Explore one of San Francisco’s most iconic neighborhoods: the legendary Haight Ashbury. Haighteration editor Andrew Dudley offers this insider’s guide to his favorite Haight haunts. Sip, shop, snack and sight-see in one of the most famous neighborhoods in the world.
1855 Haight St.
If music is your religion, then Amoeba might just be your Mecca. Housed in a former bowling alley, this gigantic shop is packed with aisle after aisle of both new and used CDs, records, video games, and posters, as well as listening stations where you can preview almost any title in Amoeba’s catalogue. As if that’s not enough, the massive space also hosts frequent in-store performances from both local and nationally-known bands.
The Red Vic
1727 Haight Street
The Red Vic
Not to be confused with its original location just a block away, the Red Vic has been screening indie and classic films — as well as mainstream hits — on Haight Street for over 30 years. But it’s not just the consistently-great line-up of films and storied history that make the Red Vic more than your typical theater. How about comfy couches, organic and vegan treats, and wooden bowls of popcorn? The Red Vic has all that and more — truly a special place to catch a flick.
1725 Haight Street
Recently named one of the country’s best bars by both Esquire and GQ magazines, The Alembic is known for serious, classic cocktails done right. Try their Sazerac or Old-Fashioned if you prefer your elixirs on the traditional side, or opt for a more adventurous concoction like the Gilded Lily or the Georgia Mud Squid (that’s made from corn whiskey, black tea, and pine cone liquor). Of course, a drink menu this exquisite deserves a food menu to match, and The Alembic’s doesn’t disappoint.
Wasteland: 1660 Haight Street, (415) 863-3150
Villains: 1672 Haight Street, (415) 626-5939
True Sole: 1429 Haight Street, (415) 626-2600
Buffalo Exchange: 1555 Haight Street, (415) 431-7733
Crossroads Trading Co: 1519 Haight Street, (415) 355-0555
With literally dozens of clothing and shoe stores on a two-block stretch of Haight, it’s no wonder that shopping is one of the neighborhood’s most popular pastimes. Wasteland (pictured) features a bright, two-story interior space lined with racks of both new and vintage apparel. With nearby shops like Villains and True Sole, as well as thrift stores like Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads, Haight Street gives you more than enough reasons to update your wardrobe.
1644 Haight Street
One of the city’s few remaining independent bookstores, The Booksmith is a true neighborhood treasure. In addition to having a huge selection of books and a friendly, knowledgable staff, The Booksmith is a great place to catch bestselling authors and literary experts as they partake in one of the shop’s frequent discussions and events.
You can’t visit the Haight without paying respects to the neighborhood’s iconic past, and that includes making a brief stop at 710 Ashbury. The purple Victorian just a block and a half south of Haight Street was the residence of the Grateful Dead from 1966 to 1968 — though by all accounts the house was yellow, not purple, back then. Located a short walk from the homes of fellow “Summer of Love” legends like Janis Joplin and the members of Jefferson Airplane, 710 Ashbury has come to symbolize the epicenter of San Francisco’s “hippie” movement. Stop by the house, and reflect on this totally unique, totally groovy period in the city’s history.
1398 Haight Street
Magnolia is owned by the same folks who run The Alembic, but this gastropub has a vibe all its own. The focus here is on the beer, which Magnolia proudly produces in its own 7-barrel brewery beneath the restaurant. From golden ales to chocolatey stouts, sample a range of stellar brews that pair perfectly with Magnolia’s recently-revamped menu. Prather Ranch burgers, braised pork cheeks with pancetta, cured meats and cheeses — this is definitely not your typical pub food.
The one-block radius around Haight and Fillmore is rapidly becoming a cornerstone of San Francisco’s arts scene, with an expanding universe of galleries, murals, and artists calling the area home. Check out the ever-changing shows at Lower Haters Gallery, D-Structure, Fifty24SF, and the neighborhood’s newest gallery, Fecal Face. Then take a long look at the many murals scattered throughout the neighborhood from some of the country’s foremost street artists. And if you’re lucky, try to catch a Lower Haight Art Walk, which fills the neighborhood with live music, art openings, and street foods once a season.
547 Haight Street
Are you into beer? Like, REALLY into beer? If so, Toronado is your new favorite bar. With more than 40 beers on tap, ranging from award-winning local microbrews to obscure Belgian imports, Toronado is one of the most finely-curated, devoutly-loved beer bars in the world. The space itself is positively no-frills — other than bumper stickers and keg taps decking the walls, the ambiance is decidedly spare. No matter; your attention will be entirely focused on that glass of rare, amazing beer you’re about to finish.
545 Haight Street
Rosamunde may be little more than a couple of guys behind a counter grilling up sausages — but man, what sausages they are! With uncommon varieties like “Duck and Fig” and “Wild Boar with Apple and Spice,” you’re definitely getting more than Oscar Mayer here. And after you make your purchase, you’re welcome — no, encouraged — to bring your sausage next door to Toronado, where you can enjoy it with an icy cold beer. That’s a pretty perfect meal right there.
If you’re looking to catch the biggest soccer (excuse us, “football”) match this week, you’re likely to find it playing in high definition at Danny Coyle’s or Mad Dog in the Fog. These two bars fill up on weekends with British and Irish ex-pats throwing back pints of Guinness at all hours of the day while cheering on their home teams. You can only imagine the scene when the World Cup rolls around.
Rooky Ricardo’s Records
448 Haight Street
Rooky Ricardo’s Records
Though the more famous record store on Haight Street may be Amoeba, head down to Rooky Ricardo’s for a thoroughly different, but no less satisfying, vinyl experience. Owner Dick Vivian has curated a collection of both popular and rare albums from soul, funk, jazz, motown, and pop artists of decades past. There’s also a turntable shop within the store, and some of Vivian’s own mix CDs available for purchase. Truly a special place.
Three Twins Ice Cream
254 Fillmore Street
Three Twins Ice Cream
It’s always a good time for ice cream, and some of the best in the Bay Area can be found at Three Twins. One of just three locations (the others being in Napa in San Rafael), this small Fillmore Street scoop shop serves up some of the tastiest, creamiest creations around, made with all-natural, organic ingredients. Try the wildly-popular Lemon Cookie or the aromatic Dad’s Cardamom, or sample some of their ever-changing seasonal flavors. Then take a pint with you so you can enjoy more at home.
Just two blocks south of Haight Street you’ll find Duboce Park, a utopia for man and dog alike. With three distinct sections — one devoted solely to humans, one to be shared with dogs on leash, and one for off-leash dogs to roam free — the park is a peaceful place where you’re just as likely to find co-workers playing frisbee as collies playing fetch. It’s also the site of frequent neighborhood events like cultural celebrations, tag sales, outdoor movie nights, and the annual Duboce Park Dogfest (naturally).
-Andrew Dudley, Haighteration