NFT San Francisco Inner Sunset / Golden Gate Heights

Inner Sunset / Golden Gate Heights

Essentials
UCSF's proximity guarantees a young-ish crowd, bars, and ample cheap food, but simultaneously keeps things quiet -- cozy side streets and reliable fog make it easy to stay in and study. Runners and picnickers love the short jaunt to Golden Gate Park's trails and meadows.

Sundries/Entertainment
The action is on 9th Avenue and Irving Street. Try Ebisu for sushi and Arizmendi Bakery for superb scones. Get a buzz at the Beanery or play drunken backgammon at The Little Shamrock. For shopping, check out Wishbone's novelty knick-knacks. Parking here is scarce -- try Bowling Green Drive across Lincoln Way.See more.




         



On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Ivana Ivanovic
Photo:  Ivana Ivanovic

Fireside Bar
Inner Sunset: good food, nice shopping, laid-back atmosphere… no good bars! Forgive me, but as much as I enjoy the lack of pretentiousness around here, I do like to periodically get a decent beverage in an actual establishment and this is where the Inner Sunset failed for a long time--until the arrival of Fireside. I mean, not to dis other options but for the lighting that one of the other bars provides, I might as well go to Andronico's. As for the others, the mix of a rowdy crowd and my urge to go home whenever bathroom time came around... let's just say that I actually drove to different neighborhoods even for that school night bevvie. That is, until Fireside came along. And what a cute joint it is: a jukebox, a fireplace (although one can't help but wonder why it is not operational in the "summer"), sweet bartenders, good cocktails at five bucks... heck, even a Saturday night could be spent here with no regrets whatsoever.



Posted By:  Alex Orzulak
Photo:  Alex Orzulak

Peasant Pies
I am a peasant. Born of the dirt, to the dirt shall I go. I need peasant food and I'm not talking government cheese. I'm talking $2.85 chunks of belly-filling grub; meaty, vegetarian, vegan, or sweet. Cheaper if you take them home. I needed emotional comfort so I chose the chocolate flan: a gooey heaven of back-arching dark chocolate, not too bitter, not too sweet, cradled in a light crunchy crust. I wanted to savor it but roughly smeared it all over my face while chasing it with slurps of their good coffee, with as much soy milk as I wanted, no extra charge. For feeding many peasants, 9-inch pies can be had for about $16 with a day's notice.



Posted By:  Alex Orzulak
Photo:  Alex Orzulak

Misdirections Magic Shop
Calling all prestidigitators... and those wishing to learn how to dazzle with cards, coins, or those endless chains of hankies. For over a decade, Misdirections has been the choice of magicians (and their beguiling cousins, the illusionists) worldwide. Their signed photo wall is a legacy to the profession. Manager Joe Pon presides over a wealth of DVDs and books covering every enigmatic aspect of professional magic. They host guest lectures of world famous tricksters while their annual Stage Magic Competition continues to showcase the most fantastic local entertainers in the field. Joe is happy to share his expertise and personifies the best a neighborhood specialty store can offer. Bonus photo op: get your magical mug immortalized in their vintage sidewalk magician's cut-out stand!



Posted By:  Dan Bollwinkel
Photo:  Dan Bollwinkel

Gordo Taqueria
With the sort of saturation you find in the taqueria market these days one can afford to be picky. It was with this attitude in mind that I snubbed this little Elmwood joint (there are three such places in San Francisco) with a super basic menu and an ever-present line. Well, it turns out the line-goers weren’t wrong, and thanks to that super basic menu and highly efficient assembly line approach to cranking out orders, the line moves fast. And who would have thought that the little taqueria with the most unimpressive menu would have the best damn carnitas in the Bay Area? And yes, I am fully aware of the gravity of that statement. And as it should be with a place whose name roughly translates to “fat tacos,” the portions are hefty. In the end I guess the old adage proved true: Never judge a taqueria by its cover.



Posted By:  David MacFadden
Photo:  David MacFadden

San Tung Chinese Restaurant
Now here’s a chicken wing that may not be your regular on game day, but shift it into the rotation and you may be surprised. I can’t think of a more perfectly crispy skin, and with the proper addition of piri piri, these wings could fly miles above your stampede of the buffalo variety. A pile of these is a bundle of joy, practically a steal at eight bucks. And there is no better place to get them than San Tung, a well-trafficked joint in Inner Sunset. The dry fried chicken (wet) is doused in a succulent garlic sauce, but 74 is the number to point to for crispiness: This truly mouthwatering item is the original dry fried chicken (dry). If you can’t get enough–and trust me, you can’t–the dry fry preparation works its magic on proteins besides chicken: Beef, flounder, shrimp and calamari. Collect all five!



Posted By:  Steven Fields
Photo:  Steven Fields

Irving Variety is the kind of place that seems like it belongs in Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show. Once you get past the annoying door chime that marks your entrance, don’t be surprised if you bump into Aunt Bee, chat with her about the church social, and trade strawberry-rhubarb pie recipes with her. And while it does have a mish-mash, garage-sale charm about it, it’s also a useful place to know about. After all, where else can you find hula hoops, cleaning supplies, Beauty and the Beast stickers, 3-pack hair scrunchies, desk lamps and much, much more—all under one roof?



Posted By:  Steven Fields
Photo:  Steven Fields

The most popular place in the Sunset for herbivores is Café Gratitude, which serves good food along with a serious helping of new-agey silliness. When it comes to restaurants, I prefer a place that can awaken my taste buds rather than my inner child. That’s why I like Enjoy Vegetarian, an unpretentious Chinese restaurant tucked away on a quiet (read: parking-friendly) corner of Kirkham Street. It’s actually a great place for herbivores and omnivores alike, because the menu includes a wealth of “meats” that taste like—and have the texture of—the real thing. (Kung Pao chicken and broccoli beef are good examples.) For me, it’s eggplant with hot sauce all the way. Most entrees are around seven bucks, and they offer weekday lunch specials for $5.50. Tell Buddha I sent you.



Posted By:  Steven Fields
Photo:  Steven Fields

If you were green before it was hip, you probably know about San Francisco’s only public demonstration garden, maintained by the nonprofit group Garden for the Environment. How they get anything to grow in the fog-ridden Sunset district is truly a miracle of nature. But somehow they do—all without chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. (In other words, it’s completely organic. Duh.) Stroll within this horticultural haven and you’ll find yourself thinking “So that’s the difference between broccolini and broccoli rabe!” and “I wonder how many worms are getting it on in that compost bin?” Garden for the Environment frequently offers classes for urban gardeners, so check out their Web site and get your hands dirty.



Posted By:  Steven Fields
Photo:  Steven Fields

I don’t do boutiques. They scare me. Take, for instance, the designer boutiques around Union Square. I can’t even walk past the storefronts without feeling hopelessly poor and unfashionable. As though, if ever I dared to step inside, the ghost of Gianni Versace, Coco Chanel, or Christian Dior would whisper to me, Amityville Horror-style, “Get out! ” The same goes for boutique hotels—I have nightmares about Ian Schrager chasing me away wielding a razor-sharp Bang and Olufsen speaker. But what about a cheese boutique? I had to know. And, more importantly, I had to satisfy my hankering for one of my all-time favorites—Humboldt Fog, a creamy, tangy goat cheese. Luckily, this cozy little shop carries Humboldt Fog as well as a wide array of other artisanal cheeses. Then there are the delicious Mediterranean treats, including olives, dolmas, and hummus. I didn’t try one myself, but I overheard other customers raving about the made-to-order sandwiches. And, to my relief, the friendly woman behind the counter didn’t say “That chevre with those crackers? Puleeze!”



Posted By:  Steven Fields
Photo:  Steven Fields

Everyone knows the difference between cheesy good (e.g., Fantasy Island reruns, Chia Pets) and cheesy bad (Donald Trump’s hair, Derek Jeter cologne). The same is true with pizza. Too much cheese is bad—all you taste is a goopy, gelatinous mound of mozzarella. Cheesy good, on the other hand, works in harmony with other flavors, like a crisp, light, chewy crust or a delicate, herb-infused sauce. At Arizmendi Bakery, a worker-owned cooperative, that’s the way they roll—literally. They make a different pizza every day of the week, all with fresh, seasonal veggies, lovingly kneaded sourdough, and whole-milk cheese courtesy of Peaches, the cooperative’s pet cow. (Okay, so I made that last part up.) Of course, they also make a wide array of other mouth-watering delights: muffins, scones, breads—you name it. As a result, the place can get packed, especially on weekends. You may want to check out their pizza menu (http://www.arizmendibakery.org/pizza) and reserve in advance. You’ll be glad you did.



Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

On a recent chilly summer afternoon in the Sunset, friends and I were eager to escape the fog. Several Japanese food restaurants can be found on the strip of 9th Avenue between Lincoln and Irving, including two sister restaurants that are nearly across the street from one another: Hotei and Ebisu. But Hotei keeps longer hours than Ebisu, which shuts down at 2 pm for the mysterious Sunset “siesta.” At 2:30, the choice was made for us. Hotei’s interior is immediately striking: silver globes hang suspended from the ceiling between papaya colored walls. My “tootsie roll” (halibut and green onion, deep fried and rolled in salmon paper) was crunchy and delightful. But still slapping my arms from the July chill, I found myself gazing affectionately at my friend’s udon—a giant cauldron of broth topped with scallions that awaited the splash and dunk of a heaping plateful of tempura. A glass of plum wine and friendly service also helped warm us up.



Posted By:  Steven Fields
Photo:  Steven Fields

The fact that my neighborhood is called the Sunset cracks me up—it’s frequently too shrouded in fog to catch a sunray, much less see the sun actually set. That’s why the notion of a gelato place in this chilly corridor of the city is unseemly, sort of like, say, a tanning salon in Phoenix or a strip club in Disneyland. (Which maybe isn’t such a bad idea; Fantasyland, after all, has never quite lived up to its name.) But Holy Gelato succeeds in making the outdoor temperature irrelevant. You’ll marvel at the displays of kitschy coffee mugs and retro tchotchkes, then head to the counter and order one of your favorites (like Crème Brulee or Amaretto), served up in a nifty biodegradable container. (It’s never been easier to reduce waste and gain waist at the same time.) They rotate flavors seasonally, so there’s always plenty to sample. Don’t do dairy? Try one of their vegan-friendly soy-based gelatos or a booze-infused sorbet (such as Blackberry Cabarnet). Don’t do booze? I can’t help you.



Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

Nobody does comfort food like Park Chow. Take, for example, the day my friend and I found out that its neighbor Canvas Café, unexpectedly closed and stood empty, save for the faux leaves dangling from the ceiling and a sad, sad letter on its front door. Tough times. The only way to feel better was to skulk over to Chow, snag a table on the tiny patio, and light into plates of wood-fired lasagna and “smiling noodles” (where chicken, shrimp, and bok choy frolic among noodles drenched in yellow curry sauce). I had my reservations about the mojito made with wine instead of rum (no full bar), but it turned out to be refreshing minty goodness. The so-called smaller portions were just enough food, and reasonably priced to boot. Chow is really three places in one—a small front patio for people watching, a cozy indoor room complete with crackling fire, and a second floor deck with a retractable roof for the rare sunny day in the Sunset. A second Chow in the Castro boasts more sunny days, to be sure. But both locales offer a little inner sunshine and caloric consolation.



Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

Give me a blank map of South America, and I can tick off every country. But give me a blank map of Africa and ask me to name some of the smaller countries, and my ignorance reveals itself as subtly as a beeping car alarm post 1988. This year, I’ve resolved to memorize every last country on the continent, and battle this embarrassment once and for all. My era of enlightenment was launched with a trip to The New Eritrea Restaurant and Bar. It was a Saturday night and a warm staff person whisked my friends and me past the wooden bar, which nearly runs the length of the room, to our table. My meal began with an appetizer of crisp, spicy samosas, followed by a chicken dish that I scooped at with soft, spongy injeera bread. My friends shared a vegetarian dish on a platter big enough to have its own orbit. Kind staff and tasty food made my geography lesson all the more palatable. And given that the restaurant was bizarrely under-populated for a Saturday night, it would seem that there are many others who could also stand to learn a bit more.



Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

Even from the sidewalk, the sheer density of kitsch in Great Stuff is breathtaking and slightly claustrophobic. But I forged ahead, caffeinated to the hilt with a double latte from the café down the street. This store has quite possibly something for everyone, from candy to candles to toys to pirate gear to kitchen utensils. Ecletic is an understatement—this store would have given Sybil a run for her money. And yet, it is fantastically fun. And even serious, if, perhaps, you are searching for a dazzling flask, of which there is a most stunning selection. I was in a more lighthearted mood, opting to leave with a “Happy Hippo Pull Toy” for my friend’s child. He will surely think it’s great stuff.



Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

Kiki is a few doors down from another Japanese restaurant, and across the street from a third. Perhaps it was the bright yellow façade or the small front window cut at a crazy Toontown angle that lured me in to this particular one. Nevertheless, I was soon seated at one of the few bare oak tables left free on a Saturday night. The indoor walls, which matched the restaurant’s bright yellow façade, displayed large animé prints, and colorful paper lanterns swung from the ceiling. But it was the menu that really grabbed my attention—both for its stunning portraits of the various sushi offerings, and the phenomenal prices. No wonder the people surrounding me were so happy. I decided to try two different selections, including the restaurant’s namesake, the Kiki roll, which consisted of grilled chicken and teriyaki, and the Philadelphia roll, which boasted salmon and cream cheese. All this, plus a small Sapporo, for less than ten dollars, and my receipt promised me a ten percent discount on my next visit.



Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

The last thing I need to do is buy more books. But alas, bookstores call to me, singing sweet enticing Siren songs. And I succumb. But Black Oak Books offers something quite different. Sure, it has a vast array of new books and reasonably priced, gently used ones as well. But when I floated toward the back of the store, I found “broadsides,” excerpts from books printed on heavyweight paper and embossed with designs. Passages from the likes of such authors as Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, and Sandra Cisneros, had been extracted from their books and printed on frameable cardstock. When I confessed to the employee that I had never seen anything like it before, he explained that the authors had read at the Berkeley store and agreed to have the excerpts printed for distribution at the readings. The bookstore’s website offers further explanation: “Among the earliest products of the printing press was the broadside, a sheet of paper printed with text. From the sixteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century, songs and poems were distributed in this format. Broadsides also were the primary source of news for the common people.” This commoner was duly impressed.



Posted By:  Dan Johnson
Photo:  Dan Johnson

The Little Shamrock
Ultimate Frisbee in Golden Gate Park. You can't get much more San Francisco than that. It has become a year-long tradition in the city, with games played nearly every day of the week. There are two leagues—SFUC for experienced ultimate players and SFUL for more beginner-friendly ones. Pickup games are open to anyone and everyone from national-class pros to folks who wonder which side of the disc is up. At its heart, though, ultimate is a social thing; after every game you can find everyone at the Little Shamrock in the Inner Sunset, the only bar in the city with signed discs hanging from the ceiling.




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