Insider tips: Novelist Lewis DeSimone
Last night, I had the pleasure of joining novelist Lewis DeSimone at a City Arts & Lectures event where John Irving discussed his new novel, In One Person, which chronicles 50 years in the life of a bisexual man. DeSimone’s own new book, The Heart’s History, focuses on four years in the life of a circle of gay Bostonians.
DeSimone’s fellow local literary luminary Michele Tea has praised The Heart’s History for its perspective on ”the slow assimilation of a larger gay culture that used to be more angry and badass.”
DeSimone studied at Harvard, but has made his home in San Francisco for 19 years now. He lives in the midst of the Castro, but has badass insider tips that will take you all over town…
What’s your favorite cultural institution in the city?
Davies Symphony Hall. It’s a beautiful space, with great acoustics and comfortable seating. One of my favorite events of the year is the Symphony’s opening gala.
How about your favorite view?
My favorite view in the city is from the top of Market Street, when the whole skyline just opens up before you. My favorite view of the city, though, is on 101 south, when you emerge from the Waldo Tunnel just before the Golden Gate Bridge. Even though I know what to expect by now, every time that view of the bridge and the city emerges, it’s miraculous.
Where do you recommend for shopping?
I love to stroll along 24th Street in Noe Valley. It has wonderful little shops and restaurants, and the street life is totally charming.
Dim sum, fine dining, and sightseeing tips, after the jump
Name one thing a visitor shouldn’t miss eating in San Francisco?
What’s your favorite cocktail spot?
I’m a big fan of the Eureka Lounge on 18th Street. It’s a great spot for a quiet drink with friends—good cocktails in an elegant atmosphere. It’s an oasis in the middle of the busy Castro.
You’ve got $50 or more per person to spend for a meal, where would you choose and why?
If you can afford it, there’s nothing better than Gary Danko. The food is amazing, and the service is impeccable without being at all pretentious. I’ve had some of the best meals of my life in that gorgeous dining room. Whether you’re celebrating an anniversary or just having dinner with old friends, Gary Danko makes it a special occasion.
You’ve got less than $15 per person to spend for a meal, where would you choose and why?
For an inexpensive lunch, I often go to Gambino’s at the Embarcadero Center for a cheese steak—the best one I’ve yet found on the West Coast. It brings me back to my New England roots. [Ed.: Hailing from Philadelphia, I question this whole notion of a "New England cheese steak."]
What would you tell a visitor that they absolutely must do while in San Francisco which they probably wouldn’t find in a guidebook?
Some visitors avoid famous spots because they think they’re just tourist traps, so the first thing I tell people is that they have to bite the bullet and go to Alcatraz. It might be a cliché, but it’s a fascinating spot and well worth the trip. There are hidden treasures all over San Francisco, some right under your nose. While everyone knows about Grace Cathedral, atop Nob Hill, I think many visitors overlook the labyrinth carved into the stone just beyond the entrance to the church. If the carpeted one inside is too crowded, the outdoor version may give you a more contemplative experience.