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Free Love and Hippies! New to the Neighborhood: Haight-Asbury, Buena Vista, Cole Valley

July 25, 2008

First American Title is helping us in defining each neighborhood in the city.  As a first time homebuyer where do you want to live?  Here is a brief overview into the “Legendary” areas in the city by the bay.

Haight Ashbury, Buena Vista, Cole Valley

Think Haight-Ashbury is the home of Hippies and free love?  If so, you’re almost 40 years too late.  Buena Vista Park and the neighborhood surrounding the famous intersection of Haight and Ashbury  Streets may have been the epicenter of the Summer of Love, but the hippies have long since grown up or moved out.  “The Haight,” as it’s more commonly know today as till exists on the avant-garde fringe, but that fringe now includes hip bars, trendy restaurants, exclusive boutiques and high-end vintage clothing shops.  Souvenirs of the ‘60s can still be found in a few smoke shops and second hand stores, and punked-out kids, drugs and panhandling are still prevalent on upper Haight Street, but the residential streets are full of nicely restored Victorians and “normal” neighborhoods.

The Haight is divided into two distinct regions: the Upper Haight runs from Stanyon Street along the edge of Golden Gate Park to Masonic, and the Lower Haight runs from Divisadero  to Webster Street.  Buena Vista Park sits between the two halves.  Upper Haight is where you’ll find the famous corner (now home to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, as well as most of the shopping and all of the panhandling.  Lower Haight is a little grittier and less commercial.  Kate’s Kitchen in Lower Haight is one of our favorite brunch spots in the city (expect to wait for a table) and the Thep Phanom serves up amazing Thai food.  In Upper Haight, the Grind Cafe is a spacious coffee shop that offers delicious sandwiches and salad.  For dinner try Cha! Cha! Cha!.  An old-timer in a neighborhood full of new and ever-changing hot spots. Cha! Cha! Cha! serves Latin and Caribbean-inspired tapas with fruity sangria.

 

Cole Valley is a tiny neighborhood that sits just southwest of the Haight.  Packed with mom-and-pop shops and devoid of the snootiness that can be found in the parts of the city, Cole Valley is a lovely community.  Its residents ten to be families and young professionals, and there’s a sense that neighbors are really watching out for each other.  To get a feel for the neighborhood, stop into Cole Hardware or have a couple of beers in Finnegan’s Wake (or Finn’s as the neighbors may call it.  Sports fans will enjoy Kezar Bar near Kezar Stadium, one of the few places in town where beer comes in pitchers and deep fried mozzarella sticks are the most popular item on the menu.  For more upscale fare, try EOS, considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the city.

A few little secrets add to Cole Valley’s character.  Although it rarely makes the guidebooks, one of the best views of the city can be seen from the top of Tank Hill, so named for an old water tank hidden by eucalyptus trees planted to hide the tank from bombers after Pearl Harbor.  To get to the summit walk up Shrader Street to Belgrave, turn left and walk to the end.  A few of Cole Valley’s lush trees are the daytime destination of a group of noisy birds known as the “wild parrots of Telegraph Hill”, the subjects of both a book and documentary.  And lastly, on Carl Street are the remnants of a sign marking the Other Cafe, an old comedy spot where Robin Williams and Dana Carvey performed before hitting the big time

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