Potrero Hill

Potrero Hill

San Francisco, CA

Potrero Hill

On Potrero Hill, you can relax in brilliant sunshine while watching fog engulf the rest of the city. Bounded roughly by 16th, Third and Cesar Chavez streets and Potrero Avenue, the neighborhood is relatively isolated by freeways and large tracts of industrial landscape, giving Potrero Hill its own pace and a feeling of distance from "San Francisco."

The neighborhood's origins extend back at least to an 1835 land grant to Don Francisco de Haro to graze Mission Dolores's cattle at the potrero nuevo ("new pasture"). Gold rush squatters started pushing the herd aside and began the first of many waves of urbanization and immigration: Scots in the 1860s, then Irish, Chinese, Russians, Mexicans and finally African-American Southerners in the 1940s, building battleships at the bustling wartime shipyards.

While families lived on the hill, flatland manufacturing by firms like U.S. Steel, the Union Iron Works, the Western Sugar Refinery, Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co. and American Can Co., among others, ensured that the area remained largely industrial through most of the 20th century. But a combination of de-industrialization and the late-1990's Internet boom began driving the conversion of factories and warehouses into housing or offices.

New office construction continues on the north side, while condos rise on the hill's eastern and southern edges, particularly in Dogpatch, the name given to the Third Street corridor between 16th and Cesar Chavez. Largely zoned for heavy industrial use, Dogpatch doesn't have much going on past quitting time.

One part of Potrero Hill that has changed dramatically is the Safeway shopping complex along 16th Street, between Bryant and Potrero streets. From 1931 to 1959, this was the site of Seals Stadium, an 18,600-capacity venue that hosted the San Francisco Seals and the Missions of the Pacific Coast League. When the then-New York Giants arrived in San Francisco, they played the 1958 and 1959 seasons at Seals Stadium while Candlestick Park was being built.

Potrero Hill's primary shopping drag is on 18th Street, between Connecticut and Texas streets, along which you'll see fewer strollers -- and fewer weirder dogs -- than in already-gentrified neighborhoods like the Inner Sunset and Noe Valley. In spite of increasing yuppiness, 18th Street remains come-as-you-are.

The hill is also where O.J. Simpson grew up, and, as a result, even though Simpson never visited the area much after becoming famous, the hill has the nation's densest remaining concentration of O.J. Simpson murals. One, on Connecticut at 17th Street, shows the former football great in his uniform, with later spray-painted details like blue devil horns. The other is at the Potrero Hill Recreation Center (see below).

The residential streets are unusually clean for San Francisco, and every house seems to have a small garden, flower box or tree planted out front. This tradition goes back a ways; witness a September 1963 Sunset magazine article in which Hill denizens, clad in jeans and Jackie Kennedy clam-diggers, landscape the twistiest stretch of Vermont Street. They hope against hope that the growing leptosporum will "one day hide the nearby freeway and its eight lanes of around-the-clock traffic." The city donated irrigation water, a neighborhood group coughed up labor and cash for two new water meters and someone threaded all the irrigation pipe in his own machine shop -- evidence of a level of neighborly cooperation that continues today.

The fog lifts over Potrero Hill before most of the rest of San Francisco, and daytime walks are one of its great draws. However, nighttime is a different story; besides at nightclubs and around 18th Street's restaurants and cafés, Potrero Hill can get deserted in a hurry, and care should be taken in deciding where to go for an evening stroll.

Sights and Culture

Anchor Brewing Company: Anchor, in business since 1896, helped carry San Franciscans through the dark decades when almost nothing American was worth drinking. Visitors can take a 90-minute tour, see how beer gets brewed and even sample a bit at the end. Reserve tours a month in advance, just to be safe. 1705 Mariposa St. (at De Haro Street), (415) 863-8350.

City skyline: There's a magical, almost Oz-like quality to the views north from atop Potrero Hill. The downtown skyline seems so distant -- and yet is outlined so sharply against the blue sky -- that the neighborhood can seem like another world.

Crookedest Street in San Francisco: No, it's not Lombard.  Drive south on Vermont Street from McKinley Park (see below) and you'll see what we mean.

Jackson Playground: This site has fields for baseball and general running around, indoor and outdoor basketball courts and a playground. 17th Street (between Carolina and Arkansas streets), (415) 554-9527.

McKinley Park: This small neighborhood park was recently renovated and improved, and has a playground, grassy areas, walking paths and great views west and south. 20th Street (at Vermont Street).

Mission Bay Golf Center: This facility has two-tiered, 300-yard practice range, and it's lighted at night, so swing away anytime. 1200 6th St. (between Channel and 16th streets), (415) 431-7888.

Potrero Hill Neighborhood House: This neighborhood meeting space, run by a nonprofit, features ongoing classes, job training, art exhibits, political events and receptions. 953 De Haro St. (at Southern Heights Avenue), (415) 826-8080.

Potrero Hill Recreation Center: This is the home of one of America's surviving O.J. Simpson murals, plus a gymnasium, basketball and tennis courts, a baseball diamond and a playground. 801 Arkansas St. (at 22nd Street), (415) 695-5009.

San Francisco Center for the Book: The nexus of the Bay Area's active type, printing and book-bindery movement offers classes, exhibits, machinery and other resources. 300 De Haro St. (between 16th and 17th streets), (415) 565-0545.

SomArts Cultural Center: This performance, exhibit and education space on the border of SoMa and Potrero Hill features classes in dance, drawing, computers, printmaking and more. 934 Brannan St. (between 8th and 9th streets), (415) 552-2131 ext. 4.


A2 Cafe: This place has pizzas, sandwiches, salads and coffee in what must be the city's airiest, most brilliantly sunlit eating space, at the California College of Arts & Crafts. 1111 8th St. (at Irwin Street), (415) 703-9500.

Aperto: This local Italian joint serves pasta, meat dishes and standout fresh fish. More family friendly than your average S.F. restaurant, Aperto features pasta per bambino ("for kids"). Serves lunch weekdays, dinner seven days, brunch weekends. 1434 18th St. (at Connecticut Street), (415) 252-1625.

Baraka: A switch to large plates has proved successful for this Moroccan-Spanish restaurant, named a Chronicle Top 100 in 2003. Grilled prawns, foie gras "au torchon" and lamb tartare are unforgettable, and the grilled steak is one of the best around. If the main restaurant is full or if you want to host a private party, the 20-seat lounge (with a separate entrance around the corner on 18th Street) is done in Baraka's same Moroccan-inspired colors and features the full restaurant menu, yet has a speakeasy charm. (--SF Chronicle) 288 Connecticut St. (at 18th Street), (415) 255-0370.

Bistro 350: The California Culinary Academy's newest student-run restaurant, Bistro 350 has a seasonal menu of French bistro fare. Entrees include seafood and pasta specials that change daily, and desserts change daily. The large, contemporary space holds upward of 175 patrons. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 350 Rhode Island (at 16th Street), (415) 216-4329.

Casa Sanchez Deli: After more than 80 years in San Francisco, Casa Sanchez branched out with this deli in 2003. Offerings range from American hoagies to vegetarian panini to delicious Mexican tortas, which come with a choice of proteins, like carnitas and chorizo and egg, and are stuffed with avocado, jalapenos, beans and queso fresco. Breakfast sandwiches and bagels satisfy early risers, and a non-alcoholic piña colada, an icy agua fresca made with fresh coconut and pineapple, is worth a trip by itself. (-SF Chronicle) Open 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends. 2760 24th St. (between Hampshire and York streets), (415) 282-2400.

Chatz Coffee: This shop has great rich smoothies (lots of coconut and banana) and wonderful coffee. 301 Arkansas St. (at 18th Street), (415) 206-0300.

Cup of Blues: This pleasant java joint, which also serves scones, muffins, bagels, coffee and chai, is conveniently close to the 22nd Street Caltrain station. 900 22nd St. (at Minnesota Street), (415) 826-7045.

Dos Pi�as: Although Dos Pi�as looks like just another wrap/juice joint -- and though it does make both -- it's known for excellent tacos and burritos. Also, breakfast is served until 10:30 am. 251 Rhode Island St. (at 16th Street), (415) 252-8220.

Eliza's: This Chinese restaurant, accented with Matisse-ish paintings and stained wood, is always a good call. 1457 18th St. (between Connecticut and Missouri streets), (415) 648-9999.

Farley's: Ground zero for Potrero Hill socializing, Farley's has served potent java and decent pastries for the last dozen years. Savor its magazine rack, tables and booths, worn wood floors and remarkably varied clientele. Whether you walk in covered with paint stains or decked out in an Armani suit, you'll likely get the same friendly treatment. 1315 18th St. (between Missouri and Texas streets), (415) 648-1545.

Ganim's Market and Deli: This tiny café has served burgers and fish-and-chips to Potrero Hill denizens since 1975. 1135 18th St. (at Mississippi Street), (415) 282-9289.

Goat Hill Pizza: Monday night is "neighborhood night" at this pizza joint. For only $8.95 you get all the pizza and salad you can eat. Happy locals crowd in and watch the sun set over fabulous city views. Patient servers stream out of the kitchen carrying trays of thinly sliced pizza with sourdough crusts and a variety of toppings. (-SF Chronicle) 300 Connecticut St. (at 18th Street), (415) 641-1440.

Hard Knox Cafe: This Dogpatch café serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and deli sandwiches. 2526 Third St. (between 22nd and 23rd streets), (415) 648-3770.

Hazel's Kitchen: There's no room to sit here, but it's worth standing for the sandwiches. Besides, you can take them to Farley's to eat. Honest. 1331 18th St. (between Missouri and Texas streets), (415) 647-7941.

Il Pirata: This place features a gourmet American and Italian menu and has a separate bar next door. 2007 16th St. (between Potrero and San Bruno avenues), (415) 626-2626.

Mabel's Just for You Cafe: The king of Potrero Hill morning-after breakfast joints has moved to more spacious digs at 22nd and Third streets, but it's worth going a few extra blocks for the chorizo and eggs, crab cakes and cornmeal pancakes, plus an expanded lunch menu. Now open evenings and for take-out on weeknights, except Tuesday. 732 22nd St., (415) 647-3033.

Moshi Moshi Sushi & Grill: Sushi? In Dogpatch? You'd better believe it -- and for 15 years, no less. Lunch and dinner weekdays, dinner only on Saturday. 2092 Third St. (at 18th Street), (415) 861-8285.

Parkside: In the space formerly occupied by Garibaldi's, Parkside serves up "American fare seven days a week," with cocktails until 2 am and weekend brunch. 1600 17th St. (at Wisconsin Street), (415) 503-0393.

Sally's: Some of the hardest-working line cooks make some of the City's fluffiest omelettes in this packed breakfast joint. Good luck getting an outside table on weekends. 300 De Haro St. (at 16th Street), (415) 626-6006.

San Francisco Barbeque: Here's some good, cheap Thai barbecue -- with, since this is San Francisco, a wine list. 1328 18th St. (between Texas and Missouri streets), (415) 431-8956.

Slow Club: The dining experience here is Mediterranean with a California influence. The menu changes daily; dinner is served until 10 on weeknights and until 11 on weekends; lunch is served too. 2501 Mariposa St. (at Hampshire Street), (415) 241-9390.

Succotash: Sophisticated American comfort food in a spacious, industrial setting. The interior features shades of burnt orange and rust, exposed pipes and funky, vibrant artwork. Outside, a bare, all-weather patio seats 49, boasting comfortable, black wicker chairs set against stark white tablecloths. Dishes are all $12 or less; a modest wine menu tops out at $23 and there is also a full bar. At 10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday nights, the restaurant morphs into a nightclub called Whisper. -- SF Chronicle 535 Florida St. (at 18th Street), (415) 503-1100.

Thanya & Salee: This place has tasty Thai food in a pleasant white-tablecloth setting. It gets crowded on weekend nights. 1469 18th St. (at Connecticut Street), (415) 647-6469.

Wolfe's Lunch: You'll find cheap American and Japanese breakfast and lunch for the local graphic-design, architecture and CCAC crowd here. 1220 16th St. (at Wisconsin Street), (415) 621-3684.


Arch: This graphic-design and drafting-supplies mothership also carries a variety of gifts, papers and envelopes. 99 Missouri St. (at 17th Street), (415) 433-2724.

Bell and Trunk Flowers: There are no stuffed Garfield dolls, no scented candles and no nonsense here -- just cut flowers and arrangements to order. 1411 18th St. (between Connecticut and Missouri streets), (415) 648-0519.

Christopher's Books: In keeping with Potrero Hill's family friendliness, proprietor Tee Minot stocks a large kids' section and all your favorite grown-up books, too. 1400 18th St. (at Missouri Street), (415) 255-8802.

Collage: This shop carries locally produced art and artistically unique fixtures for the home. 1345 18th St. (between Missouri and Texas streets), (415) 282-4401.

Connecticut St. Plant Supplies: Cut flowers, organic gardening supplies, and flower arrangements are here; free delivery on Potrero Hill. 306 Connecticut St. (at 18th Street), (415) 821-4773.

Delirious: Proprietor Amy Boe wants to make your feet look good, so come to Potrero Hill's newest (and only) shoe shop. 317 Connecticut St. (at 18th Street), (415) 641-4086.

Dr. Video: Just downhill from Goat Hill Pizza, this video-rental shop packs more than 14,000 titles into a tiny space and is known for smart staff picks. Follow the advice of Dr. Melinda and the other doctors in residence. 1521 18th St. (at Connecticut Street), (415) 333-7321.

Potrero Gardens: Come find gardening supplies and "rare and unusual plants," all growing in Potrero's abundant sunshine. 1201 17th St. (at Texas Street), (415) 861-8220.

Potrero Hill Healing Arts: Chiropractor Ann Brinkley and a host of holistic therapists work out patients' kinks through chiropractic, massage and other techniques. 1317 18th St. (between Missouri and Texas streets), (415) 282-2574.

Potrero Mail 'N More: This is the place for one-stop shopping for packing, shipping, office supplies and gifts. 1459 18th St. (between Connecticut and Missouri streets), (415) 826-8757.

The Ribbonerie: Imagine all the fabrics in the world in miniature. That's what you'll find at the Ribbonerie. Now, many people might think of ribbon as nothing more than the brightly colored, satiny trim on a gift-wrapped box, but, then,they probably haven't been to The Ribbonerie. (191 Potrero Ave. (at 15th Street); (415) 626-6184.

The Total You: This is the place for skin care, plus manicures, pedicures and facials. 1419 18th St. (between Connecticut and Missouri streets), (415) 641-1251.


Bloom's Saloon: You'll find excellent views of downtown in a roomy, pleasantly threadbare bar where the patrons take their Giants and their 49ers seriously. 1318 18th St. (between Missouri and Texas streets), (415) 861-9467.

Bottom of the Hill: This typically crowded music venue showcases some of San Francisco's best bands, and some of its newest, plus lots of out-of-town acts, and its noted for its free Sunday-afternoon barbecue. 1233 17th St. (between Texas and Missouri streets), (415) 621-4455.

Cafe Cocomo: This club features varied dance nights with both DJs and live music in a cavernous tropical setting, and there's a full bar. 650 Indiana St. (between Mariposa and 18th streets), (415) 824-6910.

Claddagh's Irish Sports Bar: Guinness, Harp, sports and more are on tap at this working stiffs' watering hole. 628 20th St. (between Third and Illinois streets), (415) 552-3603.

Connecticut Yankee: This comfy, sports-themed bar has indoor and outdoor seating, food that's a couple steps above pub grub and plenty of beers on tap. The Yankee -- headquarters for expatriate Red Sox fans -- is equally well suited to cold winter nights and sunny afternoons. 100 Connecticut St. (at 17th Street), (415) 552-4440.

Dogpatch Saloon: This comfy bar on an otherwise industrial stretch of Third has good beers on tap. Open Mon.-Sat. and on Sundays when the 49ers are playing at home. 2496 Third St. (at 22nd Street), (415) 643-8952.

Gurdjieff Hall: A venue for modern theater. 312 Connecticut St. (at 18th Street), (415) 248-1918.

Lingba Lounge: This Thai-themed lounge in Potrero Hill has had some troubles with the neighbors, losing its live-music permit because of noise issues, but it's now back in "crazy monkey" action. ("Lingba" is Thai for crazy monkey.) Electronic-music lovers will enjoy the DJ-spun beats blaring through the speakers, but don't expect to hear even yourself talk, much less your companion, if you plan to sit and chat. The South Asian-themed bar has dense foliage in its decor, with lots of trees and hanging plants, plus a mural on the back wall depicting an enticing beach complete with palm tree, giving the Lingba Lounge a tropical ambience. Attached to the bar is Thanya & Salee's Thai eatery, which, unfortunately, is open only until 10 pm. As for the crowd, expect mostly neighborhood yuppies, with a few outsiders. (- Lisa Zaffarese, SF Gate) 1469 18th St. (at Connecticut Street), (415) 826-3611.

Metronome Ballroom: The Metronome hosts up to 50 group dance lessons a week, plus dance classes Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Salsa, ballroom, Latin -- you can learn 'em all, or even learn to teach them to others. 1830 17th St. (at De Haro Street), (415) 252-9000.

Sadie's Flying Elephant: This comfy bar in the very shadow of Potrero Hill's western slope has a pool table, popcorn, pop art and a jukebox and is open daily. 491 Potrero Ave. (at Mariposa Street), (415) 551-7988.

The Ramp: The place for indoor and outdoor dining and drinking on the waterfront, with sweeping views of the Bay. 855 China Basin St. (between Mariposa and Illinois streets), (415) 621-2378.

Three Parkside: Tiki is the theme of an indoor-outdoor live music space in the back, complete with ping-pong. Sidle up to a picnic table and enjoy grub like a carnitas platter, burgers (both veggie and meat) and garlic fries. (SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 1600 17th St. (at Wisconsin), (415) 503-0393.
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