Hayes Valley

Once the scary section of town in the midst of San Francisco’s cultural corridor, today Hayes Valley has cleaned up and has earned its reputation for being a cultural haven in and of itself. Where the neighborhood’s once notorious tenements stood are award winning restaurants, lively nightclubs and sought after boutique labels. Yet even while in the midst of a commercial surge, unlike other neighborhoods that often drop their sense of community and evolve into a retail hub, Hayes Valley has managed to keep its unique residential vibe. This combination of culture, commerce and chicness is what makes this neighborhood a popular stop for tourists.

Where it’s At

Hayes Valley is bordered by the Van Ness performing arts area and the Western Addition (near Laguna Street).

What to See

Much of this neighborhood’s sights are inside art galleries. A definite stop is the Octavia’s Haze Gallery, which focuses on glassware of various creative colors and shapes, along with a small sampling of paintings created by local artists (498 Hayes Street). Polanco specializes in Mexican folk and fine arts, including Day of the Dead masks, silver jewelry and other artifacts from south of the border (393 Hayes Street). For wearable art, swing by the Residents Apparel Gallery, or RAG, which houses numerous ‘mini-stores’, each featuring a different designer from San Francisco and beyond (541 Octavia Street).

Where to Eat

One thing for sure is you will not go hungry in Hayes Valley. The always popular Absinthe Brasserie and Bar is a favorite of the theater crowd. The world menu features Americana, French and Italian specialties, best washed down with one of the bar’s many classic cocktails (398 Hayes Street). Coffee lovers should be sure to try the Blue Bottle Coffee Company, which specializes in organic coffee always using small batch and freshly roasted beans (315 Linden Street). A local favorite is Flipper’s, which bills itself as a gourmet hamburger place. The Flipper Dipper is sure to please, with its glazing of teriyaki sauce (482 Hayes Street). For dessert, there’s Smitten Ice Cream, which only serves made from scratch scoops coming in a smorgasbord of flavors (432 Octavia Street).