San Francisco Walking Tour: Hayes Valley
Wedged between the Civic Center and the Western Addition neighborhoods, Hayes Valley is home to some of the best food, design, and clothing the city has to offer. Just twenty years ago the area was better known for being a seedy stretch with a freeway ramp, but the 1989 earthquake changed the area for the better when it damaged the Central Freeway. Now it’s a decidedly trendy destination, with fancy food carts, the first dedicated sake shop outside Japan, green space, and intimate design showrooms. Don’t miss savoring a coffee from one of the many gourmet carts/kiosks, finding a sunny seat and watching the world go by.
Miette translates to “crumb” in French, and is a small, boutique-style pastry shop with four California locations. At this Hayes Valley branch, the store is decorated with pink and yellow floral wallpaper, pastel-hued tables, and white shelves lined with glass candy jars and vintage cake stands. The shop carries nostalgic and imported candies, such as Dutch licorice and Curly Wurly chocolate bars from England, as well as made-to-order cotton candy, salted caramels, and gingersnaps made with candied ginger. Also popular are the homemade cupcakes and macarons (meringue-based cookie sandwiches filled with buttercream), available in flavors like pistachio, rose, and hazelnut.
Located within walking distance of the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center, this Hayes Valley brasserie is ideal for pre-show French fare and inventive absinthe-based cocktails. The popular bar area contains backlit bottles and lanterns shaped like miniature hot air balloons, while the dining room has a Parisian-inspired design with tile floors, brass rails, and black banquettes. Executive chef Adam Keough changes the menu monthly, but enduring favorites include the French onion soup and the coq au vin: red Burgundy—braised chicken with bacon and roasted crimini mushrooms. The chocolate pot de crème is also a must.
Bar Jules, a brightly colored, neighborhood café in Hayes Valley, serves a new menu daily, written on the café’s signature blackboard. Dishes are created from local produce and ingredients, including sustainable meat and fish, and offerings include wood-grilled skirt steak with chickpeas and peppers and fennel gratin with anchovy and breadcrumbs. The restaurant has a handful of tables, as well as a counter with stools, and it caters to a relatively young crowd. Besides lunch and dinner, the restaurant serves a brunch on Sundays.
Blue Bottle Coffee Co. Kiosk
Long lines are the norm at this tiny, cash-only outpost of Blue Bottle Coffee, located down a quiet alleyway in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. Named after a 17th-century Viennese coffeehouse, Blue Bottle specializes in organic brewed blends, espresso blends, and single-origin coffees, all of which are roasted in vintage equipment and poured into compostable cups. Housed in a former garage, this miniature branch serves specialty drinks such as the New Orleans iced coffee, made with chicory and organic milk, as well as fresh baked goods like almond biscotti and snickerdoodles with saffron and vanilla bean.
No beige money belts or quick-drying underwear here. Flight 001 approaches travel with a future-forward style. Their selection of brightly colored suitcases, cheeky luggage tags, and indulgent grooming products brightens up the business of getting somewhere.
This standout modern design showroom stocks gold-painted piggy banks, angular Bensen furniture, and lighting options that include a paper chandelier by Moooi.
When True Sake opened in 2003, it was the first wholly dedicated sake shop outside of Japan. Their most popular offering is “Nama Ginjo Genshu,” an unpasteurized sake packaged in a stylish can.
Proxy Food Carts
A series of shipping containers offering Ritual Roasters’ coffee, Smitten ice cream, Avedano’s meat, and Suppenküche’s beer have turned this once desolate parking lot into a delightful place for people.