San Francisco/Civic Center-Tenderloin

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California San Francisco San Francisco/Civic Center-Tenderloin

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Introduction

As the name implies, the Civic Center is the primary center of government within San Francisco, housing many important civic institutions. Aside from its official duties, it also moonlights as a cultural center with many fine museums, theaters, opera houses, and symphony halls located here. Over the years however, it has developed a reputation for attracting many of the city's drug-addicted and homeless to its open plazas. Next door is the Tenderloin, one of San Francisco's lowest income neighborhoods with an unfortunate reputation for poverty, drugs, and crime, particularly violent street crime. However, it also has a rich history and an eclectic community, with treasures for those who know where to look. The Civic Center-Tenderloin area is bounded roughly by Market St to the southeast, Taylor St to the east, Franklin St to the west, and Sutter St to the north.

Civic Center

The Civic Center is on Van Ness Ave, north of its intersection with Market St. The city began developing the area in 1913, and most of the buildings there are of a "Classical Style", with their development being heavily influenced by the "City Beautiful Movement". Most of the city's integral governmental institutions are located here; like City Hall which dominates the Civic Center with its impressive "Beaux-Arts" style dome. There are two main plazas in the area; Civic Center Plaza and United Nations Plaza. The Civic Center Plaza (in front of City Hall) has been a popular place for holding rallies, protests, and festivals. As well as being a hub for city government, the area is also a serious cultural center. "Culture vultures" flock here at night to see performances of the San Francsico opera, symphony, and ballet, as well as to attend theater, galas, concerts, plays, and special events. During the day you can get your "culture fix" by visiting one of the many excellent museums and galleries such as the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum, and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. There are also several other smaller private galleries in the area.

Architecture aficionados will be happy to know that some of the most beautiful buildings in the city are cloistered within a few square blocks here. Examples include the War Memorial Opera House, the Asian Art Museum, the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, and the War Memorial Veterans building with the Herbst Theater (where the United Nations charter was signed in 1945).

There is also a popular farmers market held twice weekly in United Nations Plaza.

Tenderloin

Many guidebooks will tell you to avoid a large part of downtown — the Tenderloin. It's true that this "bad neighborhood" is rife with panhandlers, adult bookstores, and massage parlors, but it's also full of good, cheap ethnic restaurants and colorful dive bars. The 'Loin is probably the last area of downtown to experience real gentrification, a process that seems to be taking its time, but the early signs are already here. Culture vultures will find several cutting edge, alternative/experimental theaters and high-culture galleries, which are attracted by the neighborhood's low rents and proximity to downtown. Sleek lounges and trendy clubs are also increasingly making a home in this eclectic neighborhood, side by side with the traditional dive bars it has always been known for.

The name "Tenderloin" comes from the overall shape of the area's boundaries: triangular, like the cross-section of a tenderloin steak. According to a different explanation the area was originally called "The Tenderloin" by the police officers, since they were paid more to work there — the most notorious part of the town. There are many different ways to define its boundaries; the official and original three corners (making a Tenderloin shape) may be delineated by Market St and Larkin St to the south, Geary St and Larkin St to the northwest, and Market St by Geary St to the northeast. Today the area would be more better defined between Polk St, Sutter St, Mason St, Market St, and Golden Gate Ave.

Although it has a reputation as one of the tougher parts of town, in reality the Tenderloin is quite variegated and can change drastically from block to block. There are many different sub-neighborhoods within the 'Loin. Much of the area on the east side of Mason St (above O'Farrell St) is high-rent and more properly considered part of downtown Union Square. The western area around Hyde and Larkin Sts, from Turk St to O'Farrell St, is a colorful Vietnamese neighborhood known as "Little Saigon".

Geary St, Post St, and Sutter St, especially the blocks west of Jones St, are part of the so-called "Tendernob", "Lower Nob Hill", or "Tenderloin Heights" bordering Nob Hill; sometimes this definition also includes southern Nob Hill as far north as California St or Sacramento St (especially the western blocks around Polk St). The Tendernob (at least on the 'Loin side) is considered a nightlife hotspot by some folks who like their drinking milieu a bit rough around the edges. It connects with Polk St on the western edge of the Tenderloin. Known variously as "Polk Gulch", "Polk Village", or the "Outer Tenderloin", this very lively area of Polk St, from Geary St to Union St, is populated with all types of restaurants, cafes, bars, venues, bookstores, and other shops. Finally, an area bordered by O'Farrell, Geary, Leavenworth, and Taylor Sts, is sometimes called the "Tandoor-loin" because of the high concentration of excellent and affordable Indian restaurants.

Dashiell Hammett's novel, "The Maltese Falcon," was set in the Tenderloin, and the 1941 movie adaptation for the Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, was also set in the Tenderloin.

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Sights and Activities

Little Saigon (Sài Gòn Nhỏ) (Larkin St between Eddy St and O'Farrell St). A tiny two-block strip of Larkin St houses an active Vietnamese American community where the vast majority of shops and restaurants are Vietnamese-owned and -operated. Little Saigon functions as a both a Vietnamese commercial and cultural center, and there are some excellent restaurants and stores here.
Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St (between McAllister St and Fulton St), ☏ +1-415-581-3500, fax: +1-415-581-4700, ✉ pr@asianart.org. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM (with extended evening hours every Th until 9PM); closed New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Built in 1917 as the library building, this building is a fantastic blend of "Beaux Arts" and modern design elements. It was designed by renowned architect Gae Aulenti (architect of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris). Inside, you'll find many interesting architectural details including the grand staircase, loggia, vaulted ceilings, the great hall, stone floors, period light fixtures, and inscriptions. The museum is one of the largest and newest museums of Oriental art. It has circa 15,000 artifacts covering 6,000 years of Asian history. The Asian Art Museum hosts many special exhibits as well. Free first Sunday of every month, $15 adults, $10 seniors/students/youth ages 13-17, free for children 12 and under/military/SFUSD students. Th evenings at a reduced rate ($10) after 5PM. Special exhibitions cost extra.
City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl (between Van Ness Ave, McAllister St, Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, and Grove St), ☏ +1-415-554-4933, fax: +1-415-554-4936, ✉ City.Hall.Building.Management@sfgov.org. Brochures are available for visitors to take a self-guided tour: M-F 8AM-8PM Docent led tours: M–F 10AM, noon, 2PM. Designed by Arthur Brown Jr., and opened in 1915, the architecture of the building was heavily influenced by the "City Beautiful Movement," which in turn reflected the American Renaissance style of the time. Its "Beaux-Arts" dome (the fifth largest in the world) was modeled after that of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy. The building itself is huge, 393 feet long, by 273 feet wide, and 307 feet high — occupying a full two blocks of San Francisco's downtown real estate. It is considered by many admirers to be the most impressive building in the city. Inside, it features a large rotunda with a grandiose staircase leading up to the second floor. The walls are adorned with oak paneling and the ceilings with crystal chandeliers. City Hall is the site of much history — In 1954 Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe wed here. In 1978, Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated here. Tours: Self guided and docent led tours are free unless you're a private group of eight or more persons.
Federal Office Building, 50 United Nations Plaza (just north of Market St, between Hyde St and Leavenworth St). Architect Arthur Brown Jr., who also designed City Hall and several other Civic Center landmarks, designed this building. It was completed in 1936, making it the last building to be completed in the seven-building complex of the Civic Center. It is an interesting 6-story, D-shaped, "Beaux Arts" building. It also has a 24,000 ft² (2,200 m2) interior courtyard and many of its features such as the lobby and main stairway are subject to historical preservation laws. The building is closed and can only be appreciated from the outside. Free.
San Francisco Public Library - Main Library, 100 Larkin St (at Grove St), ☏ +1-415 557-4400, ✉ webmail@sfpl.org. Su noon-5PM, M 10AM-6PM T-Th 9AM-8PM, F noon-6PM, Sa 10AM-6PM; tour hours: offered on the first Tuesday of every month at noon. Completed in 1995 at a cost of $109 million, the main library branch is over 375,000 ft² (34,800 m2) of modern architecture. It has seven floors, over 2,000 seats, and an impressive foyer that has a five story high atrium. At the top of the atrium is a bright sky-light and a roof terrace. Internet: free tours: free.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Getting There

By Train

BART runs under Market St with two stops in the area; both the Powell/Market and Civic Center/United Nations Plaza. Both BART stations will put you well within walking distance of any Tenderloin attraction; the latter is the most convenient BART stop for the Civic Center.

By Car

Directions for driving to the Civic Center are marked on the freeways. Once inside the City limits, two main arteries serve the area — Van Ness Ave and Market St.

There are several garages, such as the Performing Arts Garage at Grove St and Gough St, an underground garage under the Civic Center Plaza (entrance on McAllister St), open from 6AM to midnight, or 24-hour valet parking at Opera Plaza on Turk St just off Van Ness Ave. Where the freeway was prior to 1989 earthquake (between Grove St at Gough St and Turk St at Franklin St) there are several smaller open air lots, which will charge about $10 for all day or $6 for an evening. Those lots are gradually being displaced by new construction. Street parking in the Tenderloin is extremely difficult to find, but parking garages are plentiful.

By MUNI

The neighborhood is well-served by public transit, provided by MUNI in the form of the Metro system, the F-Line streetcar and various bus lines. All of the MUNI Metro lines ( J K L M N T ) serve the Powell/Market and Civic Center/United Nations Plaza stations under Market St along with the BART line. The MUNI Metro also serves the Van Ness/Market station, which is part of the same subway tunnel but is not shared with BART.

The historic F streetcar line runs on Market St between Castro St and the Ferry Building (where it turns north on The Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf), passing by both the Civic Center and the Tenderloin.

From the Caltrain station the 47-Van Ness bus takes you to along the western border of the area (Van Ness Ave) to City Hall. Other frequent MUNI bus lines serving the area are: 49-Mission/Van Ness, 9-San Bruno, 31-Balboa, 5-Fulton, 19-Polk, 21-Hayes and 38-Geary.

By Cable Car

One or other of two cable car lines — either the Powell/Mason cable car line or the Powell/Hyde cable car line — can take you from Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, Nob Hill, or Russian Hill to the intersection of Market St and Powell St in Union Square — near the Powell/Market BART and Muni station. From here it's just one block to the Tenderloin.

By Foot

Given that the area is centrally located downtown, it is extremely accessible on foot. From the SoMa area walk northbound on anywhere from Fifth St to 11th St. Market St forms its broad southern boundary and makes the area easily accessible from either the east (Union Square-Financial District) or west (The Castro), and from the north (Nob Hill-Russian Hill) it's just a 10-20 minute walk directly due south.

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Getting Around

As this is a relatively small area, the best way to get around is on foot.

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Eat

Given the grittiness of the area, much of the food is very affordable. Vietnamese, Thai, and Indian restaurants are well represented in the Tenderloin. One of the best options for a cheap lunch is picking up a "Vietnamese sandwich" from any of a number of corner delis in the area (they're packed especially thick along Larkin St). For about $2.50 you can expect to get a generous helping of your choice of meat and shredded vegetables sandwiched into a quarter of a baguette and dressed with a thin, tangy sweet and sour sauce. Be sure to bring cash, as these places don't take any credit cards. There is actually a decent selection of restaurants in the area, but if you are not satisfied, there are many other excellent eateries just west of the Civic Center, around Hayes St, and northeast of the Tenderloin around Chinatown and North Beach. Generally speaking, for mid-range to high-end restaurants in the area, seating is easier around 8PM, when opera and symphony patrons depart.

Ananda Fuara, 1298 Market St (at Larkin St), ☏ +1-415-621-1994, fax: +1-415-934-1923. M-Tu, Th-Sa 8AM-8PM, W 8AM-3PM. This vegetarian restaurant is a little different as it's run by an Indian religious order called 'Sri Chinmoy'. Ananda Fuara means the "Fountain of Delight" and their food is intended to harmonize you both inside and out. $6-11.
Bang San, 791 O'Farrell St (between Larkin St and Hyde St), ☏ +1-415-928-2772. M-W and Su 11AM-11PM, Th-Sa 11AM-2AM. This tiny hole-in-the-wall serves up some of the best darn Thai food this side of the Mekong River. They have 12 categories of dishes from which to choose. Sit down, order, and watch as delicious food is cooked before your eyes. $5-8.
Chutney, 511 Jones St (at O'Farrell St), ☏ +1-415-931-5541. Noon-midnight daily. Affordable and excellent selection of authentic Indian food. Speedy service and filling portions, and free Chai tea for all customers. A recent addition and a neighborhood favorite. $5-8.
Joey's Laundry, 517 O'Farrell St (between Jones St and Leavenworth St), ☏ +1-415-567-4401. 6AM-9PM daily. What is a laundry doing under 'Eat'? Joey's serves Mitchell's Ice Cream, widely recognized as the best in the Bay Area. If you're bored with chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla, try the green tea or macapuno ice creams. For the launderer seeking more solid sustenance — or if you get hungry while using their internet access ($7.50 per hour) — there are breakfast pastries, pizza slices, and coffee. $4-10.
Moulin Rouge Breakfast Cafe, 887 Geary St (Larkin St), ☏ +1-415-928-0158. M-Sa 7AM-2PM, Su 7:30AM-2PM. If you can't stomach the line (or the hipster clientele) at Dottie's, the Moulin Rouge Breakfast Cafe around the corner on Geary offers solid grub at much cheaper prices. The elderly couple who run the place are always friendly and never hurry you, and the shabby faux-French decor is weirdly charming despite liberal amounts of duct tape holding the place together. $3-7.
Olympic Flames Cafe, 555 Geary St (between Taylor St and Jones St), ☏ +1-415-885-0984. 6AM-4PM daily. Spacious, affordable and home-cooked breakfast joint. Excellent omelettes. This is a viable alternative of Dottie's True Blue Cafe which almost always seems to have a line. $4.50-8.50.
Pakwan, 501 O'Farrell St (at Jones St), ☏ +1-415-255-2440. 11AM-11PM daily. Pakistani food featuring curries, tandoori fish, and piping hot naan. Unlike some of the local eateries in the "tandoor-loin," the seating is clean, comfortable, and fairly new (possibly the results of some other restaurant's going-out-of-business sale). The restaurant tends to be comparatively quiet, as well as offering an excellent view of police actions on Jones St. $6-10.
Shalimar, 532 Jones St (between O'Farrell St and Geary St), ☏ +1-415-928-0333, ✉ hammadje@aol.com. Noon-midnight daily. Northern Indian/Pakistani food, they have a tandoor (clay oven) which means excellent naan (flat breads) and murgh boti (barbecue chicken). The curries and rice pilaf are also worth checking out for their unique combination of spices. $3-10.
Tommy's Joynt, 1101 Geary St (at Van Ness Ave), ☏ +1-415-775-4216, fax: +1-415-775-3322, ✉ joynt.tommys@gmail.com. Restaurant: 11AM-1:45AM, Bar: 10AM-1:45AM. Open since 1947, Tommy's is a classic San Francisco eatery and bar. You can't miss this place — on both the inside and out it's colorful and quirkily decorated. They serve wholesome, filling food like "hand-carved" sandwiches, stews, and mash potatoes. $4-10.
Bodega Bistro, 607 Larkin St (at Eddy St), ☏ +1-415-921-1218, fax: +1-415-921-1216. Lunch: 11AM-3PM daily, Dinner: Su-W 5PM-9:30PM, Th-Sa 5PM-10PM. In Vietnamese Bo-de-ga in Vietnamese means beef-lamb-chicken — all popular Vietnamese dishes. The menu also draws equal inspiration from French cuisine making this an unusual dining experience. $8-23.
The Douglas Room, 345 Taylor Street (Between O'Farrell and Ellis Streets, inside the Tilden Hotel), ☏ +1 (415) 673-2332. Restaurant with well-stocked bar and simple pub fare. Italian Hoagie on the menu strives for authenticity -- the Douglas Room insists on importing Amoroso Rolls from Philadelphia for their hoagie.
Kim Thanh, 607 Geary St (at Jones St), ☏ +1-415-928-6627, fax: +1-415-928-7821. M-F 11AM-11PM, Sa-Su 5PM-11PM. Check out the aquariums in the window if you want to know what's for dinner. If you've never seen a geoduck, you will not soon forget it. $7-12.
Kyoto Sushi, 1233 Van Ness Ave (at Post St), ☏ +1-415-351-1234. M-Th 11AM-10:30PM, F 11AM-11PM, Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 4:30PM-10:30PM. With the multitude of sushi places it is hard to say which is best, but this one rates at the top for taste, freshness, and authenticity. $11-23.
Minas Brazilian Restaurant & Cachaçaria, 41 Franklin St (at Oak St), ☏ +1-415-626-8727. Lunch: M-Sa 11AM-3PM; Dinner: Su-Th 5PM-9PM, F-Sa 5PM-10PM. Traditional Brazilian food, very affordable, but mixed reviews on service. Dinner: $14-21.
Grand Cafe, 501 Geary St (at Taylor St), ☏ +1-415-292-0101, fax: +1-415-292-0150, ✉ frank.micalizzi@grandcafe-sf.com. Breakfast: M-F 7AM-10:30AM; Brunch: Sa-Su 8AM-2:30PM; Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; Dinner: Su-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM. With 30-foot high ceilings supported by pillars, sunken tables, sculptures, and artwork adorning the walls, it's not hard to see that this place was once an elegant ballroom. Today it's an elegant dining room where they serve excellent French cuisine. $30-100.
Jardiniere, 300 Grove St (at Grove St and Franklin St), ☏ +1-415-861-5555, fax: +1-415-861-5580, ✉ info@jardiniere.com. DSu-W 5PM-10:30PM, Th-Sa 5PM-11:30PM, hours are extended to accommodate neighborhood performances. French food in American style, quite pricey, great decor, appetizers, deserts, mixed reviews on entrees. They have both an "à la carte" and a "prix-fixe" menu. $50-150.
Market Street Grill, 1231 Market St (between 8th St and 9th St), ☏ +1-415-487-4414, fax: +1-415-861-1460. Breakfast: 6:30AM-11AM daily, Lunch: 11AM-2PM daily, Dinner: 5PM-10PM daily. Serves up Asian and Italian inspired dishes using fresh American ingredients in an ornately decorated dining room. They also have live piano playing most nights of the week. $18-40.
Max's Opera Cafe, 601 Van Ness Ave (Golden Gate Ave - in Opera Plaza), ☏ +1-415-771-7300, fax: +1-415-474-9780, ✉ MaxsOperaSF@maxsworld.com. Su-Tu 11:30AM-10PM, W-Th 11:30AM-11PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11:30PM. The California version of a New York deli. Dinner $15-25.
Millennium Restaurant, 580 Geary St (at Jones St), ☏ +1-415-345-3900, fax: +1-415-345-3941. Su-Th 5:30PM-9:30PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-10PM. This is an environmentally friendly vegetarian/vegan restaurant that does its best to source local, organic and non-genetically modified food. If you're one of those people who think veggies can't be tasty... you need to go here, the food is delicious — very pricey — but delicious! $30-75.

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Drink

These days the Tenderloin is on the "up-and-up," and with this urban gentrification has come a surprisingly eclectic and artistic nightlife scene. It now has a decent selection of trendy lounges and hip clubs, as well the musical venues (many of which are listed under Performing arts above), strip-clubs, and "dive bars" that were the more traditional staples of the area. In fact, many of the modern "faux-dive" and "dive bars" used to be illegal speakeasies during the prohibition era of the 1920s. Given the area's long and storied association with the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community (the "Polk Gulch" was the city's first openly gay neighborhood, before the emergence of the Castro in the 1970s), many of the bars, clubs, and entertainment are geared toward this crowd, although typically everyone is welcome.

Farm:Table, 754 Post St. M-F 7:30AM-4PM, Sa 8AM-4PM, Su 9AM-2PM. Very tiny spot with one large "farm table" (thus the name) and limited outdoor seating/standing bars. They serve coffee from nearby Santa Cruz roaster, Verve and have their own delicious sweets and other foods that they make daily. Very popular with the locals.
Hooker's Sweet Treats, 442 Hyde St. M-F 8AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-2PM. Great spot to pick up handmade chocolate caramels, bread pudding, and coffee from local roaster, Sightglass. Very cute interior decorated in an antique style and owned by a Louisiana native.
Jebena, 990 Polk St, ☏ +1-415-409-1200. Nicely decorated modern spot along the Polk corridor with good coffee and tea selections.
Soluna Cafe and Lounge, 272 McAllister St (at Larkin St), ☏ +1-415-621-2200. M-F 11:30AM-10PM, Sa 5PM-10PM. Just a stones throw from the performing arts buildings, it's a great place to grab a cappuccino just before the overture.
Starbucks, 1390 Market St (at Fell St), ☏ +1-415-863-8332. M-F 5AM-8:30PM, Sa-Su 6AM-8:30PM. Ubiquitous Starbucks set just behind the Civic Center Plaza, so another convenient place to enjoy a coffee pre or post performance.
Blur, 1121 Polk St (at Hemlock St), ☏ +1-415-567-1918, ✉ info@blursf.com. 4PM-2PM daily. Upscale, lush, candlelit bar in the Polk Gulch. It's dark and romantic and they have a good selection of cocktails... try the strawberry margarita. They also have free pizza on Monday nights.
Bourbon and Branch, 501 Jones St (O'Farrell St), ☏ +1-415-673-1921. M-Sa 6PM-2AM. This hard to find cocktail/spirit themed bar is a throwback to the prohibition days of the 1920s — this address used to be an thriving illegal "speakeasy" known as the "JJ Russell's Cigar Shop." Inside it's ornately decorated with dark woods giving the place a real cozy feel. It being a prohibition themed bar, they also have some strange house rules posted on the walls like "no photography" and "Please speak easy" They have an exhaustive selection of spirits and cocktails.
Edinburgh Castle, 950 Geary St (at Larkin St), ☏ +1-415-885-4074. 5PM-2AM daily. Expatriates from the British Isles are often to be found at this Scottish pub, which on Thursdays through Saturdays becomes a hipster mecca. The interior is warm and shadowy, a comfortable place of dark wood and golden lantern light, and the beer selection is good; you can get pints of Belhaven or Newcastle as well as the ubiquitous Guinness, and it's all available by the pitcher. The Edinburgh Castle also has a relationship with a local fish and chips fryer, so you can order from their menu and have it delivered to you at the pub. The jukebox is well stocked with punk rock, Irish folk/rock, and American roots music, and live bands also play regularly (which can unfortunately make it impossible to carry on a conversation). A trivia contest is held on Tuesday nights. And on Burns Night (January 25th), the Edinburgh Castle is the place to be, with ribald poetry readings, music, and a public haggis.
Hanaro, 939 Geary St (at Larkin St), ☏ +1-415-928-4066. Noon-2AM daily. Just across from the Edinburgh Castle is a shadowy hole-in-the-wall festooned with Korean lettering: Hanaro. Though the bar is wallpapered with "No Smoking" signs (as California law demands), you need only loiter outside the bar for a few minutes with a cigarette before you are beckoned inside and offered an ashtray. In fact, Hanaro's great charm is it that it's accommodating in every respect; stay for a bit and you will be offered various bar snacks, and there is usually a hostess on hand whose only job is to chat with the patrons. This is done, however, with taste and tact; if you wish to drink in silence, you won't be disturbed. The jukebox is stocked with Asian pop singles.
Ha-Ra Club, 875 Geary St (at Larkin St), ☏ +1-415-673-3148, fax: +1-415-564-0149. 9:30AM-2AM daily. Standard but friendly dive-bar in the Tenderloin that serves cheap drinks. It was co-founded by pro-wrestler Hank Hanastead and boxer Ralph Figari. Great place if you're into the 'Loin's no nonsense dive bars.
Olive Bar, 743 Larkin St (between O'Farrell St and Ellis St), ☏ +1-415-776-9814, ✉ unwind@olive-sf.com. M-W 5PM-11PM, Th 5PM-midnight, F 5PM-2AM, Sa 6PM-2AM. Stylish cocktail bar in the Tenderloin. It has reasonably priced drinks and food (pizza, tapas and the like) in an informal yet trendy atmosphere. Not surprisingly they specialize in martinis, like the "Ultimate Olive Martini."
The Owl Tree, 601 Post St (between Taylor St and Trader Vic Aly), ☏ +1-415-776-9344. 5PM-2AM daily. A small, quiet upscale bar that's great for conversation and relaxation after a long day of wandering around San Francisco. What used to be a dive bar with walls adorned with tacky owl memorabilia, is now another upscale watering hole in the 'Loin, where cocktails have replaced draft beers as the drink of preference. There's still a mosaic owl on the outside though.
Tradition, 441 Jones St. A dive bar (originally the 441) which was bought and renovated by the same people who own Bourbon & Branch. Featuring house made alcohols and unique mixes, while not cheap, it's a unique experience in a classy wood paneled environment.
Union Square Sports Bar, 115 Mason St (between Ellis and Eddy), ☏ +1-415-345-8484. 11AM-2AM daily. Crowded and loud, but you can catch just about any game here. This place thinks flatscreen TVs are a type of wallpaper. Food offerings are limited to hot dogs and potato chips.
Vertigo Bar, 1160 Polk St (at Sutter St), ☏ +1-415-674-1278. Tu-F 5PM-2AM, Sa 7PM-2AM. Fun and trendy bar in the Polk Gulch. It's exotically decorated and attracts mostly partying twentysomethings looking to get enebriated on strange cocktails. They have DJs, dancin, a smoking patio, and are known for their lengthy happy hour which runs until 9PM.

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Sleep

Many "hotels" in the Tenderloin do their major business as single-room occupancy (S.R.O.) lodgings for permanent residents, many of whom live from welfare check to welfare check. These hotels also rent rooms to frightened-looking tourists lured by bargain rates "just off Union Square." Both the rates and the location are true: the management merely neglected to mention the urine-stained mattresses or the drunk lurching in the lobby. Use caution: if a rate seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are more normal hotels in the area as well, ranging from large chains to tiny boutique hotels with fashionable decor and chi-chi prices. If you plan to park a car, scrutinize the hotel listing for parking information. Free parking is not a given, and at peak times, even paid garages overflow onto the sidewalks. There are also several backpacker's hostels in this area, particularly on Taylor St., that attract both backpackers and those traveling on a budget.

Adelaide Hostel, 5 Isadora Duncan Ln (between Geary St and Post St), ☏ +1-415-359-1915, fax: +1-415-614-1940, ✉ info@adelaidehostel.com. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 11AM. This is a popular backpacker hostel just two blocks from Union Square. Dorms: $23 and up, Private rooms: $60 and up.
Hostelling International-City Center, 685 Ellis St (at Larkin St), ☏ +1-415-474-5721, fax: +1-415-776-0775. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Clean, cheap, safe, fun. The hostel has 75 beds in total, some are 4 or 5 bed dorms and others private rooms. All rooms have their own private bathroom. They offer a free breakfast and free wi-fi. Dorms: $27-42, Private Rooms: $89-129.
The Opal San Francisco, 1050 Van Ness Ave (between O'Farrell St and Geary St), ☏ +1-415-673-4711, fax: +1-415-673-9362, ✉ lhufford@chrco.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. An elegant 5 story hotel that was built after the 1906 earthquake, it has 164 guest rooms. They have a gym, laundry facilities, and all access to free wi-fi. $60-110.
Rodeway Inn Civic Center, 860 Eddy St (between Franklin St and Van Ness Ave), ☏ +1-415-474-4374, fax: +1-415-775-9329, ✉ rodewaysf@yahoo.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. This is a pretty standard but comfortable inn near Van Ness. They offer some free limited parking and a complimentary breakfast. $60-110.
Taylor Hotel, 615 Taylor St (at Post St), ☏ +1-415-775-0780, toll-free: +1-877-734-6835, ✉ info@sanfrancisco-budgethotel.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. This is an older building and the rooms are in need of paint, but it's relatively clean. There is a nice Indian couple who runs the place, they have wireless internet and a community computer in the lobby and a continental breakfast each morning. It's in a great location, just 2 blocks from Union Square. $66-90.
USA Hostels San Francisco, 711 Post St (between Jones St and Leavenworth St), ☏ +1-415-440-5600, fax: +1-415-651-8802, ✉ sanfrancisco@usahostels.com. Check-in: Dormitory rooms: 10AM Private rooms: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Great hostel operating in two buildings just off Union Square. All rooms have their own bathrooms. Dorms: $25-30, Private rooms: $64-81.
Civic Center Hotel, 20 12th St (between Franklin St and Van Ness Ave, just one block west of the Van Ness MUNI station), ☏ +1-415-861-2373. Furnished rooms with a sink in each room (no televisions). Only metered street parking is available at the hotel. Single occupancy with a shared bath: $150/week. Add 14% tax for the first 4 weeks and a one time $15 key deposit.
Cova Hotel, 655 Ellis St (between Hyde St and Larkin St), fax: +1-415-723-7877, ✉ contact@covahotel.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. This hotel has 96 well decorated rooms in the heart of downtown. All rooms have 300 thread count sheets, high definition TVs, complimentary breakfast, and free wi-fi. $85-300. edit
Hotel Bijou, 111 Mason St (at Eddy), ☏ +1-415-771-1200, fax: +1-415-346-3196. Hotel Bijou is inspired by San Francisco's rich cinematic history, adorned with movie palace stylings and Hollywood portraits, and features a mini movie theater in the lobby.
Hotel Metropolis, 25 Mason St (between Eddy St and Turk St), ☏ +1-415-775-4600, ✉ Reservations@PersonalityHotels.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. It's on the eastern outskirts of the Tenderloin, but there can be people sleeping in stairways and panhandling right next to the hotel, so it's authentic enough. Inside it is perfectly clean. $99-299.
Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market St (between 8th St and 9th St), ☏ +1-415-626-8000, fax: +1-415-861-1460, ✉ info@hotelwhitcomb.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. This is a 460 room historic boutique hotel. An elegant, opulent building, it was first used as a temporary city hall after the 1906 earthquake. Italian marble, Austrian chandeliers, and a short walk to the Symphony/Opera and the Asian Art Museum. It also has a piano bar/wine bar. $89-109.
The Phoenix Hotel, 601 Eddy St (at Larkin St), ☏ +1-415-776-1380, fax: +1-415-885-3109, ✉ phoenixhotel@jdvhotels.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. A boutique hotel, favored by musicians of all stripes, with free parking and breakfast. $119-169.
Hotel Carlton, 1075 Sutter St (at Larkin), ☏ +1-415-673-0242, fax: +1-415-673-4904, ✉ chickman@jdvhotels.com. A reasonably-priced boutique hotel with decorations that feature international travel. Non-smoking and pet-friendly hotel, and certified as a green business. Saha Restaurant in the lobby serves Arabic fusion cuisine.
Hotel Adagio, 550 Geary St (between Taylor St and Jones St), ☏ +1-415-775-5000, fax: +1-415-775-9388, ✉ info@jdvhospitality.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. A luxury boutique hotel featuring a fresh design that bridges its Spanish Colonial Revival architectural roots to a clean and contemporary design aesthetic. 2½ blocks away from the Powell St Cable Car line, 6 blocks from the Moscone Convention Center. $189-289.
The Hotel Monaco, 501 Geary St (at Taylor St), ☏ +1-415-292-0100, fax: +1-415-292-0111. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. A fun and hip boutique hotel. This is part of Kimpton Hotels, a San Francisco based hotel and restaurant company. $249-299.
Serrano Hotel, 405 Taylor St (at Taylor St and O'Farrell St), ☏ +1-415-885-2500, fax: +1-415-474-4879. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. This is a deluxe boutique hotel in a 17-story Spanish Revival building. They have free high speed internet and a wine appreciation hour every evening. $239-329.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 4. Last edited at 10:32 on Sep 18, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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