Welcome to the Neighborhood: A Series About San Francisco Neighborhoods
As we said in our inaugural post in this “Welcome to the Neighborhood” series, to really get to know San Francisco and to feel like a traveler and not just a tourist, visitors to the city should venture beyond the famous landmarks and get out into the neighborhoods. San Francisco’s neighborhoods are as diverse and interesting as the people who live here – it is so much fun to find the neighborhood that has your name all over it so that you can return time and time again to experience the delights of the city as locals would.
The first post in this series explored the Divisadero Corridor. Next up: Pacific Heights, only a short distance from DivCo, but a vastly different neighborhood. Whereas DivCo is a “new” neighborhood, Pac Heights is one of the most established in the city.
Most people have an idea of the character of Pacific Heights: upscale shops, mansions (the real kind, not the McMansion kind), socialites, private schools and knockout views of the bay. Well, it is all that, but there is something for everyone to enjoy, even if you’re not swinging the latest Chanel handbag. Some of our favorite destinations in the neighborhood don’t require a fat wallet. In fact, we think some of the best things to do in Pacific Heights are free!
The sights and views in the residential areas of Pacific Heights will leave you breathless (or maybe it’s traversing all of those hills that does so!).
Homes of Pacific Heights. Lace up your walking shoes and head to Broadway Street between Divisadero and Lyon. On this stretch, you will find some of the most spectacular homes in the city in full view. This is where San Francisco’s bold-faced names live; in homes that start at $10 million and go way up from there. No wonder this area is called “Gold Coast.”
Lyon Street Stairs. Once you reach Lyon Street, head down the Lyon Street stairs – all 269 of them. And yes, back up them too. You will be rewarded with beautiful landscaping, views of the bay, peek-a-boo looks into the homes that line the staircase, and even one of San Francisco’s famous hearts. If you go in the springtime, the blossom trees are like little pink clouds that will follow you up and down the stairs.
Alta Plaza Park. This green spot is located in the four square block area bordered by Steiner and Scott and Jackson and Clay. Start at the corner of Steiner and Jackson to scope out your spot for the perfect snapshot view of the Bay. Also a dog park, you’ll see the local animal life at play.
Almost all of the shopping in Pacific Heights is located on Fillmore street, the retail and business hub of the neighborhood.
Nest.Named one of the top 50 interior shops in the world, this store mixes Parisian elegance with rustic country elements. It’s a small shop but with so much to take in – look up, look under, look around. You don’t want to miss anything!
Zinc Details. ZD brings modernism to the Bay Area, featuring best of Scandinavian and Japanese design together with local designers. We love Vasilio, the uber-charming owner of this the ZD empire. There are two stores, one on California at Fillmore which features furnishings, and one on Fillmore at Bush which carries small household items, books and unique San Francisco souvenirs.
Jurlique. Natural skin care products from this Australian brand are cult favorites. The Rose Hand Cream is one of our favorites. Plus, we love the calm atmosphere in this store.
Cielo. Modern, cutting-edge, high-end European designers, in a serene location. The super lovely staff will help you spend your money on pieces that you’ll wear forever.
Crossroads Trading Co. On the other end of the spectrum is this clothing resale shop, which bills its inventory as ‘”Recycled Fashion”. With the emphasis on fashion – the staff here is known for their great eye (read: picky, picky picky), so you’ll find super fashionable pieces in great shape at well under $30
Over the past several years, some great dining destinations have opened in Pacific Heights. Here’s a sampling of our favorite new and established restaurants:
OTD. Little sister of Slanted door, OTD serves Vietnamese cuisine with a contemporary twist. Like Chicken Porridge with rau ram, crispy shallots and black pepper. Green papaya salad with tofu and pickled carrots. And our personal favorite, the steamed bun. Where traditional steamed buns are big on the bun and small on the filling, OTD’s filling-to-bun ratio is just right. Choose from chicken, bbq pork or vegetable. And of course, you need a glass of “free flow” wine to go with that bun. Sit a the communal table table and enjoy your well-earned snack!
La Mediterranee. This cozy restaurant serves inexpensive homemade mediterranean specialties. We’ve been going to “La Med” for 20 years (it’s been open for 30!), always returning for the Middle Eastern Plate which is comprised of a bit of each of the greatest hits.
Florio. As with many spots in San Francisco, this one feels like you could be in Paris. This little slice of Paris offers bistro classics – seriously hard to pass up the steak frites here.
Elite Cafe. There is never a question about where we’re going to have a little glass of something when we’re on Fillmore Street. The Elite Cafe is located in an original Art Deco building, and the beautiful mahogany bar with its hig-backed, comfy bar stools is the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of champagne during happy hour from 4-6pm.
What is your favorite neighborhood in San Francisco? What are your favorite things to do in San Francisco?