SAN FRANCISCO’s BEST ●Attractions●Neighborhoods/Shopping+Restaurants
Haight Street betw. Stanyan St. & Central Ave.
Getting here by public transportation: From Union Square area/Powell St., take the N-Judah streetcar outbound to Carl/Cole streets, which is 3 blocks from Haight Street.
Named for the intersection of Haight Street and Ashbury Street, this neighborhood is also referred to as The Haight and Upper Haight. Known as the birthplace of the hippie, it was dubbed the “Hashbury” by Hunter S. Thompson in The New York Times Magazine. Visiting here makes it almost possible to step back in time to the “Summer of Love.” Though most locals no longer don bell-bottoms, tie-dyed shirts, and love beads, these items are still for sale in some shops and are perfect souvenirs. Not yet gentrified, the area is a little rough around the edges--you’ll see some street people but you’ll also see the occasional young Love Child. As it was in its heyday, Haight Street is lined with an assortment of colorful boutiques, inexpensive restaurants, and cool coffeehouses. Wavy Gravy describes his neighborhood as “a coexistence between the punks and the hippies, a little cutting-edge U.N. in action.” Sort of.
Strolling along Haight Street is still like groovy, man. “Vintage” used clothing stores abound, as do unusual boutiques, galleries, and nightclubs. It is the place to get pierced and buy tie-dye.
Visiting permits the chance to see some of the area’s many magnificent Victorian houses, including a few where psychedelic rock royalty lived back in the day.
In the Neighborhood
●1524-A Haight Street Known as the Jimi Hendrix Red House, he had an apartment in this Victorian for a few years in the 1960s. It got its name after it was painted red in Jim’s honor. It’s now a private residence located above a music shop. Murals on the exterior walls to commemorate this legendary musician.
●710 Ashbury Street (1 block south of Haight St.), where the Grateful Dead once resided. The Dead wrote some of their most famous music while living in this Victorian house. The 1967 “Seven Ten Ashbury” album cover was shot here on their front porch.
●558 Clayton Street (just north of Haight Street), where the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic--the first free medical clinic in the U.S.-- operated for 52 year. Nicknamed “the hippie clinic,” it opened in 1967 during the Summer of Love. Janis Joplin was treated offsite for a heroin overdose, and Charles Manson once dropped in before he was infamous. Yours truly also visited here once, back in the heyday, for treatment of an ear infection.
●636 Cole Street (just south of Haight Street), where, on a more somber note, the notorious Manson “family” once lived.
●2400 Fulton Street (on north side of Golden Gate Park, 2 blocks from Stanyan St.), where the Jefferson Airplane lived in this Colonial Revival-style mansion with Doric columns.
●112 Page Street (at Gough Street, near Van Ness Ave./Market St.), where Janis Joplin once lived with Country Joe McDonald in apartment 3.
●1090 Page Street (at Broderick Street, near Divisadero St., in Lower Haight), where Big Brother & the Holding Company formed.
Haight Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour
Haight-Ashbury Street Fair June; 2nd Sunday. For this popular event, which attracts thousands of people, Haight Street is closed between Stanyan and Masonic and features hundreds of vendors plus a stage with live music at each end. Past performers have included Jefferson Starship, the Merl Saunders Band, and The Tubes.
Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery 1398 Haight St. Named with nods to both the Grateful Dead song “Sugar Magnolia” and to the 24-hour erotic bakery called Magnolia Thunderpussy (after the burlesque queen owner of the same name) that was in this space in the 1960s, this brewpub produces good vibes and an ever-changing line-up of artisan ales (the brewing takes place in the basement). More Magnolia pub history. One is a big, bold ale that is gloriously tagged Old Thunderpussy Barleywine, but the tasty customer favorite is the pub’s flagship Blue Bell Bitter--a well-balanced classic English-style delight and the first beer they ever brewed when they opened in 1997. In fact, you’ll notice that most beers are named for Grateful Dead songs. Several images of the Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia are displayed in the pub. Seating is available indoors at a bar, at a high shared table, and in comfy leather booths, plus sidewalk-side outdoors. The brunch menu offers both grapefruit and orange mimosas that are perfect with “Devils on Horseback” appetizer dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon. I was delighted with my German cheese-filled kasekrainer sausage served atop some sweet roasted baby carrots sprinkled with pickled mustard seed, and I used my side of lavain toast to sop up the juices. My dining partner had the full English breakfast with a banger and bacon plus two eggs, butter beans, and grilled tomatoes. A breakfast sandwich with a fried egg, pork sausage patty, and brioche bun burger are also on the menu. While we were here, we went back in time to the ‘60s via memory-inducing rock in the background--“Turn, Turn, Turn,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Shelter from the Storm,” and our exit song--“White Rabbit.” Also see, Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Co. in Dogpatch, More images.
Ben & Jerry’s 1480 Haight St. Located on one of The Corners, the flavor of favor is Cherry Garcia, though Phish Food is also quite popular. The shop has a large variety of waffle cones and bowls on the menu, and that they allow you to mix as many flavors into your milkshake as you would like.
Love on Haight 1400 Haight St. The motto here is “Whatever the question, Love is the answer,” and their mission is spreading “Rainbows & Sparkles.” The shop seems dedicated to keeping alive the memory of the Summer of Love. It has tie-dyed everything--even baby onesies--and is perfumed with incense. My husband didn’t want to go in, but once I convinced him, he really got into it, even trying on psychedelic prism glasses, and I had to drag him back out. A portion of profits are donated to Taking It to the Streets to help fix the ongoing issue of homelessness that plagues Haight Street.
Piedmont Boutique 1452 Haight St. Located under “the legs” and filled with outrageous fashion, this shop hits a glam slam with lingerie, hosiery, jewelry, feather boas, satin gloves, wigs, fetish wear, and things undreamed of by most of us. A wall is decorated with $2 and $4 earrings galore, and it is hard to leave without buying some sequin-lined false eyelashes.
VeganBurg 1466 Haight St. Featuring a clean contemporary decor, this vegan fast-food spot features nine delicious veggie burgers. For instance the Avocado Beetroot Burger is prepared with hand-shredded beets and a crispy soy patty, while the Creamy Shrooms features a GMO-free soy patty smothered in sautéed mushroom sauce. Choose a side of seaweed fries or sizzlin’ broccoli. This is the first cog in the U.S. chain of a company based in Singapore.
Haight Ashbury T-Shirt Store 1500 Haight St./Ashbury St. Located on the famous corner, this well-positioned, well-named shop is a trip and also has a really cool website. Shirts carry the images of all the gone great ones: Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa . . . They also have plenty of Dead Head stuff. The wall are literally lined with colorful merchandise.
The Red Victorian 1665 Haight St. 18 rooms. Some shared baths. No TVs. Afternoon popcorn, continental breakfast. No pets. No parking. Operating within a 1904 Victorian and billing itself as a living museum, this B&B also aims to be a peace center, art gallery, and international meeting place. It calls itself a community, and operates like a commune. It has some permanent residents, some guest room rentals, and some hostel beds. The exotic, erotic Peacock Room features stained-glass windows, a fabric ceiling, a vase of peacock feathers, a canopied bed, and a mirror-lined bathtub tucked behind a beaded curtain. In the Aquarium Bath, live goldfish are housed in the toilet tank. The Peace Cafe and a meditation room on ground floor are communal areas for guests only. This place is like groovy, man.
San Francisco Mercantile 1698 Haight St. This light-filled contemporary shop purveys state, city, and Haight Street souvenirs--most produced by locals.
Cantata Coffee Company 1708 Haight St., (415) 221-5555. This teeny-tiny family-run coffeehouse serves espresso, chai, pastries, and gelato. Unusual coffees are named after vintage stars--the Audrey Hepburn has hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and caramel; the Frank Sinatra is mocha-blueberry. Note that boba tea is not their forte.
Happy Donuts 794 Haight St., (415) 386-1650. These donuts are the kind you remember from back in the ‘60s. It’s on my list to try the Bohemian krawler--a light chocolate cake donut infused with caramel and vanilla cream. Sandwiches are also available.
Ploy II Thai Cuisine 1770 Haight St. Located upstairs in a Victorian and sporting a kitchy decor of Christmas lights and Valentine decorations, this popular spot has only eight tables. You can’t go wrong with fresh spring rolls, tom kah soup (coconut soup with chicken), pad see ew, or pad thai. Tasty vegetarian options include tofu praram and tofu prig king.
Amoeba Music 1855 Haight St. Located at the west end of Haight Street, where it meets Golden Gate Park, this massive independent music store is situated within a converted bowling alley and takes up half a city block. When it opened in 1997, it was the largest store in the country specializing in CDs and vinyl records. It continues to offer the largest selection of music—including vintage vinyl--in the Bay area, and is in fact the largest new and used record store in the U.S. The classical music section has special listening rooms, and sometimes live performances occur on a small stage. You’ll also find a good selection of Fillmore posters, both original and copies, plus t-shirts, books, and collectibles. The store buys, sells, and trades. Europeans and New Yorkers alike love visiting because it is unique. We had young musician visitors from Italy a few years ago and the first question out of their mouth was how could they get to Amoeba. Since we live in Berkeley, we took them to the original Amoeba on Telegraph Ave. (it opened in 1990) and dropped them off for the afternoon, and the next day they headed out to San Francisco to visit the more famous branch.
Cha Cha Cha 1801 Haight St. Situated within a Victorian and featuring a decor of blackened brick walls ringed with funky altars and an atmosphere of happy Latin music, this festive tropical spot serves up delicious Caribbean fare in tapas-size portions meant for sharing. ??Diners sit in comfy half-moon booths sheltered by large potted plants. Menu winners include perfectly fried calamari, a fabulous house-specialty arroz con pollo with fried platanos, and superb fried new potatoes with chile aioli dip. One dish per diner plus a salad is just about right. A delicious sangria and ginger beer are good choices for drinks.
GOLDEN GATE PARK:
Perhaps the most famous hippie event in the park is the Human Be-In with Timothy Leary held at the Polo Fields on January 14, 1967. The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane performed, poets Allen Ginsberg and Michael McClure spoke, and Timothy Leary--wearing love beads and flowers in his hair--recommended attendees to “Tune in, turn on, drop out.” Reports indicate that flowers and LSD were dropped from the sky.
Many more hippie events took place in the park, many of them informally on Hippie Hill, which is located several blocks west of Haight St./Stanyan St. (east of the tennis courts, west of Stanyan St.). It is also described as located on the north side of Robin Williams Meadow (formerly Sharon Meadow).
Held annually on April 20, the Hippie Hill 4/20 smoke out is free and attracts huge crowds that show up to light up. No one under age 18 is admitted. For many years an underground party, in 2017 it was first sanctioned by the city. It begins at 10:30 am and runs until dusk, but it peaks at 4:20 pm, when the drum beat get “more frenzied, and hippie girls twirl faster.” As you might imagine, it can turn into a bit of a mess, with limited bathrooms and space. Lore has it that this celebration began with some San Rafael High School kids who would meet to smoke after school at 4:20. The Grateful Dead, who were from that area, picked up the tradition and brought it to the big time.
OFF HAIGHT/COLE VALLEY:
This appealing neighborhood is just a few blocks from Haight Street and is where the N streetcar stops.
Say Cheese 856 Cole St./Carl St., Cole Valley/Haight Ashbury. Here since 1976, this very small shop is crammed with almost 300 kinds of cheese as well as made-to-order sandwiches, salads, pâtés, crackers, cheese spreads, and fresh cookies. It is located a hop, skip, and big jump from Golden Gate Park.
Zazie 941 Cole St./Parnassus St. Featuring a cozy ambiance, this small French Provençal-style bistro has tall ceilings, brick walls, and a heated garden patio for sunny-day dining. Breakfast offers vast choices--some common, some less so: Irish oatmeal brûlée; gingerbread pancakes with roasted pears; French Toast Tahiti stuffed with caramelized bananas and walnuts; scrambled egg dishes (Fontainblue mixes several kinds of mushrooms with spinach and fontina; Mexico mixes chorizo with peppers and white cheddar); poached egg specialties (the colorful Valence features roasted eggplant, goat cheese, and a spicy tomato sauce). Eggs are from free-range chickens, and milk is organic. Lunch brings on delicious sandwiches and salads. A citron presse and chocolat chaud are reminiscent of Paris, as is the restaurant in general, but the blend of cranberry juice, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and bubbly water that is the Zazie spritzer is most definitely the drink of choice. A selection of mimosas is also an option.
Should the wait to get in be ridiculous, many options are nearby: an Italian restaurant, a sushi bar, a crêperie, a burger shack, a coffee house, and a French bakery serving huge French-style cafes au lait.
Stanyan Park Hotel 750 Stanyan St./Waller St. 3 stories; 36 rooms. Some kitchens. Afternoon snack, continental breakfast. No pets. No parking. Located at the edge of Golden Gate Park, this 1904 Victorian mansion survived the great quake of ‘06. It has been renovated into a pleasant hotel with attractively decorated rooms.