4038 Judah St
Although this is a little out of the way, if you take the coastal road it can become a welcome stop off on a great afternoon’s walking adventure. Judah street has a smattering of tasteful independent stores and cafes, and General Store is our favourite of the shops in the neighbourhood. It has a great selection of small producers that will have you instantly stocked up on stationary, homewares, clothing and accessories. It also has a beautiful cactus garden hidden out the back.
220 Clement St
Parklife somehow elevates the gift-y/arty/book-y/stuff store into a place where you actually want to buy everything. The original art and editions are all smart and desirable, and the books and homewares well selected. Basically, it’s a home run however you look at it.
212 Clement St
Despite the conflicting address (we checked all over the internet - we promise!), Seedstore is directly next door to Parklife. In appearance, the two couldn't be much more different, but somehow make a perfect pairing. The sisters at Seedstore do a great job of curating clothing, accessories and jewellery by small brands and designers in their beautifully scented space. Seriously, this place smells great, and has a really comforting “lived in” feel. Between that and the friendly proprietors, you’ll easily lose at least half an hour in here feeling pleasant about things.
I may not know a lot about coffee, but I know a thing or two about decent people, and Sightglass Coffee is staffed by them. There might be better coffee or closer coffee or whatever it is you’re looking for in a cup, but when I stopped in here for a drink and the zipper on my bag got jammed, the cashier didn't make a fuss, refused to cancel my order and gave me the drink on the house. True hospitality.
458 Grove St
Birba was recommended to us by SF’s most charming sibling team* - Chris and Ben Ospital - owners of MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing) which is located just down the road. They’re dazzling, friendly and chatty store owners, and once Ben heard I was visiting, and we worked out we share a favourite restaurant in Budapest (“M” - featured HERE) he instantly knew we would love Birba. It’s a small bar serving equally small plates and a gorgeous selection of wine, and what more could you want when wandering any city than exactly this delicious pit stop? If they’re serving paté, you should definitely try it.
*Sorry Seedstore - these guys just pipped you!
This is a cheese dreamer’s heaven, and the format is simple: great bread, great cheese, a grill, my mouth, repeat as necessary! As a lifelong fan of cheese on toast and grilled cheese in all forms, I can say - complete with salivary evidence - that the Cowgirl Creamery grilled cheese sandwich is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. The location - in the Ferry Building - is also perfect for any waterfront exploration or post Alcatraz hunger pangs.
736 Valencia St
And whilst we’re on the subject of cheese, what more could you want than a bar that will pick out cheeses from a selection of around 50 varieties, based on your most self-indulgent, vague description of what you’re looking for in the composition of a cheese. If you’re feeling too lazy to make your own decision once you’ve been spoiled so thoroughly, they’ll pair you a glass of wine or beer to sit with your personally crafted cheese plate.
2790A Harrison Street or Ferry Building
I feel like I’ve said too much about food now, but it wouldn’t be right not to just throw in a quick line about the “Secret Breakfast” ice cream at Humphrey Slocombe. Take a Bourbon base, add homemade cornflakes, eat it, don’t keep it a secret!
Latin American Club
This is an old favourite in the Mission district. It’s local, it’s dark, the bartenders are friendly and fast, and their Margaritas are so big and strong that they will kick you square in the ass!
Only in SF
Porchlight - A Storytelling Series
The Verdi Club - 2424 Mariposa Street
The Porchlight series is a monthly event that has been running since 2002. Each event has a different theme, and speakers are invited to tell a personal story in a reasonably tight 5 minute time slot. It’s a simple premise, but it’s impossible to express quite how charming a Torchlight evening is. The first night we visited, speakers included a writer in her 90s talking about her career and a man who was so troubled by what he wanted to share with us that he cried the whole way through - devastating and beautiful. The second time, a teenage girl spoke about fudging her way into high school. You never know what to expect other than a deeply entertaining night.