Haute Secrets: Dr. Carolyn Chang Shares Her Guide to the Good Life in SF

Carolyn Chang
Carolyn Chang

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Dr. Carolyn Chang is one of the nation’s most sought-after and awarded plastic surgeons. When in need of a cosmetic procedure, she’s your go-to girl. She’s also a long time Bay Area resident and gal about town. When she’s not giving lectures at her alma mater Stanford or the California Pacific Medical Center, she’s performing breast reconstruction surgery on undeserved women in need and actively giving back to the community as a patron of the arts and board member of the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary. She somehow finds time to attend many social events, like the Oscar de la Renta fashion show in Lake Tahoe and she’s the most fashionable doctor we’ve ever seen. Since we’re huge fans of her sophisticated style and unparalleled work ethic, we reached out to get to know her a little better. Here, Dr. Chang shares her favorite haute spots in San Francisco.

Where were you born: At Stanford where my father was finishing his PhD.  Ironically, the maternity unit back then was where the plastic surgery department offices ended up when I was in residency training. I guess you could say that I went full circle, literally!

How long in San Francisco: For the past 16 years, I have lived in San Francisco proper.  But I have been in the Bay Area since college, so that makes nearly 30 years in total! In fact, I consider Palo Alto my natural habitat since I was there during my most formative young adult years.

Neighborhood: I used to live in Pacific Heights, but am now in SOMA.

Occupation: I am an aesthetic plastic surgeon in private practice in the 2100 Webster building in San Francisco.  I specialize in cosmetic surgery of the face, breast, and body with a natural aesthetic.

Favorite Restaurant:  I always love Tosca for the ambiance.  I love that it is dark, slightly edgy and cool, with a New York vibe, and I think the food is delicious.

Best Sushi:  I recently tried the omakase at Kusakabe with a foodie friend of mine, and I have to say it was a spectacular meal.

Best Italian: Cotogna of course! The homemade pastas are the best in the city, and Lindsay and Michael Tusk really know how to make you feel welcome.

Best dessert:  I like them all! But I can’t say which I like best because I try not to order them very often.  It seems as if I am on a perpetual diet, and the older I get, the harder it is to fit into my clothing!

Tosca Cafe
Tosca Cafe

Best place for a romantic date: Tosca again, for the reasons I stated above.

Best Sunday brunch: I love Out the Door on Fillmore and Bush.  It’s menu is unusual for brunch, super tasty, and, the ambiance maintains a “locals” feeling.

Best place for a power business meeting: I don’t really do power business meetings as I am usually in the operating room during lunch.  But I would probably go to Spruce if I had one in the evening since it’s in the neighborhood, and it’s so polished and sophisticated.

If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? My out of town guests usually stay with us.  But I send my out of town patients to the Hotel Drisco, the Scarlet Huntington, or the Saint Regis.

Favorite shopping venue/boutique:  Fashion is my aesthetic expression outside of work, and I am not afraid to push the boundaries.  Retail in San Francisco is undergoing such a renaissance as of late, and I like so many shops.  But I am most partial to the ones where I have long term relationships with my sales associates.  At the top of the list is Cindy at the Chanel Boutique on Maiden Lane. I do not have the time to go to the stores often, so she streamlines the experience by expertly curating and editing for me.

Favorite place to buy jewelry/watches:  I like edgy, unusual, and not too serious jewelry. Barney’s is a great place to go for that, and especially now as the remodel has expanded their fine jewelry department.

Best Spa: Auberge du Soleil in St Helena hands down. In fact, I’m going there this weekend!

Favorite Charity Event: I am partial to events that raise money for California Pacific Medical Center.  I serve as the Vice President of the CPMC Medical Foundation, and my practice is based there. I was recently one of the co-hosts for the CPMC 2020 event where we raised over 2 million dollars for programing at the new hospital.

Favorite Cultural Event: The gala that the SFMOMA puts on every other year.  The last one was especially fun because it celebrated the reopening of the museum.  My husband is an artist so he liked that one too, which is a huge bonus since it is hard to get him out of the house for these kinds of things!

California Academy of Sciences
California Academy of Sciences

Favorite Cultural Institution:  The California Academy of Sciences museum.  I love the aquarium exhibits the most. There is something awe inspiring about walking amongst huge tanks filled with magnified aquatic life.

Best Steakhouse: I don’t have a favorite steakhouse, but I have a favorite steak.  I love the ribeye at Garibaldi’s.

Best Pizza: Vicolo pizza is my favorite.  It has a cornmeal crust and not too much tomato sauce.  When I was in medical school they had a restaurant near the Civic Center area that I used to get take out from. Now I can find it frozen at Whole Foods.

Best Lunch: The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus.  The natural lighting is beautiful, and the surroundings are so gracious. The view over Union Square is wonderful, and the best part is that I usually run into someone I know when I go there.

Best Gym/Athletic Facility: I have a gym in my building, so I am partial to that one.

Best Massage: Auberge du Soleil again, as that is what I get there usually.

Best Limousine/Driving Service: I could be called a charter Uber member.  I have been using it since it started as a service where you texted for your black car.

Best Museum/Exhibit: The Bay Lights.  It is the ultimate in art designed for everyone to enjoy.  It is tastefully done, unobtrusive, and elegant.  Leo Villareal himself told me that the patterns and sequences are randomly generated, and so the light show should always be a unique and special experience.

Describe your city in three words: Imperfect, perfect, home

Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: The Castro Theater. It is massive and one of the last of its kind.  I remember when there were so many original small art house theaters in the city.  And now there are almost none. It is sad.

All-around favorite spot in San Francisco: The Embarcadero on a nice day.  It’s amazing what a cross section of the city you can encounter there, and something interesting is always going on.

Best Aspect of San Francisco:  That I finally consider myself a San Franciscan, and I am proud of it.