San Francisco, CA
Inner RichmondThe Inner Richmond is a practical and comfortable neighborhood with a citywide reputation for fantastic restaurants. It's often called "New Chinatown" because it's almost as full of Chinese groceries and restaurants and Cantonese chatter as Grant Avenue, but most tourists overlook it, as did early S.F. residents, who wrote off the entire Richmond as a "Great Sand Waste" between the City and the sea.
The Richmond did almost became a miniature Colma, housing the municipal and Chinese cemeteries. But after World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, Irish and White Russian immigrants and Middle Eastern Jews bought homes in the area. Two waves of immigration after World War II brought Japanese residents and added to the sizable Chinese population.
Since then, the Inner Richmond has become a bustling multicultural soup with cute stucco houses, grand mansions, easy access to the Presidio, a plethora of inexpensive eateries and a good variety of shops. The Richmond lacks the hype of the Mission, and the fog does roll in a little earlier in the afternoon, but on its main dining and shopping drag, Clement Street, you'll find great Burmese, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean restaurants, Chinese bakeries that sell siu mai (steamed meat dumplings), BBQ pork buns and other dim sum for under a dollar and produce markets that offer bitter melon, several kinds of choy (greens) or 10 lemons for a dollar. Browse the stacks at one of the city's best bookstores, suck down some Hong Kong-style pearl tea (complete with marble-size tapioca balls) or sit down for a French bistro meal, and you'll come to appreciate the modest neighborhood that has sprouted from the sand dunes.
Golden Gate Park
You can drive into the park on 8th or 10th avenues or at Arguello, but when you're as close as the Richmond, why not just walk? Stow Lake, the museums and the Japanese Tea Garden are all an easy, pleasant amble from the Richmond.
The Presidio: The Presidio, now a national park, was the longest-lasting continuously used military post in the United States, and it boasts military buildings dating from 1848 in a variety of styles, from Spanish Colonial to Georgian. It's also home to many native California plant species, and some rare birds and animals. Joggers and dog walkers can follow portions of the marked Bay Area Ridge trail or discover secret tracks through the cypress and eucalyptus trees. The Presidio is accessible by car from Arguello or Lombard streets, Marina Boulevard or 25th Avenue, or you can get through on foot or by bike at 14th or 15th avenues.
April in Paris: Custom-made leather goods, including fantastic purses and wallets, can be coveted from the window but touched by appointment only in this posh boutique. 55 Clement St. (at Arguello Street), (415) 750-9910.
Bargain Bank: When a merchant goes out of business or wants to remove overstocked merchandise, most of the leftovers end up here at sharply reduced prices. The inventory changes rapidly, but gourmet- and ethnic-food products, high-end cosmetics and designer perfumes are always best buys. 599 Clement St. (at 7th Avenue), (415) 221-4852.
Cheap Pete's Frame Factory: Frame freaks will appreciate the selection and the low prices at Cheap Pete's; you can often find the same frames you'd see in other housewares stores, but for half the price. 4249 Geary Blvd. (between 6th and 7th avenues), (415) 221-4720.
Chinese Herb Co.: All your non-Western herbal needs, from ginseng to peony, plus an assortment of dried fruit, nuts and beans. 918 Clement St., (415) 387-1892.
Go Figure: Nice, casual clothes in stylish fabrics (lots of linen and rayon) for sizes 14 and up. 124 Clement St. (at 2nd Avenue), (415) 876-4924.
Green Apple Books: Green Apple has two almost-next-door stores: one for fiction, magazines and music, another with two stories, creaky wood floors and several rooms stuffed full of everything else, including books on tape and software. It also carries a good selection of recently published books on remainder. The used-book selection is one of the best in the city. Main store: 506 Clement St. (at 6th Avenue), (415) 387-2272; fiction/music: 520 Clement St.
Growell Company: Such a blah name for such a cool shop! Kids and collectors will go ape over walls full of action figures from "Star Wars" films, "South Park," "Tomb Raider"and "The Simpsons." 330 Clement St. (at 4th Avenue), (415) 221-6788.
Haig's Delicacies: This is definitely the only place within a 20-block radius that sells Cadbury chocolates, Hob Nobs and other McVitie's treats. It also has trays of Turkish Delight and a variety of Dutch, Middle Eastern and Indian groceries. 642 Clement St. (at 8th Avenue), (415) 752-6283.
Heroes Club: This shop caters to kids and collectors and stocks all manner of memorabilia and action figures fit for Japanimation and sci-fi enthusiasts. 840 Clement St. (at 9th Avenue), (415) 387-4552.
Home Hardware: This place is a great example of Richmond practicality. Mops, sponges, feather dusters, plastic hangers and zillions of other useful items for the home are sold at the lowest possible prices. 335 Clement St. (at 5th Avenue), (415) 876-3678.
Kamei Household Wares: Japantown wares at Richmond prices beckon shoppers into this unassuming shop. Need a cheap plastic storage container, a mop or a mini rice cooker? Kamei has it. The sister store, Kamei Restaurant Supply, at 507 Clement St. -- call (415) 666-3699 -- supplies restaurants and avid chefs. 606 Clement St. (at 5th Avenue), (415) 666-3688.
Kumquat Art & Home Accessories: Keverne Tuomey sees her store as an art gallery for the neighborhood. She welcomes first-time art buyers with affordable paintings by artists just getting started, and also carries functional art for the home, wedding favors and accessories, jewelry and children's toys, mostly handmade by local artists and American companies. (-SF Chronicle and SF Gate) 9 Clement St. (at Arguello), (415) 752- 2140.
Park Life: This store and gallery combo features innovative group shows and a trove of art-related books and clothing. 220 Clement St., (415) 386-7275.
Tayeko Gift Shop: The stock in this tiny shop changes as fast as a 10-year-old's taste in trading cards. At present it consists of Dragonball, Pokemon, Sailor Moon and Sanrio merchandise. 544 Clement St. (415) 668-9968.
Tokyo-Ya: Shop for Japanese groceries, candy, soft drinks and cosmetic products in the heart of the Richmond, and giggle over the strange English translations of Japanese brand names: Naive brand hair rinse, Meltykiss chocolates or Pocky for Men, chocolate-dipped cracker sticks that apparently aren't meant for women. 554 Clement St. (at 7th Avenue), (415) 379-9088.
Angkor Wat: Why should the cuisines of Thailand and Vietnam get all the credit? Cambodian food is just as tasty as the biggies of Southeast Asian cooking, and Angkor Wat is a good place to find this out for yourself. 4217 Geary Blvd. (at 6th Avenue), (415) 221-7887.
Bistro Clement: What's better than one neighborhood French restaurant? Two neighborhood French restaurants. Laurent Legendre, owner of Clementine has opened this less expensive and more casual restaurant right across the street. Rustic French dishes are at home in the comfortable dining room, which is painted a rich dark orange and embellished with a large mirror. The tile floor and Belle Epoque posters contribute to the French bistro feel. A covered patio seats an additional 45 and will eventually have heaters for year-round dining. Wines are modestly priced. (-SF Chronicle and SF Gate) 127 Clement St. (between Second and Third avenues), (415) 387-6966.
The Blue Danube: Okay, so it's not a Viennese coffeehouse, but the Blue Danube offers good coffee, decent breakfast and lunch foods, a hip, youthful clientele and a great view of busy Clement Street. The place has several beers and cider on tap, plus wine and enough quiet that you can read what you just bought down the street at Green Apple Books. 306 Clement St. (at 4th Avenue), (415) 221-9041.
Brothers Restaurant: Grill your own dinner at the table at this popular Korean BBQ joint; even if you think you can't cook, the results are delicious. 4128 Geary Blvd. (between 5th and 6th avenues), (415) 387-7991.
Burma Superstar: Few of us can point out Burma (now called Myanmar) on a map, much less name the distinguishing flavors of Burmese cuisine, but if you like Thai, Indian and Chinese flavors, Burmese will definitely please your taste buds. Don't miss the Rainbow Salad, a wildly popular dish composed of 22 different ingredients, among them two kinds of rice noodles, wheat-flour noodles, bean-thread noodles, crispy fried garlic, diced potatoes, tofu, dried shrimp, fried onions, green papaya, roasted chilies, crushed yellow beans, cilantro, won ton chips and cabbage. 309 Clement St. (at 5th Avenue), (415) 387-2147.
Chapeau!: Sample classic French-bistro fare, like cassoulet, duck a l'orange, coq au vin and creme brul�e for dessert. Top it off with Beaumes-de-Venise, a heavenly dessert wine from the Vaucluse in France. C'est magnifique! 1408 Clement St.
Cinderella Bakery: Cold Russian nights require one to have plenty of meat on one's bones, and the offerings at Cinderella show you how to put it there. Piroshki stuffed with fried cabbage and onions, fish or meat pirogi and forget-the-diet hamantaschen undoubtedly keep patrons very warm at night. Eat in or take out. 436 Balboa St. (at 6th Avenue), (415) 751-9690.
Clementine: Craving quail or a simple entrecote (translation: steak)? Step into la belle France and enjoy classic French dishes (the menu changes) in elegant surroundings and at reasonable prices. Well-appointed tables and retro French advertisements on the walls give Clementine an authentic bistro look. Reservations are highly recommended, and the menu is prix fixe or � la carte. The owner also runs the less expensive and more casual across the street. 126 Clement St., (at 2nd Avenue), (415) 387-0408.
Good Luck Dim Sum: This is not a fancy dim sum restaurant with gleaming carts of food. Ignore the shabby decor and get in line with the hordes of regulars. Grab a pink menu on your way to make ordering easier once you get in. Don't miss the sparkling fresh shrimp dumplings, fried taro with pork, or chive dumplings. Carry out and take it a few blocks to Golden Gate Park, or, if you can't wait, grab a seat at one of the spare tables in the back. (-SF Chronicle) 736 Clement St. (near Eighth Avenue), (415) 386-3388. Open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday-Monday.
Java Source: Those who like nicotine with their coffee but don't like to be completely exposed to the elements will relish Java Source's partially covered, mostly windproof front section. The coffee isn't bad, either, and it's a great place to soak in the true flavor of the Richmond. 343 Clement St., (415) 387-8025.
Katia's Russian Tea Room: This is a cozy place to wolf down borscht, chicken Pozharski, beef stroganoff and other Slavic delights. 600 Fifth Ave., (415) 668-9292.
King of Thai Noodle House: The pair of popular noodle shops that operate under this name serve cheap, tasty Thai noodles and soups in a no-frills atmosphere. 639 and 346 Clement St., (415) 752-5198.
Kowloon Tong Dessert Cafe: Teens and 20-somethings, usually on their way to or from a club, perch on turquoise and orange armchairs, giggling and gossiping as they devour Hong Kong style desserts like mango with black sticky rice, sesame dumplings and egg puffs, while a flat-screen TV alternates between Hong Kong music videos and "Saturday Night Live." Specialties include steamed snow frog fat (rumored to be good for the complexion) with papaya or coconut. Open until 2 a.m. on weekends, 1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday. (-SF Chronicle and SF Gate) 393 Seventh Ave. (at Geary), (415) 876-1289.
Mandalay: Serving San Francisco since 1984, this reliable Southeast Asian place offers an amazing selection of salads, soups and stir-fries, a solid combination of Burmese and Mandarin cuisines. Try the remarkable tea leaf or green papaya salads. (-SF Chronicle) 4348 California St. (at Sixth Avenue), (415) 386-3896.
Namu: Japanese, Korean, and California cuisines merge in the wide-open kitchen of this neighborhood eatery. Specialties include grilled meats (spicy pork ribs and kalbi-style skirt steak) and shared plates (mushroom dumplings, mung bean cakes). 439 Balboa St., near Fifth Ave., (415) 386- 8332.
Natori Sushi: The idea of all-you-can-eat sushi may frighten you or delight you, depending on your budget and your level of restaurant-induced cynicism. However, it's hard to argue with Natori fans; $16 (dinner) or $9.75 (lunch) buys you a go at the buffet, which boasts sushi and seafood, including shrimp, scallops, squid and crab in the shell. There's even kimchi and a sparse Chinese-food buffet. 327 Balboa St. (at 4th Avenue), (415) 387-2565.
The Richmond: More expensive than the typical neighborhood restaurant, but thoughtful touches -- such as the demitasse cup of homemade warm apple cider that begins each visit -- give The Richmond an extra edge. Whenever possible, the California cuisine is made with high-quality ingredients from local purveyors. Starters are ambitious but entrees are more rustic. Desserts are one of the high points of the evening. 615 Balboa St. (between Seventh and Eighth avenues), (415) 379-8988.
Roadside Barbecue: In a neighborhood known for Korean barbecue, this American joint stands out for it's slow-cooked meats and Southern-themed side dishes such as red baked beans and sweet potato fries. Takeout family packs are perfect for large groups. 3751 Geary Blvd., at Second Ave., (415) 221-7427.
Spanish Fly Tapas & Wine Bar: Executive chef Barney Brown (who has worked at Betelnut and Basque) has created a menu of traditional tapas, as they were intended -- simple bar snacks to be nibbled between sips of the house sangria. Cold tapas are basic, while tapas calientes are more substantial. The space has the feel of a sultry Iberian Peninsula. A lounge area dominates one corner, with clutches of friends perched on comfy banquettes against vibrantly colored padded walls; the area is also strewn with low-slung seats and tables, so you can snack while you socialize. (-SF Chronicle) 3300 Geary Blvd. (at Parker Avenue), (415) 668-6934.
Tawan's: With its sunny yellow paint, wonderful art and pleasant staff, Tawan's is a tiny, placid haven away from Geary's rushing traffic. The pad se ew is less oily than at other Thai joints, and the creamy, spicy tom kha gai is graced with generous dollops of coconut milk. 4403 Geary Blvd. (at 8th Avenue), (415) 751-5175.
Toy Boat Dessert Cafe: The interior of this whimsical hangout is decorated with loads of cool toys you never got for Christmas, plus newer classics like talking Pee Wee Herman dolls from 1997 and 2000. The shop also sells Pez dispensers featuring Simpsons, Looney Tunes and Peanuts characters. Oh, and there are cakes, sandwiches, smoothies, malteds and coffee drinks, not to mention Double Rainbow ice-cream cones as well, but it's hard to concentrate on dessert with your eyes on all those toys. 401 Clement St. (at 5th Avenue), (415) 751-7505.
Troya: Billing itself as a "meze bar," this restaurant has a menu that veers all over the Mediterranean, with everything from Middle Eastern spreads to Greek salads, plus some dishes not seen in the Bay Area. Many diners make a meal almost entirely of meze, the Middle Eastern appetizers that are perfect for sharing. On Tuesday nights, live music adds even more to the festive atmosphere. (-SF Chronicle) 349 Clement St. (at Fifth Avenue), (415) 379-6000.
Wing Lee Bakery and BBQ Restaurant: At $3.25 for a two-item special that is large enough to last for two meals, nothing can beat Wing Lee. There are some vegetarian dishes, but you have to be able to eat them while surrounded by some very cooked animals. Then try the large assortment of baked items at the bakery next door. (--SF Chronicle) Bakery: 503 Clement St. (at Sixth Avenue); (415) 668-9481; BBQ: 501 Clement St.; (415) 831-7883. Bakery: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily; BBQ: Lunch and early dinner daily. Cash only.
Ireland's 32: Named for the Emerald Isle's 32 counties, this old-school pub pulls pints about as good as any you can get outside County Kildare. 3920 Geary Blvd. (at 3rd Avenue), (415) 386-6173.
The Other Place: Neighborhood cocktail dives like this one are getting harder and harder to come by in San Francisco's increasingly upscale market. This one's been written up a lot for possessing that elusive, grubby cachet that many Mission-area bars used to have. 408 Clement St. (at 5th Avenue), (415) 831-7522.
Pig and Whistle: Everything about the Pig and Whistle screams "English pub!" from the dark wood tables, floor and long bar to the pub cricket team to the regulars watching soccer matches on the telly. The kitchen fixes up great pub grub -- fish-and-chips, bangers and mash, shepherd's pie (come in for lunch and score a ton of eats for $5) -- and the bartenders pour a good pint, be it a perfect Guinness, Boddington's or Newcastle. Plus, the jukebox brims with great English acts, from the Rolling Stones to the Smiths to Tricky. Gamers should head straight to the back room, where they'll find a pool table (50 cents a game!), pinball, trivia and darts. Great happy-hour prices, too -- $2 a pint. -- Karen Reardanz, SF Gate. 2801 Geary Blvd., (415) 885-4779.
The Plough & the Stars: Anyone looking to hear live Irish music will find a little bit of heaven in this pub. Local, upcoming and famed Irish musicians make their way to the Plough's stage often, and have been doing so for over 20 years. Set dancers also make appearances on Thursdays, much to the delight of the bars' regulars, both old and young. Pool, darts and perfectly poured Guinness round out this esteemed neighborhood haven. -- Josh Wilson, SF Gate. 116 Clement Street (at 2nd Avenue), (415) 751-1122.
Rohan Lounge: Rohan is the only bar in the city dedicated to soju -- a Korean liquor distilled from rice, barley and sweet potato, which tastes crisp like sake but contains much more alcohol -- about 50 percent. They serve it straight up, on the rocks or in any of a dozen unique cocktails. RoHan also serves sweet nigori sake and makuri, unfiltered Korean rice wine. DJs spin a few nights a week, everything from house to hip-hop and, some nights, even ska or reggae. (- Marlene Goldman, special to SF Gate) 3809 Geary Blvd. (415) 221-5095.