(Note: This is part of a San Francisco neighborhood guide to be published individually, then in its entirety at completion. As a result of the ongoing business restrictions during the pandemic, some of the restaurants and retail businesses mentioned may close with no warning.)
If the Upper Haight has the faint whiff of the 1960s about it, the Lower Haight has a touch of the ‘90s – there’s a certain gritty charm and indie spirit here that has changed little since then, with many of the same shops still going strong.
As my first neighborhood when I originally moved to San Francisco, I got to know it well, chasing many a deadline on my laptop at Café International and Bean There (now Café Reveille). (Wherever I’ve lived, I tend to spend about 80 percent of my time hanging out in my local neighborhood, and the Lower Haight was no different). And it’s really a locals place; you won’t find many tourists here, unless they’re a soccer fan from the UK. Partly because it’s not that big (Oak to Hermann St., Divis to Buchanan). But what it lacks in size, it makes up for with a perfect mix of hip urban shops, from record stores (Groove Records, Jack’s Record Cellar), costume shops (Costuming on Haight), and boutiques (Viscera (designed in-house), Sabah (handmade shoes from Turkey), Wild Feather (local designers)), to the kinds of bars, coffee shops and restaurants that invite hours of lingering. The Lower Haight is like a comfortable old shoe, the kind of neighborhood where you can enjoy a day doing next to nothing. Start with a morning coffee under sunshine and sidewalk trees at Café Reveille or breakfast at The Grind. Grab a sausage dog for lunch at Berliner Berliner and take it next door to Toronado to wash it down with one of their 40 tap beers while watching a Giants game. Soak up some afternoon sunshine at Duboce Park. For dinner, choose from one of a number of local restaurants that range from Memphis Minnie’s BBQ Joint, Iza Ramen, Indian Oven, Axum Café Ethiopian, Hot Zushi, to Perilla Vietnamese. After that, drinks till 2am at quirky neighborhood bars like Molotov’s, Noc Noc, Danny Coyle’s or Nickie’s.