San Francisco Hidden Gems from 8 Locals in the Know
Among the thousands of noteworthy destinations in San Francisco, there are a few that the local cognoscenti frequent. Eight San Franciscans-in-the-know share their favorite places to watch live performances, see art, eat, shop and share a few hidden gems.
Salvador Acevedo - Marketing and communications consultant for the Latino community
Christina Augello - Artistic director and founder, EXIT Theatre
Daniel Derrick - Dance performer, massage therapist
Ben Fong-Torres - Music journalist, book author, radio columnist and former “Rolling Stone” editor
Jewelle Gomez - Director of grants and community initiatives, Horizons Foundation
Roberto Y. Hernandez - Artistic director and producer, Carnaval San Francisco
Michelle Tea - Writer, spoken word performer
Jennifer Yin - Marketing and Communications Associate, Asian Art Museum
Bimbo’s 365 Club (1025 Columbus Ave.)
Bimbo’s 365 Club is a lush setting in North Beach for bands, dance teams, comics and more, launched in 1931.
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (2868 Mission St.)
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts reminds Roberto Hernandez, director and producer of the teatros in Latin America, featuring contemporary and folkloric dance performances, musical events, gallery shows, juried exhibitions.
SomArts (934 Brannan St.)
SomArts, one of four city-funded community cultural centers, offers wild variety from Brunch with the Playwright to the annual Drag King Contest and a concert by Sila and the Afrofunk Experience.
EXIT Theatre (156 Eddy St.)
EXIT Theatre, just off downtown, is home of the S.F. Fringe Festival each September, but presents cutting-edge performances year-round in three intimate venues, all with a bohemian cabaret atmosphere.
CounterPULSE (1310 Mission St.)
CounterPULSE produces “amazing, underground and innovative work,” says author Michelle Tea of this venue for dance, theater, spoken-word, talks. And every Sunday it showcases works in progress.
The Dark Room (2263 Mission St.)
The Dark Room has edgy live theater, “one of the best venues in the Bay Area,” says Christina Augello, plus it’s home of the weekly Sunday Bad Movie Night (think Elvis in the 1967 Clambake).
Intersection for the Arts (925 Mission St., #109)
At Intersection for the Arts, the city’s oldest alternative art space, you can find theater, dance, gallery, jazz, readings, workshops. Its resident theater company, Campo Santo, “always presents lively, edgy diverse premieres,” says Jewelle Gomez, director of grants and community initiatives of the Horizon Foundation.
The Marsh (1062 Valencia St.)
The Marsh presents extended runs of experimental works; Monday Night Marsh offers works-in-progress from local emerging solo performers, musicians, playwrights, entertainers; and Marsh Rising features one-night performances of works almost ready for extended runs.
ODC/Dance (351 Shotwell St.)
ODC/Dance, founded in 1971, offers ground-breaking modern dance, from classic to trans. ODC is in residence at Project Artaud Theater.
El Rio (3158 Mission St.)
El Rio “puts the ‘fun’ in ‘funky’ — a bar with music of all kinds, along with spoken-word and monthly jams,” says Ben Fong-Torres, music journalist. Also: film and art shows, comedy, drag, even free weekend barbecues and oysters on the patio sometimes.
Cafe du Nord (2174 Market St.)
Cafe du Nord, once a Prohibition speakeasy, is now a nightclub, restaurant and live music venue.
Bottom of the Hill (1233 17th St.)
Bottom of the Hill, showcasing local and way-beyond alternative, rock-a-billy, punk, hard rock, folk, funk and pop musicians — “ is charming in its comfy humble yet earnest vibe.”
GALLERIES & MUSEUMS
The Luggage Store (1007 Market St. and 509 Ellis St.)
The Luggage Store has two gallery spaces, always hot with new art — like Ramekon Orwisters’ “Collared yams in mink Texas-style picnicking.” The gallery’s name comes from a building sign for a previous tenant of the Market Street location. and its annex, aka 509 Cultural Center, and adjacent Cohen Alley, where Luggage Store curates murals, performance pieces and public art,
San Francisco Public Library (100 Larkin St.)
The San Francisco Public Library’s offerings range from “exceptional, eclectic exhibitions of photos of disabled athletes in competition to historic San Francisco ephemera and prints,” says Jewelle Gomez, director of grants and community initiatives of the Horizon Foundation. The library hosts regular exhibitions throughout the library, as well as readings, lectures, film programs, performances, storytelling, classes, holiday celebrations.
Live Worms Gallery (1345 Grant Ave.)
Live Worms Gallery, complete with creaky wood floors and exposed pipes, formerly was North Beach’s legendary Figone Hardware. It features paintings, photos, installations, readings by artists who rent the space.
Cartoon Art Museum (655 Mission St.)
Cartoon Art Museum is “guaranteed to put a smile on your face,” says Ben Fong-Torres, music journalist and radio columnist, with seven major exhibitions a year from vintage cartoons to Japanese anime. Permanent collection includes 6,000 original pieces.
SF Camerawork (1011 Market St.)
SF Camerawork has mounted 400 exhibitions exploring new directions in photography and related media since its founding in 1974. It also publishes Camerawork: A Journal of Photographic Arts twice a year, maintains a reference library, and offers lectures, workshops, conferences and critique sessions.
Park Life (220 Clement St.)
Park Life “presents thoughtful, sometimes quirky, irreverent contemporary art” as a retail and gallery space.
Galeria de la Raza (2857 24th St.)
Galeria de la Raza organizes cutting-edge art exhibitions, multimedia presentations, performances, spoken-word events, screenings, computer-generated murals to foster appreciation of Chicano/Latino art and culture.
DRINKS & EATS
Brenda’s French Soul Food, 652 Polk St., 345-8100, breakfast and lunch.
Salt House, 545 Mission St., 543-8900, American cuisine, lunch and dinner.
Woodhouse Fish Company, 2073 Market St., 437-2722, lunch and dinner, all things fish.
Eureka Restaurant and Lounge, 4063 18th St., 431-6000, California cuisine, lunch and dinner.
Atlas Café, 3049 20th St., 648-1047, full breakfasts, homemade soups, pizza, sandwiches.
Tartine Bakery/Bar Tartine, 561 Valencia St, 487-1600, baked goods and light meals.
Mission Creek Cafe, 968 Valencia St., 641-0888, living room environment.
Bissap Baobab, 3372 19th St., 826-9287, Sengalese cuisine, exotic cocktails, live DJs after 10 p.m.
Frutilandia, 3077 24th St., 648-2958, Puerto Rican and Cuban cuisine.
Just For You Cafe, 732 22nd St., 647-3033, breakfast and lunch, seven days a week.
Farley’s, 1315 18th St., 648-1545, neighborhood cafe and gallery.
The Saloon, 1232 Grant Ave. 989-7666, blues club, city’s oldest bar, in operation since 1861.
Savoy Tivoli, 1434 Grant Ave., 362-7023, jazz bar, dates from 1906.
Sodini’s Green Valley Restaurant, 510 Green St., 291-0499, Italian, dinner only.
Da Flora, 701 Columbus Ave., 981-4664, Venetian-style tavern with food.
Le Colonial, 20 Cosmo Place, 931-3600, French-Vietnamese cuisine, live music, dancing.
Cresta’s Twenty-Two Eleven Club, 2211 Polk St., 673-2211, neighborhood bar, slightly older crowd.
Encore Karaoke Lounge, 1550 California St., 775-0442, wide mix of ages and music.
Park Chow, 1240 9th Ave., 665-9912, California, Asian, Italian cuisine, just south of Golden Gate Park.
Ton Kiang, 5821 Geary Blvd., 387-8273, dim sum.
Polly Ann Ice Cream, 3138 Noriega St., 664-2472, 49 homemade flavors daily, alligator pear to zucchini.
Chenery Park, 683 Chenery St., 337-8537, neighborhood restaurant, Tuesday is kids’ night.
Nordstrom Rack (555 Ninth St.)
Nordstrom Rack is South of Market, a fave of Christina Augello and Jewelle Gomez, who say it has the best deals in town.
Fantastico (559 Sixth St)
Three blocks away from Nordstrom Rack is Fantastico, a mecca, says Augello, of event and party supplies including baskets and dried flowers.
Siegel’s (2366 Mission St.)
The Mission District is a destination for all manner of shopping. Its ambience is cool, its merchandise hot. At Siegel’s, Roberto Hernandez says you can buy or rent a zoot suit for a night on the town, plus it has “great hats and old school clothing.”
Chocolate Covered (4069 24th St.)
Ben Fong-Torres calls Chocolate Covered, a reason to check out Noe Valley, “a tiny shop with a wide, wide assortment of chocolates, from vegan and sugar-free to chocolate bars infused with bacon flavoring. Yum!”
Ichiban Kan (22 Peace Plaza), Aria Antiques (1522 Grant Ave.), Lola of North Beach (1415 Grant Ave.), Cookin’ (339 Divisadero St.), and Delessio (1695 Market St.)
The shopping list is long and varied for Jennifer Yin: Ichiban Kan, in the Miyako Mall, Japantown, for inexpensive items for the home, stationery to kitchen utensils; in North Beach, Aria Antiques, for gems and oddities from around the world, and Lola of North Beach, for stationery and children’s clothing; Cookin’ for “recycled gourmet appurtenances”; and Delessio, where, she says, “They have homemade chocolate and peanut butter bubble wrap — ‘nuff said.”
These are a few of their favorite things:
Christina Augello: Everything along the city’s western shoreline — Ocean Beach, the Pacific, the Great Highway “and then some.”
Salvador Acevedo: San Francisco Botanical Garden, 1166 9th Ave., 661-1315, in Golden Gate Park, especially the Redwood circle, “a mystical, special place in the middle of the city, quiet and perfect for meditation.”
Daniel Derrick: “When you’re stressed out and it’s beautiful outside, Golden Gate Park will mellow you out.”
Ben Fong-Torres: Grooves Vinyl Attractions, 1797 Market St., 436-9933, hasn’t a single CD for sale but is “crammed with albums covering every kind of music and corner of the entertainment world as well as posters, books and ’60s collectibles.”
Jewelle Gomez: Dolores Park, between Dolores and Church streets, 18th to 20th streets, “a great sun spot, great views of downtown, always someone hanging out,” plus performances or music on the weekends. Another pick: monthly Radar Reading salons, curated by Michelle Tea, at the Main Public Library, 100 Larkin, 557-4400, and at the Eureka Valley Branch Library 1 Jose Sarria Ct., 355-5616, where audience members who ask a question get a home-baked cookie.
Roberto Y. Hernandez: Balmy Alley, in the Mission District between Treat and Harrison and 25th & 24th streets, lined with “colorful, meaningful murals”; all of 24th Street between Mission and Potrero for its “warm, beautiful people” and a long list of delights: “fresh tortillas, menudo soup, lowriders, mangos, fresca, tortas, pan dulce, pollo asado, paleteros, pupusas, flan.”
Michelle Tea: Jessica Lanyadoo Intuitive Counseling, 684 Guerrero St., 336-8354.“It’s a mind-blowing experience to work with Jessica, who uses astrology, tarot and medium work to counsel you through hard times and give you perspective on your life and inherent nature.”
Jennifer Yin: Seward Street Slides, Seward and Douglass streets, superfast rides on concrete slides built into a hill: “A hidden gem that’s maybe not so hidden after it was outted on Yelp” — online reviews by real people of nationwide entertainment venues, shopping, services and more). Also Japantown, “hands down one of my favorite destinations in S.F. Kappa is a divine restaurant hidden away above Denny’s. Go there and you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into another world.” And upper Grant Avenue with its specialty food stores, charming homes, tucked-away alleys, glorious views. “Very San Francisco.”
For calendar information and local expert recommendations on all of San Francisco’s arts and cultural activities, visit www.sfarts.org which features more than 1,000 arts events in its database along with curated arts highlights and feature articles. SFArts.org is accessible on iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices.