South of Market

South of Market

San Francisco, CA

South of Market

South of Market, sprawling from the Embarcadero to Eleventh Street, between Market and Townsend. The neighborhood is a patchwork of warehouses, swanky nightspots, residential hotels, art spaces, loft apartments, furniture showrooms and the tenacious Internet companies that survived the tech market collapse. Although a lot of building has gone on in recent years, it is still not densely developed. You can walk several desolate blocks before suddenly finding a hopping restaurant.

Most of the action can be found in three general areas: by South Park and the Giants ballpark, around the SF MOMA and Yerba Buena gardens, and over by Folsom and Eleventh Street. SoMa, as it's known, sounds a little like a SoHo wannabe, and it does have a strong downtown vibe. However, the name has its roots in the old nickname "South of the Slot," referring to its position on the "wrong side" of the Market Street cable car track when it was an industrial district of factories and Gold Rush immigrant workers.

These days the industry most associated with South of Market has to do with that other Gold Rush: the dot com boom. Once buzzing with purple-haired programmers and hobnobbing young executives, South Park is noticeably more subdued since the Internet companies started closing shop, and probably all the more pleasant for it. The grassy square is a nice place to walk your dog or eat a sandwich, and is bordered by several good shops and restaurants. In the summer the area gets more foot traffic as packs of Giants fans head for the ballpark. A handful of new restaurants have also opened to serve this crowd.

The western end of the district is the most industrial, and is dominated by huge wholesale marts and superstores like Costco and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Originally this made it an ideal zone for loud nightclubs, but as SoMa has become more residential some of the clubs have had trouble with noise complaints. However, this hasn't kept a crop of newcomers like Butter and Wish from opening in the past few years. The stretch along Eleventh and Folsom is the heart of the gay leather and S&M scene, which has its roots in the Folsom Street "Miracle Mile" of gay clubs and bathhouses in the '70s. This is also the site of the annual fetish bonanza of the Folsom Street Fair.

The area around Market and Third Street is more well heeled, influenced by the nearby Financial District and conventions at the Moscone Center. Several of the city's arts organizations are located here, including the SF MOMA, the Center for the Arts at Yerba Gardens and the California Historical Society. It has a bohemian undercurrent, with the museums, several independent bookstores, the line of artsy clubbers waiting to get into the gallery and club 111 Minna, and students from the Academy of Art slouching around the Utrecht art supply store on New Montgomery.

South of Market has been under redevelopment for decades -- the original plan for the Yerba Buena complex was first submitted in 1966. New plans are now underway to make SoMa more accessible from the Market Street shopping district. A pedestrian promenade, Yerba Buena Lane, will connect Market Street to Yerba Buena Gardens, and a $380 million Bloomingdale's shopping center is going into the old Emporium store, encouraging shoppers to "cross the tracks" and venture south of Union Square.

The SoMa district is large and spread out, so if you do find yourself South of the Slot, it helps to know where you're going. The zone around Sixth and Mission can be sketchy if you're walking alone, and at the very least the unschooled wanderer could come away with an impression of nothing more than highway overpasses and warehouses. Target your exploration in the pockets of culture around Yerba Buena, South Park and Eleventh Street, and you'll be sure to stumble upon lots of hidden treasures and funky urban charm.

Sights and Culture

Alice Street Community Gardens: This small but surprisingly serene urban garden is kept and manicured by 164 seniors and younger disabled people from the neighborhood, who each get a plot for creative expression. Everything from Chinese vegetables to roses and daisies grows here, watched over by a 9-story painting entitled "Manila Village Mural." The garden is open during daylight with wooden tables for picnics. At the intersection of Bonifacio and Lapu Lapu (in the blocks bordered by Fourth and Third, Folsom and Harrison).

California Academy of Sciences: This is a temporary location until the new $370 million museum in Golden Gate Park is finished in 2008. Some of the larger animals, such as the alligators and big sharks, had to be farmed out for lack of space, but everything else made the move to the new digs. Open every day, including holidays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free admission on the first Wednesday of each month. 875 Howard St. (between 4th and 5th), (415) 321-8000. (Web Site)

California Historical Society: The organization's museum galleries showcase the history of the Golden State through photography, manuscripts, posters and artwork. Recent exhibits have looked at sunken Gold Rush treasure, citrus label art and California as it was in 1900. The North Baker Research Library is open to the public, and there is also a museum store. 678 Mission St., (415) 357-1848.

Cartoon Art Museum: Charles Schulz supplied the funds that allowed this museum to officially set up shop, bestowing his blessing on its mission to preserve and exhibit cartoon art "in all its forms." Special exhibits have looked at subjects such as superheroes in comics, great women cartoonists.

Folsom Street Fair: The annual grand finale of Leather Pride Week, this celebration of the leather and fetish culture features equipment vendors, demonstrations of safe BDSM techniques and kinky souls trotting around in studded leather harnesses. Takes place the last Sunday in September on Folsom St., between Seventh and Twelfth Sts.

Fourth Street Bridge and Francis "Lefty" O'Doul Bridge: Both of these working drawbridges were designed by J.B. Strauss, whose firm, the Bascule Bridge Co., later became famous for erecting the Golden Gate Bridge. The Fourth Street Bridge, erected in 1917 and also known as the Peter R. Maloney Bridge, is the oldest operating bascule bridge in the state and has been determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The two-lane structure includes a two-story operator house, a watchman's house and an electrical house. The Francis "Lefty" O'Doul Bridge, 17 years younger, is a block away and still has the original bridge operator's cottages at each end and is raised and lowered occasionally to let boat traffic in and out of Mission Channel.

Museum of the African Diaspora: A decade in the works, MoAD explores the culture, history and contributions of people of African ancestry around the world. Rather than collect art or display masks and other ethnographic objects, MoAD presents exhibitions of work by contemporary artists of African descent, as well as permanent multimedia presentations and programs about the origins and movement of the African diaspora, how people adapted to new environments and transformed themselves and the cultures they interacted with in the process. (-SF Chronicle) 685 Mission St. (at Third Street), (415) 358-7200.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: Inside the striking building is a modern art collection that boasts excellent touring exhibits, films and photography. The permanent collection includes works by Pollack, Warhol, Matisse, Picasso and O'Keeffe, as well as artists with a connection to the Bay Area, such as Diebenkorn and Thiebaud. Have an espresso at the relaxed café before tackling the top-notch gift shop full of sleek gadgets and glossy art books. Half-price on Thursday nights, from 6 to 9 pm; the first Tuesday of every month is free. 151 3rd St., (415) 357-4000.

AT&T Park: The classically designed stadium boasts a waterfront promenade, an elaborate playground for kids, a free viewing area and, of course, the thrill of the game. 24 Willie Mays Plaza, (415) 972-2000.

SF Camerawork: A non-profit arts organization established in 1974 that provides gallery space, lectures, educational programs and more for the artist community. Admission to the gallery is free, but the bookstore may inspire you to part with some cash. 1246 Folsom St., (415) 863-1001.

South Park: Once upon a time, South Park was built as an upscale residential square, modeled on London's Berkeley Square. In the '90s this oval park went from drug-dealer central to the epicenter of the "New Media" revolution, the place where many a dot-com deal was sealed. It's much quieter now, but still a good place sit on a sunny day, get a cup of coffee and do a little shopping. Bordered by Second, Third, Bryant and Brannan streets.

Yerba Buena Gardens: Located across the street from the SF MOMA, this complex provides a cultural focal point for the South of Market area with two blocks of museums, activities and peaceful gardens. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, located at Third and Mission, hosts visual art exhibits, performances, and other events. At Fourth and Howard is Zeum, an interactive multimedia and technology museum for kids and teens. There's also a bowling alley, an indoor ice-skating rink with huge windows looking onto the downtown skyline and a painstakingly restored carousel from San Francisco's old amusement park, Playland-at-the-Beach. Bordered by Third, Fourth, Mission and Folsom Sts.


A Motion Studio: This edgy clothing boutique designs well-cut, affordable pieces with an urban look. Fabrics tend toward stretch, dark denim and wearable synthetics. Look for the signature orange windbreaker hanging over the door. 440 Brannan, (415) 957-1411.

Adolph Gasser: A one-stop nirvana for photo geeks, this huge store, boasting the largest inventory of its kind in Northern California, is stocked with everything a professional (or a wannabe) could ask for. Also rents still and video cameras. 181 Second St., (415) 495-3852.

Alexander Book Co.: It may look modest from the street, but inside this independent bookstore offers three floors of intelligently selected titles. Special focuses include children's books, African-American topics and graphic design. Check the calendar for author readings. 50 Second St., (415) 495-2992.

Ann Sacks Tile & Stone: Features handmade tiles from around the world made out of various materials, including terra-cotta, ceramic, marble and slate, and it also sells antique tiles. 2 Henry Adams, Suite 125 (at Division Street), (415) 252-5889.

Foto-Grafix Books: The photography bookshop formerly known as the Friends of Photography Bookstore continues to stock a range of photography books, manuals, and books on alternative comics. It's especially noted for its wide selection of Ansel Adams books, prints and gifts. You can even make your purchases online. 655 Mission Street, (415) 495-7242.

General Bead: Prepare to be overwhelmed: the walls of this funky bead shop are paved with sheets of all the beads and beading supplies in its extensive stock. Write up your order and a clerk will fetch your purchases from the shelves behind the counter. 637 Minna, between Seventh and Eighth Sts, (415) 255-2323.)

Isda & Co.: The spare decor of this shop echoes the aesthetic of its clothing for men and women and its home accessories collection. Clothes are cut in loose, simple shapes, in natural fabrics and colors. Look for luxe items like silky pajamas, deep-pile bathrobes, minimalist vases and polished wooden boxes. Also visit the outlet a few doors down. 29 South Park, (415) 512-0313.

Jeremy's: You never know what treasure you might uncover at Jeremy's, a purveyor of marked-down designer clothing. Velvet Prada tuxedos and floor-length tulle ballgowns, at startlingly low prices, have been known to lurk among the racks. Frequent staples include Petit Bateau T-shirts, cashmere sweaters and soap and body products by Fresh. 2 South Park, (415) 882-4929.

Ma Maison Home Accents: A gracious couple -- he's American, she's French -- runs this housewares and gifts shop, characterized by contemporary design and a distinct Gallic flair. Stand-outs include items like leather lunchboxes in turquoise and tangerine, vivid curlieque "Dr. Seuss" lamps and children's gifts emblazoned with Babar or Tintin. You'll also find stylish dishware, linens and flatware. 592 3rd St., (415) 777-5370.

MacAdam Computers: A place where Macintosh users can go and bask in the glow of so many Apple products. Good selection of gadgets, graphics software and hardware. 1062 Folsom St., (415) 863-6222.

Metreon: Sony's shopping and entertainment complex has new owners after years of steady decline, so expect some major changes in 2006-2007. Though it failed to realize its potential as a technological playland, there are still a few decent draws: the 15-screen AMC Loews Theatres, the Sony Style Store, the PlayStation store and the arcade, Chronicle Books, Jillian's sports bar and restaurant, LJ's Martini Club and Grille, Firewood and other quick-serve restaurants, Starbucks and Just Desserts. 101 Fourth St., (415) 369-6000. (

Podesta Baldocchi: This charming florist shop is a relic of old San Francisco, now at a new location but in business for more than 100 years. The old Grant Avenue shop had a cameo in Hitchcock's "Vertigo" as the place where the haunted heroine bought herself an iconic rose bouquet. 410 Harriet St., off Brannan between Sixth and Seventh Sts, (415) 346-1300. (

Stormy Leather: A great place to shop for the Folsom Street Fair, year-round. Men's and women's leather jackets, chaps, vests, corsets and harnesses dominate the offerings. 1158 Howard St., (415) 626-1672.


21st Amendment Brewery Café: That would be the amendment that repealed Prohibition, a boon to any self-respecting brew pub. Stop by for a house-made pint of something like South Park Blonde, or sample a seasonal brew (the watermelon beer is a summer favorite). The lofty space also houses a chic dining room with a menu of classy comfort food. Especially hopping on game days. 563 Second St., (415) 369-0900. (

Acme Chophouse: Upscale steak house in SBC Park offers excellent steaks and side dishes and an exciting wine list. (-SF Chronicle) Dinner 5:30-10:30 p.m. daily, lunch during game days, extended hours during night games. 24 Willie Mays Plaza (at Third Street), (415) 644-0240. (

Asia SF: Pan-Asian-Californian fare battles for attention with the tall, glamorous gender illusionists who serve it, and despite the competition the food manages to shine. Plush surroundings provide the perfect backdrop for the sexy and campy waiters. 201 9th St. (at Howard Street), (415) 255-2742

Azie: Created for the young, high-tech crowd, this sister to Lulu restaurant (see below) has had to readjust for the times. So, gone are the DJs and down are the prices. Service is family style and a new bar menu presents more lower-priced options. 826 Folsom St., (415) 538-0918.

Bacar Restaurant & Wine Salon: Though well respected for its American-Mediterranean menu, this polished restaurant is best known for its impressive wine list. Check their Web site for the schedule of live jazz performances in the bar. 448 Brannan St., (415) 904-4100.

Beard Papa's: Inside, the scent of baked pastry dough is heavy in the air. Employees pump light, creamy vanilla filling into crisp golden shells, while customers hover at the counter watching the action. The flaky pastries can be purchased by the piece, half-dozen or dozen, and puffs are filled to order, ensuring freshness. Bring an appetite -- the airy sweets are super-sized, and the crumbly shell makes sharing difficult. And if vanilla's not your thing, wait until mid-summer to make the trip. Other flavors like chocolate, strawberry and green tea -- plus cheesecake sticks, eclairs, and a chocolate fondant cake -- will be available then. (-SF Chronicle) 99 Yerba Buena Lane (between Third and Fourth Streets on Mission),(415) 978-9972.

Brain Wash Cafe & Laundromat: Wash away your cares with a strong cup of coffee, or take a load off while you get the laundry done and tuck into a simple meal. Live music is featured some evenings. 1122 Folsom (415) 861-3663.

The Butler & the Chef: This heart-breakingly Parisian cafe offers good coffee, bistro classics like the croque monsieur, and crisp, buttery croissants. 155 South Park Ave. (415) 896-2075. (

Caffe Roma: Roma patriarch Sergio Azzollini brings the convivial, family-style aura he cultivated for 30 years at his North Beach coffeehouse to this unlikely corner of SoMa. The fresh daily menu of house-made Italian soups, salads, panini and desserts features artisan bread brought in daily from Panorama Bakery on Florida Street, prosciutto from Ital Foods in South San Francisco, balsamic vinegar from Modena, and even olive oil (available for sale) imported from Puglia, Italy. 885 Bryant St., (415) 296-7662. Closed weekends. (

Canton: Some of best dim sum in the city. Don't miss the chicken thighs, dumplings and bok choy in oyster sauce. (-SF Chronicle) 655 Folsom St. (near Third St.), (415) 495-3064.

Caffe Centro: South Park's staple for a quick bite at lunch, this breezy cafe uses mostly local, organic ingredients and draws a clientele of local tech workers. Try French-influenced sandwiches and salads, or a rich brownie or pecan square. 102 South Park Ave. (415) 882-1500. (

Caffé Museo: SF MOMA's airy sidewalk cafe is gaining a reputation as a destination unto itself. The moderately priced sandwiches, salads and pizzas are impressive for a museum cafe, and can be enjoyed inside or out with, if you like, a nice glass of wine. Open every day except Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Open late Thursdays until 9 p.m. 151 Third Street, (415) 357-4500. (

Chaat Cafe: This casually vibrant Indian restaurant offers irresistible naan, with one side browned and crisp and the other fluffy. The naan serves as a wrap for sandwiches filled with chicken and lamb, well-spiced. Also noteworthy are pakoras, cheese, chicken or catfish encased in a golden chickpea batter. Although lunch can be hectic, servers are friendly and helpful. (-SF Chronicle) 320 Third St. (at Folsom), (415) 979-9946. (

Chez Spencer: Unfussy French food, which won Laurent Katgely praise when he was the chef at Foreign Cinema and then at Alfy's in San Anselmo. An open kitchen and enormous wood-fired oven add to the sophisticated rural mood of the room, which is topped by handsome curved wooden beams and decorated with Sherry Olsen's captivating drawings in charcoal and paint on paper. 82 14th St. (at Folsom), (415) 864-2191. (

Goat Hill Pizza: This second location of the Potrero Hill favorite is offering the traditionally Monday-only all-you-can-eat pizza night every day. It's a good way to avoid the lines at the Potrero Hill original. (-SF Chronicle) 715 Harrison (at Third Street), (415) 974-1303. (

Harvest Urban Market: A second outlet of the Harvest Ranch Market, which has been supplying the Castro neighborhood with groceries and a fantastic salad bar for more than 15 years. The new store has six times the retail space of the original market and a larger variety of natural and specialty groceries, organic produce and vegetarian offerings. Hot meals, soups and salads are available to take home or eat in the airy cafe. Cafe opens at 7 a.m.; market is open 8:30 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. (-SF Chronicle) 191 Eighth St. (at Howard), (415) 621-1000.

Haveli: Features Hindu vegetarian and vegan food, but people who think they need meat with their meal should be able to find something to like. A speciality is thali, a rotating menu featuring an all-you-can-eat ensemble of soup, entrees, hand-rolled breads and Indian sweets put together by the chef with attention to seasonality and cultural balance. The food is from Gujarat, a state northwest of Bombay, with some Southern Indian specialities thrown in. And if you're planning an office party, they also sell a variety of starters, like samosas, by the pound. (--SF Chronicle) 35 Sixth St., (415) 348-1381.

Henry's Hunan Restaurant: The spice is right and the portions generous at this comfortable, friendly venue. Smoked ham with green beans and country-style vegetables have just enough heat to tease the palate, but not enough to call the fire department. (-SF Chronicle) 110 Natoma St. (at Second Street); (415) 456-4999. Open 11:30-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Also at 674 Sacramento St., 924 Sansome St. and 1016 Bryant St. (

Koh Samui and the Monkey: The distinctive Thai menu features many well-executed classics such as green papaya salad, spring rolls with shrimp, mint and noodles and tom ka gai, plus unique items like crushed scallops mounded with sesame seeds and pumpkin curry with red chiles, galangal, kaffir lime and basil in coconut milk. Shrimp with asparagus should be on a diner's must-order list. The loftlike room, soothingly painted in green and gold, has windows on two walls and is dominated by Buddhas, angels and other statues. (-SF Chronicle and SF Gate) 415 Brannan St. (near Third), (415) 369-0007. (

LuLu: This nationally award-winning restaurant is housed in the vaulted space of an exposed-beam converted warehouse. Choose from Mediterranean-influenced dishes, pizzas, pastas, and rotisserie items. The staff is cool, but welcoming. 816 Folsom St. (between Fourth and Fifth streets), (415) 495-5775.

Mitchell's Ice Cream: Fans of Mitchell's Ice Cream, a longtime San Francisco favorite, can finally get fresh scoops somewhere other than the store at 29th Street and San Jose Avenue. This little 16-flavor scoop shop, opened in 2002, makes for some great downtown ice cream breaks. Mitchell's has been around for almost 50 years, making its mark with unusual flavors like mango, avocado, purple yam and a Chronicle Food staff favorite, baby coconut. Traditionalists can still get chocolate, mint and outrageously rich praline and nut. -- SF Chronicle 825 Mission, (near Third Street), (415) 495-4237.

Oola Restaurant & Bar: "San Francisco bistro cuisine," featuring organic meats and produce and artisan cheeses and wines, is offered until 1 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 12 a.m. Sunday-Monday. The intimate, narrow space is framed by exposed brick walls, and sheer rust-colored fabric hanging from the ceiling separates the booths from the rest of the dining room and bar. (-SF Chronicle and SF Gate) 860 Folsom St. (between Fourth and Fifth streets), (415) 995-2061. (

Organic Coffee Company Cafe: This bustling java joint is located on the ground floor of San Francisco City College's downtown campus, a stone's throw from the new Westfield Centre on Mission Street. The coffee comes from the San Leandro-based Rogers Family Co.'s very own organic coffee farms in Panama. In addition to offering up tasty lattes, mochas and a variety of fresh-squeezed juices, the cafe also serve freshly baked pastries and sandwiches prepared daily by City College culinary arts students. (-SF Chronicle) 88 Fourth St., (415) 512-7436.

Paragon Restaurant & Bar: Good, well-priced food near SBC Park. Try the roast chicken with macaroni and cheese. Service can be frustrating. (-SF Chronicle) 701 Second St., (415) 537-9020. (

Park: Formerly called Curve Restaurant & Bar, Park has a new chef and a menu that includes includes burgers made from Angus beef, Buffalo wings, an oyster po' boy and a grilled chicken club. Also new is live music on Wednesday-Saturday nights. (-SF Chronicle and SF Gate) 747 Third St. (at King).

Primo Patio Cafe: Owners Chris and Noel Kelton have been serving what Noel calls "global tropical" (Mediterranean and Caribbean) cuisine for nearly a decade at this whimsically-painted SoMa spot. The added bonus of this no-frills cafe is alfresco dining in the back. Try the snapper sandwich, grilled lamb pita or anything with jerk marinade. Entrees come with black beans, rice and vegetables, making the food even more of a bargain. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Beer and wine, happy hour Monday-Friday. Cash only. (-SF Chronicle) 214 Townsend St. (near Third Street), (415) 957-1129.

Roe: The small plates, lounge-y restaurant has gone through some ups and downs. It started with Burmese food mixed with some Japanese, but then opening chef Herman Chin left and Michael Gao took over, offering Japanese-American fusion. Now, Chin is back and the menu is once again being reinvented to reflect the Japanese, Burmese and American style pulled together in family-style shared plates and creative sushi rolls. The interior will get new furniture, but keep its modern, moody vibe. (-SF Chronicle, 8/16/06) 651 Howard St. (at Hawthorne Lane), (415) 227-0288. (

Salt House: A homey beacon amongst the industrial skyscrapers, this turn-of-the-century warehouse offers a convivial atmosphere and diverse American flavors. 545 Mission St. (between First and Second streets), (415) 543-8900.)

South Park Cafe: This chic Multimedia Gulch haunt serves classic French-bistro items and simple breakfasts. 108 South Park Ave., (415) 495-7275.)

Supperclub: Spend hours eating in bed at the first U.S. outpost of the original Amsterdam Supperclub. There is only one seating per night, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Dinner is served in five courses. The meal is at the whim of the chef, so don't expect a printed menu, as it's constantly in flux. Entertainment varies but has included aerial performers, exotic dancers and roller skaters. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 657 Harrison St. (at Third Street), (415) 348-0900. (

Sushi Groove South: Known for good nigiri, and unexpected items such as sushi pizza, this sister branch of the Russian Hill establishment asserts its own hip SOMA flair with a modern interior accented by a glowing glass sculpture and a wall of yellow light. A DJ is on hand most evenings to set the vibe. 1516 Folsom St., (415) 503-1950. (

Teriyaki House: This clean, modern space is an inviting place to stop for specials of Kalua pig with cabbage or teriyaki sandwiches. Entrees, including various types of teriyaki and chicken and pork katsu, are served like a Hawaiian plate lunch, a favorite meal among surfers. Each diner gets two rounded scoops of rice and one scoop of mayonnaise-y macaroni salad (or a green salad), as well as a generous bowl of wonton and saimin noodle soup -- almost too much to eat unless you just went surfing. (--SF Chronicle) 6 Sixth St., (415) 431-4363.

Thirsty Bear: Known for its tapas -- there are more than 30 varieties to choose from -- this restaurant also serves top-notch entrees and desserts. Draws a boisterous after-work crowd. 661 Howard St. (near Hawthorne Lane), (415) 974-0905. (

Triptych: This cafe/gallery features a mosaic bar and tables, a 30-seat outdoor garden patio, and a chef from Gordon Biersch in San Jose. 1155 Folsom St.

Town Hall: San Francisco's modern urbanity meets New England's homey simplicity at this restaurant from the Postrio gang, sans Wolfgang Puck. The dining room, with a long mahogany bar stretching from the entry, is a mix of old-fashioned creamy wainscoting with gilt-framed portraits from grandma's parlor and blow-your-lights-out starburst chandeliers salvaged from 1930s Spanish Harlem. The menu is a fusion of traditional American flavors and 21st century creativity, of East Coast and West, with appetizers like baby spinach salad sporting cornmeal-fried oysters and entrees such as the pork chop coated with New Orleans-style tasso and peanuts. (--SF Chronicle and SF Gate) 342 Howard St. (at Fremont), (415) 908-3900. (

Tu Lan: Vietnamese greasy spoon that is enduringly popular with its die-hard fans (and formerly with Julia Child). Fried rice is a favorite. 8 Sixth St., 626-0927.

Two: The ever-popular Hawthorne Lane has been reimagined as the more intimate, rustic (and affordable) Two. Comfort foods like pan-fried chicken and bucatini are delicious, but the highlight here is the imaginative desserts: ice cream sandwiches, root beer floats, cupcakes and more. 22 Hawthorne Lane (at Howard), (415) 777-9779. (

V Cafe: Formerly Whiz Wit, it claims to serve the best cheese steak sandwiches in town. V's version of the classic cheese steak is made with grilled onions, sweet or hot cherry peppers and your choice of American, provolone, Swiss, cheddar or jack. They also serve a variety of salads, hoagies, burgers and grinders (or hot sandwiches), such as a salmon club on wheat toast; meatball; eggplant parmigiana and a po-boy fried shrimp. 1525 Folsom St., near 11th; (415) 863-3620. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday. Delivery and catering services available. (-- SF Chronicle; read

Zuppa: Joseph and Mary Manzare of Globe continue their love affair with the look, food and wine of Italy with Zuppa. An all-Italian wine list sets the mood for chef Rudy Mihal's menu of cured meats, wood-fired pizza and antipasti. The space is industrial, warmed up with yellow and gold, two bars and views of the wood-fired oven.


Anu: Though it's named after the Celtic goddess of fertility, Anu doesn't have the feel of an Irish pub. In fact, the beautifully lit cocktail bar, with monthly exhibits of art by local artists on its walls, adds a bit of Latin flavor to its decor. Located on Sixth Street at Mission, Anu has the power to lure even the coolest hipsters to one of the grittiest streets in town. Perhaps it's the bar's unconventional cocktails -- like the Appletini and the Bloody Bastard (an extra-spicy version of a Bloody Mary) -- or the huge jugs of "infused" vodka with flavors including mango and strawberry for dressing up any drink you desire. It could be the fine guest DJs, or even the high-tech Internet jukebox that conveniently accepts credit cards. Whatever it is, Anu is a rare find in this part of town -- or anywhere, for that matter. (- Lisa Zaffarese, SF Gate) 43 Sixth St., (415) 543-3622.

Annie's Cocktail Lounge: The sign over the door sets the mood -- a devilish Betty Page plopped in a martini glass. But despite its rebel-rockabilly trappings, Annie's is unusually friendly and welcoming, an oasis among the bond shops and fast food joints. With a pool table, an old-fashioned photo booth and karaoke nights. 15 Boardman Pl., (415) 703-0865. (

Butter: Trailer trash meets hipster-chic. The self-billed "white trash bistro" serves up TV dinners and Tater Tots while a DJ spins tunes smooth as you-know-what. This club gets praise for offering style without attitude, good dance music, and a stiff Tang martini. 354 Eleventh St., (415) 431-6545. (

Dave's: If you need a drink after work, come on by. If you want to hang into the night, come on by. If you're meeting someone before going to SFMOMA, come on by. This little dive is friendly, has a great draft-beer selection and employs attentive bartenders. 29 Third Street, (415) 495-6726.

Gordon Biersch: One of those brewpubs where the food should be taking a back seat to the beer. It stands out as an after-work bar and is a great place to hang out, with two levels for roaming around and at least four house brews (in addition to a full bar) to sample. 2 Harrison St. (at Embarcadero), (415) 243-8246.

Hole in the Wall Saloon: At first glance, the scene at the Hole seems dominated by a tough crowd of gay bikers. Fortunately, they're nice enough to welcome outsiders, and the bartenders are always friendly. However, if you're looking for a quiet night out, this is not the place to choose. 289 Eighth St., (415) 771-9866.

Hotel Utah Saloon: A full bar runs the length of Hotel Utah's narrow front room, and the interior invokes a certain gold rush-era nostalgia, with a little high-class honky-tonk thrown in. There are brass ornaments and curlicues painted onto the windows and mirrors, and a nice natural wood tone at all turns. Also note the cute 'n' quirky performance space, with tables and a tiny but comfortable stage, plus a cool balcony overlooking it all. 500 Fourth St., (415) 421-8308. -- Josh Wilson

Kate O'Brien's: A rollicking Irish pub with all the essentials: Guinness, Harp, fish and chips, and pizza thrown in for good measure. Under new management (the same folks who run The Phoenix in the Mission) as of January 2006. 579 Howard St. (415) 882-7240.

111 Minna: A bar, nightclub and art gallery all in one, this eclectic performance space attracts a lively hipster crowd. Wednesday's four-DJ happy hour, from 5-10 p.m., gets a dedicated attendance. 111 Minna (415) 974-1719.

Slim's: Opened in the late '80s by R&B artist and Steve Miller Band alum Boz Scaggs, Slim's showcases touring bands from around the world. Buster, the club dog, has played pool with a lot of rock stars, Eddie Vedder and Patti Smith among them. 333 11th St., (415) 255-0333The Stud: This cavernous gay bar fills up with a mixed crowd -- leather, lesbian, straight, cute-boy -- every weekend as DJs and bands perform on the small stage. 399 9th St., (415) 252-7883.

The Tempest: Inside, the Tempest is a well-appointed, spacious bar with a stage for bands, a pool table, plenty of tables and chairs, a few cool pinball machines and a rockin' jukebox. The kitchen serves requisite bar food (burgers, fries, etc.), and a fine selection of microbrews from around the Bay Area. Clientele usually includes a few professional drunks in the middle or end of their careers, Market Street worker-bees looking to unwind, plus a steady stream of bicycle messengers wheeling their battered steeds indoors for convenient off-street parking. -- Josh Wilson 431 Natoma Lane, (415) 495-1863.

Ten 15: A great big dance club with multiple levels of thumping bass, Ten 15 Folsom is an old standby on the club scene. Often features big-name DJs. 1015 Folsom St., (415) 431-7444.

330 Ritch: Best known for its nighttime program of live music, swing lessons and dancing, this jazzy brick-walled bar also has offers a casual lunch and dinner menu, with burgers, bar snacks and creative sandwiches, 330 Ritch (415) 541-9574.

The View: Damn fine view, and that's probably the only reason to go to the architectural head scratcher that is the Jukebox Marriott. 55 4th St., (415) 896-1600.

VinoVenue: Unlike a traditional wine bar, where a few dozen wines are available by the glass or half glass, VinoVenue sells more than 100 wines as machine-poured, 1-ounce tastes. It's the first wine "automat" in the United States and one of just a handful worldwide. Roam among 10 mahogany-and-steel tasting stations in the arty, contemporary space, which are organized by wine type. Once you decide on a wine to taste, insert your smart card (sold in pre-paid amounts of $10, $20, $50 or $100) in a dispenser to get a whoosh of wine in your glass. A 15-seat bar serves flights of sparkling wine, plus six to eight wines that are too tall to fit into the machines, and eight beers. All wines are for sale by the bottle. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 686 Mission Street (at 3rd St.), (415) 341-1930.

Wish: This DJ bar transcends trendy with its modern black leather couches, classy wood furnishings and subtle red lamp shades. An eclectic SoMa crowd comes here to enjoy the music, which covers a wide range of electronic styles. The midpriced cocktails are served by a surprisingly friendly waitstaff. But don't expect to find parking within five blocks -- cab it, or take public transportation. (- Lisa Zaffarese, SF Gate) 1539 Folsom St. (between 11th and 12th), (415) 278-9474.
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