Around town with Allison: Cole Valley, San Francisco’s friendliest neighborhood

Allison Fong /Staff
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Possibly one of the friendliest neighborhoods in San Francisco, Cole Valley is lined with Victorian homes, strollers and most importantly, doggos. This is probably one of the lesser known neighborhoods of San Francisco — and there are many more like it. So far in this San Francisco series of Around Town with Allison, we’ve explored the Mission District, Haight-Ashbury, North of the Panhandle and now Cole Valley. If you look at a map of the neighborhoods of San Francisco, sometimes Cole Valley won’t even be listed as its own neighborhood — rather, it will be clumped with another neighborhood such as the Haight. But like every neighborhood, Cole Valley has its own unique characteristics that truly set it apart from other neighborhoods. Although small and quaint, Cole Valley is full of hidden SF gems and chill vibes that will surely win the hearts of many. Just south of Haight-Ashbury there’s a completely different neighborhood waiting to be explored. Hop on BART, take the N Judah toward Ocean Beach and voilà, you’re there.

Coffee, tea and treats

Wooden Coffeehouse

Formerly a laundromat called Doug’s Suds, Wooden Coffeehouse is making new waves in the coffee scene of this neighborhood. With coffee from Intelligentsia and baked goods from Jane the Bakery, Wooden Coffeehouse offers a solid spot for great coffee and baked goods! My go-to is a latte with Califia Farms Barista Blend almondmilk which, in my opinion, is one of the best almond milks for lattes out there (trust me on this one, I’ve had a lot of almond milks). Grab yourself a coffee — maybe a baked good, too — and take a seat in this hip coffee shop.

La Boulangerie  

A classic, La Boulangerie has blessed us all with a location in Cole Valley. This French-American bakery serves amazing pastries, sandwiches, beverages and everything in between. With such a large assortment of delicious pastries to choose from, you’ll want to order one of everything. I love its almond croissant, a flaky croissant topped with sliced almonds. Pro tip: ask to have your pastry warmed up for the ultimate pastry experience!

The Ice Cream Bar 

A blast from the past, The Ice Cream Bar is a 1930s style soda fountain and lunch spot. Serving diner classics, amazing sundaes and unique sodas and scoops, what’s not to love? Although there aren’t many places like The Ice Cream Bar out there, what’s really unique about this place is that it uses local ingredients so you can really taste the difference! If you’re a coffee lover like me, the New Orleans Hangover float with coffee syrup, sweet cream ice cream, soda and a golden eagle tincture will surely hit the spot! And don’t even get me started on the caramelized honey ice cream— now that is a dessert worth waiting for.



This French bistro sure does serve up a mean brunch! If you’re lucky enough, you’ll be seated on the beautiful outdoor patio. I’m a fan of many things: coffee, kale, green juice, cute shops and eggs Benedict. Lucky for me, and maybe even you, Zazie offers an amazing selection of eggs Benedict in addition to so many other brunch options. I am a big fan of the Florentine eggs Benedict with portobello mushroom and spinach, and “St. Trop” eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, capers and red onions. You honestly can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. If you’re as much of a self-proclaimed brunch connoisseur as I am, you must check this place out! Pro tip: to avoid a crazy-long wait, come on the weekdays for brunch!


Seasonal and delicious Mexican affair? Yes, please! Padrecito is well-known for its amazing dishes as well as its cocktails. Whether you’re craving tacos or tamales, Padrecito has got you covered. Although all the main dishes are to die for, be sure to save room for dessert because the churros are a must! Too early for lunch? Come for a Mexican-influenced brunch with huevos Benedictos and platano pancakes. Be sure to make a reservation because this place is poppin’.


Say Cheese 

Although I am very much lactose intolerant, I have a forbidden love for good cheese. Offering a wide selection of crackers, jams, wines, charcuterie and cheeses, Say Cheese is a neighborhood hotspot for all things wine and cheese. Although there are other cheese shops in the area, what sets Say Cheese apart from its competitors is definitely the rare cheese that it offers. The next time you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to swing by and sample some amazing cheeses (and maybe take home a couple pieces as well)!

Cole Valley Hardware Shop 

Channel your green thumb and head over to Cole Hardware and pick up a couple cacti from the nursery. If home improvement is more of your thing, you can also channel your inner Bob the Builder at this spot. Even if none of the above fit your needs, it doesn’t hurt to take a stroll through the aisles of this spot. Who knows — you might be inspired to take on a new project or passion!


Although Tantrum is technically a toy store, a person of any age would enjoy this cute shop. Located conveniently next-door to Wooden Coffeehouse, this spot offers an assortment of toys, pins, cards and other cute knick-knacks. I have never seen such a large assortment of Yellow Owl Workshop pins and jewelry at any other shop, so if you’re as big of a fan of quirky pins, definitely check this spot out!

For chill vibes, great food and friendly faces, check out Cole Valley the next time you’re in the city!

Allison Fong writes the weekly blog column on places and activities to try in and around Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].