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Category Archive for San Francisco

San Francisco Gothic culture! Death Guild club, metaphysical shops, Hutch Oakland & Herlen Place restaurants.

san francisco fashion blogger sf

Let’s continue my adventures in San Francisco — with a look at the Gothic and occult subculture!

I’ll take you inside Herlen Place cafe and Hutch Bar & Kitchen, and out to the Goth club Death Guild. I even got to shoot exclusive photos inside “Loved to Death” boutique (of Oddities fame), as you’ll see.

san francisco goths, goth clubs

My friends and I had a mini-reunion in San Francisco. You might recognize Caroline, Trevor, John, and Lauren from Tokyo club nights way back in the blog. None of us live in Japan any more, but we’ve stayed in close touch and continue to meet up regularly around the world.

(Everyone’s stayed in sync over the years… as you can see from the unplanned red and black color scheme! Talk about #squadghouls.)

goth girls cyber fashion gothic

The “ghoul gang” met up at Clift Hotel before a night out on the town. (If you missed our fun hotel photoshoot, see it here.)

OOTD: My dress and mesh hooded top are by Cyberdog, and my Wolford three-quarter length hold-up tights are from UK Tights. (Photo by Lauren Levitt, who you can spy in the mirror!)

skull absinthe chocolate

Xiomara Entropy always shows up with spooky and sweet treats, made by hand. This time, she brought us delicious skull-shaped chocolate with green absinthe filling. When you crack the head open, it looks like zombie brain matter!

gold sparkle glitter boots

Clift Hotel is filled with funky designer chairs. I took advantage of this mirrored one, for a closeup on my sparkly gold ankle boots by Le Babe.

(More of Le Babe’s shoe designs are below:)

san francisco gothic clothing, parties

The lobby of Clift Hotel is made for taking photos. My ghouls clamored onto Philippe Starck’s “Big Chair.” (Look underneath the seat, and you’ll see a child sticking his tongue out!)

starck big arm chair hotel clift

Starck’s giant chair actually serves a function (other than providing seating for giants). He designed it to balance the negative space in the two-story high lobby.

clift hotel horned sofa, chairs collection

Clift Hotel’s fabulous furniture collection includes Michel Haillard’s Horn Sofa (above), made with ostrich leather, dark wood, bronze, and horns. The devilish sofa is the perfect seating for a quartet of Goths. (For more of my stay at Hotel Clift, see this post.)

hutch oakland restaurant, interior

We went to Oakland to dine at Hutch Bar & Kitchen, a relatively young restaurant dedicated to Southern cooking and cocktails. The staff treated us to warm American South hospitality from the moment we sat down at this long table, lit by an iron chandelier and Edison bulbs.

Chef/owner David King named the restaurant after his family patriarch, Byron Monroe Hutchison (“Hutch”). The vibe pays tribute to Hutch’s zeal for life, and love of good food, drinks and fellowship.

hutch oakland bourbon cocktails bar

We were intrigued by Hutch’s bar selection, which included dozens of American ryes, bourbons, and other spirits. If you’re a whiskey connoisseur, try the 3-drink flight that lets you try varieties from different US regions.

The cocktails put a tasty twist on American South classics. You can’t go wrong with the Good Ol’ Fashioned, or the Two Jacks Sazerac with High West double rye, Peychaud’s, and St George Absinthe.

southern food restaurant san francisco

One of my favorite cocktails was the Hutch Sour with 4 Roses bourbon, egg white, lemon, lime, and angostura bitters. All the drinks were beautifully crafted, as you can see from the presentation and foam.

For starters on the lighter side, we dove into a mixed winter greens salad and bourbon-cured trout. The perfect, clean first courses… before the comfort food rolled out of the kitchen!

hutch san francisco southern dishes menu

My friends and I were impressed by the spread of Southern classic dishes, prepared with finesse. We especially loved the shrimp and grits with spicy Creole sauce, seasoned pork chop, and catfish with hush puppies, coleslaw and remoulade. David King’s recipes are chock full of tenderness and flavor, yet not overly heavy.

It’s difficult to choose from the selection of side dishes, but Hutch’s creamy, golden cheese grits are among the best I’ve had (and you’ll recall I ate my away around New Orleans!) We also passed around the delicious collard greens, mac and cheese, roasted butternut squash and black eyed peas.

Leave room for dessert, as the passionfruit cheesecake and bourbon bread pudding (with chocolate sauce and ice cream) were stand-outs. I would come back in a heartbeat, especially with a group of friends, for Hutch’s outstanding Southern cooking.

death guild goth night san francisco

Time to dance at Death Guild, the longest running weekly Goth Industrial club night in the country (and second oldest in the world, at the ripe age of 25!) The Gothic party usually takes place at San Francisco’s DNA Lounge, but that Saturday, it was at Uptown Oakland.

Alas, Yukiro couldn’t be with us… but we had his lovely cousin Pontus, who rocked a darkwave style.

goth club san francisco nightclub

As you know, I love checking out Goth culture worldwide; each city has a unique expression of the dark subculture.

Death Guild Uptown has two rooms that play a mix of Gothic, Industrial, synthpop and other dark music. At the bar, we watched the Japanese monster-fighting CGI film Gantz:O, while sipping on speciality cocktails and grooving to 80s music. In the dance area, the DJs got us moving to Kate Bush, Garbage, old-school Goth tracks, and more.

san francisco gothic clubbing death guild dna lounge

Upstairs, Death Guild has a “Dark Market” where vendors sell hand-made spooky items. We browsed a fine selection of jewelry, homewares, custom art, and crochet creatures of the night.

(For more Goth party info, check out my previous San Francisco Goth clubbing guide — it includes reports of Wicked Grounds, Cat Club and T-Shack.)

loved to death haight ashbury shop

A Gothic cultural trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without a visit to Loved to Death in the Haight district. John and I wanted to get everything in this store, which you may recognize from the Oddities SF television show.

The window display hints at the darkness within… Antiques, taxidermy, Victorian memento mori, skeletons and other delights fit for a cabinet of curiosities.

(Loved to Death address: 1681 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA)

baphomet statue, satanic shrine altar

It was a pleasure to see owner Audra Kunkle again, who remembered me from my last stop-in. As always, Loved to Death has a riveting selection of odd and perhaps disturbing objects from around the world.

We especially loved the skull with Cthulhu tentacles, and Baphomet the Sabbatic Goat statues (John got one). He brought me a Miffy grey plush bunny from Hong Kong, and she fit right in with these Satanic icons. Hail Miffy!

loved to death san francisco oddities tv show

Wouldn’t you like a two-headed baby skeleton in your home? An antique bicorn hat? Or how about a poisonous spider in a glass jar?

taxidermy bizarre goth shop san francisco

Creep over to the Oddities San Francisco shop in Haight-Ashbury, and see these critters for yourself. (For more photos inside the store, check out my blog post about Loved to Death from 2014.)

sword and rose garden san francisco

Trevor grew up in SF, and suggested that we visit The Sword and Rose, a hidden metaphysical shop. (From the street, all you see is a narrow walkway… which opens up into this spectacular garden). At The Sword & Rose, seekers come for tarot card readings, and mystical supplies like incense, gemstones, crystals and candles.

Address: 85 Carl St, San Francisco, CA 94117, USA

spiritual metaphysical shop san francisco

San Francisco is one of the world’s biggest hubs of new age / metaphysical / spiritual culture. Some of the shops veer on the tourist side, but not The Sword and Rose: as soon as you step into the little hut, you can feel a special energy. The staff welcomes people from all walks of life and spiritualities.

san francisco tarot readings

The mystical shop is small, and contains several altars that celebrate Egyptian gods and other spirits. The Sword & Rose has many regular visitors; some came with their dogs, who added to the joy of the space.

sword & rose incense shop, hippie stores

In the back shelf, you can see over 90 oils and incenses, all ritually made by hand. The staff helps you choose a fitting one according to astrological aspects, ceremonial purpose, intention, or deity.

san francisco occult metaphysical shops

John got this blue “El” powdered incense, as well as a small burner.

tarot reader san francisco

Since 1985, San Franciscans have come here for warm and attentive tarot readings. This is a wonderful space with a sense of community, and we’re glad we wandered in.

herlen place brunch cafe san francisco

We ended the San Francisco getaway with a final brunch at Herlen Place. This smiling owl welcomed us into the modern, chic cafe / wine bar, located right by Chinatown’s Dragon gate. A relaxing, Zen-like spot to enjoy a leisurely meal.

Herlen Place serves up a healthy and fresh menu, highlighting organic produce, seasonal herbs and vegetables, and bio-dynamic wines.

eggs avocado brunch menu herlen place

The photos speak for themselves… this is brunch heaven! I wish I could order Herlen Place’s Eggs Avocado every day, accompanied by sundried tomato pesto and baby arugula. Be sure to order one of the delicious espresso drinks, and a chocolate croissant. The Eggs Benedict and Farn Fresh Eggs on the other tables also looked delicious.

healthy san francisco brunch lunch restaurant

We dove into the lunch menu: a crisp tuna salad and hearty cauliflower soup, paired with a sparkling mimosa. Cheers to Herlen Place for its healthy, sustainable, vegetable-centric menu that is quintessential San Francisco.

ganesha mural hippie san fran haight

Namaste to the city by the bay, until I come again (I’m here at least every two years or so).

For more San Francisco alternative culture guides, click here. This is my collection of stories over the years, including a stay at the SF Zen Center, drag queen shows, and cat cafes! I hope you find these travel tips helpful for planning a trip here.

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Synthwave San Francisco! Turbo Drive retrowave club, design Hotel Clift by Philippe Starck, Alexander’s Steakhouse.

dragon skirt, print all over me gentlethrills

Fire and brimstone… Talk about a warm welcome back to San Francisco!

I recently took a weekend trip to see some of my favorite ghouls. Since I’m currently all about retrowave music, this was also the perfect excuse to check out SF’s synthwave party scene. 

(I put together a “Kung Fury” outfit with this Dragon midi skirt from Print All Over Me, designed by gentlethrills. This dramatic fireplace is in the lobby of Clift Hotel, where I stayed.)

danger synthwave musician artist dj

San Francisco has long been a hub for subcultures: from the Beatniks to the hippies and onward. Right now, it’s the site of the longest-running and best synthwave party on the planet, Turbo Drive.

Keep reading for a firsthand report of the outrun fun, featuring a performance by French artist Danger (above!)

aurum jewelry iceland necklace, red beret

First, let me introduce you to my favorite new necklace — this minimal choker from Aurum by Guðbjörg. They’re an Icelandic jewelry designer, handcrafting every piece from silver from their workshop in Reykjavík.

My necklace is from the Aurum Asterias collection, which is inspired by the country’s unique, dark ocean waves. I love this design because it brings back fond memories of when I visited the black sand beaches of Iceland.

aurum by guðbjörg jewellery asterias choker necklace

As you know, I’m all about supporting independent designers that produce exquisite pieces. Aurum melds traditional craftsmanship with modern design, and prioritizes sustainability with fair-trade materials and environmentally friendly packaging.

For a special piece, I encourage you to view their collections that include rings, bracelets, earrings and other accessories.

See more from Aurum below:

ian schrager hotel clift san francisco

I had fun staying at San Francisco’s Clift Hotel, which was designed by Philippe Starck (one of my favorite modern furniture/interiors designers) and Ian Schrager (co-founder of the legendary NY nightclub Studio 54). 

Monkeying around is encouraged, in this hip hotel. Guests can sit on Starck’s Big Arm Chair and take photos… that is, if they can manage to clamor up there! (Images by Lauren Levitt).

clift hotel chair collection chairs

Clift Hotel San Francisco has a mind-bending lobby, featuring a collection of avantgarde chairs. There are seats designed by Ray and Charles Eames, a coffee table by Salvador Dali, and a surreal stool by Roberto Matta who was inspired by René Magritte. (Remember when I went to his surrealist museum in Belgium?).

clift hotel starck chairs

Clift San Francisco is part of Morgans Hotel Group, hence the eclectic, boutique luxury vibe of the space.

Philippe Starck bar hotel san francisco

We had cocktails in Clift’s historic Redwood Room; legend says it was carved from the wood of a single redwood tree. The bar has been restored by Starck, with an enormous etched glass bar and plasma TV screens that broadcast digital art.

(I’ll show you more from the hotel further down… but now, it’s time to party.)

san francisco goths, synthwave parties

Many of my friends and I are currently loving the neo-80s sounds of synthwave: think Stranger Things and John Carpenter. I’ve long wanted to attend Turbo Drive, the first and only San Francisco dance club dedicated to retrowave / outrun.

As the party describes it: “This is the soundtrack for carefree drives along the beach, Day-Glo legwarmer aerobics, sunsets over laser grids, outrunning the cops in a cyberpunk dystopia, falling in love with your first robot crush, and occasionally summoning the unholy forces from the depths with a keytar.”

turbo drive club night retrowave outrun

Turbo Drive takes place regularly in the space about DNA Lounge. I’m hanging with Meikee Magnetic in the DJ booth; he runs the party with Danny Delorean and Devon Dossett. (They also do other events around the city, including Bootie SF and Neon Black).

The club’s playlist is space-synth perfection. The DJs spin Carpenter Brut, Perturbator, Dance with the Dead, Com Truise, Gost, Robert Parker… the soundtrack of night-driving in space.

danger synthwave music live concert

Then, Danger took the stage! The French musician electrified the crowd with his glowing eyes, behind a mask reminiscent of Daft Punk or Aural Vampire’s Raveman.

Danger had tremendous energy throughout his set, never letting up on the pounding hyperdrive. He drew in a packed room, and by the end, everyone was headbanging hard to the retro-futuristic sounds of the 80s.

synthwave glowing masks bags fashion

Thanks to Meikee for inviting me to Turbo Drive. It was great to catch up with friends, and experience this intergalactic club scene. If you come to San Fran, hopefully you too can check one of their synthwave events. 

hotel clift san francisco design hotel

Here’s another look at my “Kung Fury” outfit of the day. I’m constantly wearing this 90s-style red beret by Mary Wyatt London.

My Dragon midi skirt is from Print All Over Me, which lets you print custom designs on 200 high-quality templates. You can also order designs by top artists; my skirt is by gentlethrills.

I paired it with shoes by Le Babe, a leather crop top by Erbert Chong, and faux fur jacket by Iron Fist.

boutique hotel suite san fran

San Francisco’s Hotel Clift is made for photo-shooting. Lauren and I got access to one of the mod suites, with high ceilings and a dining room with furniture designed by Philippe Starck.

luxury art hotel san francisco

Mirrors, mirrors everywhere. (As you can see, PAOM skirt is double-sided!)

The suite at Clift San Francisco is a study in sumptuous textures. Silk, leather, velvet, chrome and Venetian Murano glass.

le babe high heel shoes

The relaxed opulence fit with my embroidered high heel shoes by Le Babe. (More of their designs featured below:)

san francisco design hotel starck

One of my friends rented a Clift suite for a birthday party. This would also be a fabulous spot to ring in the New Year, as it’s centrally located in downtown San Fran.

latex black cat catwoman costume

Lauren’s black latex dress and cat mask matched the playful energy of the hotel. (On each level, you’ll find a big circular mirror and these reflective chairs).

lavender pastel purple staircase

Don’t miss out on the 16th floor, featuring this lavender spiral staircase and glass lights.

latex french maid black dress

At an art hotel like The Clift, adventure awaits… Shout-out to the staff for welcoming us here, and their kind comments on our various outfits!

alex streeter black angel heart ring

On our first night, I enjoyed a brilliant meal at Alexander’s Steakhouse with Dr John Skutlin, who was in town to speak at a University of San Francisco conference about tattoo culture in Asia. He says, “Alexander’s elegant and sophisticated interior and warm ambient lighting set the mood for an evening of gastronomic delights guided by their expert staff.” 

The restaurant is a traditional steak house, yet they innovate with fusion dishes and creative cocktails. My gin curry cocktail above is a perfect example; decorated with edible flowers, this Indian inspired drink is wonderfully refreshing.

(John and I are wearing rings by Alex Streeter, our favorite jewelry designer. The legendary silversmith created the Angel Heart Ring, which was memorialized in the movie starring Robert De Niro as Lucifer. This pentagram design comes in several variations; John’s ring has two silver devils on the side. I’m wearing Alex Streeter’s Ouroboros and Bone Claw rings.”)

hamachi shooter shots alexander steakhouse

John continues, “Of course, steak is the name of the game, but before our massive cuts of beef we were treated to hon Hamachi “shots” – a line of shotglasses each filled with avocado, serrano, cilantro, and of course raw yellowtail, all topped off with a splash of yuzu soy sauce for a refreshing aperitif.”

The server quipped that we could throw back a dozen of these and still want more… as you can see from my expression, he was correct! Other restaurants have copied this dish, but Alexander’s hamachi shots are the original ones.

san francisco steak house cocktails

“Might I say that I’m Old Fashioned?” Our server brought us an extensive wine and cocktail list to peruse.

John says, “The libations were almost too numerous to choose from, but the double rye Manhattan was perfectly balanced between the vermouth and the heavy dose of rye. Everyone knows about aging wine and whiskey, but cocktails can be mixed and then aged as well, allowing the ingredients to fuse together in subtle and surprising ways, as I found with the aged Rob Roy cocktail Alexander’s served up.”

alexander's steakhouse review san francisco

Alexander’s Steakhouse has a meticulously curated beef program, highlighting small farms from the US, Australia, and Japan. They are also one of the only restaurants in the US certified to serve authentic Kobe beef. 

In John’s words, “The star of the show was the steak. Wagyu Japanese beef has become a household name in the US, but here we found a menu with rare and intriguing selections, including Hokkaido privately farmed beef from cattle raised in below freezing temperatures, and extremely limited olive-fed beef from Shodoshima Island in Kagawa, Japan.”

wagyu kobe steak beef alexander's

Our server recommended the aged T-bone, which John is cutting into. The meat was tender and juicy, and at a perfect medium rare: total umami. We accompanied it with sides of wild mushrooms and mashed potatoes, all beautifully prepared and not too heavy.

At the bottom, you can see the Hidagyu from Gifu Prefecture that we sampled. John raves, “It was richly marbled, a hallmark of Wagyu beef, and practically melted in our mouths. The beef was served with what can only be described as a “flight” of twelve different salts from around the world, some smoky, some almost sweet. Each brought out a new dimension of flavor from the meat.”

bulgari serpenti metallic wrap bracelet

The staff impressed us with their knowledge, and treated us with little extras such as a splash of red wine to pair with the steaks. They also created special cocktails for us based on our favorite tastes — mine had yuzu in it, and was spot on!

(Closeup on my Alex Streeter ring and Bulgari Serpenti metallic bracelet.)

alex streeter pentagram ring

We ended with a warm, gooey souffle and lemon poppy cake. Fresh out of the oven and not overly sweet; exactly how I like my desserts.

Alexander’s Steakhouse was a five-star experience, all around. The dishes, drinks, atmosphere and especially the service deserve the highest rating. For a special night out or celebration in San Francisco, I’d book a table at Alexander’s without hesitation.

designer chairs furniture clift hotel

More to come from San Francisco — including shopping at occult shops, and the Death Guild Goth party!

It was such a treat to reunite with friends that I met in Tokyo, over 10 years ago! I’m sure you recognize them from this blog over the years. Have you ever had a reunion like ours?

Kimono & Issey Miyake couture: Torso Vintages at San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.

vintage kimono

Do you remember when I visited Torso Vintages, the famed San Francisco purveyors of vintage fashion? I was swept away by their museum-like collection of hats, robes, purses and jewelry from past eras. If only I could play dress-up with their wardrobe…

Thanks to my dear Trevor and the staff of Torso Vintages, this fashion fantasy became reality. Enjoy this very special shoot, featuring a floral kimono, Issey Miyake set, and beautiful flowers!

conservatory of flowers, san francisco

San Francisco was a tad rainy, so Trevor and I scouted out an indoor location. We settled on the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park — a Victorian greenhouse that looks like something out of American Horror Story. Neither of us had ever been here before, which added to the anticipation.

japanese kimono model, fashion

This lush setting was a perfect match for the kimono and purse, which are decorated with flower and leaf motifs. Trevor was my stylist and photographer for the day (you can see more on his Instagram). Love the shape of the fringe top that he picked out for me.

purple orchid flowers

The Conservatory of Flowers is a treasure chest of rare flowers and plants. The skeleton structure dates back to 1878, making it the oldest in America.

san francisco greenhouse, garden

The wings have different climates and themes: Lowland Tropics, Highland Tropics, Aquatic Plants and more.

Trevor sits on a bench in the Potted Plants room, which was probably our favorite. We wished we could sit here all day, reading or meditating.

indoor garden, san francisco

In the Victorian era, upper-class collectors would display their exotic plants in greenhouses like this.

flower kimono robe

This round picture-window created the perfect frame for my Torso Vintages kimono.

issey miyake purple jacket

For my second look, I wore a dark purple Issey Miyake pleated top, jacket and skirt. The Japanese designer is famous for his high-tech, pleated garments.

vintage japanese coat sleeves

Close-up on the sleeves. What an intriguing, custom fabric. (You can get a similar Issey Miyake jacket here.)

三宅 一生 fashion

Pleats, please! The first outfit is traditional, the second futuristic, and both are quintessentially Japanese.

bell shaped plant

I wish I knew more about plant species (I confess I have a bit of a black thumb). I was mesmerized by the hundreds of exotic varieties in the Conservatory, like this trumpet-shaped one.

vintage japanese designer fashion

Follow me, and I’ll show you more marvels…

heart shaped leaves

… like heart-shaped leaves. Look at the delicate veins and strands.

rare issey miyake pleated skirt

It’s intriguing to see the influence of nature on man-made designs. Love the big collar, paneled skirt and shell-like curves of Issey Miyake’s coordinate.

tube shaped plants

Trevor and I could have taken a thousand photos inside the Conservatory. Those colors and patterns!

avantgarde japanese clothing

We kept remarking at how fresh the air was. I felt like my lungs had been cleansed from the inside out.

glass conservatory flowers

It’s a jungle in there. Towering, living, breathing.

blue purple red colored hair

The green theme matched my current hair color: an ombre that flows from blue to purple to magenta. My hairstyle / color is by extraordinarily talented Stephanie Hoy, stylist at Stratosphere Salon in Vancouver.

different shaped green leaves

I didn’t want to “leave”…

decadent green jewelry, bracelet

Details of this magnificent bracelet, which looks at home next to purple orchids.

black purse with flowers

Trevor picked out this velvet purse to match. The flowers and fashion make magic together, don’t you think?

tropics sign

Old-time elegance…

big pink ruffled flower

Explosive flowers… it was a vintage dream come true. Thank you, Trevor and Torso Vintages, for making this shoot happen!

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

There’s a lot to enjoy in San Francisco, no matter what type of traveler you are. (Here are all my SF travel tips, to help you plan a trip).

san francisco botanical gardens

The Conservatory of Flowers is a perfect example of a place that anyone can enjoy.

It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am – 4:30pm, and admission is between $2-8. Address: 100 John F Kennedy Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118. More info on their website.

kimpton hotels robe, bathrobe

Another look at my blue-purple-red hair. I’m wearing an animal-print bathrobe — these are found in all Kimpton Hotels. (Remember when Rose and I wore these robes at the Seattle Kimpton?)

kimpton hotel prescott room

I stayed at the Prescott San Francisco, a boutique hotel in the SOMA district. It’s part of Kimpton, one of my favorite hotel groups. I particularly look forward to chatting with the staff — they give personalized recommendations, and wear bow ties!

My room was big enough for Trevor to spread out all the clothing he borrowed. The close-up of the purse reveals all the intricate detailing.

black silk retro cocktail dress

I wore long, black silk gown from Torso Vintages for the daily cocktail hour. That’s right: free local wines and cheeses. Yet another reason I heart Kimpton.

kimpton cocktail hour, decor

Kimpton’s decor has an Art Deco feel — yet the rooms are modern and the WiFi is  fast.

kimpton palomar hotel

We went for dinner at the nearby Palomar Hotel, another Kimpton property. The lobby’s light-box seat and bicycle are crying out for Instagram photos. (Yes, I took one of Trevor.)

kimpton hotels san francisco

The recently renovated Palomar has an artsy, hipster vibe.

hip restaurant dirty habit

The decoration is all about big, eye-catching visuals.

Dirty Habit san francisco

We had dinner upstairs at Dirty Habit, an inventive new restaurant that specializes in craft cocktails.

cool hipster san francisco restaurant

We’re adventurous drinkers, and tried the cocktail with a porcini mushroom infusion. Weird, in a great way.

steampunk clockwork wall decoration

Dirty Habit has a laid-back vibe and young clientele. The clockwork gears on the wall are a draw for Steampunk lovers.

dirty habit food san francisco

The menu is constantly changing, and is a mix of fine favorites (like seared scallops) and unexpected combinations (how about yuzu and bacon crumble on coffee cream?). For dessert, we had a memorable Pavlova with madras curry. It doesn’t sound like a combination that would work, and yet it does.

leather swing

It was a short trip to SF, but a fun one! I also did a TV interview with ABC Nightline while I was here, in case you missed it.

Do you wear vintage? What do you think of Torso’s couture collections?

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Oakland Cat Town Cafe, first to open in USA! ABC Nightline TV interview, Shinjuku Tokyo Robot restaurant.

san francisco Cat Town Café

So many maooos! Last December, I was honored to be interviewed on ABC Nightline, the long-running news program that is broadcast worldwide. The network flew me to San Francisco to be interviewed in a segment about cat cafes and the spread of J-pop culture to America.

If you missed this ABC Nightline episode, don’t fret — you can watch it below and on my YouTube channel. It includes footage of the psychedelic Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku, bikini-clad fembots and kawaii maid cafes!

The TV crew and I filmed at the first cat cafe to open in the USA: Cat Town Oakland (near San Francisco). Unlike Japanese kitty cafes, this one has a meaningful mission: to save at-risk abandoned felines.

Want to peek inside Cat Town and a J-pop mall in San Francisco? Then read on.

erbert chong leather skirt

First, details of what I wore on my TV appearance. There’s a mao-mao peeking out from my striped top! It’s actually a dress by Mandycat in Hong Kong. (Here’s a similar striped top with a bat on it.)

Click the items below, to build an outfit like mine!

japanese cute goth shoes

My long, leather skirt is by the young Hong Kong-based designer, Erbert Chong. Everyone is raving about his leather, edgy yet wearable designs for women. I can’t get over the materials and finish of his pieces — they’re some of my favorite items in my wardrobe right now.

My white creeper shoes, with a pirate bear, are Peace Now. This Japanese brand has unfortunately shut down…

cat silver ring

My coiled, silver 3D bracelet is from Angelica Brigade.

Everyone should have a cat ring, in my opinion! Here’s where you can get a cat-faced ring like mine.

cat town cafe, oakland

Trevor joined me for the ABC Nightline TV news shoot at Cat Town (address: 2869 Broadway in downtown Oakland, California). Not a bad job, playing on-camera with a dozen kitties. (Watch the video here).

Like the Shinjuku cat cafe, the space is creatively decorated with all sorts of climbing platforms and toys.

cat town adoption, cafe oakland

Japanese cat cafes — cute as the concept is — tend to operate a bit like petting zoos. These cafes bring in rare purebred species, like exotic shorthairs, for the customers to enjoy.

In contrast, Cat Town is a partnership with Oakland Animal Services. The cafe provides a stimulating environment for shelter cats, especially the ones who are the least likely to be adopted. Volunteers help to run the space, and the goal is to let these abandoned cats blossom and find permanent adoptive homes. 

funny cat in suit portrait

As soon as you step into Cat Town, you feel that the operation is full of heart. The humans who work here puts the needs of the cats first (and the decor reinforces their prime position!)

cat decorated cookies

The coffee shop is separate from the cat-petting area, but you can bring your latte inside and sip it while playing with cats. The cafe focuses on supporting local businesses, and sells small-batch pastries from a local baker, like cookies laced with “Cattitude.” 

cat cafe rules

Like in the Tokyo cat cafes I visited, there are rules to follow, which keep the cats safe. However, unlike in Asia, guests don’t take off their shoes before entering, nor are they required to sanitize their hands.

(Do you see the Scottish Fold drawing in the top corner? It’s the only fold at the cafe, since this round-faced breed rarely ends up in animal rescues.)

abc nightline tv show reporters

I’ve been chatting with ABC Nightline’s team for some time now, and gave them travel tips when they went to Tokyo. As a follow-up for their Tokyo pop culture stories, I appeared on the show to give background and context on maid, cat and robot cafes in Japan.

Here I am with ABC News presenter Cecilia Vega, and producer / director Nick Capote. They’re so sweet, and we had a fun day together!

Oakland Animal Shelter cats

Cecilia and I wandered around Cat Town, and played with the cats. It’s great to see the strays thriving in this cat-tastic environment.

interior cat cafe oakland california

You can grab a cat toy, and they’ll pounce all over it. The walls are covered with colorful murals, including artwork of Grumpy Cat, Totoro, Nyan Cat and more pop culture icons.

first american cat cafe

The custom-built playgrounds are a tip of the hat to San Francisco’s landmarks, like the Tribune building.

cecelia vega, abc news reporter

Cecilia Vega and I chatted about the appeal of cat cafes, the spread of Japanese concept cafes to North America, and more. Watch our conversation on the ABC Nightline segment. 

oakland cat town

Peekaboo, I see you! The cats have a private room in the back where they can escape the crowds and sleep.

A few of the kitties couldn’t take their paws off our film equipment. Several took a nap in a camera bag.

adopt cats, cat cafe usa

Rescuing and re-homing cats continue to be a challenge in cities worldwide. Animal shelters do great work, but are over-crowded and stressful.

So far, Cat Town is succeeding at giving them space to thrive. 

abc nightline tokyo theme cafes

Already, adoption rates are up: customers will play with the cats and fall in love with one. All the adoptions go through a screening process, to make sure the pets go to secure homes.

cat town, first american cat cafe

The volunteers genuinely care about the cats, and do the best for them. As an example, I noticed that they feed the kitties Wellness — a byproduct-free, grain-free brand that I feed my own Scottish Fold baby, Basil Farrow. The staff told me that they turned down sponsorship offers from big-name cat food companies, since this mass-produced food doesn’t contain the best ingredients for their health. Go Cat Town!

steampunk cat tattoo

Another instance of dedication: co-founder Adam has a tattoo of their coffee partner’s logo (Bicycle Coffee), with cat-ears and whiskers. On the left, Trevor strokes a black cat, which matches his look.

san francisco cat animal shelter

For these reasons, I’ve been recommending Cat Town to everyone who visits San Francisco. It’s the first cat cafe to open up in America, and hopefully sets the standard for a meaningful, adoption-oriented approach.

Entry is by donation; you can reserve a guaranteed visitation time with a minimum $10 donation. Every hour, about 20 people are allowed into the space, and you can play with about 10-15 felines.

waraku ramen, japantown san francisco

Trevor, the ABC team and I took a quick lunch break in SF’s Japan Town. I’m still thinking about the ramen at Waraku, it was that good!

japanese street fashion couple

We continued filming for the episode at New People World, the Japanese fashion mall. (The address and a tour of the boutiques are in my San Francisco shopping guide.)

maruq store, new people world

MaruQ, located on the first floor, remains my favorite store in the Jpop mall. So much cuteness in one room, including brands like Ayammy, Omocat and Liz Lisa.

rilakkuma toys, cute japanese mall

Raise your paw if you love Rilakkuma the bear! (Sadly, this segment was cut from the ABC Nightline feature, but I still wanted to share these images with you.)

japantown san francisco clothing shops

Cecilia and I walked around the store, and chatted about the growing popularity of Japanese street fashion in America. Can you spot Trevor in the background?

cat print dress, japanese goth tattoos

Gothic tattoos and a rainbow cat dress: spooky meets sweet, that’s how we roll.

san francisco gyaru, jpop

The shop girls are adorable as ever. They’re modeling a variety of looks from Japanese style tribes.

yellow heart shaped sunglasses

Trevor couldn’t resist getting these sunglasses. “And I won’t break your heart shaped glasses.”

For more info on where to get Goth, vintage, alternative and kawaii clothing, check out my San Fran shopping guide.

furry rainbow backpacks

A million “arigatos” for the ABC Nightline team, for having me on the program!

new people world fashion mall

Please take a moment to watch my interview on ABC Nightline! The segment includes crazy footage from the Robot Restaurant in Japan (with robot-women performers), maid cafes, and cat cafes in Tokyo and California.

scottish fold cat cafe

Have you ever been to a cat cafe? Would you want one to open in your hometown?

Shop my ABC TV outfit below…