NFT San Francisco Pacific Heights / Western Addition

Pacific Heights / Western Addition

Aside from boasting the city's most manicured mansions, Pac Heights is also home to one of the steepest hills (Fillmore between Green and Broadway), scenic vistas at Alta Plaza Park, and the Lyon Street Stairs. Down in the Western Addition, the ragged charm of old Victorians mingle with public housing that looks more like ski chalets than projects, but you definitely want to stay on the main drags at night.

Fillmore Street flows from a trendy boutique and restaurant belt in the north to don't-leave-anything-in-the-car around Geary Boulevard. In exchange for living dangerously, that area is top notch in musical choices with the classic Fillmore Auditorium and blues venue See more.

>Boom Boom Room. The single-screen Clay Theatre shows great independent films.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Gelato: The Ultimate Scoop

By Valerie Ng
Gelato! It's ice cream... with less than 35% air. Let Valrie Ng introduce you to an exciting new world of frozen desserts from Italian crema to Chinese sour soup to Budweiser beer.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

The Painted Ladies
They're plastered across many a postcard (and thus nicknamed "Postcard Row"). So why are they being written up on this site? Well. A few years ago, a recently transplanted coworker asked where the iconic row of six Victorian homes was located, and all I could do was discretely change the subject. (I've asked several other native Californians the same question and gotten blank stares, so I'm not the only one). Although Victorians are sprinkled throughout the city, these six are just across the street from Alamo Square Park, on Steiner Street. They are special because they are among the few Victorians to survive the great fire and not be torn down to make room for development. They are special because of their unique colors and magnificent architecture. But they are also special because they elicit so much happiness from tourists, simply by being themselves. While I was there, many tourists posed before them for pictures, standing stoically in place in the crisp winter weather or jumping simultaneously in hopes of being caught mid-air. Also, if you look closely enough at the picture I took, you can spot a blimp in the background. So even wizened locals can spot something new.

Posted By:  Elissa Pociask
Photo:  Elissa Pociask

Katsura Garden
Shop for whimsical plants like flowering cacti, and yellow ginko bonsai at Katsura Garden. The influx of fresh oxygen and intoxicating Japanese elevator music and will dizzy you, and you'll end up spending way too much money on stuff you don't need. But actually, who doesn't need a self-contained shrimp ecosystem, or 4-foot hanging carnivorous plant? Now's your chance to gather everything you've saved by bringing peanut butter sandwiches to work all month, and splurge on a turbine-propelled fountain, or miniature Japanese rock garden. Don't miss out on the in-store bulldog, who will probably be taking a nap in the back.

Posted By:  David MacFadden
Photo:  David MacFadden

If you can't fork over $85 to go see Wilco this summer at the Outside Lands music fest, you may want to consider the next best thing--not that it's the closest thing, mind you. This proposition is a far cry from the brand of folk-rock that Wilco treads in, except for one detail: The off-kilter hooks of guitarist Nels Cline. Nels Cline, who stepped in on touring duties and helped Tweedy with the dual-lead assaults on Sky Blue Sky is playing a show with noise-jazz pioneers Rova, the all-sax quartet that plays freeform, improvised pieces and is headed by the estimable Bruce Ackley. This meeting of like-minded music renegades will feature the reinterpretation of songs by John Coltrane and the criminally underrated Albert Ayler. Rovate 2008 costs between $14 and $18 for either the early or late show. Tomorrow, May 28th.

Posted By:  David MacFadden
Photo:  David MacFadden

Lilly's BBQ
While it’s true I’ve had better barbecue many times elsewhere, I enjoy Lilly’s for what it is: a neighborhood joint that’s low on ambience and high on personality. If you need cloth napkins, then get the hell out of here. If, however, you dig eating ribs from a Styrofoam carton and sopping up hot sauce with white bread packaged in sandwich bags, and appreciate the sound of hip-hop, boisterous pitmasters, and shoot-em-ups on the TV, then stop by. The service is friendly, and the portions are plentiful. I couldn’t quite finish my half-order of pork ribs—I must be out of shape. Next time, my friend. And though it’s true that there’s no alcohol on the menu, if you ask nice they’ll let you bring yer own ale to wash down the cue.

Posted By:  David MacFadden
Photo:  David MacFadden

For the sweet tooth that has seen it all, Candybar has opened just off the track of Divisadero’s burgeoning food scene. Their desserts are creative clashes: milk chocolate parfait with matza toffee and smoked sea salt; bittersweet chocolate parfait with foie gras tapioca and croutons; my choice, the chocolate brioche with balsamic caramel ice cream. Yes, there are non-chocolate items on the menu. In fact, there are savory items on the menu that are equally enticing (duck liver mousse with blood orange marmalade and pink salt). The drink list boasts 25 dessert wines by the glass, as well as 5 or so by-the-glass selections of white, red, bubbly, and beer. Feeling Hungary? That unsung country is given its due on Candybar’s winelist with entries in the fields of pinot noir and dessert wine (Tokaji) to be paired with savory and sweet plates accordingly.

Posted By:  David MacFadden
Photo:  Lillian Kang

Sundance Kabuki Cinema
Dating may have just gotten more expensive, but it’s worth it. Now San Franciscans are allowed the same silver screen amenities that Europeans have enjoyed for 100 years. The Sundance Kid’s renovation of the Kabuki Theatre in Japantown is complete, and while patrons have been enjoying cozy seating since the spring, the theatre’s grand “unveiling” this month brought with it a restaurant and a bar, both of which can be visited without purchasing movie tickets. The hot new draw is the Balcony Bar adjacent to the balcony of Auditorium 1. There, with seating restricted to legal drinkers, you’ll be able to sip some tipple while gawking at starlets. Beer, wine, and cocktails are all available at reasonable prices ($5-$9). This should make comedies funnier and tragedies more tear-inducing. Seats have, between them, tabletops to rest the kitchen’s cheese plates ($5-$14) and sandwiches ($8-12). In addition, the theatre’s online ticketing system allows you to reserve seats ahead of time. This feature alone should cut the number of auditorium brawls in half!

Posted By:  Valerie Ng

I can never get enough of Mexican food. Tacos, enchiladas, mole, whatever it is I’ll be up for it. But when it comes to other Latin American cuisines, I’m still a novice. Aside from Brazilian, I don’t think I’ve ever sampled any of the other delectable culinary delights of that region. When I came across Fresca, the thought of dining at a Nouveau Peruvian restaurant was one I couldn’t resist. In fact, I almost missed it as I walked by the Fillmore location, but it was a good thing I didn’t. Some of the items resembled dishes I’d sampled at Mexican restaurants (some a little too much), but with a modern flavor. Most delightful was a selection of tapas that will likely bring me back for more. And unlike most sophisticated gastronomic experiences, the place is kind on your wallet.

Posted By:  Melanie Colburn
Photo:  Melanie Colburn

Café Abir
Café Abir has finally reopened. For denizens of Western Addition/Nopa (more on that terminology another time)—Café Abir was a steady squat for steeping tea and taking in a view of Divisadero. Nothing made more sense on a foggy Divis day than fingering the unique foreign publications in Café Abir’s adjunct newspaper stand. Then suddenly, good old Abir shut-up for renovations, leaving the caffeine-deprived out on a downward slope to Lower Haight. However, my friends, Abir is back in high style. Beautiful stonework and oversized 19th-Century posters cover the walls, from the velvet seating up to the high ceilings. Details—like the unevenly tiled columns and antique Persian chandeliers add finesse—but it’s the excellent staff and the delicious, but reasonably-priced meals that are the sell. With free Wi-Fi for latte sponges and rotisserie chicken for the hungry, Café Abir has reopened its doors wide at last. It was worth the wait! The reopened cafe also features a wine and sake tasting room and shop.

Posted By:  Elise Burger
Photo:  Elise Burger

Though irritation sets in quickly while waiting (way) too long for a drink, I begin to forgive when I see a restaurant’s owner take note of my drink-less-ness, find the server, order her off the floor, and compensate by sending over an extraordinarily attentive replacement. Such was my most recent experience at Poleng, the Asian-fusion lounge located in San Francisco’s Western Addition/ NOPA. Though often with success, the menu nevertheless flirts with pretension at times (green tea dusted dumplings, anyone?). However, Poleng balances out its boutique sake batches and market-priced soups with more basic bar-friendly fare: Wash down your egg rolls, samosas, and adobo wings with a can of Kikusui Ichiban Sibori sake, or “the Salary Man’s solution to a hard day’s work,” as it’s billed on the drink list. Notice that stage in the back of the house? Stick around: What is now Poleng was once home to several other legendary clubs. At 10 pm sharp every Wednesday through Saturday, the staff swarms in to break down tables and cart away chairs. The kitchen shuts down, turntables heat up, and shochu gives way to Red Stripe as the room is transformed into a semblance of its former self.

Posted By:  Caroline Palmer
Photo:  Caroline Palmer

The cat is slowly pawing its way out of the bag and soon everyone will know that the best deep dish pizza in the city can be found along that bustling section of Divisadero in the newly named NOPA district inside a dimly-lit restaurant called Little Star. A fashion-conscious clientele, a killer juke box with selections from early Old 97s to new Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a delicious list of 10 microbrews from oatmeal stout to blue star ale; these are just a few of the things that will compliment your cornbread crust slice of heaven. And it wouldn't be a San Francisco restaurant without the hipster staple item--$2 can of PBR. Suggested order for first-timer: a house salad, the deep dish vegetarian, replacing the zucchini with sausage and pepperoni, and a bottle of the Malbec. If you're a thin crust-lover (or just a switch-hitter) the white pizza and Italian combo are equally delectable. I'm also happy to report that the newly opened Little Star in the Mission has lost its bizarro veterinary hospital smell and is now a pleasant place to dine as well. Enjoy!

Posted By:  Eric Saxon
Photo:  Eric Saxon

Coming at you in 400 megahertz of rich color, the KPOO mural "The Blues Evolution" at Post and Steiner broadcasts a cosmology of African-American music and history. Major deities range from James Brown to Mahalia Jackson to Jesse Jackson. Token white guy Stevie Ray Vaughn is also there. KPOO, the first Black-owned noncommercial radio station west of the Mississippi, has played a crucial role in the recent history of the Fillmore District, a Black working-class neighborhood that grew with the WWII shipbuilding industry into a major center of music and art on the west coast. The radio station is still going strong, broadcasting 24 hours a day to the Bay Area from 89.5 FM on your radio dial and to the rest of the world via an Internet stream. Dividing the two gigantic panels of the celestial frieze, which like many in SF uses a "rainbow prism" palette of every color, there is a dark green center panel illustrating athletic events, a trace of the building's past as a structure designated for athletics.

Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

A few months ago, a friend of mine lured me away from the cuddly familiarity of my standard SF neighborhoods by asking me to join her for lunch at The Grove in Pacific Heights. I was initially resistant and fearful of Stroller Assault, that phenomenon, oft experienced in Noe Valley and Pac Heights, when jogging strollers strike with entitlement and roll up unsuspecting, innocent ankles. But I felt reassured when I saw the lush greenery draping the restaurant’s façade, and the happy people chattering on the patio. The indoor laptop brigade, intent on finishing opuses, made finding a seat tricky. But when I’d scored a ski-cabin-dark-wood table, I, too, was ready to guard it with bared teeth for some time. My chicken enchilada dish, topped with cheese, generous hunks of avocado, sour cream, and red bell peppers, was delish and the people watching even more so. And the cramped space precluded any aggressive stroller attacks.

Posted By:  Eric Saxon
Photo:  Eric Saxon

Alta Plaza Park
Here are the young pugs. Pug Sunday is a gathering of the pug dog breed on the first Sunday of every month. It takes place in Alta Plaza Park. The first line of the best book on these dogs is "The Pug is not a freak." Nevertheless, it's fun to see a gang of them wilding in figure eights with maniacal eyes. It's hilarious to observe the occasional non-pug breed of dog adapt to a world turned on its head, a world where smushfaced dogs snort orders of who lives and who dies. To watch the golden retriever blissfully romp among the pugs can be profoundly touching if the light in Alta Plaza is right. In the photo, an excited stud pug with a cowboy hat attempts to mount everything in sight at Pug Sunday.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Tony's Cable Car Restaurant
Tony will probably be the one making your burger. Do we really need to say any more than that? Well, how about the view? It’s a great one looking east towards downtown from halfway up the hill on Geary Boulevard. If you’re driving, you can only reach Tony’s heading west on Geary, since Tony’s is so close to the tunnel entrance. But you can’t miss it—great signage, outdoor seating, cheap prices, and Tony himself. An all-American institution, of course run by a hard-working immigrant. It’s why America is truly great. And get the French fries, too. If only to piss off Dubya.

Posted By:  Catherine Wargo
Photo:  none

So admittedly the phrase “diamond in the rough” is overused. But seriously, skip North Beach. Quietly minding its own (scrumptious) business on the seedy-turned-trendy (but still seedy) strip of Divisadero in Western Addition, it’s easy to miss. For those of you who thought you had to drive over a bridge to get great, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, you have got to try Little Star. This is the best pizza place in San Francisco. That’s what I said—the best. Having personally spent many years (and pounds) in Chicago eating deep-dish pizza, Zachary’s was never impressive to me. But Little Star offers up gourmet fresh ingredients on both its pan and thin-crust pizzas like only a Californian restaurant can—you know they bought the spinach, ricotta, feta, mushrooms, onions, and garlic that morning from a local farmer at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market for the “Little Star” deep-dish on their menu. Decorated in subdued, yet hip, grey tones with local art on the walls and yummy beers (like Racer 5) and local wines (like Ravenswood Zin) at the bar, you won’t mind waiting for a table—because they don’t take reservations.

Posted By:  Catherine Wargo
Photo:  none

Chateau Tivoli Bed & Breakfast
Dilemma: you’ve got out of town guests, and they are not interested in sleeping on the “slightly used-great condition!!!!” couch you bought on Craigslist. You don’t live near either Fisherman’s Wharf or Downtown, and said guests (possibly your parents) are too suburban/scared/unwilling to figure out the N Judah from the #6 Parnassus bus. Solution: Chateau Tivoli. Located just North of Alamo Square and convenient to many mid-city neighborhoods, the gaily painted Victorian dating to 1892 is exactly what everyone who’s never been to San Francisco thinks San Francisco looks like. This bed-and-breakfast has nine rooms furnished with some estate pieces from the Gettys and the Vanderbilts. Ply your guests with this pleasing fact: Mark Twain stayed there. (Insert obligatory M. Twain quote about the coldest winter/summer in San Francisco thing. They’ll love it.) With fresh-baked morning pastries, evening wine and cheese, and rates at $99-$265 a night, this place is reasonable and memorable. Rooms and suites are named after local historical celebrities—you can reserve the Jack London, the Isadora Duncan, or the Mark Twain. Book early, since they do only have nine rooms, and then take your guests for a walk in Alamo Park…

Posted By:  Sarah Date
Photo:  Courtesy of Peter B Snyderman

Taking over a San Francisco institution like The Elite Cafe is a tall order however you approach it. And while we waited for the relaunch of this classic destination, there hasn’t exactly been a serious Cajun food contender to erase fond memories of blow-your-mouth-off Oysters in Hell washed down with a jalapeno vodka martini. Keeping the faith of a New Orleans-inspired menu, the offerings are updated to reflect seasonality and fresh local ingredients. And Joanna’s renowned biscuits from Meetinghouse have survived the transition to complement the bill of fare. There will be critics until the new crew has established that they are more than worthy of the takeover, but being able to cozy up in one of the original mahogany booths with steaming, spicy jambalaya is a fine excuse to begin cementing the reputation of this well-positioned dining and social spot.

Posted By:  Benny Bleiman
Photo:  Courtesy of Mrs. Dewson

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