Ballerina Jennifer Stahl’s Haute Guide to SF

Jennifer Stahl
Jennifer Stahl

Photo Credit: © Erik Tomasson

Jennifer Stahl is the San Francisco Ballet’s newest principal dancer. The ballerina was promoted from soloist at the end of the 2017 repertory season and she’ll start next year as one its brightest stars. Despite her rigorous class and rehearsal schedule, Stahl manages to be something of a girl about town and a foodie. The story goes that her husband won her over with his cooking skills. Since the ballet is on a break for the month of June, we thought it was a perfect time to catch up with the dancer and learn more about her. Fresh from a vacation to Thailand, here Stahl, in her own words, shares her San Francisco story.

Where were you born: Dana Point, California

How long in San Francisco: 13 years

Neighborhood: Between Castro, Noe Valley and Twin Peaks.

Occupation: Principal dancer at San Francisco Ballet

Best sushi: Saru Sushi in Noe Valley. Their presentation is thoughtful and clean. Another plus is that they only serve carefully-sourced fish. I love their salmon tasting because you get several types of salmon and various forms (meat, skin, roe).

Best Italian: La Ciccia in Noe Valley. Their Sardinian food is so flavorful and very authentic! You need to book a few weeks ahead of time, but it is definitely something to look forward to. Standouts are the squid ink seafood linguini and calamari salad.

Best dessert: Easy Breezy Frozen Yogurt in Castro or Noe Valley. It’s organic self-serve hand-made goodness and they are always coming up with fun flavors.  Usually I go for their coconut or almond milk options and top it with sour gummies.

Bellota's Spanish tortilla
Bellota’s Spanish tortilla

Photo Credit: Kelly Puleio

Favorite restaurant: Bellota in SOMA. Its a fun Spanish spot with an amazing menu all-around. Order a bunch of tasty tapas and wood-fired mains to share and enjoy a taste of everything!

Best place for a romantic date: Boulevard on the Embarcadero. I went there with my husband to celebrate after we got engaged. Their gourmet American food paired with the classic, almost nostalgic, atmosphere make for a fancy yet cozy date.

Best Sunday brunch:  Kitchen Story in Castro. I’m a fan of the mushroom omelette and the meyer lemon French toast. There will be a wait, but if you get there early you might be able to avoid it…

Best place for a power business meeting: The back patio of Arlequin Cafe and Wine Merchant in Hayes Valley.  It’s a perfect space to meet because you have fresh air and pleasant lush surroundings. You can meet for a tasty lunch, just have coffee, or a glass of wine.

If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? I first recommend they check out AirBnB listings, but if they prefer a hotel I would say The Parsonage near Hayes Valley and Civic Center. I’ve heard their breakfast is not to be missed.

Favorite shopping venue/boutique: Cary Lane in Hayes Valley. It’s dangerously close to the SF Ballet building and Opera House and I end up popping in there and buying new fun pieces way too often.

Favorite place to buy jewelry/watches: J’aime from Jaime Castilla. He is a close friend and also a principal dancer with SF Ballet. I love his work so much that I asked him to create the headpiece for my wedding.

Best spa: Earthbody in Hayes Valley. Their treatments are heavenly! They take a lot of care to make sure you have a fully therapeutic experience and only use very high quality all-natural products.

Stahl in Tomasson's Giselle
Stahl in Tomasson’s Giselle

Photo Credit: © Erik Tomasson

Favorite cultural institution: San Francisco Ballet! I’m so proud to be part of our world-class company and the art we produce, which includes many types of artists. I think, and hope, that our performances can be deeply moving and truly inspiring.

Favorite charity event: DanceFAR (Dance For A Reason) is a special night with a gala performance and fun post-show party benefiting The California Institute for Cancer Prevention. The show is always impressive and a rare gathering of Bay Area dance companies plus a few others from around the country.

Favorite cultural event: Speakeasy in North Beach. Its somewhat new, but I just went and loved this experience!  It’s immersive theater that brings you back to prohibition-era San Francisco—think a tamer version of Westworld set in the 20s.

Best steakhouse: 5A5 in the Embarcadero. Probably the best filet mignon I’ve ever had. The sweet potato gnocchi and cauliflower are great sides, too.

Best pizza: Montesacro Pinsaria in SOMA. Technically, they serve pinsas—smaller pizzas with light fluffy, yet crispy crust made from rice flour, soy, and wheat flour. They are incredibly good and remarkably less filling. . . it’s the best!  My favorite is the Maranella with broccolini and spicy sausage.

Best lunch: Souvla. I go to the one in Hayes mostly, but there are a few around the city now. Their menu is fairly simple:choose a rotisserie meat or veggie to have in either a salad or pita wrap, and both are filled with fresh Mediterranean goodness. The chicken salad is my go-to.

Best gym/athletic facility: The Seed Center in Pacific Heights for gyrotonics and Yoga Tree Castro. Both are gorgeous spaces and I love that their mindful workouts emphasize breath work.

Best massage: We get amazing massage therapists through the Ballet’s wellness program.


Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: Alcatraz is pretty phenomenal to visit. Embarrassingly, it took me 10 years of living here to finally make it over. It’s fascinating and somewhat hard to imagine how prisoners, prison workers and their families lived on the island.

Best limousine/driving service: Lyft. I take Lyfts and Lyft Lines all the time!

Best museum/exhibit: SFMOMA. I became a member last year, so I could get more regular mini inspirational visits, roam without feeling rushed, and simply enjoy the energy of its atmosphere.

All-around favorite spot in San Francisco: Golden Gate Park and all that it offers. Some of the gems inside: The Japanese Tea Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, the DeYoung Museum, and countless beautiful picnic spots.

Describe your city in three words: Enchanting, creative, and active.

Best aspect of San Francisco: It has a delightful balance. There’s the energy and excitement of a big city, but also the charm and community of a smaller town.