Hayes Valley

Hayes Valley


San Francisco,

Hayes Valley

Fifteen years ago, the thought of finding one of San Francisco's ultra-chic corridors in Hayes Valley would have been considered absurd. Like New York City's Times Square of old, the area, bordered by the Van Ness performing-arts district and the Western Addition around Laguna Street, was a seedy reminder for opera and symphony patrons of the city's homeless and drug problems. But over the past decade, Hayes Valley has developed into a haven for haute couture. Where the terms "ladies of the street" and "gentlemen of the street" once identified those who conducted an illegal exchange of various earthly sins for money, today they refer to the street's myriad window shoppers and restaurant-goers. Where the crack houses and tenements once stood, now there are trendy fashion boutiques, SoHo-style funky art galleries, high-end interior-decorating shops, top-notch restaurants and hip nightspots.

Hayes Valley came to prominence when film director Erich von Stroheim chose the corner of Hayes and Laguna for the filming of his 1924 epic "Greed." His affections were for a 19th-century Victorian that had been built in the early 1880s by Col. Michael Hayes as an amusement pavilion, though word has it Hayes constructed the building to lure an extension of the streetcar line to Hayes Valley. The building survived the 1906 earthquake and fire and at the time of filming was occupied only on the ground floor, by a French laundry and the Hayes Valley Pharmacy, which remained in business until the 1960s. Stroheim created signs for a dentist's office and a photographer's workplace for the movie, which fooled some locals into believing they were real. The film included numerous shots from the top floor of the building looking down on Hayes Valley. He also used 595-597 Hayes, a building that acted as a storeroom in the 1920s, as the site of the saloon in the film.

The success of Hayes Valley's current commercial district was boosted in part by the destruction caused by the 1989 earthquake to the Central Freeway, which had entrance ramps on Franklin and Gough streets. The freeway was an eyesore and created noise pollution that kept businesses and foot traffic away. Not long after that part of the freeway came down, the community began to transform, and commerce moved in.

Unlike some other parts of San Francisco, Hayes Valley has managed to retain a sense of community and a nonexclusive feel despite the fast build-up and high price tags. Some of the businesses that braved the less-than-savory days are still around, such as the Hayes Street Grill, now twice its original size. But many of the shops sprouted up in the '90s, making Hayes Valley a real destination spot. The combination results in a wide diversity in clientele. While high-end San Franciscans sip $7 cocktails at Absinthe, down the street many are powering down an entire meal for around the same price at Flipper's. Now, tourists also head here specifically for the shopping, for one-of-a-kinds like a buffalo-leather chair or an exclusive Sue Wong Art Deco gown.

Since shopping and gallery hopping are two highlights of Hayes Valley, it's best to go when the full lot are open. Many galleries are closed Mondays, and some don't open Tuesdays, either. Shops tend to open around the 11 am mark, though some are open earlier. Reservations are needed at most restaurants generally from 6 pm to about 7:30 pm, when opera-goers and symphony audiences head off to performances. Seating is easier to find later in the evening.

Sights and Culture

Octavia Boulevard & Hayes Green: The newly widened Octavia Boulevard replaces the demolished Central Freeway and by 2006 will be flanked by new retail space and affordable housing. The median is being developed as a community park called the Hayes Green.

Hayes Valley Alleys: From the shotgun style flats and flowering vines of Lily Street to Ivy Street's hidden garden, here's

Bucheon Gallery: Bucheon has added a bit of color to a space that once upon a time was a "black hole," or a neighborhood dumping ground. Exhibits of mixed media and contemporary art change every five weeks. The small gallery hosts an opening for each new exhibit on Fridays, 6 pm to 8 pm. 389 Grove St., (415) 863-2891.

Octavia's Haze Gallery: Glassworks of varying shapes, textures and colors line the interior of this corner shop. The works, all unique, are mainly produced by Bay Area, national and Italian artists. Octavia's Haze Gallery also spotlights paintings by national as well as local artists in exhibits that change every 45 days. Closed Monday and Tuesday. 498 Hayes St., (415) 255-6818.

Polanco: Polanco heads south of the border for its displays, which focus on Mexican folk arts and fine arts, as well as antiques. Established Mexican artists are represented, as are young artists, mainly from Mexico City and Oaxaca. Though special exhibitions run only every couple of months, the gallery is always filled with colorful Day of the Dead art, masks, religious crosses, ceramic plates, silver jewelry and various trinkets. Prices are reasonable, with typical Day of the Dead works costing from $5 on up. 393 Hayes St., (415) 252-5753.

RAG--Residents Apparel Gallery: RAG features more than 20 Bay Area designers, mostly focused on women's clothes, but men's options are available. Each designer rents floor space and can post a biography with the designs. Many hail from other locales, such as Belgium, Brazil, London, and the Midwest, but all reside here now. Some of the designs are one-of-a-kind, while others are limited production. 541 Octavia St., (415) 621-7718.

Tinhorn Press/Gallery: Since 1994 Terry Chastain and John Gruenwald have bunkered down beneath Momi Toby's cafe with their stone lithography facilities. Though much of the machinery is still below the cafe, now the two artists have also moved across the street to open a combination working printshop and gallery. It's possible to watch the creative printmaking process on an etching press, which sits in the middle of the gallery, and also view the two artists' finished works. The gallery also exhibits the works of local and international printmakers. Opening receptions are held every six or seven weeks when the featured artist changes. Closed Mondays. 511 Laguna St., (415) 621-1292.

Velvet da Vinci: One of the first galleries to open on the block more than a decade ago, Velvet da Vinci is renowned for its contemporary metalwork. Some of the pieces hanging are accompanied by explanations from the artist. Aside from walls of everything from metal fish to abstracts, Velvet da Vinci focuses on contemporary art and one-of-a-kind jewelry. Exhibits change every six weeks. Closed Mondays. 508 Hayes St. (415) 626-7478.

Restaurants

Absinthe Brasserie and Bar: Moneyed San Franciscans, unassuming locals and show-going tourists converge on a regular basis at Absinthe. This South of France-style brasserie offers a range of American-influenced French-Italian cuisine, like grilled halibut with tomato-zucchini gratin and salt-roasted potatoes. According to owner Bill Russell-Shapiro, Absinthe is meant to evoke the essence of the Belle poque, when the toxic green liqueur the place was named for was the subject of paintings and poetry by many famed artists. In that vein, cocktails with names like Casino and the popular Ginger Rogers are based on recipes found in early-20th-century cocktail books. Diners can choose from informal or formal dining rooms, or can eat outside. Before and after shows, the place can get quite crowded, but otherwise, Absinthe is a quiet neighborhood bistro. There is also a private dining room, perfect for sit-down dinners for up to 42 people or cocktail receptions up to 48. At 388 Hayes St., it has its own entrance and bar. 398 Hayes St., (415) 551-1590. Arlequin: At the entrance to this cheery cafe is a stack of condiments sporting the Arlequin label, plus tasting spoons. Combinations like fig balsamic vinaigrette or toasted-walnut fudge sauce merely whet the appetite. The Arlequin condiments are served on the cafe's sandwiches, such as turkey with roasted corn chutney, as well. Innovative soups include cranberry bean with mascarpone, while dessert items such as basil sorbet equally please the palate. Everything at Arlequin is house-made -- the cookies, the biscottis and even the granola. While the cafe fits about a dozen patrons inside, it has access to a community garden in back that seats about 50. 384 Hayes St., (415) 626-1211.

Blue Bottle Coffee Company: Caffeinated cult-favorite and local "artisanal roaster" Blue Bottle sells its organic, small-batch-roasted, super-fresh beans and brew at this tiny outlet off the main drag. The space is actually just the front few feet of an architect's office, and the tables (two) and chairs (four) seem like they might fit into a dollhouse. The steamed milk containers hold enough for one order, and one order only. And forget ordering a mega-frappo-mocha-concoction -- the menu keeps to the basics and things only come in one size. It all goes with Blue Bottle's credo: it's quality, not quantity, that matters. But be forewarned: once you have a taste, you'll definitely want more. 315 Linden St. (parallel to Hayes, near Gough), (510) 653-3394.

Cafe Corbas: Touted by some as serving the best cappuccino in the City, and by globe-trotting symphony and opera musicians as offering lattes on a par with those found in Italy, Cafe Corbas also offers energy-packed smoothies and filling sandwiches. Lunch lines during the week can get long, though they move fast. With just about eight indoor stools and a couple of outdoor tables, it's mainly a take-out spot. 364 Hayes St., (415) 863-8590.

Caffe delle Stelle: It may not be in North Beach, but Caffe delle Stelle ranks as a site for one of the city's most satisfying Italian dining experiences. Inexpensive Tuscan-based pastas such as the pumpkin or asparagus ravioli and entrees like the crab-and-shrimp cannelloni with a light caper mustard sauce combine fresh ingredients in creative ways. The distinctly Italian interior includes stacks of pasta boxes, tomato cans, Chianti cases and olive-oil bottles for decoration. Fine wines from the Tuscany and Umbria regions of Italy dominate the wine list, though California varieties are there as well. The tiramisu is a perennial favorite. Reservations are recommended for preshow seating. 395 Hayes St., (415) 252-1110.

Canto do Brasil: Some wonderful Brazilian dishes, including fried yucca root, codfish croquettes and coconut flan. Pretty space, hefty portions at reasonable prices. 41 Franklin St. (between Oak and Page), (415) 626-8727.

Citizen Cake: Though it's impossible not to gawk at the tantalizing baked-goods case at the entrance to this expansive eatery, Citizen Cake also serves main meals, sandwiches with house-made breads, wine and beer and other sweet delights. Stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner and fine delicacies like Yukon Territory arctic char with steamed jasmine rice or get a roasted red-pepper, kalamata-olive and onion pizza, or, on a Sunday, dig into brunch or a prix-fixe three-course dinner (a different theme is featured each week). To merely satisfy a sweet tooth, try fruity house-made sorbets like plum or Concord grape, three-rice pudding tart with pistachios and apricots or rosebud brulee, infused with rosewater and Grand Marnier. 399 Grove St., (415) 861-2228.

The Crepe House: This clean, well-lighted place for crepes serves mostly locals and hungry shoppers. Meal crepes, such as The New Orleans with Swiss, chicken, mushrooms, sundried tomato and salsa, or the Canneloni with cheddar, onion, mushrooms, ricotta, marinara, and eggplant, pack a punch. Dessert crepes include such concoctions as S.B.K. -- strawberry, banana, kiwi, cinnamon and brown sugar. Nutella crepes are also popular. Aside from crepes, Crepe House offers a variety of large salads, sandwiches, omelettes, and espresso drinks. 429 Gough St., 415-863-2422.

Espetus: This "churrascaria" serves grilled meats Southern Brazilian-style. Start by helping yourself to salads from a bar with at least a dozen choices, from couscous to tossed greens to tabbouleh. Next, a server approaches the table with a meat-laden swordlike-skewer and stand filled with grilled house-made pork sausages, marinated chicken legs, pork loin, lamb, sirloin steak or other meats, accompanied by tart tomato and onion salsa. The carver knows when you're done, because you turn a dial on the table to the setting that means "no more" in Portuguese. The dinner is $28.95 and it is all-you-can-eat. The restaurant has a decent wine list and luscious caipirinhas made with Brazilian cachaca, sugar and lime. (-SF Chronicle and SF Gate) 1686 Market St. (near Gough), (415) 552-8792.)

Flipper's: This eatery's tagline is "a gourmet hamburger place," reflecting its very California take on the basic burger. There's the Flipper Dipper, glazed with teriyaki sauce, and a menu section titled "World Flippers," including the Taste of Russia, with sauteed mushrooms, onions and Swiss cheese, the French Lovers, with melted feta and sauteed spinach and the Mediterranean Flavor, with eggplant, garlic and tomato. These flippers can be made with ground chuck, chicken breast, ground turkey, a garden-burger patty or tofu. 482 Hayes St., (415) 552-8880.

Frjtz: Many old-timers heading to Hayes Valley may not realize Mad Magda's Russian Tea Room is no longer with us. Instead, Frjtz has become a casual local hangout known for its Belgian fries and assorted dips, like creamy wasabi mayo and curry ketchup. Sandwiches, crepes and salads all bear artist's names, such as the Van Gogh, a lemon-butter-and-sugar crepe, or the Pollock, a tuna-caper salad sandwich with melted mozzarella on foccacia. Local artists, painters and photographers display here, and local DJs spin some nights -- usually downtempo music, though it depends on the mood of the crowd. 579 Hayes St., (415) 928-3886.

Hayes Street Grill: Established in 1979, the Hayes Street Grill was the first neighborhood restaurant and the first major commercial business on Hayes Street. Back then, what is now a Hayes Valley staple was about one-third the current size and ran on a shoestring budget. Today, the straightforward decor includes proper silverware and china. The bistro features a variety of basic but tasty grilled-fish dishes and the signature house-made whiskey-fennel sausages and crispy french fries. The creme brulee is a hit, too. The place can get packed by 6 pm on performance nights, so it's best to book ahead of time. Once the show crowd leaves, though, it's possible to get a table on the spot. 320 Hayes St., (415) 863-5545.

Indigo: Attentive service and moderate prices make this a popular Civic Center restaurant for arts patrons. (-SF Chronicle) 687 McAllister (near Gough), (415) 673-9353.

Jardiniere: Jardiniere's exquisite interior manages to be elegant without pretension. At its center stands a circular bar topped with mahogany and black marble and a staircase leading to a mezzanine overlooking the bar. The dome is in the shape of an inverted champagne glass, one of the featured items at Jardiniere, along with more than 20 wines. California-French entrees such as Niman Ranch red-wine-braised short ribs with horseradish mashed potatoes or the duck-confit salad starter with pomegranates and toasted pistachios dominate the menu. Jardiniere belongs to restaurateur Pat Kuleto, who is responsible also for Boulevard and Farallon. The restaurant also has a late-night menu of light fare. A jazz trio performs Sunday through Tuesday. 300 Grove St. (at Franklin Street), (415) 861-5555.

Laurels Restaurant: Havana-born chef Reynaldo Naranjo serves an array of Cuban classics, including picadillo-sauteed ground beef with raisins and olives served with rice, plantains and salsa, as well as a few California-ized creations, such as tamal con tofu -- homemade corn tamale with a tofu-vegetable marinara. Plantains take on a variety of flavors, as do the items on a long list of seafood options. Along with the zesty Cuban fare, Naranjo offers a few pasta options, as well as paella and Jamaican-style chicken. 205 Oak St., (415) 934-1575.

Modern Tea: Owner Alice Cravens' teas have been on menus at Chez Panisse, Zuni Cafe and Delfina, and now her retail shop offers a selection of organic, fair trade loose-leaf teas in addition to a handful of small bites. Try a cup of persimmon leaf tea from Japan with a plate of savory goat cheese bread pudding, or a warm dish of polenta with grilled vegetables. A scrumptious-sounding weekend brunch menu is available as well -- don't miss homemade chicken sausage. Teapots, gifts and tea by the pound are sold in the retail shop. (-SF Chronicle) 602 Hayes St. (at Laguna), (415) 626-5406.

Moishe's Pippic: Although it might not have quite the same allure as downing a Chicago-style hot dog in Wrigleyville, this kosher deli serves a close version. For a true taste of Chi-town's finest, opt for the Soldier Field, one hot dog and one Polish sausage topped with everything from sport peppers to sliced tomatoes. There's plenty of Chicago memorabilia and sporting paraphernalia on the walls to keep diners stimulated as they chow down on dogs or other deli favorites, like the West 57th sandwich with hot pastrami and chopped liver. 425-A Hayes St. (near Gough), (415) 431-2440.

Momi Toby's Revolution Cafe/Art Bar: Named after one of the proprietor's great-grandmothers, who was a head cook for Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution, Momi Toby's draws a strong corps of regulars, some who come in twice a day. The cafe also serves pastries and sandwiches, such as the popular pesto-chicken focaccia. Featured artwork changes every five weeks. A few times a month, Momi Toby's presents live music, poetry or spoken-word performances. 528 Laguna St., (415) 626-1508. at 22nd and Bartlett

Patxi's: This Chicago-style pizza restaurant offers only salad and pizza. Deep dish is the specialty, though thin crust is also available. Diners can choose from a selection of six specialty pizzas like spinach-pesto or Californian with a whole wheat crust. (-SF Chronicle) 511 Hayes St. (at Octavia), (415) 558-9991.

Paul K: This modern Mediterranean restaurant has gotten more glamorous since it first opened in 2000, with a new front door, shimmering silver drapes partitioning the room, and paintings by waiter Richard Freeman. For a quick bite before the opera, symphony or ballet, order the mezze platter of braised lamb riblets, lamb kofte (ground lamb with Middle Eastern spices), feta cheese, olives, a confit of artichokes, and two dips: a smooth eggplant and a tart pomegranate. The generous plate is served with flat bread. Also try the braised lamb shank, arctic char, rose-water creme brulee and crepes with honey-poached figs and mascarpone. (-SF Chronicle and SF Gate) 199 Gough St. (at Oak), (415) 552-7132.

Sage: Though the interior looks fairly basic, with white tablecloths and Chinese watercolors on the walls, Sage emphasizes food quality and a unique Szechuan and Cantonese menu. Appetizers include Crab Rangoon -- a pastry filled with shrimp, crab and cheese and then fried, and specialty entrees like salmon asparagus with black bean and garlic sauce. 406 Hayes St., (415) 626-3838.

Sauce: The menu at this comfortably sophisticated restaurant is designed to elevate comfort food classics. The offerings sound appetizing, but you'll be sorry if your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Dishes are heavy, and it's easy to fill up early on. The best way to eat dessert is to grab 10 of your friends to join you -- portions are huge and filling. Meal pacing is brisk: If you arrive before the Opera or Ballet is set to begin, you'll make it with time to spare. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 131 Gough St. (near Oak), (415) 252 1369.)

Sebo: Small plates are worth a taste at this comfortable and stylish Japanese spot, but the sushi is what really shines. Try the maguro maki roll -- tuna with lemon, avocado and daikon sprouts; sweet, creamy uni and in-house seasoned mackerel, or omakase, the chef's five- or seven-course tasting menu. Sushi chefs Michael Black and Danny Dunham were both former chefs at cult favorite, and now-closed, Midori Mushi. Beau Timken, owner of nearby True Sake, created the interesting by-the-glass-or-bottle sake list with some rarely seen treasures. (-SF Chronicle) 517 Hayes St. (near Octavia Blvd.), (415) 864-2122.

Stelline: The first sensation you'll have when you walk into this casual, low-priced eatery is the potent smell of pastas and sauces cooking. Stelline decorates its interior with shelves of Italian tomatoes, Fortune olive-oil tins and other typical Italian ingredients, but the choices here are a bit more complex -- fusilli with sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, pine nuts, garlic and hot pepper or piccata, chicken breast with lemon wine and capers over pasta. As for the bar, California and Italian wines are the specialty. The preperformance crowd spills over some nights, so reservations are recommended at those times. 330 Gough St., (415) 626-4292.

Suppenkuche: Winning accolades for its international scene, Suppenkuche serves traditional, hearty comfort food such as traditional German wiener schnitzel, pork chops and sausages. Though the stark white walls and basic pine-wood tables aren't all that warming, the upbeat clientele and zesty German beers such as Bitburger, Erdinger Dunkel, Weltenburger and Franziskaner more than make up for it. There is some color in the intimate bar area, with paintings and other artwork from Germany along the walls. The great-grandson of the Red Baron is said to frequent Suppenkuche, too. Locals come early for dinner before the crowd gets too loud. 525 Laguna St. (at Hayes Street), (415) 252-9289.

Tandoori Grill: A cut above San Francisco's multitude of Indian/Pakistani eateries, Tandoori Grill melds high-quality service with tasty cuisine. All the usual vindaloos, biryanis and tandooris are present, along with a selection of flavorful naan, including kabli naan, stuffed with cherry, raisins and nuts. 602 Hayes St., (415) 241-1900.

Thepin Thai Cuisine: The relaxing setting and consistently high-quality food attracts locals to this Thai restaurant. Popular dishes include chao praya salmon (marinated filet of salmon in curry sauce with basil) and kang karee gai (sliced chicken in mild curry paste with onions and potatoes). There are numerous vegetarian options as well. 298 Gough St., (415) 863-9335.

Zoya: The tiny, nine-sided space that was previously known as sushi spot Midori Mushi now offers a small, daily changing menu of modern American dishes. It's ideal for a casual pre- or post-show bite upstairs in the 18-seat dining room, or for a glass of wine downstairs. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 465 Grove St., (415) 626-9692.

Zuni Cafe: Hip local hangout. Roast chicken, hamburgers, Caesar salad and espresso granita are beyond compare. 1658 Market St. (near Franklin), (415) 552-2522.

Shopping

The African Outlet: The African Outlet manages to squeeze an entire continent's worth of folk art into one small shop. Every wall, including the corners, and every inch of ceiling spills with masks, statues, drums, woven fabrics, incense, clothes, beads, oils and books. Some valuable treasures, such as an Ethiopian prayer book written in the Geez language, are displayed amid the piles of folk art. 524 Octavia St., (415) 864-3576.

Alabaster: As its name implies, walking into Alabaster is like stepping into a Mondrian white-on-white painting. Old Italian alabaster lamps dating from the 1930s and '40s sit on white shelves, and salt-glaze pottery from the 1800s blends into the ivory decor. Also on display are pieces of late-1920s French Art Deco furniture, cases of gold rings imported from a jeweler in Rome, books about floral design, Buddhas painted on eggshells, glass insects by Venetian artists and Vietnamese lacquer boxes. Closed Sundays and Mondays. 597 Hayes St., (415) 558-0482.

Arlequin Wine Merchant: This specialty wine shop, a sister establishment of Absinthe Brasserie and Bar next door, carries smaller labels, from both California and abroad, that can't be found in other stores. Local wineries such as Elyse, Hendry and JC Cellars are represented. Prices vary widely, from $15 to $20 for a Shiraz from Australia or a Sicilian red to $230 for a Pahlmeyer merlot. Arlequin (formerly known as Amphora Wine Merchant) also carries bottles of champagne, some costing upwards of $100. Search the stock on their Web site or send a question to Wine Director Neil Mechanic, who is beloved by customers for his helpfulness. 384 Hayes St., (415) 863-1104.

Babies: The name refers to humanity's furry friends rather than its own offspring. Packed with dog and cat toys, pet clothes and animal feeders, Babies offers one-stop pet shopping. The store carries more than 400 collars and leashes, matching human and dog apparel, pet jewelry and tasty-looking treats, such as bone-shaped confections and ice-cream-cone-shaped desserts made from beef broth, yogurt and carob. 235 Gough St., (415) 701-7387.

Evelyn's Antique Chinese Furniture: Evelyn's specializes in antique furniture from mainland China, with pieces ranging from 17th-century items to 20th-century offerings. A walk through the shop is like a museum visit, with ancient urns and 18th-century courtyard entryways. There are even pieces made from huang huali, one of the most eagerly collected woods in the world. Furniture can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $7,000, and it's possible to have pieces custom made in China. 381 Hayes St., (415) 255-1815.

Fabuloid: Local designer Schuyler Brown sells his line of whimsical, arty sportswear and other local designers' creative clothing .

F. Dorian & Art Options: Ethnic art is the specialty here, including some imports from the 1800s and the early 1900s. Works hail from South America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, including a Chinese opera puppet costing $250 and carved wooden temple dancers from southern India circa the early 1900s -- for $1,700 a pair. Reasonably priced items such as lacquered shell bowls from the Philippines are $10. Some local and ethnic art, plus antiques and home decoration such as mobiles, glassware and ceramics, are also sold. 370 Hayes St., (415) 861-3191.

find: With 4,500 square feet of retail space, there's much to be found at this lifestyle store. Most of the store displays furniture -- sofas, tables, beds, lighting, some from local designers. A future find line of furniture is planned, including bookcases and dining room tables. Furniture styles are contemporary, but not "hyper-modern." There is also a sportswear driven and denim-based men's and women's clothing department in back. 425 Hayes St., 415-701-7100.

Flight 001: Brad John and John Sencion opened their travel store 3,000 miles away from their first store in Greenwich Village. Shaped liked the hull of a 747 jetliner, the stark white interior has display shelves and storage bins like those in airplanes. Globes, maps, watches and cosmetics are offered in a shopscape familiar to travelers. Luggage rests on platforms resembling weighing scales; the cashier's booth looks like a ticket counter; molded plywood fuselage fins add a vaguely nostalgic note to the hip design. Counting on a witty, stylish product mix of travel bags (Mandarina Duck, Tumi, Rimowa and updated Samsonite), ticket holders and other colorful travel accoutrements (Tusk), they hope to jazz up the dreariest journey. - ...) (525 Hayes St., (415) 487-1001.

Friend: As its name implies, Friend fills its warm, inviting space with funky designer home furnishings, displayed without attitude. Housewares like Pablo lamps, Michael Ruh hand-blown glass and Heath ceramics sit atop natural woods or in transparent cases. Home furnishings are imported from independent designers in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. Designer Yves Behar fashioned the store layout, and his works are featured inside as well. A back wall displays artworks that rotate every six weeks. Smaller items include colorful condom boxes and silk-screened travel journals. 401 Hayes St., (415) 552-1717.

Gaia Tree: Now it's possible to squeeze in a facial or massage between Hayes Valley gallery hopping or shopping. Gaia Tree, a natural health and beauty salon, has two service rooms, one for massage and the other for skin care. Treatments include an Acupuncture Facelift, Swedish Deep Tissue Massage, and Sundari Herbal Aromatherapy Bliss. Gaia also carries body care products, ranging from the Epicurean line to stainless steel tongue cleaners. There are other sundries such as Chinese astrology charts and Red Flower candles. 575 Hayes St., 415-255-4848.

Inside: This modern home-furnishing shop specializes in reproductions of modern, classic designs by renowned furniture manufacturers such as Eames, Knoll and Nelson. 149 Gough St., (415) 861-5975.

Lavish: This gift and home boutique carries the work of Bay Area artists and vintage pieces. Featured items include soaps by Lucyland of Oakland, ceramics by Rae Dunn, linen table runners and aprons by Lotta Jansdotter of San Francisco and aluminum alloy containers from Lunares. If you can't find something you like, talk to Elizabeth Leu, the store's owner. She's interested in providing what other stores in Hayes Valley may not offer. 540 Hayes St., (415) 565-0540.

Lotus Bleu: Interior designer Jeannie Fraise's travels led to her interest in Asian textiles with French influences. The textiles and artwork for sale here reflect both French and Asian cultures, and the accessories and art use the best from both countries. 327 Hayes St. (between Franklin and Gough), (415) 861-2700.

Montauk: Specializing in custom-upholstered sofas and chairs, Montauk entices with a store full of big fluffy furniture made with feather and down products. Couches cost about $3,500, while loveseats are in the $3,000 ballpark. 581 Hayes St., (415) 552-0930.

Peace Industry: Melina and Dodd Raissnia import Iranian felt rugs from a workshop they built in Central Iran. The line includes about 15 designs that can be customized in pattern, color and size up to 9 by 12 feet, plus about 26 vegetable dyes. The store shows Turkoman rugs from people in northeastern Iran as well as small items felted by Bay Area artists. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 535 Octavia St. (at Ivy), (415) 255-9940.

Propeller: This funky furniture shop primarily focuses on independent and emerging designers in glass, ceramics, as well as large furniture pieces. The eclectic, modern styles incorporate mixed materials and odd shapes to give the store a feeling of movement. 555 Hayes St., (415) 701-7767.

Rose and Radish: Not just a flower shop, Rose and Radish serves up its cut floral displays in signature clear-glass cubes and other artsy vases. Some glass vases are locally designed, and others are imported from Morocco, Canada, the United Kingdom and other places. The shop sells unique greeting cards as well. 460 Gough St., (415) 864-4988.

Shoppe Unusual: Art, clothing, jewelry and more, all made by local artists, fill the large space, which is also available for events. 345 Gough, (415) 522-2441. Stitch: Those adept with a needle and thread are welcome to use the sewing machines at Stitch. (Customers are charged by the half hour.) Dubbed an urban sewing lounge, Stitch offers sewing classes, private lessons and experts on hand to help with any questions. Though Stitch sells fabrics, it also carries second-hand clothes, encouraging patrons to refashion old designs into new items. Stitch works with RAG to display some finished goods from local designers. 182 Gough St., (415) 431-3739.

Tazi Designs: This custom design studio and retail store brings Moroccan mystique to San Francisco, with an assortment of rugs, pillows, ceramics, furniture and intricate metal lanterns. Owner Hicham Tazi also accepts custom orders for anything from mosaic tables to floor tiles. 333 Linden St. (at Octavia), (415) 503-0013.

True Sake: This is the only store in the United States dedicated to selling sake, a Japanese rice wine. Owner and self-taught sake aficionado Beau Timken opened the store to evangelize his passion and introduce an alternative to wine. To invite curiosity, he hung an oversized sugidama, a traditional cedar ball hung by Japanese sake brewers, on the storefront. The cozy interior is a creative fusion of Japanese tradition and modern art, and packs in over 100 sakes from around the world, ranging in price from $9 to $200 per bottle. (-SF Chronicle) 560 Hayes St. (between Laguna and Octavia), (415) 355-9555.

Urban Knitting Studio: Much more than just a colorful yarn store, the Urban Knitting Studio serves as a knitting collective. Knitters can share ideas in classes and workshops, which are meant to spark creativity. Though a few preknitted scarves, sweaters and hats are available at the store, the emphasis is on starting from scratch and people knitting their own designs. The studio offers classes for beginners as well as aficionados. 320 Fell St., (415) 552-5333.

wOrldware: If Martha Stewart had an edge, she might be found browsing the elaborate displays at wOrldware. The interior-design shop embraces all that is tasteful and trendy, presenting its exotic chandeliers, Havana-wood bookshelves and other home-design accoutrements in magazine-quality fashion. Aside from large pieces like tables, chairs and bureaus, wOrldware carries eclectic items like a bowl of glass raspberries, Mardi Gras masks and shelves of lotions. 336 Hayes St., (415) 487-9030. (Yoga Tree: Hayes Valley now joins the current yoga craze with a third branch of the Yoga Tree chain. Yoga Tree offers a variety of yoga styles, everything from basic beginner's Hatha yoga to the more advanced Power Flow. There is even a Yoga for Seniors class. 519 Hayes St., (415) 626-9707.

Zonal: The city's original Zonal, this location features primarily antique furniture, mostly American country style from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. The furniture retains its original paint and markings, in keeping with Zonal's motto, "Always repair, never restore." Aside from antiques, Zonal offers one-of-a-kind collectibles like a handmade lamp crafted from an old air vent. Zonal also carries contemporary furniture, including sofas, chairs, beds and Italian linens, though they are displayed more in its other locations than on Hayes. 568 Hayes St., (415) 255-9307.

Clothing

Alla Prima: What's underneath when it comes to clothing can say as much about a person as the selection of outer garments. Alla Prima's fine lingerie allows for quite a variety of self-expression, with its racks full of silks, cottons, meshes and leather, courtesy mainly of European designers. The shop carries San Francisco, New York and other American designers as well. Prices range from $30 to $250 for a bra. Other items, like robes and swimsuits, are available as well. 539 Hayes St., (415) 864-8180.

Azalea Boutique: Young owners Catherine Chow and Corina Nurimba funneled their globe-trotting, shopaholic tendencies into Azalea, a place where women can purchase separates that work for home, work or the gym. Clothing and accessories range from $30 to $350 and include lots of up-and-coming designers, such as Madonna fave Louis Verdad, Australia's It duo Sass & Bide, Montreal's Kitchen Orange, and Von Dutch and Lix jeans. Whimsical shoes by Londoner Beatrice Ong and fruit-inspired jewelry by Joyce Chou's are San Francisco exclusives. For men, the store will eventually carry J. Lindeberg and Ted Baker, among others. The space also includes a 300-square-foot "nail bar" devoted to natural nail-treatment services. That means lemongrass soaks for pedicures, crystal files and organic, natural cuticle creams and formaldehyde-free nail polish. Tomato-red walls show off rotating art; the store will also stay open late occasionally and host special events. (--SF Chronicle and SF Gate) 411 Hayes St., (415) 861-9888.

Cop. Copine: Parisian women's-clothing boutique Cop. Copine makes its Bay Area debut in Hayes Valley, featuring stylish fashions with a funky flair. The French designs emphasize comfort for women of all sizes. The shop also carries urban designs from Uko, a boutique on Union Street. Accessories such as purses and jewelry are sold here, too. Prices are mid range; pants cost up to $200, and dresses run from $150 to $250. 350 Hayes St., (415) 252-7719.

Dark Garden: Dark Garden is a haven for women partial toward wearing corsets. The women who run the shop specialize in hand-making corsets for dancers and trapeze artists as well as other costumes, and wedding dresses are their other main business. Hand-crafted corsets take six to eight weeks to complete, while wedding dresses require two to three months. The shop also carries jewelry and other accessories. 321 Linden St., (415) 431-7684.

Dish: Finally making its way from across the Bay, Berkeley's Dish now has a home among other boutiques of similar appeal. This women's-clothing store carries name designers from New York and L.A. Prices are moderate to upscale: A Theory pink camisole fetches $200, a Rebecca Taylor jacket costs $350 and an average pair of jeans goes for $150. Pocketbooks, jewelry and other accessories fill out the inventory. 541 Hayes St., (415) 252-5997.

Haseena: Specialty dresses, sweaters, sportswear and lingerie all find space in Haseena, a women's clothing shop featuring items by popular young local designers. The back wall of candles emits a flowery scent as you rake through the racks. The labels found here include Sunhee Moon, Weston Wear, Emily (T-shirts) and Mary Green (lingerie). Prices fall in the midrange to upscale range for clothing as well as for accessories such as jewelry and cigarette holders. 526 Hayes St., (415) 252-1104.

Lava9: Lava9 specializes in custom-made leather jackets, which can range in price from $250 to $650. Oscar Leopold, Siena Studio and Reilly Olmes are just a few designers represented. Other leather items include purses and pocketbooks, belts and pants. Aside from hide, Lava9 represents some local jewelers, whose works are displayed in a few glass display cases inside the small shop. 542 Hayes St., (415) 552-6468.

Mac: Taking over the sprawling space vacated by Vorpal Gallery, Mac has merged its women's North Beach and men's Union Square stores into one. The store spotlights local designs as well as an emphasis on the Belgian avant-garde. Mac ("Modern Apparel Clothing") adds a dash of art to its shop, which is decked out like a '70s New York loft: There is a rock garden in front with rocks fashioned out of spun wool, and large sculpture pieces in biomorphic shapes are located throughout the store. 387 Grove St., (415) 863-3011.

Minnie Wilde: The name belongs to neither proprietor of this trendy clothing boutique--it's the moniker of the mannequin that greets you as you walk in. Terri Olson and Ann D'Apice, who started their business in their garage, are the creators of the line of funky, vintage-inspired clothing. They claim a mainly '60s and '70s influence, sometimes even reconstructing vintage wear, turning a dress into a skirt, for instance. It features mostly women's fashions, but they have begun a line of men's clothes, and prices are reasonable, from $40 to $150. Accessories like leg warmers, designed bathing caps and scarves are an added touch. 519 Laguna St., (415) 863-9453.

Nida: Nida has opened a second store focusing on casual, funky, hip clothes targeted toward young shoppers. Designers include Marc Jacobs, Citizens of Humanity and a number of French and Italian names. 564 Hayes St., (415) 552-4671.

Nomads: This men's clothing store has been around over a decade, featuring some high-end products like leather jackets for close to $500 and dress shirts for around $80. Brand names include Fred Perry, Vexel Bros. and Stussy, plus Gravis and Projekt shoes. Nomads also includes men's hats, sunglasses and ties, as well as Blue Marlin casual shirts sporting various emblems, such as that of the SF Seals, Cuba and the Tigers. 556 Hayes St., (415) 864-5692.

Smaak: For those desperately searching for Scandinavian fashions, Smaak has the answer, carrying women's and men's clothes primarily from Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The designs range from simple to elegant, and many are in bold colors, such as Finnish orange-and-white polka-dot dresses. 528 Hayes St., (415) 503-1430.

Ver Unica: Moving from Noe Valley to Hayes Valley, Ver Unica takes with it its high-quality vintage stock. Covering many eras, from 1910 to the '80s, Ver Unica carries names like Gucci and Pucci, as well as a few new designers. The shop is also known for its dead-stock pieces -- vintage clothes that have never been worn. Accessories such as vintage shoes, jewelry and purses are available. 437B Hayes St., (415) 431-0688.

Zeni: Attracting everyone from club kids to opera singers, this men's and women's apparel shop carries enough of a range to suit all wallets and tastes, from an Anna Bui leather dress for $700 to a $39 tank top. Zeni offers its own line of affordable, young-contemporary clothes, as well as garments and sunglasses from top designers such as Gigli, Dita and Armand Basi. Clothes are cut to order. 567 Hayes St., (415) 864-0154.

Footwear

Bulo Women's Shoes: Bulo Women's is distinct from the main store across the street, located next to the competition, Gimme Shoes. Bulo's selection of hip and stylish casual and dress shoes focuses on Italian brands like Graffia and Nannini. There are some accessories, as well, like wallets and jewelry. 418 Hayes St., (415) 255-4939.

Bulo Men's Shoes: Bulo Men's carries what it terms as

"play to high-conservative" and "play casual to casual high" shoes. Whatever the terminology, the footwear, mainly Italian brands, is fashionable and of high quality. Costs run in the $150 to $300 range, with brand names like Rocco P, Tripp'n and Pawelk. 437A Hayes St., (415) 864-3244

Gimme Shoes: The Hayes Valley location of this chain emphasizes Italian-made fashion shoes -- namely, designer labels for both men and women. Some casual walking shoes are available, but it's mostly dress shoes with midscale to upscale prices. Basic men's shoes cost from $170 to $350, while some women's boots run almost $600. Beyond shoes, Gimme offers Katharine Hamnett sunglasses, watches from London, belts, Italian leather bags and jewelry by local artists. 416 Hayes St., (415) 864-0691.

Huf: Former pro skater Keith "Huf" Hufnagel brings street cred to his sneaker shop, offering a highly exclusive selection of skater and sports shoes, focusing on hard-to-find old-school and new model Adidas, Vans and Nikes, as well as pro-skater brands DVS and Path. 516 Hayes St., (415) 522-3820.

Paolo: For those in search of classic Italian leather shoes, Paolo features many one-of-a-kind styles for men and women. These high-end shoes don't come cheap, ranging in price from $150 to $700 a pair. Paolo, which has a location on Sutter Street, also designs handbags, gloves, and belts. The shop's walls are lined with large masks of all different fabrics, created by artists from Venice. 524 Hayes St. 415-552-4580.

Nightlife

Cav: Pamela Busch (of the now-closed Hayes and Vine) and Tadd Cortell opened this wine bar that serves 40 wines by the glass and small plates. Chef Christine Mullen's menu starts with bites of crudo (raw seafood) and charcuterie. Entrees include oxtail ravioli and lamb kebobs with farro tabbouleh. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 1666 Market St. (near Gough), (415) 437-1770.

Jade: There are dozens of design elements squeezed into Jade's three vertically stacked rooms, adding a lot of class to a small space; it's a funky upgrade of a building that used to house AA meetings. From top to bottom, you'll find a lofted, shag-carpeted lounge, a small but open central floor and a larger, darker room on the lower level. Connecting the three rooms is a 20-foot waterfall feature that empties into a reflecting fish pool. The regulars are mostly well-dressed Hayes Valley sorts who look as good as the decor. Though the surrounding area has plenty of restaurants (including Indigo, which shares an owner with Jade), this spot serves up small-plate dishes to tide you over until you move on -- or decide to stay all night. (Camper English) 650 Gough St., (415) 869-1900.

Marlena's: Smack-dab in the middle of Hayes Valley's high-end boutiques and galleries sits Marlena's, a spirited gay bar replete with female impersonators on Saturday nights and some Sunday afternoons. Known for its potent martinis, Marlena's has been around more than a decade. The building itself has a bit of history, as it survived the 1906 earthquake, used to be a speakeasy and was open during Prohibition. The music covers everything from Nirvana to Frank Sinatra. There's a pool table in back and a piano bar Thursday to Saturday evenings, starting Thanksgiving and lasting until spring. 488 Hayes St. (415) 864-6672.

Place Pigalle: Locals come to Place Pigalle for its boutique wines and microbrews, as well as the homey atmosphere. Both the front and back rooms offer comfortable couch seating, and the back room features a pool table and installations from local artists, which change monthly. The choice of music depends on the mood of the bartender. On weekends, the bar can get quite crowded, but at other times, Place Pigalle has more of a lounge vibe. 520 Hayes St., (415) 552-2671.

Rickshaw Stop: Long, tall curtains of crushed red velvet highlight the spacious interior of this friendly, inviting music club and cool, groovy bar on a quiet block. Genuine rickshaws dot the corners of the huge downstairs room and upstairs loft, while the rest of the decor is a hodgepodge of mod furniture, lush fabrics, gentle candles and exotic hanging lamps. The crowd and the mood is somewhere between indie-rock hipster and downtown dot-com, but it's all good, fine and down-home friendly. This is a place that's glad to have your company -- there's not a scowl to be found. Dating from 1927, the space was formerly a commercial soundstage and before that an auto garage, but the Rickshaw crew has done a fantastic job transforming it into a funky, warm, arty and altogether inviting hangout. (Kurt Wolff) 155 Fell St., (415) 861-2011.

WHERE TO STAY:

Hayes Valley Inn: What used to be a seedy residential hotel was transformed a few years ago into a cozy 32-room, European-style neighborhood hotel. Hayes Valley Inn's rooms are small but comfortable. Bathrooms are shared on each floor, and there is a communal kitchen with full amenities. Rates fall in the $60 to $100 range, with Continental breakfast included. 417 Gough St., (415) 431-9131.
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