People from around the globe love San Francisco for its many beautiful, historical and entertaining tourist attractions — but locals love it for all its fantastic neighborhoods, and Glen Park is right up there with the best. For its relatively small size and humble, village-like vibe, this neighborhood sure offers a lot.
Glen Park Festival features musical acts like Jinx Jones and the KingTones. Courtesy of Glen Park Festival Association
Glen Park Festival
Each year in April, neighbors, businesses, families, artists and visitors gather for the Glen Park Festival — a celebration of this vibrant village. Here you can really feel how ethnically, socially and culturally diverse the neighborhood is. This all-neighborhood gathering started way back in 1911. Its modern inception began in 1997, when locals wanted to create a gathering to celebrate and highlight the talented artists and craftspeople in their community. The festival combines the original concept of creativity with sports, music, food, dance and children’s activities. Among the endless things to participate in are a Tooth Fairy visit, puppet making with the Rabbit Hole, One Martial Arts demonstration, Bricks for Kidz interactive Lego demonstration, mask making with Drawbridge and street painting with Little Artistas. The Glen Park Festival raises money for children’s programs such as field trips, educational programs, and playground and sports equipment. The festival is held along Diamond Street between Bosworth and Chenery, and extends down Wilder Street.
The restaurants along Glen Park’s main thoroughfares stand up to the highest quality eateries in cities across America. As a matter of fact, Rachel Ray Magazine put Gialina Pizzeria on Diamond Street on its list of top 64 pizzerias in the country. The San Francisco Chronicle placed it on its list of top 100 restaurants in the Bay Area. The Food Network celebrated Gialina in an episode entitled ‘Pizza: The Edible Frisbee of Glee.’ The secret to all the hoopla is Chef Sharon Ardiana’s creative spin on the traditional Italian menu. She actually named the restaurant after her inspiring grandmother, Nonni Lina. Every day, diners can choose from fresh antipasti, ricotta Cavatelli, and soft polenta with chicken breast. But by far its most popular offerings are the thin-crust pizzas. Get decadent with black mission figs, carmelized onions, and arugula. Or how about russet potatoes, bacon, red onions, and Gorgonzola? Or you can go for the most popular selection, the Atomica, with tomato, chilies, red onions, mushrooms, and mozzarella. Ardiana ensures the freshest ingredients by changing the seasonal menu often based on produce obtained from local farms. Make sure to get there early, however, because the tiny place seats only a few dozen and doesn’t take reservations. Tataki Canyon Japanese restaurant in Glen Park is renown for its smoky, hearty Ramen noodle bowls. Photo by Sylvie Sturm
If sushi is more your thing, you are in luck. Tataki Canyon on Chenery Street offers some of the best seafood and Ramen noodle concoctions in the city. Its fans and food critics have weighed in to give Tataki a top rating on the prestigious Zagat scale. Responsibly acquired fish and creative rolls (including vegan options) can be had if you brave the wait to get in at the small, modern Japanese eatery. The unique menu selection includes the house ramen, a soup of complex broth made from pork, chicken, seasonal vegetables, and some secret ingredients and spices. The chef makes it entirely from scratch and lets it simmer overnight to extract deep and robust flavors. You can also enjoy specialty rolls like the Green Dragon (a shrimp tempura roll topped with seared sablefish, avocado, wasabi tobiko, and kabayaki sauce) or the Russian Roulette (with crawfish, cucumber, and asparagus, topped with scallops and served with a cooling shot of nigori sake). Expect to spend a little more than average — or go early and catch the happy hour deals while avoiding the lines.
The grooviest place in Glen Park is unmistakably Bird & Beckett Books and Records. This place seems stuck in time, and you’ll be happy it is. This ancient-looking store along Chenery Street is not only jam-packed with any and all forms of interesting literature, it’s also one of the last vestiges of vinyl records shops to be had. But wait! It gets better — the place doubles as a jazz club most nights of the week. Visitors have the opportunity to enjoy intimate performances by such creative talents as bassist Lisa Mezzacappa, who recently presented her high-concept project, AvantNOIR. Every second Sunday, the store is transformed into a Surf-a-Billy Swingtime Dance Party, with high energy performances by ‘the world’s only Gypsy/Surf/Italian/Rock/Jazz band in the history of the universe.’ On the fourth Friday of each month, the weekly jazz in the bookshop series features The 230 Jones Street, Local 6 Literary Jazz Band — aka The Chuck Peterson Quintet — five musicians whose history on the local jazz scene dates back to the early 1950s.
No matter who you are or what brought you to Glen Park, there’s no excuse for skipping the canyon. Glen Canyon Park is a city park that occupies about 70 acres along a deep canyon adjacent to the Glen Park, Diamond Heights, and Miraloma Park neighborhoods. The greenspace acts as a relaxing sanctuary from urban bustle for locals, visitors, and wildlife alike. An intricate network of trails is popular with hikers, dog walkers, and even rock climbers. Part of the bonus for hikers is the opportunity to munch on wild blueberries growing along the pathways. The bushes provide its bounties thanks to a creek — one of only two remaining, free flowing streams in San Francisco — that irrigates large swaths of fragrant eucalyptus trees and a sea of equally sweet-smelling flowers that bloom through the spring season. The creek also provides habitat for the park’s animals, including coyotes, whose howls can be heard from time to time. Birdwatchers love to spot the species that come from as far away as Alaska and Tierra del Fuego and depend on the creek as a stopping point on their migratory route. The Friends of Glen Canyon Park and the Glen Park Association continue to work to improve the park’s recreational facilities and restore its natural areas. The public is invited to join the Friends of Glen Canyon Park and San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department gardeners of the Natural Areas Program for a monthly volunteer work party of weeding, pruning and occasional planting. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +1 415 831 6333.
Adventuring thrill seekers scale the jagged rock formations in Glen Canyon Park with nothing more than brute strength and fearlessness. Photo by Sylvie Sturm.
In recent years, residents have voiced the need for renovating the park, and in 2008, they voted to allocate nearly $6 million to preserve the park’s natural features and improve existing facilities. The good news about the extensive upgrades happening in Glen Park public spaces is that the recreation facilities still include tennis courts, a soccer field, a baseball diamond, and a playground. On any given Sunday, the area’s play area and grassy field are speckled with families enjoying picnics, a dad tossing a baseball to a bat-wielding son, young adults hanging out in the sun, and kids swinging and sliding in the park. Once renovations are complete, it will include an additional 4,500 square feet of auditorium, gymnasium with a rock climbing wall, multi-purpose space, and related amenities.
Back in the bustling 1850s of San Francisco, anywhere southwest of Twin Peaks was considered a no-man’s land — an undeveloped boondocks. There were very few roads, each requiring long, exhausting, uncomfortable, and treacherous wagon or carriage rides. Given its inaccessibility, the area became a refuge for outlaws. But 10 years later, it also became home to four dairy farms. From the late 1860s to the turn of the century, there was a gradual increase in the number of new homesteads. The next step in the development of Glen Park was the introduction of rail service to San Jose in January 1864. That’s when things really started rolling. Learn all about the exciting history of Glen Park by signing up for a history walk with such titles as ‘Bovines, Dynamite, and High-Flying Shows: The Amazing History of Glen Canyon Park.’ Cows ruminating; chemists concocting; elk ranging; aeronauts parachuting; and activists protecting… all this and more comprise the amazing history of Glen Canyon Park.
Little Artistas on Chenery Street offers plenty of creative activities for kids in Glen Park. Photo by Sylvie Sturm.
Being surrounded by so much artistic talent has its perks for the locals — not least of which is the opportunity it brings to its children. No neighborhood seems more suited to an arts studio dedicated to children, which explains the arrival of Little Artistas, an arts, crafts, and language studio in the heart of Glen Park. The studio space offers activities like Tutu Tuesdays, where kids learn to make their own style of tutu, and The Incredibles Date Night, where kids imagine what superhero they could be while watching the animated film The Incredibles, then making their own capes. The Little Artistas kids have been drawing a lot of attention thanks to the murals they’ve been creating, like Marigold Memoryscape Mural at Alvarado Elementary School, which consists of large, geometric marigolds. The studio also offers semester-based classes once a week, broken down by age group. Organizers keep ratios low and class sizes small to ensure every child has a blast and learns a ton. Little Artistas has also partnered with DrawBridge, a nonprofit organization that provides expressive arts programs for homeless and underserved youth. DrawBridge partners with homeless shelters and low-income housing facilities to bring over 800 art sessions each year directly to the children. It serves more than 900 children annually at 20 sites in six Bay Area counties.