Haute Secrets: Mike DeFrino, CEO of Kimpton Shares His Preferred Places in SF

Nike DeFrino, Kimpton GroupThis month, the Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants hospitality group is celebrating its 35th anniversary. The company was founded in 1981 by Bill Kimpton with the first hotel, the Clarion Bedford, opening on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. Kimpton is known for being the country’s first boutique hotel; it launched several popular experiences — such as nightly wine happy hours and pet-friendly policies — that have been widely adopted by hotels everywhere. Today, Kimpton, which has 65 boutique hotels in 33 cities, is run by Mike DeFrino, a hotel industry vet who has been with the brand for the past 20 years. DeFrino has lived all over the US, working at hotels in Seattle and back East, before settling in Marin County in 2006. A man about town with a penchant for delicious eats, DeFrino enjoys trying new restaurants, cooking at home, and hitting up the Ferry Building market place. What else does like to do? Here, he shares his favorite haute spots in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Where were you born: Farmington, Connecticut

How long in San Francisco: 10 years

Neighborhood: Ross, in Marin County

Occupation: CEO, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants

Favorite Restaurant: Wherever I’m going this weekend; though we’ve recently had great meals at Rich Table and Lord Stanley.

Best Sushi: Akikos

Best Italian: SPQR and Scala’s Bistro

Best dessert: No thanks!

Best place for a romantic date: A sunset drive to Tomales Bay for oysters and then dinner in Point Reyes.

Best Sunday brunch: My kitchen table. I cook Sunday brunch for my wife and three daughters every week. Omelets with spinach, mushrooms and brie is a favorite. Also, runny fried eggs, bacon, cheddar and guac on onion bagels—you should stop by!

Best place for a power business meeting: Our offices in San Francisco have been designed to reflect the playfulness and spirit of Kimpton’s hotels and restaurants, so we like to bring clients and investors into the fold. The wine room is especially fun—like meeting inside a wine cave in Napa.

If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? There are so many great hotels in San Francisco, it’s hard to pick one—and I’m not allowed to play favorites.

Favorite shopping venue/boutique: My favorite neighborhoods for retail are Hayes Valley and Valencia Street (in the Mission); lots of creativity, independence and one of a kind stuff. For bike gear, I think Studio Velo in Mill Valley is fantastic.

Favorite place to buy jewelry/watches: My last watch purchases were a Shinola from Sax and an IWC from Shreve.

Best Spa: I’m not a big spa aficionado; don’t like lots of strangers touching me.

Favorite Charity Event: Chef’s Cycle for No Kid Hungry.

Favorite Cultural Institution: The Fillmore for live music.

Best Steakhouse: I love steak and always have some thick cuts aging in the drawer of my fridge. I buy on Sunday and age for at least five days. Charcoal chimney gets lit on Thursday or Friday (whenever everyone is home) and I grill old school style — on a Weber, with plenty of Brunello for the chef.

Best Pizza: Delfina is hard to beat, but great pizza is now pretty easy to find in the Bay Area. For delivery, I go for Amicis; thin chewy crust, for New York Style, I like Escape From New York; in Marin, Bar Bocce and Pizzalina.

Best Lunch: A corned beef sammy at Shorty Goldstein’s (near our office on Sutter) is hard to beat. More healthy and right next door is Native and Co. for a chicken and kale salad.

Best Gym/Athletic Facility: In this weather nothing beats Mt. Tam for a trail run or mountain bike ride.

Best Limousine/Driving Service: I love to drive or bike over the Golden Gate Bridge every day—so no limo for me.

Describe your city in three words: How about two? Positive and energetic.

Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: Strolling (eating and drinking) through North Beach late night is a great adventure.

All-around favorite spot in San Francisco:  I think the Ferry Plaza is still authentic and vibrant. Yes a tad touristy too, but it’s got a bit of everything from good food and drink to local shops, commuters, families and locals; I never get sick of it.