You may or may not be familiar with this tiny neighborhood nestled between the Inner Sunset and Haight Ashbury, but it's charming shops, small town feel and familiarity are what make it my favorite neighborhood in San Francisco. While the blocks which house shops, salons and restaurants can be walked in about 10 minutes, the simplicity of this area make it ever so charming and it seems as if everyone here has a puppy in one hand and a latte in the other. It's distance to Haight Street is awfully close, but the difference in atmosphere makes it seem as if you are miles away from the free spirited and hazed out vibe which makes the upper Haight famous.
It's as if I walk 15 minutes from my neighborhood and the skies open up into a haven of bright blue hues and warm sun here, but Cole Valley isn't only great during the daylight. At night, the star shaped paper lanterns light up in Kezar Restaurant and Bar, giving a very romantic vibe to the space and the neighborhood. In the evening, you'll notice both folks dining and drinking through restaurant windows at dimmed tables lit up by candles and string lights. The passing of the N Judah transit train will remind you of the urban city in which you are located even though the streets and environment do not necessarily replicate the same vibe you will feel downtown.
Tantrum, Say Cheese, Cole Valley Hardware and Urban Mercantile are four great shops within Cole Valley. Letterpress cards, hand crafted candles, and home trinkets are just some of the goods offered at Urban Mercantile. The bright white building will lure you in and most likely have you reaching for your wallet when you lay eyes on all the trendy home goods they have for sale.
If you happen to be in need for some fine wine, spectacular cheese or a sandwich or two, stop in at Say Cheese. Grab some food from the shop and walk to the park right next to BurgerMeister for a low key, no fuss picnic. If it's a birthday gift for a child you need to pick up, stop in at Tantrum for whimsical gifts, accessories, books and arts and crafts supplies. For a great selection of plants, succulents and all things paint, visit Cole Hardware and wander all the way to the back of the store to visit the nursery. Looking to get a few treats for your furry friend? Be sure to stop in at Cole Valley Pets, a good ol' fashioned pet store in the heart of Cole Valley.
Another spot to score some good eats is BurgerMeister, one of three San Francisco locations. From salads to burgers, curly fries, and beers on tap, this is the ultimate place to come during a lazy weekend day and splurge a little. The outside seating will most likely be covered in sunshine, so don't let the palm trees and sunshine trick you into thinking you are in Los Angeles! Living up to it's reputation, Zazie is definitely somewhere you want to stop in. The wait will be long no matter what day, and don't even bother if you are in a rush here. It's backyard patio decorated with overgrown ivy and string lights make for the perfect setting to relax and enjoy.
If you aren't up to wait, neighboring Grandeho's Kamekyo is another stellar spot for Japanese cuisine and sushi. We have become regulars here and for good reason. The sushi is fresh and the small interior makes for a perfect date night. If you're feeling up for it, spring for a Dynamite Roll and hot sake. Although I have yet to try it, the beautifully lit and romantic Italian restaurant, Bambino's sits right next to Kamekyo's if Italian food if more your thing.
If you didn't catch my article praising Padrecito on The Collaboreat, I'll mention it here as another great place to eat in the neighborhood. It's take on vibrant, imaginative cocktails and fresh Mexican food make this the perfect brunch, happy hour, or dinner spot. Cole Valley is also home to one of my favorite La Boulange locations. Now owned by Starbucks, the charm of these cafes have not been lost. This particular location sits pretty on the corner of Cole & Parnassus with an open air interior that invites you in and begs you to stay.
Crepes on Cole is a down to earth, affordable cafe that offers a standard menu and beers on tap. It's in the heart of Cole Valley and is right across from the N Judah stop, making this a popular stop for commuters and book lovers a like. Come here with friends or your laptop to get some work done and treat yourself to a crepe!
When you're in Cole Valley, don't miss...
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