Though Ocean Beach is the western edge of the Outer Sunset, it’s often the center of the neighborhood’s action. It’s rare to find an urban beach free of high-rises. Ocean Beach delivers a laid-back vibe complete with surfers and off-leash dogs between Stairwell 1 and 21. Stroll the 3.5-mile beach and you’ll find a ton of sand dollars during the day and bonfires at night. When you’re done playing in the ocean, walk right into Golden Gate Park from the beach.
Because of its proximity to the beach and its laid-back vibe, Ocean Beach is a neighborhood full of surfers. It’s easy to find them in the water, of course, but you can also find them at neighborhood surf shops like Wise Surfboards, Aqua Surf Shop (which offers surf yoga), and Mollusk Surf Shop. Want to see boards made or make your own? Sunset Shapers has an in-house shaping room with lessons.
Outer Sunset residents rarely make their way down to Chinatown because they have some of the best Chinese food in the city within walking distance. Two of these establishments sit within two blocks of each other on Taraval Street: Kingdom of Dumpling and Dumpling Kitchen. Each spot has a variety of dumplings ranging from pork and chives to lamb. But what is most famous is their xiao long bao – or Shanghai soup dumplings. Kingdom of Dumpling also has an annex store where fans can pick up bags of handmade fresh and frozen dumplings to boil or fry at home. Of course, both restaurants have many other dishes, and there are other spots in the Sunset, but these are the best known and seem to have the longest line each night.
There are many cafés to grab coffee from and hunker down with a laptop, but not all of them are by the beach. Java Beach Café, Trouble Coffee Company, and Beachside Coffee Bar all offer great caffeinated drinks with a side of sea breeze. Make your order ‘to go’ and sit on the sand dunes. Trouble Coffee is well-known for their cinnamon toast to go with your coffee.
Devil’s Teeth Baking Company is a local favorite, which you can see on weekends when trying to score one of their famous breakfast sandwiches. The spot has groovy outdoor benches, used books for sale, and the kind of laid-back beachy vibe found only oceanside. It’s a great place to grab a sweet treat when exploring the Outer Sunset. From cookies to whoopee pies to donut muffins to beignets (Sunday only), you’ll find no shortage of fuel for a sugar rush.
Outerlands is one of those brunch places that’s always busy, but worth the wait. The restaurant is open for other meals, too, but brunch attracts the most patrons who either wake up later on weekends or have already been out for a morning surf that day. Outerlands is one of the more chic places in the neighborhood otherwise dominated by casual Asian eateries and cafés with a more chill vibe.
The Outer Sunset isn’t a shopping destination by any means, but there is a great secret gem: General Store. Filled with beautiful clothes, Pinterest-worthy handmade jewelry and cards, and home goods resembling an Etsy page, it’s a great place to find a gift (for yourself or someone else). There’s also a hidden garden in the back with a greenhouse to sit, relax, and make rock piles in case your companion wants to shop a little longer than you do.
It’s easy to miss Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company if you’re just walking by. But you’d miss out on beers made in-house, happy hour specials, taco Tuesday, and fried mac ‘n’ cheese balls. Flights are served in muffin tins as an homage to Devil’s Teeth Baking Company. The brewery also serves brunch, which probably pairs well with beer. Sit down and you’ll and meet some locals, because most people don’t trek out to the Outer Sunset for a beer.
If the dog-friendly beach didn’t fulfill your animal quota, head over to the San Francisco Zoo, located at the end of the L MUNI near the beach. Despite the signs around the city, people often forget about the zoo, which houses more than 1,000 endangered and rescued animals. It’s probably the only place in San Francisco to see a giraffe. Plus, it makes a great date spot.
In the summer, Stern Grove, a park in the Outer Sunset, hosts free concerts that are packed with people watching from up in the hills. It’s still a great spot to visit during the rest of the year. Sit amongst the tall eucalyptus trees for a picnic, or stroll and explore the park alone or with a dog, since the park is pet-friendly.