Passion Points: Style
Two neighborhoods in San Francisco are leading the way in regards to the cool-factor.
People have long been talking about the emergence of Hayes Valley as a neighborhood for hipster style and independent, cutting edge design. With the inauguration this year of the San Francisco Jazz Center and the opening of several new restaurants in the area, Hayes Valley is no longer emerging. It’s here.
The country’s first stand-alone structure built expressly for jazz, the 35,000 square foot SF Jazz Center (201 Franklin St.) adds to the richness of the neighborhood’s cultural offerings. The transparent structure is in the same three-block radius as Davies Symphony Hall (201 Van Ness Ave.), the War Memorial Opera House (301 Van Ness Ave.), home of the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (50 Oak St.).
The Jazz Center provides a fitting home for SF Jazz (www.sfjazz.org), which has brought world class music to San Francisco for three decades and presents the annual San Francisco Jazz Festival. Another bonus: the Jazz Center’s café South at SFJAZZ is under the expert guidance of famed chef Charles Phan of the Slanted Door. South at SFJAZZ is yet another addition to an impressive culinary scene in the neighborhood. Not long ago most Hayes Valley restaurants served primarily as stopping points on the way to the symphony, opera or ballet.
That time is past. New Hayes Valley restaurants are destinations in their own right, with the most recent arrival, Rich Table, on everyone’s list. Other options include the diminutive and delectable Bar Jules, German-inspired Suppenkuche (525 Laguna St.), or the Arlequin Café (384 Hayes St.), with its peaceful garden in back.
If it isn’t lunchtime, at least stop for a coffee at Ritual Coffee Roasters (432 Octavia St.), located inside a converted shipping container, the brainchild of the Proxy Project, which sees in used containers a waste-saving and playful building material. Or have a luscious hot chocolate at Jonathan Elbow Artisanal Chocolates, (401 Hayes St.).
After your refreshment, it’s time to shop. You won’t find a single major chain store in Hayes Valley; rather, a plethora of quirky and cool independently owned clothing and furniture stores purveying precious wares from local, European and Japanese designers. On the furnishing front, favorites in Hayes Valley include Propeller (555 Hayes St.), Zonal (568 Hayes St.) and In Bed (597 Hayes St.). If it’s shoes you seek, you’ll find them in the Hayes Valley branch of Gimme Shoes and at Paolo (524 Hayes St.). For the hottest men’s sneakers, jog over to Undefeated (516 Hayes St.). The clothing options are even more expansive. Top choices are Alla Prima for imported lingerie (539 Hayes St.), the Cotton Shop for precious Japanese styles (572 Hayes St.), and Nomads for hip, casual menswear (556 Hayes St.).
Now that Hayes Valley has established itself as a bona fide shopping and dining destination, all eyes are on Nopa, an newly named neighborhood inside the Western Addition along Divisadero Street. When the restaurant Nopa arrived, the “Nopa” contraction of “north of the Panhandle,” finally caught on.
The latest newcomer to the ‘hood is the famed Bi-Rite grocery and ice creamery, right next to Nopa the restaurant. Also brand new is The Mill (736 Divisadero St.), specializing in coffee and delectable breads. The oyster and seafood spot Bar Crudo (655 Divisadero St.) has also moved here from downtown. Nopa’s sister restaurant Nopalito serves organic Mexican fare.
Shopping is still oriented towards young, limited budgets, with hipster duds at Backspace (351 Divisadero), vintage items at The Other Shop (327 Divisadero St.) and a mix of knickknacks at The Prairie Collective (262 Divisadero St.).
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