There are so many different neighborhoods in San Francisco, each with its own unique characteristics and quirks. (If you didn’t know, now you know.) So far in this series Around Town with Allison, I’ve gotten the chance to cover the Mission District, where I introduced you to some of my favorite spots in the neighborhood. For this specific piece, I will be covering Haight-Ashbury, named after the iconic intersection at, you guessed it, Haight Street and Ashbury Street. Also known as the Haight or the Upper Haight, this popular neighborhood is known as the birthplace of the hippie counterculture. That’s right folks, the summer of love was in fact based in this neighborhood. Rich in history, Haight-Ashbury is the place to be! Check out some of my favorite spots in this hip and trendy neighborhood!
Are we even surprised that coffee is the first thing I talk about in any of these travel pieces? I’m not surprised, because I literally inhale this gift from the gods. One of the biggest attractions in this neighborhood is Flywheel Coffee Roasters, a local coffee shop that serves high-end coffee. With a wood and concrete interior, this place gives me major industrial vibes. What’s even more killer is the brew at this spot. If you’ve ever heard anything about Flywheel, it was probably about its siphon coffee. You might be wondering, “What the hell is that?” This crazy looking contraption is something you would expect to see in a chemistry lab in school. Similar to a French press, a siphon uses a burner and vacuum-like technology to extract the coffee from the grounds. “Isn’t it just black coffee?” Well, that’s where you’re wrong. As an avid black coffee drinker (that’s right folks, none of that cream and sugar for me), this was some damn good coffee. Smooth and flavorful, I finished the entire thing in a matter of seconds. (That is an exaggeration but you get the point.) If you’re not into black coffee, try out any of their yummy espresso drinks as well for an equally satisfying energy boost!
If you’re on the other end of Haight, be sure to check out Stanza Coffee and Wine Bar or one of my other favorites, Ritual Coffee Roasters. These three definitely rank among the better third-wave coffee shops in this neighborhood, so you can’t really go wrong with any of these spots. If you’re feeling adventurous, channel your inner Allison and grab a cup of joe from each of these spots. It’s like a new challenge. #allisonchallenge!
Things to do
Maybe it’s just me but I went through a stage where I loved thrift shopping. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy it but it’s just tiring going through racks and racks of clothes to find maybe one good item. But let me tell you one thing, Wasteland has rekindled my love of thrifting. Carrying a range of vintage and designer items, you won’t have to pick through weird and peculiar items at this spot. Some familiar shops such as Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads Trading Co. also have storefronts on Haight, along with fun vintage shops such as Relic Vintage, Static Vintage, Love Street Vintage and Decades of Fashion, the ultimate vintage shop. Long story short: if you’re into thrifting, this neighborhood is the place to be, folks! If you’re not into thrifting, that’s totally fine because there are also some great storefronts in this area that are sure to satisfy your needs!
Another gem in this neighborhood is The Booksmith, a cute bookstore with a wide range of books, cards and all that jazz. Now let it be known that I am a big fan of bookstores. I love reading, although I don’t have a lot of time to do it. Honestly speaking, I don’t really remember the last time I actually read a book for fun — but that is beside the point. Booksmith is an awesome spot to browse through books and little gifts. Its enamel pin and patch selection is quite exquisite if I do say so myself. Be sure to stop by this spot when you’re in the neighborhood!
On the west end of Haight, you can actually walk across the street right into Golden Gate Park. The perfect spot to take a walk, have a picnic or go for a bike ride, Golden Gate Park is one of the landmarks of San Francisco and rightfully so. Grab your coffee from Flywheel and head to the park for a quick stroll and some fun sights and sounds.
Just by walking around, you’ll notice all of the beautiful murals and street art in the area. Be sure to stop and enjoy the piece (and maybe take a pic for the ‘gram too!).
No matter what cuisine you’re craving, you’re likely to find it in this neighborhood. Cha Cha Cha is a popular spot for Caribbean food, not to mention i’s equally popular neighbor and one of my favorites, Parada 22, which serves up delicious Puerto Rican affair. Puerto Rican food is not very common but let me tell you something, for those of you who haven’t tried it yet, you are really missing out. Bonus: It has vegan and vegetarian options! Be sure to stop by and enjoy some tasty and soulful dishes that’ll definitely make you do your happy dance in your seat as you take your first bite. If you’re on a time crunch and need a quick bite, Street Taco or the Haight Street Market are solid options. If you’re craving a burger, head on over to Veganburg for a meal that’s so good, you’ll forget that it doesn’t even have meat in it! Nothing satisfies post-thrifting munchies better than a vegan burger and seaweed fries, that’s for sure! Sparrow is another trendy spot in the neighborhood that serves looks as well as killer bites. Snap a photo in the aesthetic outdoor patio for some cute brunch pics and enjoy the ambiance and flavorful food!
Just a quick BART and Muni ride away, the Haight is a thrifter and coffee drinker’s paradise. If you’re both, then you are sure in for a treat. Come for some shopping, maybe a cup or three of coffee and a delicious lunch, then stay for the chill vibes and rich history!
Allison Fong writes the weekly blog column on places and activities to try in and around Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].