San Francisco, CA
Deco GhettoIf San Francisco neighborhoods can be thought of as people, places like the Mission, the Castro, the Haight, Russian Hill, etc., are pretty much adults. They have identities. They have relatively well-defined boundaries. They have names.
The area of Market Street from Franklin to Guerrero, and then south down Valencia to 14th, on the other hand, is something of a teenager with an identity crisis, caught in the middle of several established neighborhoods. At times it's informally been called the Deco Ghetto, the Hub and just Mid-Market, but nothing has quite put it on the map. Yet this area has lots of local flavor, and it's growing up before our eyes. With a surprising number of cafes, shops and bars and a brand-new freeway off-ramp and a widened boulevard on the way, this San Francisco neighborhood is coming into its own, cutting the apron strings of the surrounding hoods.
So, why the name Deco Ghetto? Because for some reason, there's a bunch of Art Deco furniture stores clustered here. It all started about a generation ago with a few antique stores (Beaver Brothers was one of the first) seeking reasonable rents and high visibility. And then, as best as anyone seems to know, antiques attracted Deco, and Deco attracted more Deco. The store owners wanted to give a name to the random phenomenon, and a name to the neighborhood that might make people want to come shopping.
"The Hub" goes back a few years, when some locals started a movement to have the area christened for the old Muni turnaround near the Valencia/Market intersection. Many in the area still know of the name, but it never really caught on outside the neighborhood, especially when the Muni line was extended up to the Castro.
Regardless of what it's called, the area is going to be getting a lot more attention with the completion of the Octavia Boulevard project, which has freeway traffic spilling onto Market Street and the newly-widened, tree-lined boulevard. The area will be further enhanced by affordable housing, parks and retail space. Shop owners are looking forward to more traffic, mostly of the walking variety, in the area.
Rarely do we get the chance to witness the coming of age of a neighborhood, but this stretch of Market and the surrounding area is evolving rapidly. Once the construction cranes on Octavia are removed and the orange traffic cones are put away, maybe, finally, this young neighborhood will begin a life of its own.
Getting ThereThe F streetcar runs the length of the area on Market. The Muni bus lines 6, 7, 66 and 71 all join Market at Franklin; the 47 and 49 hit Market at Van Ness. You can also take any of the Muni metro lines to the Van Ness station. For more public-transportation options, check out the Take Transit Planner at www.511.org.
ParkingThe Mission Otis garage is located at 1660 Mission St. (map). There's also street/metered parking on Market and side streets.
LGBT Center: When it opened in March 2002, the Charles M. Holmes campus of the Center (the facility's official name) was the culmination of nearly a decade of planning, incorporating as a nonprofit and building. Today, it's a lighthouse for the queer community: part meeting place, part event space, part support-group destination and, well, just a multipurpose everything center. There's a computer room that's open to the public, a drop-in space for queer youth, free child care, a job-search counselor, a job fair and more. 1800 Market, at Octavia. (415) 865-5555.)
Linc Gallery: The red doors will draw you in, no pun intended, to this pleasantly open and well-lit space. Linc offers contemporary, mostly local paintings, sculpture and photography, and an overall enjoyable space to experience it all. The first room is small, with a low ceiling, but the second room is enormous, with tall Market-facing windows that allow ambient sunlight to fill the room. It also has art classes for kids in a work space in the back of the gallery. The classes offer students things like colored tape, wax, acrylics, and pencils, and the kids are encouraged to create objects of their choice. 1632 C Market at Rose. (415) 503-1981.
Low Gallery: Online art forum Fecal Face's moderator, John Trippe, has opened a gallery on 14th. Fecal Face fans will be familiar with the art at Low: typically of the street-art or small-gallery variety. In Trippe's brick-and-mortar art world of Low, paintings, sculptural pieces and photography are presented very simply in a well-lit space. It's small enough to house one artist at a time, and it plans to feature one a month. Low's motto: Stop in and say hi. 487 14th, at Guerrero.
Antique & Art Deco shopsAnother Time: This Art Deco store really stands out for its overwhelming amount of birch-wood furniture of all sorts: tables, chairs, vanities, chests of drawers. Another Time specializes in refinishing and reselling Haywood Wakefield pieces, which were made from the 1930s to the 1960s. It also sells lamps from the 1940s and 1950s, antique bar paraphernalia, and cool old art. Prices can be high, but it does have a selection of items under $50, like individual dishes, Bakelite flatware and jewelry, some glassware, some copper jewelry and chrome serving dishes. 1710 Market, between Gough and Octavia. (415) 553-8900.
Bell'Occhio: Some shops feel more like time machines, and that's the case in this small Victoriana market. The stock is limited and changes seasonally, but you can always find an amazing selection of vintage and new ribbon, plus an abundance of teas, candles, chocolates and soaps from Europe. It also has gift boxes in the shapes of berries, snowflakes and coal, the latter of which, the owner will tell you, can be used for people who've been bad, or for diamond jewelry. The typical store soundtrack: frogs and birds. 8 Brady, at Market. (415) 864-4048.
Decodence: As the name implies, this furniture gallery spotlights Art Deco pieces, but of the rather hard-to-find variety. It's mostly high-end items, like full wooden bars, and it does the bulk of its business with designers and movie sets. But foot-traffic types are welcome too, as it does offer two- and three-digit items as well, such as lamps, hanging lights, dishes and bar paraphernalia. 1684 Market, between Gough and Octavia. (415) 553-4525.)
Modern Artifacts: The name says it all here. Find "postwar" art and furniture at this medium-range furniture shop. It has chairs, tables, lamps, lights and more in a more colorful and lighthearted variety than some of its neighbors. 1639 Market, at Brady. (415) 255-9000.
New Deal: The name may lead you to believe it's all about that historic time of FDR's social programs, or maybe the post-World War II hurrah, but this furniture and housewares store carries made-to-order new furniture in a variety of eras and styles. Besides the furniture, lighting and artwork sold in the store, it also has an upholstering service. 1632 B Market, at Rose. (415) 552-6208.
Other shopsBox Dog (formerly Biketeria): Part repair garage, part relic haven, this bike shop is now a worker-owned collective with regular hours. Find funny old parts for funny old bikes or fully ready-to-roll used bikes, or get your two-wheeler fixed. Box Dog promises low-cost, high-quality repairs. 494 14th, at Guerrero. (no phone)
DLX: This Market skate shop is enormous, and even has its own stage. Get decks and accessories, gear, shoes, stickers and videos. DLX often hosts video premieres in the store, during which it often sets up small ramps on the sidewalk in front. 1831 Market, at Pearl. (415) 626-5588.
Flax Art & Design: The store itself is a landmark of sorts, partly because of its location at the junction of Market and Valencia, and partly because of its colorful facade, huge sign and gigantic pencil sticking out of the building. It boasts the widest selection of paper in the United States, and also sells art supplies, executive pens, stationery, office furniture, framing and gifts. There's also a kids' section, and in the summer the store hosts Kidsfest: Flax sets up a dozen or so stations in the store for kids to do mosaics, origami and glass paintings, work with clay and even make paper airplanes. 1699 Market, at Valencia. (415) 552-2355.
Get Lost: Anyone heading out of the country should make this store their last stateside stop. Backpacks, messenger bags, travel guidebooks, maps: Get Lost has everything you need to travel abroad short of an airfare vendor. Then again, if you want to stay home and read about the world beyond U.S. borders, it has a nice selection of armchair traveler books. 1825 Market, at Pearl. (415) 437-0529.
Grooves: Not too many stores' facades are plastered with colored vinyl. But at Grooves, what you see outside is pretty close to what you get inside. It doesn't sell CD's (though it does have a few books), but customers are greeted with a store comfortably cramped with records of all genres. And there's a bonus: an artful display of used records. Recently showing: a red, white and blue quilting of old Americana albums. 1797 Market, at Octavia. (415) 436-9933.
Limelight: Cinematic window displays will lure you into this bookstore of all things movies and theater. Spacious, dimly lit and filled with books, it has comfortable seating to browse screenplays, treatments and filmmaker and playwright biographies. It feels a lot like a library in, well, a movie, with its Victorian carpeting, velvet- and leather-cushioned sofas and nearly floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. 1803 Market, at Pearl. (415) 864-2265.
National Product: Kitschy, campy tchotchkes and gifts fill this small but well-stocked Market Street shop, which doubles as an art gallery. Find T-shirts, greeting cards, books, soaps, handbags, stickers, art books and random vintage items. Well-designed and continually updated windows give a clue as to what you'll find inside. 1845 Market, at Guerrero. (415) 255-1920.
Record Collector: This longtime, somewhat hidden treasure of the Mission has relocated to this hip little pocket of 14th. It's added a complete CD-R manufacturing studio to its collection of general used records. Now, you can bring in your master on disc and have it reproduced up to 1,000 times, and, with Woodwards' Flats screen-printing service (also on premises), you can print the art for your cover. 485 14th, at Guerrero. (415) 864-4243.
Soundworks: A record store primarily for DJ's and electronic-music lovers, Soundworks stands apart in having a wider selection of CD's than most niche music stores. Genres include house, trance, techno, pop, ambient, jungle, acid jazz, trip-hop, alternative and tribal. There's usually no wait for the four vinyl and two CD listening stations. Friendly owners who've been there for 12 years will chat you up and help you find what you're after. 228 Valencia, at Duboce. (415) 487-3980. (Web site)
Yum: This spacious and fun specialty-food store is as likely to carry high-end truffles as strawberry marshmallow fluff in a jar. The wall of colored sodas, half of which you'll remember from your childhood and some of which you've never seen before, will entice. More practically, go here when you come across ingredients in a recipe you've never heard of. Yum offers tastes of just about everything in the store. 1750 Market, at Valencia. (415) 626-9866. (Web site)
Zen City Records: Find mostly DJ fare, like house, techno, break and drum 'n' bass on vinyl. But it also sells CDs and has a 300-disc CD listening station in addition to five record players where you can test sounds out in advance. Zen City DJs, who also run a label by the same name, have hosted a couple of "Test Press Tuesdays," in which local DJs promote new electronic music by area artists. The event takes place at Lavende Lounge, located nearby at Duboce and Mission. 105 Valencia, at McCoppin. (415) 437-1578.
DeLessio: On sunny days, patrons crowd the outdoor patio to savor well-prepared comfort foods like roasted chicken, meat loaf, panini and mac 'n' cheese, or self-styled lunches from the gourmet salad bar. Homemade pastries and desserts include a triple chocolate-mousse cake and several varieties of DeLessio's signature homemade chocolate bubble-wrap bars. Sitting inside is intimate but comfortable, providing a front-row seat to the hustle of the cafe. Closes at 7:30 pm Monday-Friday and at 5:30 pm on weekends. 1695 Market, at Valencia. (415) 552-5559.
It's Tops: Imagine the diner on the 1970s sitcom "Alice," but in modern times, and much smaller and triangularly shaped. Oh, and replace Flo's attitude with tattoos and friendly demeanors. Originally opened as the MinuteMan Cafe in the 1930s and family run since the 1950s, this coffee shop serves what you might expect at a diner on Route 66 during the Eisenhower era: lamb chops, beefliver and onion rings (yes, onion rings!), plus standard diner fare like omelets, BLTs, pancakes, waffles, French toast, salads and soups. And it even still has fountain-style drinks, like milk shakes and malts. Expect to see an anachronistic mix of old and young, healthy and hungover at this throwback of a restaurant. 1801 Market, at Octavia. (415) 431-6395.
Pauline's: There's just one main course at this airy, cozy restaurant: thin-crust pizza. The signature pie is simply slathered with pesto and scattered with pine nuts, but more complex combinations (featuring toppings like house-made Italian sausage, double-smoked ham, bergamot and pears) are also well done. Many of the vegetables and herbs come from the restaurant's own garden. To accompany the pizzas, Pauline's serves two daily-changing salads, one all green and the other featuring additional ingredients. For dessert, the kitchen cranks out its own ice creams and sorbets. Premade crusts are also available to take home. (-- SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 260 Valencia. (415) 552-2050.
Sushi Zone: You're either willing to try dive sushi, or you're not. Don't let the fact that this restaurant has seating for only 15 people, or that there's just one chef, or that it's almost invisible, throw you off. It's worth the wait in every way. The spider roll is to die (and almost to kill) for, as is the Hawaiian roll with tuna, mango and macadamia nuts. Standard sushi fare like nigiri and rolls are irresistible as well, as Sushi Zone uses only the freshest fish. Vegetarians will love it for options like Japanese-eggplant nigiri and rolls featuring artichoke. If waiting isn't your thing, get there even earlier than you think you should -- definitely before 6:30 pm, maybe even before 6. 1815 Market, at Pearl. (415) 621-1114.
Three Dollar Bill Cafe: Located inside the LGBT Center, but accessible through its own Market Street entrance, this spacious coffee shop serves sandwiches, soups and even breakfast burritos. Drink some joe, relax on the colorful, comfortable sofas or just gaze out at the sidewalk from this partially subterranean space. Three Dollar Bill hosts micro-cinema, queer-open-mic and stand-up-comedy nights. 1800 Market, at Octavia. (415) 503-1532.
Hotel Biron: A recently opened wine bar behind Zuni, the narrow space offers 80 wines by the bottle and 35 by the glass, plus cheeses, meats, olives and caviar for snacking. Local art exhibits rotate monthly. An intimate place for a glass of wine and a taste of Europe. 45 Rose, at Gough. (415) 703-0403.
Martuni's: Don't be fooled by the fern-and-tasteful-neon exterior; Martuni's is actually very classy inside -- an '80s glass-and-chrome kind of classy. The real treat resides beyond the spacious bar (with the perfect stemware for every occasion), in the cozy back room: just follow your ears to the sound of tinkling keys and amateur, heartfelt song stylings. Perhaps you'll catch a few bars of "Sunrise, Sunset," from "Fiddler on the Roof" (last time I was in, a grizzled old guy who'd spent several years touring as Tevye haunted the mic), or the catchy, racing syllables of "The Jets Song" from "West Side Story." If you're shy about solos but you like to sing along, there are always plenty of chances to lend your tenor to a giddy, galloping chorus. And, yes, you can always just shut up and listen. (-- Jan Richman) 4 Valencia, at Market. (415) 241-0205.
Octavia Lounge: Live entertainment nightly and a full menu that includes Southern corn fritters, vegetarian spring rolls and Hoisin glazed baby back ribs. Octavia Lounge also serves weekend brunch. Closed Tuesdays. 1772 Market, at Octavia. (415) 863-3516.
Orbit Room: During the day, get a cup of coffee in a high-ceilinged, tall-windowed space looking out on Market and Laguna. At night, you may miss the Art Deco detail for the colorful mixed-drink menu. Cement, inverted-cone tables provide the finishing touch. The Orbit Room sees a wide mix of people, from neighborhood types to tourists. Good place for a date or for getting together with friends after work. 1900 Market, at Laguna. (415) 252-9525.
Zeitgeist: A terrific, sprawling dive, Zeitgeist features a separate pool, pinball and arcade game room; TVs featuring auto and motorcycle racing; a spacious outdoor patio with tons of tables and lots of places to park your bicycle; and a lunch/dinner kitchen offering plenty of hearty, beer-friendly fare (burgers, sausage sandwiches, potato salad, fries). Weekends find motorcycles lined up outside, piloted by both real and faux road warriors alike. Zeitgeist also makes one of the best Bloody Marys in the City, filling a tall pint glass with tomato juice, booze, Worcestershire, spices and plenty of delicious, very wholesome, vitamin-packed vegetables (olives, asparagus, beans, celery, etc.). Recommended especially for morning and after-work sessions outside. (-- Josh Wilson) 199 Valencia, at Duboce. (415) 255-7505.