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Olympic hero Brian Boitano’s guide to Russian Hill

Figure skating icon and American hero gives us his take on his SF hood

Russian Hill from afar.
Russian Hill from afar.
Photo by GagliardiImages

In honor of the Winter Olympics kicking off today, we would like to reintroduce you to Olympic figure skating gold medalist, Russian Hill resident, chef/Food Network host, and muse to the greatest South Park song ever, Brian Boitano, The figure skater and San Francisco resident revealed to us his favorite neighborhood cafe, best-kept secrets, and more.

Originally published in 2016.

How long have you lived in your neighborhood?

Over 21 years at my home in Russian Hill. Before that, I lived a nearby in the Marina. Overall, I’ve been in San Francisco for 31 years.

Do you need a car to get around?

No, not in this part of San Francisco. But I am pretty old-school in that I like having a car. Even in this day of Uber and Lyft, I prefer to drive where I can, but you don’t need a car to get around Russian Hill. It’s fantastic that you can walk anywhere. It’s one of the main reasons why I like living here.

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Most reliable public transit:

I have to admit that I have never taken the bus in San Francisco. The only public transit I have used was when I took BART to a U2 concert years ago. It was so easy!

Nearest grocery store (and why you like it):

My nearest store, which I love, is Real Food Company on Polk Street. I fear they’re not going to be around too long because their shelves are kind of empty these days. Some of my other haunts are Marina Meats (Divisadero and Chestnut) and Marina Supermarket (also at Chestnut and Divisadero). If I have to, sure, I’ll go to Safeway in the Marina (Safeway now carries organic produce, which I prefer), but as a rule Real Foods is my first choice.

Good for kids?

I think it’s great for kids. Not a lot of strollers happening here compared to Laurel Village or Sacramento Street, but Russian Hill is very kid- and dog-friendly. [My partner and I] have a cocker spaniel, Hunter, who’s amazing and loves walking around the neighborhood.

Notable residents:

Too many to name, from all different industries!

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Best place to get a coffee:

Everyone in my neighborhood loves Saint Frank, which is nice, but I like old-school Peet’s on Polk Street. Honestly, it’s where I go for coffee.

Best park?

I really like taking Hunter down to Moscone Park at the corner of Laguna and Chestnut. There is also a great park near the Alice Marble Tennis Courts. Great views, very peaceful.

Your favorite neighborhood joint?

Almost too many to name, but I like Loving Cup, the frozen yogurt place. They even have a “Brian Boitano” on the menu—vanilla yogurt, toasted coconut, and blueberry.

Best-kept secret in your hood?

The Candy Store at Vallejo and Polk, next to a cobbler and antique store. They have all of this amazing old-school candy. The owner travels the world looking for cool candies, gummies, chocolates, and more. Just tons of jars everywhere. It’s wonderful.

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Another good secret spot: You know the famous chase scene in Bullitt with Steve McQueen? That part of the chase when they get to Russian Hill where they go up Chestnut and pass Leavenworth? That spot is the best spot for catching the Blue Angels when they come to town.

Stereotypical residents?

It’s pretty diverse, more than you would think.

Stay away from?

The convenience store on the corner of Union and Larkin. Everyone talks about it. It’s junky and they still have things like dusty Lipton soup packs. There are cans in there from 25 years ago, I’m sure!

Where are the best places to chill and/or experience the outdoors?

The aquatic park just to take a walk. We also like to go to Cioppino’s to get cioppino. It’s funny because we are the only locals who probably go there.

Who wouldn’t be happy here?

No one. If you’re unhappy here, you are unhappy everywhere. I can’t imagine someone being unhappy in Russian Hill.

What do people not know about your neighborhood?

Some people might not know that you can walk almost anywhere from here. There are also flat parts, like the stretch of Polk Street, which make it great for pedestrians.

Describe your neighborhood in one sentence:

Beautiful weather and a lot of wonderful amenities. [Ed. note: His friend chimes in, ”No, how about ‘It’s steep!’ Your neighborhood is really steep.”)