Easily accessible by BART and Muni, Hayes Valley is my go-to spot for all things yummy and a la mode. At first glance, you would’ve never known that a freeway used to run right through this hip neighborhood. In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged part of the Central Freeway, which lead to the creation of propositions to either fix the freeway or build something else in its place. Many years later, what was once an area that people would avoid is now an affluent neighborhood that is lined with upscale boutiques and trendy restaurants. Keep reading to see why I adore this neighborhood so much!
Coffee, teas and treats
Salt and Straw, the popular Portland-based ice cream company, has blessed the Bay Area with a San Francisco location. With creative flavors that are perfectly executed (not to mention the amazing vegan options), it’s no wonder why there’s always a line out the door at this joint. Whenever I’m in the neighborhood, you better believe that I’ll make a stop at Salt and Straw for a scoop of vegan freckled mint TCHO chocolate chip ice cream — on a waffle cone of course. Swing by for some of the place’s classic flavors or maybe be a little adventurous and try some of the regional flavors, such as Mt. Tam cheese with toasted Acme bread or Sightglass coffee cashew praline. No matter what you end up choosing, I can guarantee that you’ll leave with a smile on your face.
If one ice cream place isn’t enough, head on over to Smitten in Patricia’s Green for another sweet treat! Smitten serves yummy ice cream with science-lab vibes — made-to-order ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Still looking to satisfy your sweet tooth? A trip to Miette, a popular sweets shop with candies and pastries, or 20th Century Cafe for its Russian honey cake, will definitely do the trick.
If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I may or may not have a huge caffeine addiction. Lucky for me, and possibly you, there are a number of solid options to satisfy your caffeine fix, my favorites being Blue Bottle Coffee and Ritual Coffee Roasters. And let’s not forget about our tea drinkers either. If you’re into tea (and cats), be sure to check out KitTea, a cat café where you can drink tea and play with adoptable cats! It’s a dream come true if you like cats and tea (or a nightmare if you are allergic to cats and hate coffee).
The number of amazing restaurants within the boundaries of this neighborhood is unreal. One of my personal favorites is a Mano, a hip Italian restaurant that serves delicious handmade pasta. I warn you that there is going to be a bit of a wait, but to be honest, I would wait hours for a bite of this pasta. (You probably think I’m kidding but I’m not. Good things are worth waiting for. This is it.)
If you’re not in the mood for pasta, maybe Souvla will satisfy your cravings. This casual Greek restaurant serves yummy sandwiches and salads with roasted meats or veggies. You’ll be truly satisfied with your sandwich or salad but make sure to save some room for the Greek frozen yogurt because that’s where the party’s at!
If you’re looking to splurge, make a reservation at the iconic Petit Crenn, a French bistro that serves a delectable tasting menu. Chef Dominique Crenn has really outdone herself here. The saying goes “put your money where your mouth is,” so this is me doing just that. Yum.
You could honestly spend an entire day going through all of the insanely cute boutiques in this neighborhood. If you’re into all things comfy and casual, you’ll be sure to recognize Outdoor Voices, the trendy athleisure company that has been taking social media by storm. If that’s not your vibe, no need to worry! Pop into the many other shops in this neighborhood because you’re bound to find something you fancy! Some of my favorites are Reliquary, Azalea, Rand + Statler, gather, and if you’re into all things stationery and gifts, Lavish is a must! And let’s not forget about the love of my life, aka Plants and Friends, a small but mighty plant shop that will satisfy all of your plant needs. Side note — this is a men’s clothing store, but if I were a man, I would definitely shop at Welcome Stranger (just saying).
So come on down to this blooming neighborhood for good vibes, great people and awesome food. With just a quick BART and Muni ride, a day of exploring awaits you!
Allison Fong writes the weekly blog column on places and activities to try in and around Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].