I know very little about Portola, pronounced Port-o-la if you are a 4th generation San Franciscan like my friend Kathleen or Por-tow-la if you are everyone else! But that’s why I really love this series, I meet locals like Lesly who is literally strolling her way – baby strolling that is, through the neighborhood on a daily basis and is here to share today her favorite spots in this old-school neighborhood!
Lesly is the founder of Mamas Guide: Discover Stroller Friendly San Francisco so she knows her the family-friendly way around the city!
 Favorite thing about Portola.
To start, it’s sunny and warm here most of the time—our micro-climate is fantastic! We’re also home to Alemany Farmer’s Market, the oldest (and best) market in the city. I can be downtown or across the city for a meeting or drinks in a flash via MUNI or by car. We’re right off 280 and 101 so getting around is a breeze.
 Least favorite thing about Portola.
No one really knows where it is so people automatically assume it will be a hassle to get here or they confuse it with Portola Valley down south. I usually tell people I live south of Bernal Heights to name a more recognizable neighborhood.
 What differentiates your neighborhood, Portola from all the other parts of the city?
It’s a truly residential neighborhood in San Francisco that is so close to everything. The diversity that other neighborhoods are missing exists here, and there are so many families with
 Favorite coffee spot in Portola.
Other than my kitchen, we have a Four Barrel (1 Burrows St) a few blocks away that’s nice when we want to change it up. They have outdoor seating and a tiny parklet on a little dead-end street. It’s a nice place to chill out with a latte and soak up some sun.
 Favorite spot for drinks in Portola.
I don’t have one—there are a few bars on the street but I haven’t tried them yet. There is a craft brew place set to open soon so I’m definitely going to check that out, and I have discovered a few great bars in surrounding neighborhoods, like Broken Record (1166 Geneva Ave, b/t Edinburgh St & Naples St ) in Crocker-Amazon.
 Favorite local hangout in Portola.
Since I have a toddler I’d have to say the Palega Recreation Center and Playground. It’s one of the newest rec. centers in the city and the playground is fantastic. In the mornings there are groups of older women exercising on the playground toys until the kids start to filter in. In the time we’ve been living here my daughter gone from playing on the “kiddie” toys to the big kid section! I also take Zumba there and they have tons of free classes, pickup basketball inside and outside, and ping-pong.
 Favorite breakfast spot in Portola.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It was here for years, closed for a while, and reopened late last year. They serve a delicious classic American breakfast with huge portions and seasonal specials on a big board in the back. You’ll see the same people there all the time, the staff is really kind and it’s very stroller-friendly.
 Favorite lunch spot in Portola.
Ling Ling Chinese (2517 San Bruno Ave, b/t Burrows St & Felton St) on San Bruno Avenue, specifically the roast chicken lunch special.
 Favorite dinner spot in Portola.
Queen’s Louisiana Po Boy Restaurant, also on San Bruno Avenue. They serve southern-style fried goodness—my favorite is the catfish.
 One thing you always do/spot you always take friends from out of town to do/see.
My favorite day in Portola starts with friends meeting at my house for coffee, then heading to the farmer’s market at Alemany to stock up on produce for a week and a samosa from the Sukhi’s stand, before brunch at Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
As I mentioned in my opening, my friend Kathleen is a 4th generation San Franciscan and her family has lived in the Portola area for decades. As such, she knows all the secret spots and liked a bulldog guarding their domicile, she likes to keep her favorite haunts unknown. I swear I have been trying for a year for her to share some of her regular spots, and finally, I got her to give up a few! So in addition to Lesley’s picks, I wanted to add in a few of Kathleen’s (and her hubby’s) as well.
For us, the best tacos are from La Placita Mexicatessen. It is a spot where the owners/workers make everyone feel like they are eating at someone’s home. The tacos are small but they are tasty! It is a place we love to walk to on the weekends for a couple of Modelo’s and tacos for lunch. You can see people in here who have been coming here for ages. One thing you will find is that the places in this area truly serve the people of the Portola as it is not really a destination unless you happen to be visiting someone who lives here.
For shopping, we like La Loma Produce No 7. Since parking is non-existent most days, you are best off walking. (Plus you need to walk off all those tacos you might have just eaten.) Not only can you get just about anything you would ever need to make a meal, they have an awesome bakery, meat counter and taqueria inside. Oh, and they make fresh frescas right up front which the line can get long on the rare hot day. (Even if it is hot, it is almost always windy here, especially after 2 pm) Oh, and if you are there on the right day, they make a killer split chicken that tastes great cold as it does hot. The tacos are not as good as La Placita Mexicatessen, but they are great to eat inside before you shop.
If you love papusas, belly-up to the bar/counter at Restaurant Pupuseria Ilobasco. Never had anything else here and I don’t think I could. Like most places on San Bruno Ave., this place has not been updated since at least the 1980s but who cares when the papusas are so delish! The old school TV plays fuzzy soccer games narrated in Spanish but the real entertainment is the customers young and old, of all ethnicities, enjoying something so homey!
Now, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the spot for breakfast, but on the weekends, it can be a bear to get a spot to sit without a long wait. Just across the street is a gem called Jim Georgie’s Donuts. Not only do they have some sugary confections throughout the day (the earlier you get there the more choices of donuts you have) but they also make a good solid breakfast like you’d make at home if you made breakfast! But what we like to go there for besides the donuts and the friendly family service are the burgers! The only place to get a burger on San Bruno Ave. and one you want to go back for. Reminds us of the kinds of good old burgers you’d get at diners of yesteryear. It tastes good and it brings you back.
Extra things to be aware of:
> Parking is nearly impossible.
> If someone says Portola different than you think it should be said, you just met a true local! Only locals who have been here a long while knowing the “proper” way to say it. 😉
> Did I mention parking is impossible?
[Kathleen works in social media but is more of a listener/lurker, so no blog, but you can find her on Twitter!]
Here are other great spots in San Francisco’s Portola area:
EAT – Breakfast/Brunch:
> Jim Georgie’s Donuts (2462 San Bruno Ave b/t Thornton Ave & Silliman St) classic old-school donut shop (go back for a burger at lunch).
> Breakfast At Tiffany’s (2499 San Bruno Ave, b/t Thornton Ave & Felton St) a beloved neighborhood favorite.
EAT – LUNCH/DINNER:
> Golden Sai Gon (2428 San Bruno Ave b/t Silliman St & Silver Ave) new owners, good Phở.
> Fat Beli Deli (2598 San Bruno Ave b/t Burrows St & Felton St) get the Archie Bunker: roast beef and melted cheddar cheese on a Dutch Crunch roll with grilled red onions, garlic mayo, lettuce, tomato, and pickles.
> Ling Ling Chinese (2517 San Bruno Ave, b/t Burrows St & Felton St) 3 items for $20!
> ChouChou Bistro (400 Dewey Blvd) traditional French cuisine and great homemade pies.
> Queen’s Louisiana Po Boy Restaurant (3030 San Bruno Ave, b/t Paul Ave & Olmstead St) cajun classics and Louisiana-brewed beer.
> La Placita Mexicatessen (2531 San Bruno Ave, b/t Burrows St & Felton St) great tacos and classic Mexican.
> Restaurant Pupuseria Ilobasco (2680 San Bruno Ave, b/t Bacon St & Burrows St) pupusas…it’s in the name!
> Fancy Wheat Field Bakery (2668 San Bruno Ave b/t Burrows St & Bacon St) Chinese bakery, excellent egg tarts and buns.
> Salvadorean Bakery (2684 San Bruno Ave b/t Bacon St & Burrows St) Salvadorean fruit pies and cookies.
DRINK – Bars:
> Broken Record (1166 Geneva Ave, b/t Edinburgh St & Naples St ) bar with soul food and outdoor patio.
> El Toro Night Club & Bar (2470 San Bruno Ave, b/t Thornton Ave & Silliman St) friendly staff, great live music.
> New Judnich’s (2888 San Bruno Ave, b/t Wayland St & Woolsey St) neighborhood spot with pool tables.
THINGS TO DO:
> Visit the Alemany Farmer’s Market at 100 Alemany Blvd on Saturdays.
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
Here are other posts and guides from a few other local sources.
> Made in the Portola Org – Portola Booklet (pdf) (this is AWESOME!)
> Francisco da Costa – Portola District – A Unique Neighborhood (great history!)
> Portola Neighborhood Association site
> Portola Planet Blog
> The Bold Italic – Best Bao in San Francisco
> Airbnb has a great guide for Portola that include some of their locations to rent. [New to Airbnb? Use this link to sign up and get $25 for your first stay. (affiliate)]
How about you? Do you have any Portola additions? Have you been to this area of San Francisco? Did you find this post helpful for a future trip?
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