It has been so fun doing this series! I am getting to know all my friends’ secret hideouts! San Francisco is such an amazing city, one that is ever-changing and I love discovering a new little corner every week. Seeing these “villages” from a local perspective has made me really appreciate this method of traveling. I see the value of that when I leave the Bay Area and go to a place like Kyoto where I met Daniel from Context Travel. Sure he gave us a wonderful tour of the Nishiki Market, but more than that he shared his favorite local spots and hangouts which is definitely a cool way to explore a city!
San Francisco is a city of villages and if you are unfamiliar with its layout, here is a map that you can use to get yourself acclimated. After each interview, I have included some additional spots to check out should you choose to visit.
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San Francisco’s Lower Haight may be less famous than its upper neighbor, but as is evident by being CurbedSF readers (a San Francisco real estate blog) neighborhood of the year several years in a row, it is an area that is well-loved. So when I found out that one of my colleagues lived in this area (I swear my co-workers are going to stop answering this question, as they will soon eventually all end up on these pages!) I jumped on the chance to hear his favorites.
 Favorite thing about the Lower Haight.
Its location says a lot about the neighborhood. The centrality of the few blocks that make up LH blend and buffer the strong distinct identities of the surrounding neighborhoods. The identity is void of presumption. And that’s what makes it welcoming, bringing together neighbors new and old, families, small businesses, and creative entrepreneurs. It’s not perfect, crime, housing affordability, parking are not different here than anywhere else but I think the individualism of Lower Haight shines through in the residents, establishments, and the experience anyone has when they visit.
For a more tangible favorite I have of Lower Haight, again, I point to the central location. Walkable to the Mission, Hayes Valley, NoPa, Alamo Square; public transit routes adequately accessible in all directions; and quick access to the 101.
Plus, there’s a good mix of merchant and residential spaces, so it’s an area where business and residents coexist vibrantly. Especially in times of need, I met one of my good friends when an apartment building caught fire a few years back at Haight and Fillmore. Our local butcher across the street risked his life to run in and alert residents of that building. Some were taking refuge in local bars. It was an event I think brought many people together and it was due to the community spirit of both neighbors and merchants.
 Least favorite thing about the Lower Haight.
Hard to say, but parking can be difficult. Anyone visiting may be frustrated with parking. As for food, there is a lack of rich Italian and Hispanic dining outside of pizza and taco joints.
 What differentiates this neighborhood from all the other parts of the city?
It’s a very efficient neighborhood. The accessibility to so many different types of activities, food, services and shops within a small area is really incredible. Mostly though, I think it’s the people. There is a strong bond to this neighborhood, taking care of it and building quality life for all here.
 Favorite coffee spot in Lower Haight.
Bean There (201 Steiner S). Friendly atmosphere, great food, and selection of refreshments. I’m not a coffee drinker but I enjoy their tea and any friends and visitors that I send their way valued my recommendation.
 Favorite spot for drinks.
This is a toss-up, I would say Danny Coyles (668 Haight St) and Maven (598 Haight St). Both are popular and can get packed fairly easily. For cocktails, I enjoy the creativity and craft of the Maven bartenders and their delicious concoctions. For atmosphere, I enjoy the staff of Danny Coyles, although they do have a strong sports and pub quiz following so it’s difficult on those occasions when excitement is ramped up among a large crowd.
Any respectable beer drinker must also consider Toronado (547 Haight St). A legendary establishment that does not take too kind to those who do not respect the bar or other patrons. Biker atmosphere with a connoisseur selection of craft brews.
 Favorite local hangout.
DSF Clothing (formerly D-Structure SF, 520 Haight St) is a clothing store (surprise) and art gallery. It’s a fun space with a great staff led by Devin Chulick who is also the current Lower Haight Merchant Association President. Every Friday night the store has a casual social gathering (the store is open to all with music, refreshments and usually a Friday night discount on merchandise) in addition to frequent new gallery show opening events, Berlin ping-pong parties and even store-wide yoga sessions.
 Favorite breakfast spot.
Kate’s Kitchen (471 Haight St) is fantastic, it has an excellent selection of breakfast options but is very popular so it’s tough to get a table. Highly recommend though, very healthy and savory selections to choose from.
 Favorite lunch spot.
Greenburgers (518 Haight St) is my go-to spot for lunch. They have great soups, salads, and entrées to get you through any day. The name is sort of a misnomer because it’s a nod to the Greenburger family. Often it’s confused as a vegetarian spot which is not the case but there are plenty of options if you’re not into meat.
Wing wings (422 Haight St) and Memphis Minnie’s (576 Haight St.) are my other lunch destinations.
Wing Wings have some of the most incredible wings in the city made through imaginative recipes and ingredients in homage to the East Coast Mid-Atlantic area.
Memphis Minnie’s is a true BBQ establishment that can rival any other place in the nation. It’s a real treasure to have in the neighborhood but they smoke, cure, and cook pork in so many delicious ways it’s hard not to go back all the time. However, I’m looking out for my fitness so I exercise restraint.
 Favorite dinner spot.
Chaparral (471 Haight St). Kate’s Kitchen used to be just a brunch place but a few months back, a new group came in to operate the space at night for their own dinner pop-up experience. It’s called Chaparral. It’s only open Wednesday-Saturday evening but the food is California rustic with fresh flavorful ingredients. Since it’s a pop-up, you have to bring your own wine or drinks. The atmosphere is very intimate and the Chef is very talented.
[UPDATE: unfortunately Chaparral is now closed. They couldn’t reach a long-term agreement with their pop-up host, Kate’s Kitchen.]
Maven has a great menu and atmosphere as well, it’s very popular so getting a table has been harder lately. Maven has great seasonable menus with very savory American California cuisine with delicious Duck Sliders as my favorite.
Outside of American Cuisine. It’s a toss-up between Sushi Raw (among an increasingly competing sushi restaurant presence) and Indian Oven. I think Indian Oven (237 Fillmore St) however was the first to truly open me up to Indian food and it’s absolutely expertly done.
 One thing you always do/spot you always take friends from out of town to do/see.
See the outdoor spaces, from Alamo Square to Duboce Park, and the amazing street art in between. Lower Haight is really blessed with fine work from amateur and professional artists who have turned many of the Lower Haight environment into provocative and colorful pieces of expression. I have witnessed many murals that have taken many days with the help of many people. It’s really something I love to show friends from out of town the love people have in this community for the neighborhood.
Here are other great spots in San Francisco’s Lower Haight:
EAT – Breakfast/Brunch:
> The Grind (783 Haight St) cafe serving up a great selection of breakfast treats and espresso drinks.
EAT – Lunch/Dinner:
> Little Chihuahua (292 Divisadero) great chile verde chicken tacos.
> Axum Cafe 698 Haight St. at Pierce) Cheap Ethiopian dishes served on a large piece of injera and tangy salad.
> Café du Soleil (200 Fillmore St.) open-faced sandwiches served on organic bread and croissants outside seating.
> Estelas Fresh Sandwiches (250 Fillmore St) great veggie sandwiches, also turkey and smoked gouda are darn good!
> Cu Co (488 Haight St.) get the plantain burrito, but I have a thing for plantains…
> Two Jack’s Niks Place (401 Haight St) real southern fried catfish.
> Thep Phanom (400 Waller) voted best Thai food in San Francisco multiple times. They have the usual dishes but try the Dancing Ladies (prawns stuffed with crab) or Three’s Company (prawns, scallops and calamari in coconut sauce).
> Metro Caffe (247 Fillmore St) cheesesteaks and tater tots, enough said.
DRINK – Bars:
> Uva Enoteca (568 Haight St) great happy hour including tasty salami and herb pizza.
> Noc Noc (557 Haight St) great dive bar with an awesome beer selection.
> Mad Dog in the Fog (530 Haight St) Mad Dog serves up mad beers from England and all over the world.
> Nickie’s (466 Haight St) Only bar that serves food in LH, great half-pound burger.
> Kezar Pub (770 Stanyan St.) For sports fans, has over 20 beers on draft.
> Molotov’s (582 Haight St) One of the few LH bars serving hard liquor, dog-friendly.
> Three Twins Ice Cream (254 Fillmore St.) delicious organic ice cream, vegan offerings too, tiny location.
THINGS TO DO:
> The Wiggle bike route. It’s even got its own Yelp page!
> Upper Playground (1661 Tennessee St) very San Franciscan street art-inspired clothes and gear.
> Merch (629 Haight St) cute boutique with curated goods including men’s and women’s clothing, home decor, perfume, etc.
> Vinyl Dreams (593 Haight St) EDM-focused record shop.
> Fiddlesticks (540 Hayes St) children’s clothing and toy store.
> While Lower Haight has a great balance of residential and commercial spaces, lodging is a bit tough to find. Your best bet for living like a local here is renting a private home or apartment via services like Airbnb. They have a great guide for Lower Haight that includes some of their locations to rent.
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
Here are other posts and guides from a few other local sources.
> Hoodline local blog news and stories
> 7×7: We Wanna Be Friends With Three Twins Ice Cream Founder Neal Gottlieb
How about you? Do you have any Lower Haight additions? Have you been to this area of San Francisco? Did you find this post helpful for a future trip?
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