Tourists and locals flock to the Haight-Ashbury to experience the epicenter of the ’60s hippie movement. The bustling neighborhood is home to some great shopping, quirky bars and plenty of colorful characters, but it’s also home to some unique restaurants, including the following six places.
Bar, Cafe, Cocktail Bar, Pub, Restaurant, American, Pub Grub, $$$
The Alembic was a pioneer of the craft cocktail movement in San Francisco, but the dark, rustic bar and restaurant also puts out some quality bar bites and shared plates that are a worthy companion to everything on the drink list. Most of the menu encourages snacking (deviled eggs, fried chickpeas, beer cheese and pretzels), but it’s worth settling into one of the dark leather booths to have a real meal, especially if you order the braised short ribs. Alembic also serves brunch on the weekend; while options aren’t extensive, there are a couple of egg dishes, shrimp and grits, a waffle, and a burger that you can’t order any other time.
Magnolia Brewing on Haight Street is definitely known for its balanced and sessionable beer, but don’t overlook the food at this microbrewery (yes, they still brew beer in the basement despite the opening of a much larger brewery in the Dogpatch). The restaurant serves lunch, dinner and weekend brunch with a focus on classic pub fare like fish and chips, house sausages and a grass-fed burger that consistently hits the spot, especially when paired with one of the 10 beers on tap. Go early on Thursdays for the fried chicken special, which starts at 5pm and ends when it’s gone.
It’s hard not to be in a good mood when sitting inside of Parada 22. The small, colorful space feels especially cheery in a town where so many restaurants stick to muted palettes. The other thing that’s not muted at this Puerto Rican restaurant is the home-style dishes like slow-roasted pork, marinated sirloin steak, and a classic Cubano sandwich. Get a pitcher of sangria, which is some of the best around.
Slice House is a perfect place for a snack (if a slice of pizza can be considered a snack) after spending a few hours on Haight Street perusing the shops or drinking at one of the watering holes. The pizza comes from Tony Gemignani, who has tons of accolades, including the fact that he’s a 13-time World Pizza Champion. There are a couple of burgers and sandwiches on the menu but have the pizza instead. There are some delicious pies with fancy toppings, but for tradition lovers, the classic pepperoni never disappoints.
Hidden at the back of this new American eatery is a secret (not anymore!) garden that feels like a complete escape from everything that is Haight Street. Sparrow Bar and Kitchen’s patio is nestled among towering trees, and there are options for sitting in the sun or the shade (or next to a heat lamp as is often necessary when in SF) while you enjoy dishes like steamed mussels or a chèvre BLT. Brunch is a highlight – the French omelet with brie and prosciutto is perfection, as is the benedict with bacon and avocado butter on a buttermilk biscuit.
Haight Street was this restaurant’s original location, and the fact that it’s now a local chain pretty much says it all. The Mexican street-food-inspired menu is simple: tacos, a couple of burritos, a quesadilla, nachos, and a fried flour tostada street bowl. Customize each dish with 12 different types of meat and veggies – everything is made to order. The portions are generous, which means you can fill up for cheap, with most items around $8 (though you’ll have to pay extra for chips and salsa). Street Taco can get busy at peak times, but the line moves fast. Unfortunately, there’s no wine or beer, but you can get Mexican coke, which almost makes up for that.