From The Mission’s burgeoning tech scene and storied past to The Haight’s history-making hippie-dippy characters, every San Francisco hood has a distinct reputation. But, there’s one that’s managed to stay under the radar — at least, until now. We’re talking about fog-drenched Cole Valley, an area that, sadly, some locals have yet to explore.
It's a real shame, since it’s undeniably one of the city’s most charismatic corners. A flock of notable local shops are setting up camp there, adding allure and sought-after creativity to the nabe. Naturally, we’ve been tracking their progress and have pulled together a full-fledged itinerary for your first mosey into the valley. Whether you’re looking for a decadent sundae in an art-deco styled ice-cream parlor or an adorable toy shop to entice the tots, Cole Valley is about to be your next great escape. We bet you won’t even miss the crowds in those other parts of town.
If you've got some serious interior motives, this is your spot. While Cole Valley isn’t exactly known as a shopper’s paradise, this recently opened decor store is worth a visit. It's littered with a finely curated selection of mid-century (and older) furnishings, and also happens to be the only spot above The Haight where you’ll find racks of designer-brand vintage gear. You’re bound to snag a one-of-a-kind wonder for your nest. And, if you’re not completely convinced the piece you’re eyeing will vibe with your abode, the shop has a try-it-out policy so you can give it a test run for 24 hours without spending a buck. (854 Stanyan Street)
Ice Cream Bar
Don’t make your way inside Ice Cream Bar just to satisfy your sweet tooth, because it’s more than just a standard scoop stop. It's completely outfitted in art-deco style with vintage touches that transport tasters to the glitzy era. That’s not to say the treats aren’t enough to bring us back for seconds, though. Find flavors like fan-favorite basil and a top-notch Morello cherry. Yeah, good luck turning down a pint. Unlike other cream-churning shops, this one has "jerks" slinging handcrafted (and sometimes spiked) sodas. (815 Cole Street)
The Sword and Rose
If you’re not already under Cole Valley’s spell, you’ll be won over by this mystical outpost. You have to wander through an enchanting courtyard garden to even find this moody nook filled with spiritual treasures. In addition to ornate swords, dazzling stones, religious texts, and incense that the owner makes by hand, you can pick up some insight into your fate with an on-site tarot reading. We may not be psychic, but our intuition tells us you'll love this place. (85 Carl Street)
There's no hard-core bruncher in the city that doesn’t already have Zazie on her radar. But, for those less in the know, this picturesque French eatery reigns supreme for its drool-worthy griddle choices. And, we know for a fact its lunch and dinner options are equally gratifying. On Monday evenings, you can bring your dog to dinner on the newly renovated back patio. Tuesdays mean there’s no corkage fee. Whenever you stop by, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t come sooner. (941 Cole Street)
Cole Valley Dog Park
Before your pup chows down on Zazie’s milk bones on doggy night, let him work up an appetite at this dog park right near the eatery. Later in the day, the energetic hounds come out to roughhouse. And, word on the street is owners like to bring a bottle of vino on Wednesdays to make playing fetch just a little more fun. A note on safety: Make sure your pup's well-trained or leashed, because the Muni trains come through right next to the park. (86 Carl Street)
Urban Mercantile is littered with quirky and modern nesting knick-knacks — making this a must-stop during wedding season. For the utmost in unique gifting, check the in-house line of graphic napkins and trays. For old-school letter writers, there's a whole wall dedicated to stationery. Pretty much, after shopping here, get ready to be famous for your present-giving prowess. (85 Carl Street)
See the full list here.