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5 Ways to Experience San Francisco's Fillmore Neighborhood

5 Ways to Experience San Francisco's Fillmore Neighborhood
From Japantown to the Harlem of the West, San Francisco’s Fillmore District has been a wonderful cultural hub in the heart of San Francisco, nurturing Japanese-American culture, which was replaced in the early 50’s by African-American culture, highlighted by its music scene. Today, the Fillmore has become a key neighborhood for new, tech company employees, with a blend of historical sites and modern venues and restaurants. The district is definitely experiencing a third ‘Gold Rush’, but for those who want to immerse themselves in the old Fillmore, here are the five places to check out.
The Japan Center interior © BrokenSphere/Wikimedia Commons

The Fillmore

The Fillmore went through a number of transformations, following the social and cultural changes in the area. From Wednesday night socials and masquerade balls to the 1952 West Coast tours from performers such as James Brown, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and Ike & Tina Turner, The Fillmore audiences witnessed some of the most innovative music of all time and many careers launched from its stage. The venue has become a must-see for anyone wishing to dive head first into the spirit of the district.

The Kappa Japanese Restaurant © Jane Air/Flickrcommons

One of the highlights of the Fillmore’s Japanese heritage, the Japan Center boasts a wide range of restaurants and shops. Visitors can find beautiful Japanese stationary and bowls in the East Mall, in addition to authentic ramen, sushi and ‘donburi’ in the West Mall. The Japan Center is also home to many unique cultural events year-round that range from traditional Japanese arts and crafts to modern J-Pop performances.

In the heart of Japan Town, this fairly exclusive place is not a sushi restaurant, although you can order sushi with your meal. Kappa is the first dining venue in the city to offer a refined form of the traditional dishes ‘Koryori’. This form of dining requires that each item be a stand-alone serving -simple portions without garnishes, so guest can focus on different, subtle flavors. This restaurant does not offer a standard menu – its meal of the day is based on what ingredients are available that morning. The chef chooses what you eat, which is reminiscent, in a way, of Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo. Although it is on the premium side, this restaurant is a great place for those who want to be immersed in an authentic Japanese dining experience. Seating is limited, and reservations must be made after 4:30 PM, but the attention lavished on guests by the staff makes it all worth it.

1300 on Fillmore

1300 on Fillmore is a restaurant and lounge that extracts and channels the rich cultural history of San Francisco’s ‘Harlem of the West’. The restaurant serves ‘soulful American Cuisine’, including innovative appetizers, brunches and dinners. It also provides a lounge and dessert menu, accompanied by some of the finest Californian wines. With live music on Saturdays (be sure to check their event calendar), visitors are transported straight back to the fifties, when the Fillmore was the main live music district and the heart of a booming African American culture. And every Sunday, a gospel brunch is served, featuring a Southern-inspired menu and signature cocktails accompanied by the restaurant’s house band Future Perfect.

Boom Boom Room

A dance-lover favorite as its name indicates, the Boom Boom Room is located in the heart of the Fillmore District. Different from other cocktail venues that sport a jazzier vibe with soft velvet seats, this down-home, informal cocktail joint provides live blues, soul music and boogie, every week, six nights a week. Several magazines praised the venue for its authenticity and its ability to take you right back to the era of Jazz stars.

The Fillmore District © Cristopher Beland/WikiCommons

By Brigitte Ciss

Born in Senegal, Brigette studied International Business in Paris, France, and went on to study abroad in San Francisco to discover a new culture and perfect her English. Two years later, she is still on her journey up and down the hilly San Francisco streets, finding the best spots to eat at, stay at, and also tell you about!