Spend a day noshing, sipping and shopping in San Francisco’s Noe Valley.
By Michelle Sieling
With the influx of tech workers, the city of San Francisco has been experiencing a cultural shift. The San Francisco neighborhood of Noe Valley is no exception. In a place long known for being family friendly, the stroller brigades are now finding themselves jockeying for position on the sidewalk with 20-something brogrammers. Only time will tell how the more recent transplants will work it out with the established residents.
But mixing the old with new isn’t unusual for Noe Valley. For example, though a moratorium on new restaurants was lifted a few years back, there have not been a lot of new ones. For the most part, new restaurants slip into the spaces of former ones, like Horner’s Corner, which replaced the old Noe’s Bar and Basso’s. Despite the paint job, it echoes many of the former features, but with a slightly more upscale menu. That is, it’s a sports bar in the front with family friendly dining in the back. There’s still a selection of simple foods that are under $20, like the “4 Seasons” pizza, with prosciutto, artichoke, mushrooms, olives and onions, the Horner’s burger on a brioche bun with Kennebec fries, and steak frites with garlic spinach.
Down the block, there are more dining choices, like the French bistro Le Zinc, the eclectic and homey Firefly, and around the corner, the Spanish and Catalan Contigo. In the coming months, further out in the neighborhood on Church Street, will soon be Porcellino. It will replace Chris Cosentino’s Incanto, but still be run under his direction. Porcellino will have a more relaxed atmosphere, and offer salumi plates, sandwiches, pasta, etc. It will also sell artisan meats from its sister company Boccalone, in addition to wine, olive oils and sauces.
Gourmets who like to cook at home will be pleased to find a number of specialty food shops. These include 24th Street Cheese Co., Noe Valley Bakery and Drewes Meats, all neighborhood staples. A more recent addition is Olive This Olive That. A chef could become quite experimental with the wide range of extra virgin olive oils in infused flavors like butter, rosemary and Italian herbs. The selection of white and dark balsamic vinegars also feature infusions of dark chocolate, espresso and fig. Bottles for both cost the same, ranging in price from $17 for one 375 ml to $30 for two. There are also 50 varieties of pasta, including a gluten-free orzo. All retail for $9 a pound.
Watering holes are sprinkled down 24th Street, and most of them are local-friendly as opposed to destination bars. These include the sports bars Dubliner and Valley Tavern, in addition to the newer Caskhouse. With its bare bones interior and reclaimed walnut wood bar, you might mistake it for an upscale café. Though, Caskhouse specializes in California craft beers on tap, like Kolsch from Manzanita ($6.00), and by the bottle, such as Bourbon Sour Porter from Almanac ($12.00 for 22oz). The wine selection is mostly old-world sourced and can be purchased by the bottle and the glass. Bar bites are available here, including house-made chips and pretzels with beer cheese sauce ($5.00). There are also salads, such as warm farro ($7.00) and sandwiches. Note, though, that it would be well worth it to ask for clarification on what you are ordering. For example, a porter braised brisket sandwich with house pickles and chips ($12.00), was actually two sliders with pickled relish and chips. Despite that, the chips had a great tooth to them, and the relish was a good compliment to the horseradish sour cream that topped the beef.
If bars aren’t your thing, it’s always possible to take your booze home with you. Of course there are a number of liquor stores, but Noe Valley’s got some upscale choices, like PlumpJack Wine & Spirits and Noe Valley Wine Merchants. At the latter, you’ll find a selection of domestic and old world wines, with a number of them under $30, like the Rosso Picero Superiore for $23.00. Though, there are higher-end choices, like Ramey Chardonnay from Hyde Vineyard ($57.00). In addition, the store stocks a number of specialty spirits, like Hudson New York Corn Whiskey ($37.00) and Novo Fogo cachaca ($30.00). For whiskey lovers, the selection will be expanded soon. Wine tastings are already offered in the shop, but in the future spirit tastings will also be offered over at its neighbor, Horner’s Corner.
In between eating and drinking, you might want to do a little shopping for clothes, books, shoes, etc. and Noe Valley has a good variety of places to choose from. On 24th and the surrounding streets, running fanatics can find a new pair of sneakers in See Jane Run, parents can pick up locally made toys and clothes at Mabuhay and unique gifts can be sourced at Wink. Explore further out on Church Street, and you’ll continue to find one-of-a-kind shops. There’s locally designed and produced women’s clothing at Curator, German goods at Lehr’s German Specialties, and old and new books about anything on food at Omnivore Books on Food.