San Francisco is the kind of place where there are always new things to see, places to go, and yummy things to eat. While I love exploring neighborhoods that are new, or further out, sometimes exploring close to home is just as rewarding. Just a few blocks up the hill from my flat is the bustling, and ever-evolving, Polk Street.
Polk Gulch, the portion of Polk Street that runs from Lower Nob Hill up past Nob Hill and over to Russian Hill, is undergoing a renaissance. For years I've had late night donuts after drinking too much at McTeague's or Mayes. I've gotten coffee and snacks at La Boulange (when it wasn't owned by Starbucks and then closed by Starbucks), and bagels at Noah's. I've gotten a few hundred dollars of beer and booze at The Jug Shop, and shopped for tasty cheese at Cheese Plus, but it's been a while since I've just taken an afternoon and wandered through the neighborhood. Like the rest of San Francisco, everything seems to be changing. New stores are popping up in storefronts that were long vacant. New restaurants are sprouting, and artisanal coffee has taken up residence.
My favorites are a mix between new additions and tried and true classics. Some are new and just opened in the last month, and some have been in the neighborhood for years and years. Right now I'm obsessed with the wine shop and tiny bar William Cross Wine Merchants. The people are so friendly, the wine so tasty and the neighborhood seems to converge here. I recently discovered probably the best magazine store in The City, and it's been there for ages! Smoke Signals offers a huge selection of fashion, lifestyle, indie, music, sports and kids magazines from both the U.S. and around the world. Keep a look out for little round stickers on the covers--these stickers mark items that are 1/2 off! The block that Smoke Signals and William Cross are on (Polk between Vallejo and Green) is on is also home to Gioia Pizza, the bar House Rules (which has tasty drinks and solid food and is a great spot for local athlete spotting), and the tiny beer bar Woods. Woods brews their own beer, and is a great place to grab a fresh empenada if you're hungry.
One block north you'll find Saint Frank Coffee, and across the street Aux Delices Vietnamese Restaurant. Saint Frank is quickly becoming my go-to neighborhood coffee shop, and Aux Delices is a solid dinner choice.
At the intersection of Pacific Ave. and Polk you'll find Cheese Plus, The Jug Shop and Belcampo Meat Company. This is a great corner to check out if you're looking for dinner supplies. The grass-fed meat at Belcampo is some of the best in The City. Cheese Plus has a huge array of cheeses, and condiments. The Jug Shop has a huge selection of liquor, beer and wine, and the staff is super knowledgeable.
At the south end of Polk Gulch there are a couple of new boutiques that have opened, and one of my long-time favorites Picnic. Picnic has been on Polk for a few years, and they're a great source for unique gifts and small home goods. They have a limited selection of women's clothes and accessories, men's t-shirts and even a tiny selection of baby stuff! Across the street you'll find St. Lightning which is a brand new boutique with vintage and boho-chic items. Their flair is on point, and they have a nice selection of succulents and jewelry. I'm excited to see how their shop grows!
Probably the highlight of my Polk Street exploration was the discovery of Common Sage, a Japanese market and restaurant that serves two sizes of ramen, chashu pork bahn mi, and several onigilly dishes. The fact that there's now a ramen option on this side of the hill is amazing! The market has a great assortment of sake and Japanese treats. They even have the green tea Kit Kat bars that I'm obsessed with.
In short, I'm stoked that there are now shops and markets and cozy corners that draw me up the hill and beg me to spend my time there. I'm super excited that there's a place to grab a bowl or ramen on a cold, foggy, SF summer day, and another place down the street with amazing salads and fresh California Cuisine. I know I'll be spending plenty of money at the cute boutiques, and new bars. I'm even more stoked that some of my favorites that have been on Polk for ages are still around. I'm happy they're holding on and keeping my finger crossed that they don't get priced out of the neighborhood. Finally it seems that the neighborhood has just enough of everything to be more than just a local stop of yummy cheese and a nice bottle of wine or drinks with friends. Now, it seems, there's something for everyone, and enough to lead to an afternoon of wandering. I love that the neighborhood is still catering to locals and not trying to lure tourists. Let the tourists keep Union Square, Chestnut Street and Fisherman's Wharf--I'm very happy with an afternoon on Polk Street.
Directions : Walk/Bike/Drive/Lyft/Uber/Muni to Polk Street (I always start at Polk and Pacific because that's I walk up from my flat). Turn left or right and wander down the street. If you went north, cross to the other side of the street around Union and head back towards Geary. If you went south, cross to the other side of the street around Geary and head North to Union. Stop in to shops, bars, restaurants, markets, hardware stores, whatever on your way. Meander. Take your time. Eat things and taste samples. Enjoy!