San Francisco is a city that’s best understood as a sum of its diverse neighborhoods, some encompassing just a few blocks and others stretching over steep hills. Most visitors stick to the well-known spots — Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Financial District, or Pacific Heights. But venturing a bit further out will give you a better sense of the city’s eclectic personality (and you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds).
One neighborhood that’s so uniquely San Francisco? The Inner Richmond. Tucked between Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, the Inner Richmond is one of San Francisco’s under the radar neighborhoods, and one of the city’s best kept secrets. The area is (relatively) flat and totally walkable, plus proximity to both Golden Gate Park and the Presidio (as well as the Golden Gate Bridge) make it well-positioned.
Clement Street is really the heart of the neighborhood, filled with block after block of funky shops and yummy Asian eateries. With a range of authentic, delicious and (mostly) inexpensive restaurants ranging from Burmese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai and Korean, your toughest decision will be where to eat!
Grab A Bite
The secret is out: after Bon Appetit named Arsicault the best new bakery in the country in 2016 this tasty neighborhood bakery is now overrun with patrons eager to try their delicious croissants. It’s worth the wait, but get there early on the weekends (or better yet, stop by mid-week) to avoid a line around the block and be sure to snag your snack (my favorite is the ham & cheese croissant) before they sell out.
This no frills cafe serves hearty dishes and generous portions for breakfast and lunch until 2pm every day – and does it very well. An extensive menu of egg options, ranging from an amazing egg sandwich to my personal favorite, the B.A.T. scrambled eggs, plus fluffy pancakes and delicious salads makes this one of the best brunches in the city.
I love the healthy menu at this friendly vegan spot. Everything is made in house and chock full of yummy organic and plant based whole foods. Think acai bowls, smoothies, toasts, sandwiches and salads. I love the Strawberry Hill smoothie to start the day, and the Mission Salad is my pick for lunch.
Located about a block apart on Clement Street, these sister restaurants are leading the Burmese food craze across San Francisco. Burmese food wasn’t on my radar before moving to SF, but the mix of Thai, Indian and Chinese flavors made this one of my favorite discoveries. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one to feel this way – as evident by the long wait at Burma Superstar most nights. B Star is slightly more under the radar and you can usually get in there with much shorter wait times. The menus differ slightly but the essential dishes (including the not-to-be-missed Tea Leaf Salad) are the same.
For a quick bite, try KoJa Kitchen, a Japanese and Korean fusion restaurant (and originally a popular food truck). Chose a bowl (protein over rice – the braised pork is my favorite), tacos or KoJa (protein served on fried rice buns like a burger). The kimchi, furikake seasoned rice, and assortment of sauces make the unique flavors and combinations really stand out. Don’t miss the Kamikaze fries.
Hong Kong Lounge II
Look no further for one of the best Chinese meals in San Francisco. Go for the dim sum – be sure to order the traditional soup dumplings called Shanghai Dumplings – but also branch out and explore the rest of the menu as well. The waitstaff is attentive and will help point you in the right direction if you have difficulty navigating the menu. It’s easy to over order here – my eyes are always bigger than my stomach.
Get A Drink
This new-ish wine bar is a good reminder of your proximity to wine country. With an ever rotating list of hip wines, the staff is eager to help and they usually recommend a delicious and unique glass that I would have never have chosen myself. The vintage record collection serves as fun background music, and I usually grab a spot by the window for some neighborhood people-watching.
If you are looking for more of a casual, sports bar environment, try the Richmond Draft House across the street. With a long wood bar and a few big screen TVs this is a popular spot during any major sporting event (and pretty much any time). The impressive beer list offers many local California selections on draft.
This dive-y Irish bar is frequented by locals and is a fun place to grab a Guinness and enjoy the live Celtic music that is playing most nights.
It’s all in the details at this cozy neighborhood coffee shop. While you may wait slightly longer for your coffee order, the attention put into each order is appreciated. They also turn out surprisingly delicious toasts (avocado is my favorite) from their tiny kitchen. And their iced coffee is served with huge, square coffee-filled iced cubes – just the kind of detail I love.
This local coffeehouse chain has four locations across San Francisco. It’s not only one of the cheapest cups of coffee you’ll find in the city, but also one of the best. Without the frills of many San Francisco coffee shops, this is a neighborhood gem and worth seeking out during a stroll along Clement Street. Their black iced tea is also pleasantly refreshing on warmer days.
This independent bookseller has been a San Francisco landmark for 38 years. Shelves are packed high with over 70,000 new and used books across all genres, including that make this any book lovers’ dream (myself included). Recommendations throughout the store, a thoughtful and helpful staff, plus a used book trade in program encourages browsing to discover new titles. Don’t miss the Annex next door which features fiction, music, movies, science fiction and mystery.
Cooking utensils, storage containers and serving items line the many aisles of Kamei. Stocked with literally anything you need for your kitchen, Kamei is the official supplier for many local restaurants, so most items are sold at extremely reasonable prices. You’ll find beautiful bowls in every size imaginable and eclectic Asian-inspired dishware to fill your kitchen.
Sustainable, socially responsible and San Francisco-brands are the focus at William the Beekeeper, including their in house line Kaileeni. Unique gift cards, jewelry and handmade ceramics make for fun browsing and great gifts for the socially conscious shopper.
This independent retail store sells unique and hard to find art and design products from all over the world. Ranging from cheeky t-shirts, homewares, travel, art, design and cook books, original art and a wide range of paper supplies, Park Life is the perfect place to pick up a gift or quirky momento.
A newer addition to Clement Street, Tantrum’s whimsical and colorful storefront is a fun destination for toys, kids’ clothing, books, cards and party supplies.
Technically a few blocks east of the Inner Richmond in Presidio Heights, but this spot is too good not to share. You can easily get there in a 10-minute walk and I promise it’s worth it! Chock full of gorgeous handcrafted textiles and home goods designed and made by artisans all over the world (think framed textiles, pillows, baby alpaca throws, one-of-a kind furniture and coffee table books). The store’s welcoming and vibrant mix of textures and patterns will not only inspire you to redecorate, but will also give you a major dose of wanderlust.
You’re in luck if you find yourself in the neighborhood between 9am-2pm on a Sunday. This fantastic market sells everything from fresh baked bread, to delicious pork chops, local honey, seasonal veggies and everything in between. Open year around, it’s a perfect weekly routine to stock up on local produce or grab a bite at one of the food stalls.
With seven locations throughout the city, Yoga Tree is a reliable and approachable studio. I frequent the 6th Avenue location. With over 25 classes a week there is a class for everyone. After class, grab a smoothie at Nourish Cafe across the street.
On a sunny day, Baker Beach is the place to be. More secluded than the Pacific-facing Ocean Beach, Baker Beach is tucked on the northwest side of the city, setting you up for spectacular views of the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge from your spot on the beach. It’s part of the Presidio, and a popular spot for locals to relax on the weekends. I love bringing a picnic and sunbathing on the beach. There is always good people and dog watching, plus you may also see the occasional brave swimmer. FYI – the northern end of the beach is clothing optional and well-known as a nude beach, so consider yourself warned!
Larger than New York’s Central Park, Golden Gate Park stretches over 1,000 acres on the western side of the city and is a beautiful oasis of nature. From the Inner Richmond you can easily walk (about 20-25 minutes) to many points of interest in the park, including the De Young Museum, a fine arts museum; the San Francisco Botanical Garden houses a diverse range of plants due to San Francisco’s unique climate; the Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest public Japanese garden in the US; and the California Academy of Sciences, one of the largest natural history museums in the world.
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Map illustration by Melanie Lambrick