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Top 10 Things To Do And See In San Francisco's Tenderloin District
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Top 10 Things To Do And See In San Francisco's Tenderloin District

Picture of Ryan Basso
Updated: 9 February 2017
San Francisco’s Tenderloin district is a funky neighborhood with a bad reputation. Home of Little Saigon, the Tenderloin offers some of the best Vietnamese food in the city, but if you happen to be in the area you’ll notice there’s much more to the Tenderloin than foot traffic and ethnic cuisine. The streets are riddled with thrift stores, selling everything from books to traditional American apparel. The Culture Trip has put together a list of the top 10 things to do and see in the Tenderloin for the next time you decide to brave it on your own.
Handsome Oxford | © Ryan Basso
Handsome Oxford | © Ryan Basso

Handsome Oxford

For some time now vintage retail has been a subculture of both rustic and sophisticated styles. Handsome Oxford has accomplished both, with its celebration of classic Americana at bargain prices. This tiny shop is decorated with rusty coffee cans and Ivy League pennants, and the racks are draped with American brands like Lee, Woolrich, LL Bean, Levi’s, and Pendleton. Stepping into this little cubby is a bit like shopping in the costume department for a Wes Anderson film. Swing by for fun vintage items, from blankets and flags to overalls and baby clothes.

Handsome Oxford, 646 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 510 673 0776

The Phoenix Hotel | © Ryan Basso
The Phoenix Hotel | © Ryan Basso

The Phoenix Hotel

Ever wonder what it must have been like to have a drink by the pool with Andy Warhol or take a dip with Mick Jagger? At the historic Phoenix Hotel you can eat, drink, and lounge about the old stomping grounds of rock stars and art icons. This two-story oasis encircles a tiled pool and patio that accommodate guests and party-goers alike. The restaurant and lounge, Chambers, offers seasonal cocktails and fare for both brunch and dinner. Next time it’s hot in the city and you need a place to cool off, round up some friends and grab a room.

Phoenix Hotel, 601 Eddy St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 776 1380

Camera Heaven Storefront | © Ryan Basso
Camera Heaven Storefront | © Ryan Basso

Camera Heaven

Behind a glass door with no sign other than a piece of computer paper, there is a kingdom of cameras, pieces, and parts. Offering repairs and selling lenses, Camera Heaven is the best-kept secret in Tenderloin. If you’re looking for a specific part, odds are the staff here can help you find it quickly and at a good price. Camera Heaven also sells unique cameras, new and refurbished, that would make great gifts for anyone interested in film and photography.

Camera Heaven, 746 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 346 5169

The Magazine | © Ryan Basso
The Magazine | © Ryan Basso

The Magazine

The Magazine is more like a registry for pop culture publications than a newspaper shop. The shelves are smothered with periodicals from the floor to the ceiling, and the place has the aroma of an old private school. The store is full of decades worth of comics, fashion/music magazines, photos, and old local gazettes. The Magazine is a trove of vintage printed artwork; whether you are looking for inspiration or simply seeking a rare map or advertisement, everything is unique.

The Magazine, 920 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 441 7737

Fleetwood | © Ryan Basso
Fleetwood | © Ryan Basso

Fleetwood

Fleetwood, a screen-printing retail store that doubles as an art gallery, is the perfect place to find cheap artwork for your house or apartment. The boutique’s high ceilings provide plenty of wall space for the multitude of original compositions, all numbered and organized so patrons can quickly identify artist and cost. Although prices vary, all the art work is under $100 and created by locals. Fleetwood is definitely worth a look.

Fleetwood, 839 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 439 9293

Vacation | © Ryan Basso
Vacation | © Ryan Basso

Vacation

Vacation is another thrift store found in the Tenderloin that is miniature in appearance but bursting with character. This charming, second-hand outlet offers everything from exotic brands and concert tees to shoes and accessories. Vacation’s modern and whimsical vibes collaborate well, and the clothes are perfect for anyone in an ironic rock band. With inexpensive items and trendy digs, Vacation is the perfect stop for seasoned vintage shoppers.

Vacation, 651 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 795 3633

Emperor Norton’s Boozeland | © Ryan Basso
Emperor Norton’s Boozeland | © Ryan Basso

Emperor Norton’s Boozeland

Across the street from the Phoenix Hotel is a saloon that is right for any night of the week. Emperor Norton’s Boozeland is fully equipped with a back patio, billiards table, shuffle board, and a happy hour that lasts from noon to 7pm. There is no shortage of entertainment here; the huge bar encircles the center of the space, so everyone has a drink and a place to sit, both day and night.

Emperor Norton’s Boozeland, 510 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 926 8118

Kayo Books | © Ryan Basso
Kayo Books | © Ryan Basso

Kayo Books

Kayo Books is a cozy shop that celebrates the pulp fiction dime novel. It specializes in vintage paperbacks and rare editions that cannot be found at just any used bookstore. Kayo’s flare for stylish and unique narratives make it a great find for literature buffs or anyone looking for a new good read.

Kayo Books, 814 Post St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 749 0554

Bourbon & Branch

Not your usual whiskey bar, Bourbon & Branch is a prohibition-style speakeasy that is more like a trip to the past then to the pub. With a list of house rules (no phone or camera use), this bar goes out of its way to recreate the feeling of ordering a drink during a time when it was illegal. The assortment of hand-numbered whiskeys and liquors is vast and impressive. Bourbon & Branch is an experience like nothing from this century.

Bourbon & Branch, 501 Jones St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 346 1735

Braised Duck Leg Egg Noodle Soup, Hai Ky Mi Gai | © Ryan Basso
Braised Duck Leg Egg Noodle Soup, Hai Ky Mi Gai | © Ryan Basso
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Hai Ky Mi Gai

Hai Ky Mi Gai is a fast-paced eatery located in the heart of Little Saigon. Well known for its rich, flavorful broths and cheap menu, Hai Ky Mi Gai is exactly what you’re looking for in a savory snack. The long list of soups incorporate poultry, beef, and seafood, with egg and rice noodles, all at $5-$7 per bowl. The braised duck leg egg noodle soup ($5.99) is one of the popular choices that keeps everyone coming back. So swing by and grab a bowl; Hai Ky Mi Gai is sure to have something you’ve been craving.

Hai Ky Mi Gai, 707 Ellis St, San Francisco, CA, USA +1 415 771 2577