Hayes Valley: A Haven for Foodies, Shoppers + Bon Vivants

by Janie Cai and Chloe Saraceni | 7x7

The futuristic-looking container store in the background is menswear label Aether's slick retail space. (Photography by Janie Cai)

Newish-comers to San Francisco don't even remember Hayes Valley's once-seedy days laced with crime and prostitution.

In the last several years, the sunny enclave—wedged between Mid-Market, Lower Haight, and the Western Addition—has become a choice spot to while away an afternoon sipping craft beer and hunting limited-edition designer tops.

The dramatic transition was initially triggered by 1989's Loma Prieta earthquake, which tumbled part of the Central Highway that ran directly through the neighborhood. Since local residents persistently (and successfully) rallied against the rebuilding of the highway, the area has had a chance to evolve. Two decades of steady regeneration have turned Hayes Valley into a haven for shoppers and bon vivants, a place where you can pick up a unique piece for your wardrobe or indulge in delectable, internationally inspired cuisine. Use our cheat sheet to guide you through your next sojourn in the 'hood.

Where to Eat in Hayes Valley

Hayes Valley is a stone's throw from an arts circle that includes the Davies Symphony Hall (201 Van Ness Ave.), SF Jazz Center (201 Franklin St.) and Nourse Theater (275 Hayes St.)—in other words, the restaurants here are always packed. Culture vultures have long flocked to Absinthe (398 Hayes St.) for their delicious brasserie-inspired fare, while just across the road Chez Maman (401 Gough St.) is known for their delicious burgers and pots of savory mussels. // If seafood's your thing, make a reservation at Hayes Valley institution Hayes Street Grill (320 Hayes St.), which has been serving fresh, sustainably harvested fish and shellfish since 1979. // Indulge all your pasta cravings at A Mano (450 Hayes St.). // Grab a rosemary ham or asparagus topped slice (or whole pie) at newcomer Gioia Pizzeria (579 Hayes St.). // For something a little healthier, enjoy gluten-free, veggie-centric dishes at Little Gem (400 Grove St.)—think maitake mushroom bowl and tuna tartare. // Pläj Restaurant (333 Fulton St.) is where you can satisfy your Scandinavian food yearning—tuck into some of their smoked fish croquettes or house-made beet-cured gravlax. // Impress a date by partaking in Kim Alter's lovely Californian-inspired cuisine at Nightbird (330 Gough St.) or sip on delightful cocktails at their tiny but super chic adjoining bar Linden Room (330 Gough St.) before heading for a delectable dinner at the chic brasserie Monsieur Benjamin(451 Gough St.), from Benu chef Cory Lee. // Find more modern French-inspired fare at Dominique Crenn's bistro-style restaurant Petit Crenn (609 Hayes St.). // Make merry at Straw (203 Octavia Blvd.), which serves up carnival-inspired cuisine so yummy it'll have you grinning like a five-year-old. // For equally chill vibes, the no dress-code Rich Table (199 Gough St.) showcases an inventive menu that tastes as delicious as it sounds; plus, the team's newer RT Rotisserie (101 Oak St.) slangs succulent chicken and sides on the cheap. // Speaking of rotisserie, Souvla (517 Hayes St.) started this red hot trend. Have lunch or a casual dinner at the original location—don't skip the fro-yo. // On a foggy day, dive into a piping hot bowl of veggie miso or chicken paitan ramen at Nojo Ramen Tavern (231 Franklin St.) // All said, Cala(149 Fell St.) may be the hipped game in the 'hood. Make a reservation or try your luck for a seat at the communal table and go all in with mezcal cocktails and grilled whole fish tacos. // For more tacos—plus plenty of chips, guac, and margaritas—be sure to bring a group for a lively dinner at Papito (425 Hayes St.). // Of course, you can never go wrong with oysters and an afternoon burger on focaccia at the iconic Zuni Cafe (1658 Market St.).

Coffee + Treats + Snacks

Those with a sweet tooth love Miette (449 Octavia St.), the dainty little sugar shop that is as pretty as it sounds, and 20th Century Cafe (198 Gough St.) which serves fresh cakes and pastries in a retro space. // Ice cream fans can enjoy a made-to-order cone at Smitten's (432a Octavia St.) outpost overlooking Patricia's Green or seasonal scoops at Salt & Straw (586 Hayes St.). // Pick up a cuppa at Ritual (432b Octavia St.) or get a pour-over from the original Blue Bottle Coffee (315 Linden St.) kiosk and a boiled bagel at Wise Sons (537 Octavia St.) to go with. // If coffee's not your thing, make the few-block trek to Bay Area favorite Boba Guys (8 Octavia St.) for gourmet bubble tea. // For a quick savory nosh, meat lovers should make a pit stop at the Fatted Calf (320 Fell St.), one of the best charcuterie shops in the city that also happens to serve a limited number of delicious lunchtime sandwiches. // It wouldn't be a true SF 'hood without a few juice options—reboot with an After Party or grab a salad in Urban Remedy's (450 Hayes St.)plant filled space, or soak up the sun outside of Juice Shop (432 Octavia St.) with a turmeric elixir.

Where to Drink in Hayes Valley

True Sake (560 Hayes St.) sells sake instead of serving it. Owner Beau Timken's in-depth knowledge of sake has made his cozy store (the first in the U.S. dedicated to sake) a real destination for all who love the Japanese brew. // Pick up a bottle (or case) of fine wine at Arlequin (384 Hayes St.). // Ensconce yourself in the black and white interior of Fig & Thistle (313 Ivy St.) to try their choice selection of California beers and wines; or if seasonal cocktails are in the cards, head to the super swanky Noir Lounge (581 Hayes St.). // Get some fresh air with your punch bowl at the colorful Anina (482 Hayes St.) next door, which has an Instagram-worthy patio perfectly framed by fairy lights. // Nearby, Biergarten (424 Octavia St.) is an outdoor craft beer yard that is great for catching a pint with friends, especially when the sun's out. // For a relaxed, neighborhood bar vibe, kick back at Dobb's Ferry (409 Gough St.), with its leather bar stools and eight beers on tap. // A few blocks off the main drag, Birba's (458 Grove St.) garden oasis is the perfect spot to relax with friends and a couple bottles of wine. // If you like to people watch as much as you like to imbibe, Brass Tacks (488A Hayes St.) serves up some tasty cocktails—try the Brass Smash (Venezuelan rum, Cynar, mint and lemon). If you're lucky, you can scoop the window view while you enjoy it. // Grab a signature Gin Tonic— and maybe a couple tapas to go with—in Barcino's (399 Grove St.) stylish space. // Show off your captain's drawl at Smuggler's Cove (650 Gough St.) while you sip on their famous hot buttered rum, or go all chichi over caviar and a bottle of bubbly at swank Champagne bar The Riddler (528 Laguna St.).

Hayes Valley: Arguably San Francisco's Best Shopping Neighborhood

Stylish Threads for Guys and Gals

Francophiles (or anyone who wants to emulate the je ne sais quoi of Parisian style) should head directly to Acoté (597 Hayes St.), a chic boutique that stocks French label Cotelac's younger line for both men and women. Think louche, printed tops paired with slick, tailored trousers and a killer jacket. // Azalea (411 Hayes St.) provides a well-curated selection of pieces from an extensive list of brands such as Nudie jeans and Ksubi, with the former stocking more high-end pieces from the likes of Comme des Garçons and Alexander Wang. // Just off the main street, the same proprietors own Welcome Stranger (460 Gough St.), a menswear-focused store that offers up plenty for the discerning male shopper with an affinity for the outdoors. // Dish Boutique (541 Hayes St.) carries a high-end line of independent designers such as US-made denim label AMO and The Lady & the Sailor. // Neighborhood mainstay MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing) (387 Grove St.), offers slick pieces by Dries Van Noten and Junya Watanabe. // Look for a small staircase to lead you down to Cary Lane (560 Laguna St.). The self-proclaimed "SF's only designer sample outlet" is a large basement space with worthwhile pieces for those who love the thrill of searching out a bargain. // But if your style is more lounge than lunge, then the laid back but luxe direction of the clothes and homeware at Reliquary (544 Hayes St.) might be right up your alley. Their personally selected vintage pieces, which they sell under their in-house label showcase a thoughtful eye for timeless design and effortless style. // For minimalist-chic pieces at affordable price points, be sure to go through Oak + Fort'scollection (567 Hayes St.) // Swing by the newly opened Clare V (344 Linden St.) to browse through the delightful bags and accessories in the label's first-ever SF space. // At Steven Alan (445 Hayes St.), peruse the designer's men's and women's collections in a calm, light-filled interior. // Guys and girls alike will also love Seldom Seen's (522 Octavia St.) collection of cool pieces from designers including Lacausa and Sandy Liang. // Aiken (556 Hayes St.) houses California made denim, as well as other men and women's hip, conscious clothing collections—think Indigenous' line that supports the Global Fund for Women, and a selection of organic cotton t's and sweaters.

Basics, Athleisure + Gear

For workout apparel that's as stylish as it is comfortable, head to Outdoor Voices (555 Hayes St.). //Alternative Apparel (424 Hayes St.) sells everyday basics that are produced from organic cotton and manufactured sustainably. // Amour Vert (437 Hayes St.) is our go-to for style-savvy originals that champion a zero-waste philosophy. // L.A.-based Industry of All Nations (528 Hayes St.) focuses on small-batch collections that are developed in collaboration with local communities around the world. Check out their natural Alpaca knitwear made in Bolivia, which is dyed using natural pigments for a subtle variation of 16 natural shades. // Marine Layer (498 Hayes St.) is where you can stock up on T-shirts made from their uniquely soft fabric (it contains recycled beechwood). // Fans of handcrafted, individual pieces should check out Cotton Sheep (572 Hayes St.), which stocks hard-to-find Japanese brands such as Kapital and Fith. // Hit up the hip metal container store Aether (489 Hayes St.) for technical menswear that seamlessly combines form with function. // Timbuk2 (506 Hayes St.) has been producing their iconic messenger bags from their Mission District factory since 1989, but they've since expanded to fanny packs, backpacks, and luggage, all with a utilitarian-cool vibe.

Shoes, Lingerie + Accessories

If you're looking for a special bit of bling or just something unique to pretty up your week, head over to Metier (546 Laguna St.), a gem of a jewelry store where you can score contemporary statement pieces as well as exquisite, handpicked vintage finds. // A sweet spot for shoe lovers, Gimme Shoes (416 Hayes St.)is where you can get eclectic designer footwear from brands such as Paul Smith and Robert Clergerie. // Next door at Bulo (418 Hayes St.), find California-made Cydwoq's sinuous leather sandals. // Sneakerheads will dig Undefeated (516 Hayes St.) and its selection of street-style kicks alongside in-house merch. // Pick out a new leather satchel for work at Will Leather Goods (568 Hayes St.). The Eugene, Oregon-based brand is known for its supple leather accessories and offers a lifetime guarantee on every piece. // Looking for a new pair of inexpensive but fashion forward shades? For every pair that Warby Parker (357 Hayes St.) sells, the company also distributes a pair to someone in need. // Lovers of silky, lacy things have long made Hayes Street a destination for the too-gorgeous, high-end underpinnings at Alla Prima (539 Hayes St.), which also operates the Eres boutique (471 Gough St.), your go-to for luxurious, French-made swimwear. // If sexy corsets are more your thing, pop into Dark Garden (321 Linden St.), where you can tap into the expertise of their couture designers to create something that will be uniquely yours.

Home + Gifts

For unique homeware and furniture pieces head over to Maker Moss (364 Hayes St.), which has plenty to satisfy any picky Min Hogg aspirant. // The sleek furniture and design-forward homeware picks at Minimal(364 Hayes St.) are also worth a gander. // If you're on the hunt for custom-made furniture, be sure to stop by Interior Define's sleek, immersive showroom—you can even book a one-on-one appointment with a design specialist. // Parachute (445 Hayes St.) also stocks plenty of luxurious home accessories including bedding and bath goods with a minimalist aesthetic. // For more gifting ideas, head to the newly opened Ei Home (342 Hayes St.), the hip rebranded arm of Eurasian Homes that stocks a unique homeware, cute plush toys and a huge array of scented candles. // At MMclay Ceramics (Octavia and Linden St.), shop tableware handmade by local artist MaryMar Kennan, housed in an aesthetically pleasing Airstream trailer parked next to Patricia's Green. // Comic fans will love Isotope (326 Fell St.) for its terrific selection of comics and hard-to-find graphic novels, which you can peruse from the comfort of their red and white vinyl sofa. // Tech geeks will spend hours playing around with the hottest new gadgets housed in a modern space at b8ta (590 Hayes St.).