In 2008, Scott Gatz was scrolling through hotel reviews when something clicked. He noticed a post from a woman expressing her surprise at the number of men at the inn. “I realized what she was saying,” he says. “It was a gay B&B.” Gatz remembers asking himself, “How come there's not a place where the LGBTQ+ community can share what they think are the best places to stay, see, and eat all over the world?”
A longtime San Francisco resident who migrated to the city during the dot-com boom, Gatz decided to leave his tech job to create that website that didn’t yet exist. The LGBTQ travel resource, Gay Cities, was born. “It grew over the years, and we acquired more websites,” says Gatz. His company, now dubbed Q.Digital, also owns Queerty, LGBTQ Nation, and INTO.
“San Francisco has always been a place where people come with no safety net to do something big and audacious,” says Gatz. “Starting my company here only made sense. This is where new things get started.”
San Francisco’s innovative spirit is just one of the many things Gatz loves about this adopted home city: “It’s got a real energy to it, as well as art and culture, but it’s friendly, easy, and very walkable.” When exploring San Francisco, Gatz recommends travelers start out on foot. “Pick a neighborhood and just walk, explore street art, restaurants, and shops,” he says. “You’ll always end up in an interesting spot.” For an elevated experience, seek out the historic public stairways throughout the city. “It’s so fun to go around finding the staircases and exploring them,” says Gatz.
Gatz currently lives with his husband and son in the Castro District, the city’s famous LGBTQ+ neighborhood. “It’s a really homey community, but it brings people in from all over the world for nightlife as well,” he says. Get a sense of the neighborhood with Cruisin’ the Castro, “a fun walking tour,” or catch a show at OASIS, “an incredibly special place owned by a local drag queen.”
When it comes to restaurants, “it can be high-end or a dollar taco in the Mission, and it’s still some of the best stuff around,” Gatz says. Farm-to-table Che Fico and Italian Delfina are two of his favorite spots. If you want to roll up your sleeves with kiddos in tow, grab a booth at Super Duper Burgers. And Gatz says if you only have time for one meal in the city, make it The Slanted Door, the iconic Vietnamese restaurant in the Ferry Building.
After living in San Francisco for 23 years, Gatz says he has no plans to leave. “It’s such a lovely place to live. It’s a beautiful city with gorgeous Victorians, and an hour or two in every direction you have snow, wine country, and more. It’s a special place.”
FIVE MORE FAVORITES
As the founder of a travel site, it’s no surprise that Gatz has a few more recommendations when visiting San Francisco.
Oysters and seafood: “Anchor Oyster Bar is a Castro institution that’s been here for at least 40 years, with terrific oysters, shrimp, cioppino, and Dungeness crab when the season’s on. It’s small—maybe six tables—so go early, put your name on the whiteboard out front, and hope for a seat to open up quickly. If it gets cold, they’ll give you some soup while you wait. I shouldn’t tell anybody about this because I really don’t want it to get more crowded. It’s one of my favorite places to go.”
Whimsical gifts: “At 826 Valencia in the Mission, there is a writers collective that needed a place to gather but due to city rules their space could only be used for retail. So the writers decided to open up a Pirate Supply Store. There are fish tanks inside, and they sell tons of pirate paraphernalia—anything nautical, seafaring, or ‘arrgh!’ Pull on the rope when you get inside and you might be in for a surprise.”
Beautiful hike: “There’s a set of trails in Crissy Field that are a bit hidden so they’re never busy. You almost feel like you have it to yourself, walking among the trees. Every corner you turn, you have the most amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Each turn is really like the best picture of the Golden Gate you’ve ever seen in your life. The hike reminds me of how special it is to live in this city.”
Best spot for cocktails: “Blackbird Bar on Market has an amazing craft cocktail menu. It’s a mixed bar with a healthy amount of queer folks as well as people from all over. You can stand and be loud if you want, and there are also lots of little places to relax with friends. They make different flavored liquors steeped with all sorts of things. All the cocktails have funky names, so I never remember what to order. I just do the: 'I’ll have one of... those!'”
Family-fun activity: “There are two amazing mini-golf places in the city. In Mission Bay, you have Stagecoach Greens with quirky holes that tell the story of San Francisco from the Gold Rush all the way up to the tech boom. Urban Putt in the Mission is all indoors and designed in a steampunk style. It’s great for kids during the day and adults at night, because they have a bar and serve food.”