch or dinner, says Raskin, is Boulevard. Situated at the eastern end of Market Street, near Justin Herman Plaza, this quintessential San Francisco eatery is the brainchild of Chef Nancy Oakes, whose innovative California cuisine has earned her a coveted James Beard Foundation award as the best chef in California.
Also a short walk from Mindjet’s offices, San Francisco’s Chinatown boasts a dizzying selection of incredible dining. Raskin and his colleagues frequent two of the city’s best dim sum restaurants.
“San Francisco has so many excellent dim sum places. We’ve got high-end, tourist places like Yank Sing, but deep in the heart of Chinatown, where you feel like you’ve stepped into another world, we’ve got Great Eastern (415-986-2500). Then there’s something in between, which is City View.” Raskin is something of a dim sum habitué, choosing from among his favorite haunts as circumstances demand. Pressed to choose a favorite, he says, “If someone’s coming into town and they want to really feel that side of San Francisco and get some truly Hong Kong–style food, and you really want a great time, go to Great Eastern.”
Like so many of America’s cities, San Francisco is experiencing a renaissance of street dining, and one mobile eatery in particular has won Raskin’s heart. “Tacolicious has a street stand at Ferry Plaza on Thursdays, and they’ve got an incredible truck. They’ve also got a location on Chestnut Street in the Marina,” he says.
When it comes to dinner on the town, Scott Raskin is anything but pretentious. He loves the endless options the city provides, but quickly surfaces a few favorites that represent distinct archetypes in San Francisco dining.
“If I’m doing something a little more formal, where I want to grab a cocktail and have a business conversation over a meal, I like to go to Bix,” Raskin says. A city hot spot since 1988, Bix sits in an unassuming alleyway. A step through the door draws diners into a sweeping two-story eatery with a grand mahogany bar, towering fluted columns and the sound of live music billowing through the air. “It’s old school,” says Raskin. “It’s kind of 1920s—they have jazz playing every night—and it’s unique. It’s not like going into any restaurant off of Market Street or California. The lobster spaghetti is out of this world, or go for the truffle cheeseburger.”
For visitors leaning toward something a little more neighborly, Raskin recommends A16, an eatery in San Francisco’s Marina District known for its Italian cuisine. From Campania dishes like maccaronara with ragù napoletano and ricotta gnocchi guinea hen sugo to Napolitano-style wood-fired pizzas, A16’s menu offers a culinary tour of southern Italy. “It has a warm, casual atmosphere, and you’ve got the marina, so you can take a walk on the waterfront afterward.”
Another favorite of Raskin’s is Café des Amis, a sophisticated yet casual French bistro on Union Street, where Parisian culinary art meets seasonal California cuisine. In good weather, you can dine on escargot and braised duck breast at a sidewalk table, or you can enjoy a cocktail with a Rossini burger—topped with foie gras and black truffle—indoors when the weather is cooler.
After an evening on the town, there is one cocktail destination that wins Raskin’s favor: the Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel. “If you’re coming in from out of town, you can call ahead and reserve a sofa, so you know you’ve got seating, and you can relax, have a cocktail and really have a conversation.” Boasting one of the city’s finest examples of vintage art deco, the Redwood Room stands as a beautifully restored landmark of old San Francisco glamour. decor, the Redwood Room stands as a beautifully restored landmark of old San Francisco glamour.
Just for fun
After a day of meetings in the city, Raskin likes to escape to some of the city’s unique entertainment spots. One of his favorites: The California Academy of Sciences (calacademy.org). “It might sound odd, but the Academy of Sciences draws a fairly hip crowd,” Raskin says. On Thursday nights, the Academy brings in a DJ, serves up cocktails and creates a fascinating, fun atmosphere for thinking adults amid the museum’s displays and exotic animals.
For those who’d rather get out of the urban scene entirely, Raskin suggests taking the five-minute hop across the Golden Gate Bridge to Cavallo Point (cavallopoint.com), a picturesque, eco-friendly resort where you can sit out on the patio beneath the Golden Gate and gaze back across the bay with a cocktail from the elegantly cozy Farley Bar.
If you can swing a weekend add-on stay, Raskin recommends a quick trek down Highway 1 to the Post Ranch Inn, where luxurious suites overlook sweeping, dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean from high atop the cliffs. “You’re right there on the cliffs, and you feel like you’re the only one there,” says Raskin. “It’s tremendous.”
For executives visiting San Francisco, Raskin offers practical advice on where to stay. “The number one recommendation has got to be the Four Seasons on Market,” says Raskin. “It’s a great place to have a meeting, because it’s right there on Market, but more importantly, for the traveler, it’s got one of the best gyms of any hotel in town.” In partnership with Sports Club/LA, the San Francisco Four Seasons offers guests a world-class selection of workout equipment, an indoor pool, a basketball court and a full-service spa within the hotel. “There’s nothing I hate more than checking into a hotel and then finding a workout facility that’s just a two-by-two room with an old treadmill and a couple of weights,” says Raskin. “So the Four Seasons is my top choice.”
“If you’re looking for something a little more experiential, then the Huntington on Nob Hill is excellent,” he adds. “It’s an old, classic hotel with great service and easy access right on the cable car line.”
Raskin is effusive about his love for San Francisco and all its unique dining and entertainment options, and his enthusiasm for showing visitors a good time is palpable. But again he cautions anyone heading for the foggy shores of this seven-square-mile town, “It’s the city of layers. Don’t leave home without a jacket and a sweater.”
Raskin’s Address Book
Where to eat
200 Jackson St.
One Mission St.
One Rincon Center, 101 Spear St.
649 Jackson St.
662 Commercial St.
2031 Chestnut St.
56 Gold St.
2355 Chestnut St.
Café des Amis
2000 Union St.
Redwood Room at the Clift Hotel
495 Geary St.
Where to stay
757 Market St.
1075 California St.
Post Ranch Inn
Robert Strohmeyer writes from the San Francisco Bay Area, covering business, technology and the wine industry.