When you’re lucky enough to live a stone’s throw away from an overabundance of sensational restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops, it can be hard to narrow it down to a top ten must-see list. After much deliberation and a few heated arguments with friends, we present to you the top ten things to do and see on San Francisco‘s Polk Street.
Bob’s Donuts is a San Francisco treasure. Open all day, every day since 1960, Bob’s is exactly what you need after a long night of partying in the city. The lines can get long after-hours, but most any other time of day you can walk right in. Rumor on the street is that between midnight and 2am is when you will find the hottest, freshest batches, and you can even try out the legendary Bob’s Donut Challenge. Eat the gigantic $8 donut in two minutes and receive a refund, a free drink, a Bob’s Donuts T-Shirt, and a place in their Hall of Fame. Open All Day, Every Day
This tiny boutique is jam-packed with interesting trinkets, gorgeous gifts, and unique treasures. Terrasol is a seasonal shop, so it’s always changing inventory to reflect holidays and local events. I love to stop in for their beautiful Victorian-inspired birthday cards and incomparable selection of old-fashioned glass Christmas ornaments.
Eleven-O-One is the sister location to the favorite sandwich spot Bite and offers many of the same delicious sandwiches plus many more. With a ‘pull up a seat and stay awhile’ vibe, Eleven-O-One feels more like a restaurant than a deli. The sandwiches and salads are huge and definitely shareable. Everything at Eleven-O-One is delicious, especially the Gouda Good Sandwich, the Leafy Gallina Salad, and their house-made fresh sangria.
More and more it seems that friendly neighborhood bookstores are a thing of the past. Russian Hill Bookstore is one of the last remaining family-owned bookstores in San Francisco, and it is definitely one of the jewels of Polk Street. Russian Hill Bookstore has an unbelievable selection of new and used books, uncommon cards, gifts, and toys. Pop in for something specific or hunker down and explore for awhile. The staff is very friendly, and they don’t mind if you browse aimlessly through their extensive collection. Open 10-10pm Daily
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Most people don’t think of rice pudding when they are craving a dessert, but Loving Cup will change your mind. With nearly 20 different variations of rice pudding (a particular favorite is Madagascar Vanilla Bean), tons of toppings, AND a frozen yogurt bar there is surely something to please everyone. In fact, I have a friend who drives from Long Beach, frequently, to appease her Loving Cup rice pudding craving. Now that’s a testimonial! Monday-Friday: Noon-9:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday: 11am-10:30 pm
You are sure to find something extra special at these two charming sister shops on Polk Street. Belle Cose means ‘beautiful things’ and Molte Cose translates to ‘many things’ in Italian, and that’s exactly what you will discover in these precious boutiques. Vintage clothing, housewares, jewelry, children’s clothing, gifts, and dapper clothing for him; it’s all there, and you’ll have a very hard time walking out empty-handed.
The Grubstake isn’t exactly located on Polk Street, but it’s darn close and worth a mention. This legendary restaurant is stationed inside an antique railcar that carried passengers between Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco up until 1927. Originally called ‘The Orient Express,’ the American diner was featured in Humphrey Bogart’s classic film Dark Passage and eventually changed owners and names to be called The Grubstake Ⅱ (The Grubstake Ⅰ was located downtown where the Parc 55 Hotel now stands) in 1967. With a classic menu of breakfasts, burgers and sandwiches that are served in heaping portions, The Grubstake is a fixture of the late-night scene in San Francisco and doesn’t even open until 5 pm daily. I highly recommend checking out this amazing landmark before it disappears; rumor has it that it will close soon and be razed to make room for more housing.
This cafe hasn’t been open long, but San Franciscans are lining up to get a taste of Basik. Based out of Hawaii since 2010, Basik Cafe offers delicious and health-minded açaí bowls and smoothies with the freshest ingredients possible. The bowls are heaping with raw fruit, seeds, açaí, and hemp milk; they make a delicious breakfast or lunch that is healthy and guilt-free. Local Tip: this place is new and there will be a line, but if you want a robust snack it’s definitely worth the wait. Monday-Saturday: 8am-4pm, Sunday: 9am-1pm
If you’ve never had an old-fashioned shave and haircut, you are in for a big treat, and Peoples Barber is gonna give it to you. This bustling shop has all of the charm of an old-time barber, but offers a luxury experience with a master stylist. Book an appointment (walk-ins are available but the wait is substantial) for a straight-razor shave, a haircut, and the opulent hot towel mini-facial. While you’re waiting, the friendly and mega-fashionable staff provides you with a cold beer, reading material, and encourages you to hang out in true barbershop-style.
With a coffee shop every couple of steps, it’s so refreshing to have a different option like DAVIDsTEA. This sunny shop is overflowing with canisters of delicious and aromatic teas that the staff encourages you to explore and smell. Choose from hot tea, iced tea, matcha green tea, and a personal favorite the Tea Pop, which is essentially iced tea made with carbonated water and a dash of agave. All of DAVIDsTEAs are available in varying sizes for brewing at home, and the shop carries every accessory you could ever need to be a tea-brewing champion. Local Tip: if you are looking for a quick pick-me-up that isn’t coffee, ask for an iced green tea matcha with milk and agave. It tastes like a dream and gives you the perfect jolt of energy without jitters!