Thursday, February 18, 2010

A new neighborhood

So it's been a few months again since my last post. But this time I have a good excuse - I moved to a new neighborhood!

I've been in San Francisco now for almost 2 years, most of that spent at one place near Japan Town and Hayes Valley. That place definitely had some nice aspects, and the neighborhoods were not bad, in fact I thought living near downtown was really the way to go. So when we started looking for new digs due to mold problems and a lack of natural light in the old place and ultimately found a great place in the Inner Richmond, I figured we'd be settling as far as the neighborhood was concerned, at least in relation to our old one. But it turns out I'm way more into Inner Richmond than Hayes Valley, Japantown, Downtown, or just about anywhere else I've spent much time in SF!

Read on to find out why the Inner Richmond rules (and where to go if you find yourself here)...

Note: I've only been in the neighborhood for about a month now, so I haven't spent a lot of time at any one place. I'll be talking about places that are nearby that I've either enjoyed, or am excited about going to. I may update later with more experiences with local businesses.

Ok, so first things first: It's all about the food. Hayes Valley has quite a few higher-end restaurants, most with decent food, a few exceptional. But most of them are the same kind of food (California), and most are expensive. Japantown had plenty of Asian food, but even that was not necessarily the best around, and often expensive. Not so the Inner Richmond.

The most prevalent thing we've got is Asian food of all kinds. It's heavy on the dim sum and Chinese food (and I love dim sum, so that's fine by me), but there are plenty of Thai Noodle shops, a few sushi places (note: I haven't tried any yet, hoping for a good one nearby though), and even several Burmese places that are quite good. I haven't found a favorite dim sum stop yet (but if you have one, let me know in comments!), but I've already found several other places worth checking out.

B Star Bar is a well-regarded lunch place with Asian fusion cuisine, under the same ownership as the similarly well-liked (and much busier) Burma SuperStar Burmese place down the street. Both are just a half block from my house. I've just had lunch at B Star so far but it was quite good, a nice mix of different culinary traditions, innovative menu. I'm definitely planning to go Burma Superstar for dinner, but it's super busy almost all the time so be warned.

Mandalay is another neighborhood Burmese place, more traditional fare, but also good (I've been once for dinner thus far). Aside from the good food and being an alternative to more common Thai and other popular Asian fare, Mandalay is not as crazy busy as B-star, so if you want a Burmese fix this is what I'd recommend unless you have a lot of patience for waiting in line.

If you're more a fan of American/California cuisine, there's the excellent Q Restaurant and Wine Bar, which serves an incredible burger (several different ways), good fries, plus lots of other delicious stuff, and most importantly has my all-time favorite beer Boont Amber Ale on tap. I've only been once, but I can't wait to go back.

For a quick bite, there are lots of options, of course. Late-night is usually where you really hope you're not stuck with just pizza, and the Inner Richmond delivers.

There's Genki Crepes, open until 11PM or later every night. Decent crepes, the dessert ones are best, the crepe batter is itself a bit sweet so doesn't mix so well with savory ingredients unfortunately. They also have a huge selection of Asian candy and novelties.

Genki is pretty good, but I'm also curious to try Cynthia's Crepes, right nearby, in the hopes that they're a bit more traditional (less sweet batter).

Speaking of pizza, we've got a number of places in the area (and several open late), but the only one I've tried, and the one that seems to stand out to me anyway, is Pizza Orgasmica and Brewing Company. The pizza was good, and they have interesting options including seafood (shrimp and even scallops on pizza!), and they also have beer brewed in-house which is pretty decent. Prices on drinks are particularly good, especially during happy hour and they have various discount specials almost every day of the week. Plus they have a fireplace, which is hard to argue with (even though I now have one at home - woo!).

If bubble tea is your thing (or random Asian, and not-so-Asian fried food), Quickly is a must. The jasmine milk tea with large tapioca balls is my favorite, with some fried tofu on the side (with a delicious spice mixture I haven't quite put my finger on). I haven't been adventurous enough to try many of the other things on their menu, but I can recommend against the sesame balls. They're nothing like the delicious, sweet dim-sum variety!

There are quite a few local coffee shops, but I haven't had time to pick a favorite yet. I did spend a pleasant couple of hours at Martha and Bros Coffee Company, with free wifi and a decent mocha, and good people-watching from the bar stool seating at the windows. I'm also curious to try Blue Danube Coffee House, which looks very cute inside, and Kaju, which has organic coffee and food.

For dessert there is the superb (uh oh, running out of superlatives) Schubert's Bakery, which makes a delicious tiramisu, among other things. There's also the Toy Boat Dessert Cafe that I haven't tried, but looks very fun inside.

One thing we worried about when moving here was being further from a decent supermarket that would offer organic produce (since I try to buy almost all organic these days). I'm not an overall fan of Whole Foods, but they're a necessary "evil" (a necessary neutral?) in many places where better options like Oliver's Market are not available. From our previous house it was just a few blocks to the nearest one, now the same location is our nearest, but it's a 15 minute drive. And it was always miserably crowded in the parking lot and inside anyway, so we dreaded going every time.

Fortunately we lucked out and there's a very nice little neighborhood store with almost all organic produce and specialty items, plus organic coffee: Village Market. The prices were surprisingly no more expensive than Whole Foods, and in some cases actually less expensive!

I'm not a big fan of bars, but apparently we've got some good ones in the area. The one that seems worth noting thus far is Buckshot Restaurant, Bar and Gameroom which has a bunch of games (like Skeeball!), plus food, and of course drinks. I haven't checked it out yet, but I definitely will.

Last but not least, one of my favorite undiscovered gems in this area, which we actually found before moving here (and haven't been back to since we moved in!), is simply called The Richmond. A wonderful little California cuisine restaurant with local, often organic ingredients, all deliciously cooked, and an incredibly friendly staff. This is a place with a high-end "feel", that still manages to make you feel comfortable at home even if you're not particularly dressy. There's also a nice bit of privacy with many tables being in little curtained areas.

There's more to life than food though, right? How about a great neighborhood nursery: Sloat Garden Center.
How about an expansive neighborhood book store: Green Apple Books. How about a full-on tea shop: Aroma Tea Shop. It goes on and on.

And the best part, all of this is within a 6 block radius of my house, most are within 3 blocks. I'm blown away. I may not have explored my old neighborhoods quite enough, but between me, my girlfriend, and friends who spent time in the area, I'm sure I got a pretty good sense of what was available. It just doesn't compare to the Inner Richmond. Definitely the best neighborhood I've ever lived in, in any city.

We're also a few blocks from The Presidio, and about 6 blocks from Golden Gate Park, which are whole adventures in themselves and probably each deserve their own blog post.

More recommendations to come (the best dim sum perhaps?)...

1 comment:

Mama Roux said...

So have you tried Cynthia's crepes yet? I know you're getting ready to take off on your road trip, but I hope to see more on the new neighborhood when you get back!