SoMa — South of Market
SoMa “South of Market” is San Francisco’s most rapidly changing neighborhood as its old industrial areas get redeveloped into new expensive condos, convention centers, & office parks and as its old residential areas revitalize. This large spread out neighborhood is located roughly south of Market Street, east of Hwy 101, and north of Caesar Chavez St. Below are brief descriptions of better known parts of SoMa and of a few spots therein which we enjoy most. See our SoMa Map which includes the Embarcadero Map,Potrero Hill Map and Dogpatch Map as well.
Soma’s old industrial areas are being redeveloped into expensive new condos, convention centers and parks. It’s old residential areas are rapidly revitalizing. In this mix almost anyone can find something to enjoy. Furthermore, it is one of the most accessible parts of SF now that both Hwy 280 and the train station terminate near the SF Giants Ballpark.
At the east end just south of Market Street are many office buildings which have spilled over from the Financial District along with new highrise condominiums.
To their west, near 4th St/Howard, is the old Yerba Buena district now redeveloped into Yerba Buena Gardens (a pleasant area containing Moscone Convention Center, Sony Metreon, & free concerts), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the SF Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).
SFMOMA was the first modern art museum (built 1995) on the West Coast and houses well over 26,000 collected contemporary art works; It is now dramatically expanded with more than three times the previous space (reopened 5/14/16). This includes 45,000 sf of free art-filled public spaces. General admission for the rest of the museum is $25 for adults and free for all visitors 18 and younger. See website or call 415-357-4000 for more details.
If you are a shopper then head further west on Market St., to Market & Powell near Union Square. There you will find one of SF’s largest and newest shopping environs — the Westfield San Francisco Centre.
If you are into the gay scene, check out the nightclubs on Folsom St. between 7th & 12th Streets. On the last Sunday in September Leather Pride Week’s grand finale is held here — Folsom Street Fair, Among other things this fetish event features many “proud” souls trotting around in little more than studded leather harnesses.
The rest of Upper SoMa is mainly old industrial space now housing an eclectic mixture of small businesses, restaurants, and clubs. During the day the active small businesses here service most of SF but at night the area can sometimes still be a bit foreboding unless you are into the nightclub scene.
The Embarcadero & South Beach
The Embarcadero has a nice wide hiking/biking sidewalk that runs from Fisherman’s Wharf south along the eastern SF Bay edge of the city. It hits Market Street (i.e., SOMA) at the Ferry Building and continues on south past South Beach Harbor(which holds 700 boats) to the SF Giants Ballpark. A little further southeast is Mission Creek Park.
This area south of Hwy 101 and north of King St is where many nightclubs, funky restaurants, and experimental dance groups do their thing. It was also the heart of the dot.com boom is known as “multimedia gulch.” Businesses such as the Academy of Art, Wired Magazine, Vivid Publishing and many creative multimedia software shops still flourish here.
Many modern furniture showrooms (and architectural firms) can be found in Lower SoMa as well. For example, at Townsend St/8th is the San Francisco Design Center, a 3-building complex with over 100 showrooms for designers but also open for public browsing on weekdays 9-5. High-end modern stores nearby are Roche-Bobois at 701 8th St/Townsend, Room & Board at 685 7th St/Townsend, Limns (which recently downsized) at 280 Townsend St/4th, and Lignet Roset at 162 King Street. On 9th street south of Bryant there are stores like EQ3, 540 9th St, and Arkitectura In Situ, 560 9th Street.
A part of Lower SoMa, this little neighborhood of 2-story homes surrounds an old block long oval park. In 1852, when first built, South Park featured some of San Francisco’s finest homes; now, however, the area is definitely a little more dingy. The restaurants around South Park also used to be a central feeding destination for the media gulch crowd. Several, like South Park Cafe, are still around and The Butler & The Chef there is one of our favorite breakfast spots in the entire City. (Note: 2/13 It is getting more popular, thus more crowded and expensive. Sorry. The food is still good however.)
In the early 1870s the terminus of the Central Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Western Pacific railroads was built at Mission Bay to service San Francisco and its many wharfs. Over the last 15 years this land has been redeveloped into Giants Ballpark and the 43 acre UCSF research campus which have already and will continue to provide impetus for hundreds of million dollar condominiums and many more new biological research buildings.
Forty nine acres were set aside for parks, the first of which is Mission Creek Park. This new local park follows Mission Creek from the Ballpark west to 7th Street. It is a very pleasant place to ride your bike or walk your dog. Sights include a long row of houseboats, a free view of a ballgame when the Giants are playing, an enclosed dogpark near 7th St, and canoeing. We prefer to walk west along the south side of Mission Creek and, on our way back the north side of the creek to stop by Philtz Coffee, at 4th & Berry. During weekend ballgames we have been able to find free 2-hour parking a few blocks south of the Giant’s parking lots on Terry A Francois Blvd.
DogPatch Historic District
Dogpatch, south of Mission Bay between the Bay and Hwy 280 along 3d St (see Dogpatch Map), has some of the older homes in SF because most survived the 1906 earthquake. Then, and even now, it held much waterfront heavy industry such as shipbuilding, dry docking, and warehouses. However, starting in the 1990s this little known locale is being gentrified into a funky much more hospitable art & office district. It’s sometimes hard to tell from the old buildings but you can see by all the young professional people walking around.
You can also tell by the busy and superb little restaurants there. For example, we much like:
- Just for You Cafe, 732 22nd St/Tennessee St. Traditional American food & brunch. It’s small and often crowded because the food is so tasty. They have great beignets, which are square donuts with no hole and which means fried dough in French.
- Neighbor Bakehouse, 2343 3rd St/22d St. Excellent pastries backed in house. Good coffee. Very popular with locals.
- Serpentine, 2495 3rd St/22nd St. Newish place with unusually tasty food. Reservations are almost always required.
- Mr & Mrs Miscellaneous, 699 22nd St/3d St. Homemade gelato and cookies in a nice corner sitdown shop. Nice owners.
- Hard Knox Cafe, 2526 3rd St/22nd St. Excellent soul food including fried chicken & waffles, roasted ox tail, corn bread, grits, and much more. Pleasant service, selection of beer, and decor (tin siding like you are in a tin shack). Used to be extremely inexpensive but we notice their $3 French Toast is now $5 and the place is getting very busy. Opens 11 am-9 pm.
- Piccino Cafe, 1001 Minnesota St/22d St. Italian food & pizza. Good locally grown food, service, and details all around. They serve Blue Bottle coffee both in the restaurant and the stand-up Piccino Coffee Bar around the corner.
Nearby on the Bay are a few older clubs or restaurants with large outdoor patios. The Ramp, 855 Terry Francois St at the end of Mariposa St, is a long-time local favorite place for drinking on their sunny deck (which gets very busy after about 10 am on Sundays). Inside they also have a good dive bar and lunch for rainy week days.
This hilly older residential neighborhood, just west of Hwy 280 at the southern outskirts of SoMa (see Potrero Hill Map), is blessed with good weather, views, and access to both the City and the Peninsula. From the Peninsula going here is a good way to quickly enjoy the City’s style without getting too entangled in City streets & traffic.
Most of the best local shops can be found along 18th St:
- Chez Maman Bistro, 1415 18th St/Missouri St. — Small French restaurant with most of the seating at the bar watching the cooks. Good hamburgers, crepes, and the best Eggs Benedict we have had in a long while. Chez Papa Bistro on the corner is more expensive.
- Baked, 1415 18th St/Missouri St. — A small walk-in bakery run by two ladies who met each other in culinary school. They do their baking right in the tiny store so the goods are definitely fresh … and good.
- Christopher’s Books, 1400 18th St/Missouri St. — Quite small but they have an excellent selection. A 20 year old Mom & Pop bookstore which is becoming quite a rarity.
- Farley’s Coffee shop, 1315 18th St/Texas St. — Your basic quiet comfortable neighborhood coffee shop where locals like to hang out with their books or laptops.
- Hazel’s Kitchen, 1319 18th St/Texas St. Tiny tasty takeout sandwich shop with good prices located next door to Farley’s.
- Plow, 1299 18th St/Mississippi St. A popular American breakfast & brunch spot. Quite good but not great.
- Ganim’s Market, 1135 18th St/Mississippi St. — Excellent burger & fries for about $6; they grind their own fresh meat daily. This combo grill and corner liquor store has been a Potrero Hill institution for 36 years. Good greasy grilled food, cheap prices, friendly service, lousy decor. The owner is a very nice guy whose father started the business decades ago.
- Goat Hill Pizza, 300 Connecticut St/18th St. — Nice food, nice place.
- Thinker’s Cafe, 1631 20th St/Arkansas St. — Another local coffee shop which is more out of the way. Very small. Most locals go to Farleys.
As you can see, there is now LOTS to do in SoMa. Yet, many local SF South Bay area residents have never been there. They have no idea of the fun they are missing this side of San Francisco.