home town san francisco.

i had the pleasure and sometimes pain of living in the city of san francisco for a little over 10 years. the bulk of my twenties were spent there, and it’s really more of a hometown than the town that i am from, in that i look back on it with nostalgia and no matter how long i am away, i always crave it. i know the city like the back of my hand, i have walked through, driven through, muni’d and barted through most of its narrow streets. in my 10 years i moved just about once a year, typically to a different neighborhood. i got to know a lot about the city because of this. here are some of my favorite spots:

  1. amoeba records. this tends to be the place i always go back to, at least once or twice a year i have to go to stock up. this is really the best record store, maybe because i know it so well. this is the place i can almost always find that obscure record i have been searching for. you can also find nearly every movie or documentary, be it foreign film or chick flick. for me, this amoeba will always be number 1.
  2. vintage shops. retro city pretty much corners the market on vintage in the city, with 3 locations on haight street and 2 in the mission (and one on telegraph in berkeley). what i love about their stores is how organized they are: everything is laid out by era and style, even the most fashion-ignorant could find a look in their shops. my favorites are held over on haight with its collection of t-shirts, faux fur coats, boots for days, dresses by era and the vault of amazing mens suits, it’s tough to beat. my other favorite is the incredibly affordable mission thrift. they have $1, $5 and $10 racks of 80’s dresses, perfectly weathered tank tops, lingerie and costume worthy items. each shop also has a section for rompers, 70’s disco dresses, leather shorts and dirndl dresses, which make them top notch in my book. my other favorite is painted bird, a little shop on valencia street in the mission. they have a really well edited collection of vintage clothing, bags & jewelry at actually good prices. the shop is small and simple and unpretentious and i almost always find a little something there.
  3. walking. one of the best things about san francisco is how small and how walkable it is. i would often pick neighborhoods and spend my day wandering. my favorite places to walk are north beach and chinatown- the incredible little intersection where china dead ends at old italy is something to see. north beach has loads of places to eat including stella pastry (aka cannoli heaven) and the stinking rose, and is home to the insanely lovely coppola building. my favorite walk is to start at the ferry building for what i believe to be the best cup of coffee in the city- blue bottle, then walk up through the towering buildings of the financial district to north beach, and into chinatown, where it feels literally like you are in another country.
  4. thrift stores. the mission clearly has the best spots, like the completely rad community thrift on valencia street where you can find any back issue of national geographic and lots and lots of awesome furniture. thrift town is around the corner and has 2 floors of great finds. down at the end of valencia is the salvation army which has amazing sales (typically half price saturday) and racks and racks of last years forever 21, target and H&M items. they also have a huge selection of furniture and dudes in mini vans outside ready to deliver your furniture (in the city) for a small fee.
  5. the eats! of course. my favorite will always be luna park in the mission- where the menu has not really changed over the last 10 years. the breaded gruyere and mushroom stuffed pork cutlet is amazing and they make a hell of a moscow mule, and the desserts are bananas (make your own smores!). poc chuc is a hidden gem for no frills yucatecan food. their signature dish is so good that it renders one sleepy after eating it. it’s a toss up between taquerias cancun and el faro in the mission for bomb ass burritos, but the little chihuahua in the lower haight is not your average spot. they have grass fed beef and everything is insanely fresh. fresca is my favorite of the peruvian places in the city, it’s fancy peruvian but it’s delicious and the portions are good. i like the noe valley location best, probably because i love to walk around the neighborhood. noe valley is also home to savor, a nice little crepes and salad/sandwich/brunch spot that has a rad patio to sit and drink mimosas on. they make their own bread and jam which are both amazing.
  6. museums. i like the big ones and of them, of course moma, but the de young is a great rival. i am totally hooked on moma’s photography exhibitions and the de young’s fashion exhibits. i never skip visiting the david park and the clyfford still pieces while at moma. it goes without saying that the palace of fine arts is breathtaking without even stepping inside.
  7. book stores. i love that there are still small, independent used book stores somewhere, and that somewhere is san francisco. my favorite of them all is dog eared books. they have the best selection of old paperbacks and lots of art books and it has that smell, that library book smell.
  8. parks. obviously golden gate park is incredible. when i lived in the lower haight i would run through the panhandle, into the park, down to the conservatory of flowers and back and it was amazing every day. the eucalyptus trees alone make it worth while. speaking of the conservatory of flowers, it’s one of my favorite spots on earth. it’s all damp and soily and warm and orchidy and, well, heavenly. the japanese tea gardens are a wonder, there’s an observatory and penguins and lush trails abound and at the very end, it runs into the ocean. i mean! my two favorite parks for sitting are dolores park in the mission (stopping at bi rite and getting a sandwich, natch) and alamo square in the lower haight, where the view is that of the opening credits of full house. an underrated park is buena vista in the haight, where the trails are amazing and the top of the hill has views of the golden gate bridge.
  9. farmers markets and speciality markets. the city has farmers markets everywhere, throughout the week. the ferry building one is really nice, and you can’t beat the location. i love being able to find organic, local produce whenever. there are also some seriously amazing specialty markets like bi rite in the mission and lower haight, where there have incredible produce and a crazy stellar deli that makes awesome salads, sauces, sandwiches and meats, and other worldly desserts. did i mention they make their own ice cream?
  10. shoes. the shoe stores in the city are like none other. haight street of course has shoe biz and ambiance has a great selection itself, but hayes valley is the hidden gem for shoes. gimme shoes, bulo and paolo (whose pricey but incredible shoes are designed by the man in sf and made in italy) are here and they are fierce. the fillmore has designer wears at heidi says shoes, and of course marc jacobs and noe valley now has a shoe biz of their own along with astrid’s rabat shoes and another ambiance with a second shop that is shoe dominated. and there is always the amazing 2 story dsw shoe warehouse in union square.
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