As promised, here are a bunch of my favorite spots around San Francisco that I like to shop and some places I just like to spend timing visiting. Most are boutiques and vintage shops I’d much rather frequent than the giant and dreaded mall-o-generic. Over in my own Pacific Heights neighborhood, I always visit Timeless Treasures for vintage letters and unique gifts. This place is what I like to call ‘Alphabet City’ and owner Joan is a wonderful hostess. I also love Paper Source when I’m jones-ing for cool stationary, beautiful cards, ribbon and wrapping papers. Zinc Details has super hip accessories for your home and they also continue to rotate local artists’ work on their walls, which I always love seeing. It’s like shopping in your favorite local art gallery.
Over on Polk Street, from Filbert to Sacramento Streets. there’s a batch of lovely new shops popping up, as well as my favorite old standards. Swallowtail being one of the latter, carries the most unique vintage furniture and accessories around. If I owned a shop, this would be it.
Mascara Vintage, Picnic and Bella Cose all have great vintage clothing and home accessories. They’re all small, mom & pop type shops that carry local designers’ new work as well as cool flea market finds, which is my favorite kind of business to support.
Just over the hill in North Beach (our own Little Italy) is the one of a kind shop Aria. They carry just about everything you never knew you were looking for. Owner Bill Haskell rounds up the coolest, and the oddest of oddities and there’s usually some melancholy French music drifting in the air. This is just a wonderful old shop to linger in after a cappuccino at one of the many Italian cafes nearby.
Rae Dunn’s wonderful ceramics can be seen in the ceramic gallery Verdigris that she co-owns and operates, located in San Francisco’s infamous Cannery Building. I love her simple and very modern zen looking pottery work.
Over in always hopping Hayes Valley there’s some great little boutique shops I frequent. Lavish, Flight 001, Friend and Rose and Radish are all really great for gifts, unique art and fun decor finds. For vintage and funky furniture I stop in Zonal, and always Propeller for beautiful modern furniture, lighting and accessories and also because the owners love to feature emerging designers (and they’re also really nice!). Alabaster is just plain gorgeous eye candy everywhere you look.
The Alameda Flea Market * It happens every first Sunday of the Month. It’s huge, so wear your comfy shoes, dress in layers and have some of the kettle korn they serve there. It’s really good. But, bring your own cup of coffee-to-go. That’s just me being truthful – do not wait in the coffee line while many of the treasures to be found pass you by. It’s just not up to par with the stuff here waiting to be seen and grabbed. Half of my apartment is furnished from here and there are some really good bargains to be found. I hardly ever miss this flea market and I never wait in the coffee line.
Take one of the old trolleys to the The Ferry Building Marketplace. This historical San Francisco landmark built in 1898 was the gateway to every immigrants’ and sailors’ arrival in San Francisco. It has now been converted into a gourmet’s paradise. Wine tasting, amazing Ciao Bella Gelato, fresh fruits and vegetables, a meat market, the Cowgirl Creamery for the best cheese on the planet, The Slanted Door for the best Vietnamese food ever, gorgeous pastries and cupcakes at Miette and killer fish tacos and tamales at Mijita. It also hosts a local Farmer’s Market every Saturday and Tuesday afternoon. It’s a really fun afternoon of tasting, eating and I find it always inspires me to hunt for the best and freshest ingredients to take home and prepare my own favorite dishes.
Lastly, just take a walk anywhere in San Francisco, as it is a city for walking (it’s only 7 miles x 7 miles). Maybe start on Russian Hill for beautiful views of the entire bay from the Golden Gate to Tiburon to Berkeley and beyond. From there stroll on down Macondray Lane. This the famous lane in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, one of the original indie films (Parker Posey & Laura Linney are both in it) based on decandent life in 1976 San Francisco. A good one to watch before visiting, for the clothes and hair if nothing else.
It’s been so much fun being here. Thanks again Grace for having me and your warm hospitality. I hope you’ll all visit San Francisco soon, and if you do I’ll hear you had a great time visiting these favorites of mine. And trust me, skip Fisherman’s Wharf. You’ll be a much better visitor for it.