Travel

The Best Spots in Hayes Valley, San Francisco

Hayes Valley’s transformation started back in 2003, when a committed group of citizens succeeded in taking down the Central Freeway that had divided their neighborhood. The efforts paid off massively: Since then, the area’s seen major investment from local brands and restaurants. The mix of creative boutiques and shops makes for a very stroll-able shopping neighborhood, not to mention what’s become one of the best food scenes in the city. For a full orientation, we consulted locals like goop Experiential Creative Director Britt Pattner (who lives nearby), and Kim Alter, whose restaurant Nightbird has been one of the area’s most coveted reservations since she first opened earlier this year.

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  • Nightbird

    Nightbird

    330 Gough St. | 415.829.7565

    Kim Alter’s been a fixture of the SF food scene for a long time, working with the Daniel Patterson Group and several of the area’s high-end restaurants, but Nightbird is her first solo project. It comes highly recommended by Chef Thea (who calls Alter a “kitchen badass”), which is as about good a seal of approval as you can get at #goophq. Go for Nightbird’s stunning $125/person tasting menu that changes with the seasons; next, head to the Linden Room, her teeny-tiny cocktail lounge next-door, for after-dinner drinks.

  • Raxakoul

    Raxakoul

    141 1/2 Gough St. | 415.874.9133

    This adorable neighborhood cheese shop (named for its owner, Phithak Raxakoul) specializes in French cheese and other gourmet items like chocolate, wine, and tea. The cheese selection is the kind you dream—or drool—about, but they also make sandwiches and charcuterie plates, which you can enjoy with a glass of wine on their patio.

  • 20th Century Café

    20th Century Café

    198 Gough St. | 415.621.2380

    This café came to us by recommendation from Kim Alter, who calls it one of the neighborhood’s hidden gems. Inspired to open up shop after visiting cafés in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest, owner and chef Michelle Polzine is known for knishes; linzer tortes; a drool-worthy, 10-layer Russian honey cake; and for her eclectic collection of vintage dresses and aprons. As Alter told us, “She’s just the whole package.”

  • Biergarten

    Biergarten

    424 Octavia at Fell | 415.252.9289

    This lovely beer garden is exactly the kind of place you want to come for drinks after work on a sunny day (their patio is huge). Food-wise, there’s a nice selection of snacks, like pickles and pretzels, plus some more filling options, including several types of sausage and sandwiches served in pretzel knot buns. The list of beers is excellent–and it’s expertly curated down to a few great options, easing any sense of menu overwhelm. If you’re still unsure, try a Radler: A mixture of beer and sparkling lemon soda that’s pleasingly light and summery.

  • Monsieur Benjamin

    Monsieur Benjamin

    451 Gough St. | 415.403.2233

    This is one of those restaurants you can always count on to be great, no matter when you come, or what the occasion—and the subtly French menu is a magical length that gives you options without being overwhelming. While the wine list is thorough and creative, it’s the cocktails that really shine—try a refreshing Daybreak (a combination of genepy, elderflower, tonic, and lemon), or their subtle absinthe drink, which is served with gin, mint, and Lillet. The space, which you’ll know from the neon cat that hangs out front, is around the corner from the symphony and the War Memorial Opera House, so it’s the perfect spot for a date before a performance.

  • Rich Table

    Rich Table

    199 Gough St. | 415.355.9085

    This is the kind of place you bring a friend from out of town to, because it shows off the best of what SF’s food scene has to offer. The restaurant is owned by Evan and Sarah Rich, a married couple who met when they were working in the kitchen at Bouley. Though both Evan and Sarah come from fine dining backgrounds, the vibe at Rich Table is much more relaxed, which results in ambitious dishes and exotic ingredients presented in a refreshingly unfussy way. The move, if you can, is the chef’s picks.

  • Maker & Moss

    Maker & Moss

    364 Hayes St. | 415.928.1287

    The first thing you’ll notice about this home décor shop is the grandiose space—the wood-paneled ceilings are tall and rounded, and there are huge skylights that fill it with natural light. Owner Matt Bissinger, an SF native, stocks the space with everything from mid-century furniture to ceramics, candles, vintage maps and wall-hangings, and other objects that make excellent gifts. P.S. They do registries.

  • Rand + Statler

    Rand + Statler

    425 Hayes St. | 415.634.0881

    As far as luxury boutiques go, this one skews decidedly cooler than most. First of all, it caters to both men and women, so you won’t feel rushed while rifling through racks of L’Agence dresses, stacks of A.P.C. jeans, and piles of Anine Bing tees—your dude will be plenty distracted by pieces from Y-3, Opening Ceremony, and Maiden Noir. The jewelry case also deserves mention (Ariel Gordon, Catbird, Pamela Love) as does the Chanel-heavy partnership with What Goes Around Comes Around.

  • MM Clay

    MM Clay

    315 Linden St. | 415.601.9152

    Mary Mar Keenan is a long-time potter who made a name for herself making tableware like plates, mugs, and serving bowls for some of the area’s best restaurants (she designed plates for both The Progress and Nightbird). She sells her earthy, heartfelt pieces out of a teensy studio, and they’re sort of the best souvenir (or wedding gift) imaginable.

  • Birch

    Birch

    564 Hayes St. | 415.626.6860

    Owner Torryne Choate is a truly talented designer. While she can take on any floral challenge you throw her way, she’s especially skilled at handling those way-harder-than-they-look homogenous sculptural arrangements—not to mention crafting flower crowns that put your Pinterest to shame. For our San Francisco pop-up shop, we asked her to put together arrangements to complement the architectural space; needless to say, she didn’t disappoint.

  • MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing)

    MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing)

    387 Grove St. | 415.863.3011

    Focusing primarily on Belgian and Japanese designers (Engineered Garments, Dries Van Noten, Comme des Garçons), the long-standing MAC is one of the city’s primary destinations for edgier labels. It’s enduring power probably has something to do with the owners, a brother-and-sister team with a seemingly bottomless well of design knowledge, which they pass onto their employees and customers. There’s a second location in Dogpatch.

  • Petit Crenn

    Petit Crenn

    609 Hayes St. | 415.864.1744

    Paying homage to her ancestral roots, Dominique Crenn’s second (and slightly less experimental) restaurant emphasizes fresh seafood dishes—mussels and clams with garlic and saffron—and a great selection of French wines. The bright, cozy space is white, crisp, and just a touch nautical, with lights dangling from raw rope built-in bench seating decorated with light pillows. Unless you want to eat at the first come first serve bar, try to make a reservation well in advance. The menu is prix fixe—but it’s totally worth it.

  • Clare V.

    Clare V.

    344 Linden St. | 415.834.5187

    Occupying a pretty clutch location across from the Blue Bottle on Linden Alley, the interior of Clare V.’s first San Francisco boutique is every bit the brand’s chic, subtly Parisian aesthetic, with soft light pink floors and French-inspired posters on the walls. A garden in the back connects them to the Steven Alan on Hayes. Photo: Ulysses Ortega

  • Veer & Wander

    Veer & Wander

    6 Brady St. | 415.864.3012

    We love how this streamlined boutique exudes the perfect mix of rockstar edginess and eco-conscious flair–the latter being obvious on its shelves that are stocked with some of our favorite natural brands including Vitner’s Daughter, Rahua, and our very own goop by Juice Beauty. A full service salon anchors the space, where you can find some of the city’s best colorists and stylists.

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