San Francisco

How to Support the Black Community in SF Right Now

From nonprofits and community organizations to restaurants and bookstores.

Brown Sugar Kitchen
Brown Sugar Kitchen
Brown Sugar Kitchen

The events of 2020, and their impact on the Black community, were a much-needed wake up call to many. From the devastating impact of COVID-19 on people of color to the shocking displays of police brutality that led to peaceful protests around the world, our country’s gross inequities (most of which have been deeply ingrained since its founding) have become impossible to ignore. But there are things to celebrate, too. The incredible triumph of Black organizers in Georgia and beyond. The swearing-in of our country’s first Black woman to higher office. Countless examples of Black power, Black ingenuity, and Black joy. While a new year, and a new administration, may signal a degree of change, now is the time to really take stock of what we learned in 2020, and to show up to support the Black community, today, tomorrow, and always. One relatively simple way to give back right now is to support Black-owned businesses, nonprofits championing the Black community, and bail funds supporting protestors arrested for demonstrating in your community. We’re resurfacing this guide of some of the ways you can make a difference in honor of Black History Month to encourage you to remember that this work happens every day, in times of crisis and recovery.

Courtesy of City of Dreams
Courtesy of City of Dreams
Courtesy of City of Dreams

Support local nonprofits & community efforts 

Grassroots organizations-the ones trying to make change happen from the ground up-are essential in this moment and are hugely important to support. Black Earth Farms, a Berkeley-based farming collective, focuses on creating food sovereignty in the community. Follow them on Instagram @blackearthfarms for updates and to learn how you can contribute.

Many of the gross inequalities faced by the country and the Bay Area’s Black community stem from a feedback loop of poverty and limited opportunities. City of Dreams is a Bayview-based nonprofit that is working to break that cycle with youth-facing initiatives for kids 8 and up who are living in San Francisco’s low-income and public housing communities. 

“Giving monetarily is always an easy option for those looking to give,” says Jarae Clark, City of Dreams’ executive director. “We are a small organization and depend heavily on individual donations from our supporters to maintain sustainability.” Other ways to get involved? By signing up to be a mentor, or volunteer with the organization in other ways. 

You can donate to City of Dreams here, and look into other ways to get involved here. Looking for more ways to help the community directly? Check out organizations like the Roots Community Health Center, People’s Breakfast Oakland, the East Oakland Collective, and the Anti Police-Terror Project (this resource, compiled by San Francisco-based creative Courtney Sabahi, has more information on organizations to support). Interested in supporting bail funds for protestors in the Bay Area and beyond? Broke-Ass Stuart has compiled a resource for that here.

Courtesy of Trevor Joplin & Jordan Pories
Courtesy of Trevor Joplin & Jordan Pories
Courtesy of Trevor Joplin & Jordan Pories

Donate to Black-Owned restaurants, bars, pop-ups & catering companies

Many restaurants are offering take-out and gift card sales, and an extensive list of Black-owned restaurants in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Vallejo, and beyond, compiled by food critic Soleil Ho, can be found here.

Looking to contribute immediately? Employee support and rent relief funds have been set up at businesses including Minnie Bell’s; other Bay Area businesses include restaurant, bar, and community space 7th West; Swan Market stalwart The Cook and Her Farmer; beloved downtown Oakland bars Drexl, The Miranda, and Fort Green; San Francisco’s legendary Sheba Piano Lounge, home to incredible Ethiopian food and nightly live music; Richmond neighborhood staple Bella Trattoria; and San Jose’s Jackie’s Place.

Some businesses, in addition to offering takeout, have set up meal donation programs to support their community at large. These include Oakland’s wildly popular Brown Sugar Kitchen, and Red’s House, a San Francisco-based Jamaican pop-up dinner series, run by mother-son duo Chris and Sharon Russell. (Red’s House was forced to pause their meal donation program, but are continuing to fundraise for it via  GoFundMe.) 

Chef Sharon Russell is unequivocal about the importance of major systemic changes, and accountability, in stopping the cycle of violence and discrimination.   

“I’m  a mother first and a chef second,” she says. “As an immigrant, I have faced tremendous hardships in my life, and all I ever wanted was to create a beautiful life for my children and myself. Growing up on the island of Jamaica, you hear stories about America, the land of endless opportunities. But what you don’t hear and are not prepared for is the amount of hate and discrimination you’ll face because of something as simple as the color of your skin. A feature that should not factor into anyone’s decision making. People must be held accountable for racial injustices against people of color. There needs to be a better system in place that gives us a fair chance to succeed. We need better legislation for fair lending and housing practices for people of color. Hate breeds hate and we need to look into ourselves to access the truth about how to really affect change.”

Affecting change, and creating a place that feels safe among these challenges, is a major inspiration for why Red’s Place came to be.

“Being a person of color comes with a set of responsibilities we bear from birth to death,” says Christopher Russell. “I am tired. We are all tired. The people want to live in harmony and are tired of the yellow tape that one has to cut through just to survive. There has to be an easier way to live amongst one another with our differences. This is why Red’s House was born. It came from a place of safety and warmth. My goal has always been to create an experience from a rich culture that has been imitated, watered down, and duplicated unsuccessfully. It is our culture, my family’s heritage, their sweat and tears that made it possible to do what I do today.”

kalm korner by kehinde
kalm korner by kehinde
kalm korner by kehinde

Shop from & donate to Black-owned businesses

Small businesses, having been slammed by the economic slowdown surrounding COVID-19 and subsequent shelter-in-place orders, need your support.

“Align with Black people, Black organizations, Black businesses, etc. and ask them in what ways you can help, and then help,” says Kehinde Koyejo, owner and creator of Oakland-based clean self-care company Kalm Korner by Kehinde. “Be a real ally and a real advocate. When you spend your dollars in communities of color you are helping small business owners support their families, build their business and advance their communities. Be a conscious buyer, which simply means you consider ‘the social, environmental, ecological, and political impact of your buycott or boycott actions.’ When you spend your money you are either contributing to the problem (systemic racism) or contributing to the solution (equality and equity). We all get to choose and, right now, our freedom to choose is our power to create real change.” And when you make these purchases, amplify that message as best you can.

“Help by making a purchase at kalmkorner.com, and posting your order once it arrives,” she says. “Send a loved one a Kalm Korner care-package to encourage and promote self-care during these times. Referrals are a great way to support my business and other Black-owned businesses and donations are a great way to support as well. Small businesses were hit hard during COVID-19 and are struggling to keep afloat. Plug a few local Black-owned small businesses, like @kalmkorner, on social media using popular #buyblack hashtags. You can find a list of popular hashtags for buying Black on Google.”  

Kalm Korner is a part of the Oakland Indie Alliance, as is Mohari Wellness Lounge, an acupuncture, massage, and health wellness education center. 

“We’re not looking for donations,” says Dr. August-G Varlack. To support the business directly, book massage, acupuncture, or nutritional counseling services to treat both physical pain and mental health issues. 

Dr. Varlack, who is “a Caribbean New Yorker from a Civil Rights family,” encourages white supporters of the movement to read this piece for ideas of how to start taking action in their communities. 

For more ways to support Black business owners, check out the Oakland Indie Alliance’s Small Business Repair Fund, which is prioritizing Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)-owned businesses. Other Black-owned businesses in the organization include sex shop and adult gallery Feelmore, holistic tea company Teas With Meaning, downtown Oakland-based oo la la! gift lounge, massage and wellness center Downloaded Wellness, and Oakland Acupuncture

Continue to educate yourself & support Black-owned bookstores while you do it

It’s always beneficial to be open to reading, learning, and most importantly, listening to the Black community. Meaning it’s always a good time to support Oakland’s Marcus Books, the oldest independent Black-owned bookstore in the US, with an inventory full of books by and about Black people (you can shop from and support other Black-owned bookstores around the country here; find a useful starter reading list here).

“The COVID-19 pandemic struck as we entered our 60th year of business,” says team member Hank Oliver, whose great-grandparents founded the store, and whose grandmother, Blanche Richardson, continues to work with her siblings. “Our community’s health and well-being has always been a priority for us and we were happy to do our part to maintain socially distant business practices. Still, like so many other independent businesses already working tirelessly to compete with larger corporations, we were hit hard by the shelter in place.”

Marcus Books has set up an anniversary GoFundMe, to hopefully support many more decades of business, and of being a focal point in the Bay Area community.

“Thanks to the generosity of our community near and far, we were inspired to shift our focus from surviving the shelter-in-place to thriving in spite of it and other forces threatening our space. Words can’t hold our gratitude for this continued support,” says Hank Oliver. To shop for books from home, call 510-652-2344 or visit Marcus Books on Bookshop. You can also join their mailing list here. 

Businesses like Marcus Books are essential-especially as we commit to doing the work to make meaningful change in our community, and our country.

“For those looking for ways to cope, support, and turn feelings into action: building cultural and intellectual awareness through reading, learning and using your means to protect Black-owned businesses, institutions, and safe-spaces from erasure are key to supporting us and the Black community at large both now and always.”

More ways to get involved?

Check out a list of national organizations we’ve compiled here. If you have thoughts on other businesses you’d like to see included in our local stories, please email feedback@thrillist.com.

Lauren Sloss is a contributor for Thrillist. 

San Francisco

How to Plan an Epic, Wine-Fueled Napa Valley Adventure

From natural hot springs to Michelin-rated restaurants and more, we've got 13 reasons why you need to make California's Napa Valley your next vacation.

Photo courtesy of California Brandy House
Photo courtesy of California Brandy House
Photo courtesy of California Brandy House

Just a short drive from San Francisco and Sacramento, Napa Valley represents California’s most prestigious wine region, boasting over 30 miles of lush, sloping hills and 16 distinct AVAs, or designated wine-growing regions. With an enviable Mediterranean climate that makes it a worthwhile destination year-round, Napa is renowned for producing exquisite wines-especially cabernet sauvignon-as well as being an early adopter of the farm-to-table movement, with a plethora of Michelin-starred fine dining options. Even amid escalating wildfire seasons, the area continues to demonstrate its commitment to producing noteworthy wines while preserving its stunning landscapes.

Nestled in the valley are a handful of small towns worth exploring, each with its own unique character. On the southern end of Napa County is American Canyon, the most laid back and adventure-oriented, with the American Canyon Wetlands Trail and plenty of bird-watching opportunities. The town of Napa offers a bustling downtown strip situated along the flowing Napa River, with plenty of tasting rooms, restaurants, art galleries, and shops to peruse. Further north lies Yountville, celebrated for its award-winning restaurant scene, as well as Oakville and Rutherford, two tiny towns located in the heart of “Cabernet Country.” Still north is the picturesque hamlet of St. Helena, with big-name wineries and contemporary art galleries along its downtown strip. Finally, you’ll reach the northernmost town of Calistoga, an ideal destination for recharging.

With so much to see, do, drink, and experience, planning a trip to Napa Valley can get overwhelming fast. But not to worry because we’ve done the legwork for you and compiled all of the must-try wineries, restaurants, and things to do across this iconic wine region. Cheers!

Napa Valley Wine Train
Napa Valley Wine Train
Napa Valley Wine Train

Relax and recharge in Calistoga

Drink enough wine and you will undoubtedly need to set aside some time to recuperate-not that you’ll need an excuse to pay a visit to one of Calistoga’s natural hot springs or local spas.

Indian Springs Resort is California’s oldest continuously operated mineral pool and spa, first opened in 1861, though it’s enjoyed its share of renovations since then, including the recent installation of a Halotherapy Himalayan Salt Room and new showers with full-spectrum infrared saunas in the mud rooms. Four thermal geysers provide mineral pools and special mud made from volcanic ash, including the Buddha Pond, a meditation pond where spa guests can relax before or after treatments.

Calistoga Spa Hot Springs
Calistoga Spa Hot Springs
Calistoga Spa Hot Springs

Known as Calistoga’s original wellness retreat, Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort and Mineral Springs recently earned a remodel, making its cozy cottages, new spa garden, mud baths, and geothermal mineral pools all the more appealing. “The Works” is the treatment to try, involving a steamy mineral shower to prep, thermotherapy with volcanic ash, hydrotherapy in a private mineral whirlpool, a geothermal steam, a cold blanket wrap, and massage therapy. You might as well book a room-you won’t want to move for a while.

Housed within the art deco Mount View Hotel, True Spa offers massage therapies, aromatherapies, body scrubs and mud wraps, and facials, including a Lemon Matcha Mud Cocoon with a hydrating Lemon Verbena body scrub and a layering of matcha mud before the body is cocooned in a biodegradable wrap to open pores and allow ingredients to penetrate the skin deeply.

And in case you wanted to go on a day spa tripping adventure, there’s also the elegant Spa Solage, Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, Golden Haven Hot Springs, and the Baths at Roman Spa.

The Model Bakery
The Model Bakery
The Model Bakery

Try one of Oprah’s favourite things

Once an annual segment on her since-concluded daytime talk show, Oprah Winfrey has since been releasing a list of her favourite things-usually timed with the holiday season-in her monthly O Magazine. With three locations in Yountville, St. Helena, and Napa, Model Bakery earned this prestigious designation in 2016 and 2021, with Oprah saying, “I dare you to find a better English muffin than these!” We agree, whether you decide to order it toasted with house-made strawberry jam on the side or as a breakfast sandwich with white cheddar, scrambled eggs, and bacon. As a bonus, Model Bakery now ships their famous English muffins nationwide via Goldbelly.

Sip and cycle through wine country

Just because your vacation is centred around wine doesn’t mean you have to be stationary the entire time. Cyclists can ride on flat easy roads while taking in vineyard views with Getaway Adventures, which hosts a variety of wine country tours across Napa and Sonoma Valley, with multi-day bike tours available. The Calistoga Bike and Wine Tour is an all-day excursion that spans 12 miles and makes stops at wineries like Chateau Montelena, Bennett Lane, Envy, Summers, Lava Vine, August Briggs, Frank Family, Twomey, T Vine, and Clos Pegase, among others. A hybrid bike and helmet, unlimited water, and a picnic lunch are included in the tour-tasting fees are an additional cost.

If you prefer to take yourself on a self-guided tour of the valley, there are plenty of bike rental options. Get a taste of the Napa Valley Vine Trail with a 12.5-mile ride between Napa and Yountville. Still under construction, the walking and biking trail system will span 47 miles between Vallejo and Calistoga when it’s completed.

The French Laundry
The French Laundry
The French Laundry

Take a ride with the Michelin guide

Just as a reminder, the Michelin guide was first developed by the tire company in 1900, as a way of encouraging road travel, and thus, tire sales. More than a century after the first guide was released, it’s now a veritable ranking system of the best restaurants and chefs around the world, with more than a few standouts in the Napa region.

Snag a reservation at legendary The French Laundry if you can, and you’ll be treated to a gastronomic journey that pairs local seasonal ingredients with refined French technique and ends with a box of handmade chocolates. But just in case that doesn’t pan out, try your luck at Thomas Keller’s pared-down Bouchon Bistro or La Toque, another French standout with Michelin cred, plus a lengthy wine list. Intimate, 25-seat Kenzo offers a Japanese Kaiseki experience where courses are artfully designed and timed-try to get a seat at the chef’s counter. With a name that translates to “Inn of the Sun” and a setting among 33 acres of olive groves, you’ll quickly see why Auberge du Soleil‘s Mediterranean-inflected restaurant catapulted Napa’s fine dining scene when it opened four decades ago.

Make a pitstop at Gott’s Roadside

With locations across San Francisco, you may already be familiar with Gott’s Roadside, a no-frills burger stand that champions local ingredients. The popular eatery has wine country locations in St. Helena and at Napa’s Oxbow Public Market; the perfect option when you need something substantial to soak up that mid-morning wine tasting. You can’t go wrong with any of the burgers, but we especially love the Western Bacon Blue Ring with beer-battered onion rings and Point Reyes crumbled blue cheese, and the Green Chile Cheeseburger with Anaheim green chiles and a charred jalapeno mayo spread. Finish it off with a hand-spun milkshake or Root Beer Float.

Pay a visit to Old Faithful

Okay, so you’re not going to witness the dramatic eruptions that Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Geyser yields, but you can still head down to Calistoga to see spectacular sprays up to 60-feet-tall, happening every 15 to 30 minutes-or more frequently if there’s been recent rainfall. While you’re there, take a stroll through the Old Faithful Gardens, where you can admire native plants and a tranquil mineral water fountain, then visit Old Faithful Animal Farm to pet Tennessee fainting goats, Jacob’s Four-Horn Sheep, and Guard Llamas. You can also learn more about how geysers work at the nearby geology museum.

Book a luxurious stay

There’s no shortage of indulgent resorts fit for living like royalty, all across Napa Valley. Set on a historic working ranch on the southern edge of Napa, Stanly Ranch Auberge Resorts Collection opened in April 2022 with 135 cottages and guest rooms, and a focus on wellness that includes meditative morning walks through the vineyards and bike rides along the Napa River, plus other immersive retreat experiences.

Nearby, Carneros Resort offers cottages and luxury homes equipped with fenced yards and gardens, outdoor showers, and soaking tubs that make you feel like a glamorous local. Complimentary bikes are available for exploring and there are even separate pools for adults and families with kids. Sunday movie nights are hosted on the vineyard lawn, complete with blankets, Adirondack chairs, and complimentary popcorn.

Boutique resort Alila Napa Valley opened in March 2021 in St. Helena, offering 68 guest rooms with features like outdoor fireplaces and views of rolling vineyards. Helmed by Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino, Acacia House is a restaurant housed in a restored Georgian farmhouse that specializes in seasonal fare and features herbs and vegetables from the resort garden. There’s also a convenient footbridge that makes it easy to pop over to neighbouring Beringer Vineyards-the oldest continuously operated winery in Napa Valley-for a tasting.

Go glamping in wine country

Maybe you want to balance out your glam Napa stay by roughing it outdoors-or maybe you just want to save a few bucks on accommodations to spend more on wine. Whatever the reason, Napa Valley offers a few scaled-back camping opportunities. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park has 45 campsites for tents and RVs, as well as 10 yurts and restored historic cabins, plus hiking trails and a swimming pool, while Skyline Wilderness Park offers tent, RV, and horse camping.

Napa Valley Balloons, Inc.
Napa Valley Balloons, Inc.
Napa Valley Balloons, Inc.

Check out vineyard views from a hot air balloon

Napa offers plenty of outdoor adventures from hiking to biking to visiting national landmarks, but nothing compares to a bird’s eye view of the sun rising over the valley from a hot air balloon ride. Make a reservation with Napa Valley Balloons, Inc. or Napa Valley Aloft Balloons, both of which depart from Yountville and offer 45-minute to hour-long balloon rides over the expansive wine region. Napa Valley Aloft Balloons offers an optional post-flight champagne breakfast for $28 per person and Napa Valley Balloons offers a wine package that includes a wine tour in addition to your flight.

Catch a concert or festival

Outside of cheese and charcuterie, you can’t beat a live concert or music festival when it comes to ideal wine pairings. Thankfully, Napa offers plenty of opportunities to take in this art form with a glass in hand.

The annual Festival Napa Valley brings world-class performances to a gorgeous Napa setting, offering ten days of music, food, and wine from July 15 to July 24.

Jazz lovers will want to grab tickets for the Blue Note Jazz Festival, taking place at Charles Krug Winery from July 29–31, with performances by artist-in-residence Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, Maxwell, and more, including wine tastings and a VIP experience with the Napa Valley Wine Train, which will be parked at the grounds every day of the festival.

Listen to the classic sounds of Beethoven, Brahms, and other chamber musicians during Music in the Vineyards, an annual festival curated by the Napa Valley Chamber of Music that takes place at various Napa vineyards, estates, and private residences from August 3 to August 21. This year’s programming celebrates women and BIPOC musicians who are traditionally overlooked in the industry.

Get a history lesson with California brandy

No one is arguing Napa Valley as a premier wine destination, but did you know that it’s also one of the best places to try California brandy? It makes sense-why wouldn’t these award-winning grapes also lend themselves to producing high-end brandies?

As it turns out, California has a history of making brandy that predates the state’s wine industry. You can learn more about the history and try a tasting flight with California brandies at the California Brandy House in Downtown Napa.

Photo courtesy of Prisoner Wine
Photo courtesy of Prisoner Wine
Photo courtesy of Prisoner Wine

Visit more wineries

And just in case you needed even more wine recommendations for Napa, let us direct your attention towards historic, family-owned Spottswoode Estate, a pioneer in organic wine; The Prisoner Wine Company, which blends the state’s best and most unusual varieties; Baldacci Family Vineyards, where you can expand your viticulture and enology education with the Behind the Cellar Door experience; Conn Creek, Raymond Vineyards, and Judd’s Hill, where you can learn the basics of blending and create a custom blend to take home; and Somerston Estate, where you can roam 1,682 acres of unspoiled terrain during a tour and tasting.

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Danielle Dorsey is the Los Angeles Editor at Thrillist.

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