The Hood: Haight Ashbury
For most, San Francisco’s iconic Haight Ashbury district instantly evokes images of dirty hippies, liberal peace and love, wearing flowers in your hair and last but not least –– a rebellious abundance of Mary Jane. And while much of those sentiments and practices are very much alive within the neighborhood, the Haight is slowly undergoing a transition from a tourist-ladened 1960s paradise to an up-and-coming hot spot for locals. From book stores, to designer thrift shops, girly boutiques and a diverse selection of eateries –– the notoriously psychedelic area is shedding its old ways and beginning to embrace SF’s fresh forward-focused aesthetic.
Dine: Sparrow Bar and Kitchen (1640 Haight St)
I’m a huge sucker for restaurants with nice outdoor seating. Though it sounds oddly specific and like a mere detail in the process of judging a restaurant, I just happen to have a strong preference for enjoying my meals while sitting in a cute ‘lil patio with heat lamps, greenery, lanterns and perfect natural lighting for taking Instagram shots. Luckily, Sparrow accomplishes exactly that with its sleek interior and innovative menu. Seeing as though I’ve already taken up a whole paragraph to profess my infatuation with Sparrow’s A-plus decor and layout, let’s finally move on to what you’re all probably here for –– the food.
Myself and The Wave‘s very own Yu Ling Wu begin our brunch adventure with a sizzling bowl of deep fried curry cauliflower –– which was similar to pure gold nuggets in both color and how gluttonouslypleasurable they were. After we took what felt like two decades browsing the enticing selection of entrees, I opted for Sparrow’s extravagant biscuit and sausage gravy dish –– complete with sunny-side-up eggs atop spinach and butternut squash. YuWu on the other hand went for something a little more health-conscious in the form of a huge cube of french toast stuffed with Nutella and paired with caramelized bananas (we’re obviously ones for decadence…). Having said all this, It’s truly a shame that Sparrow isn’t as hyped and packed with hungry customers as the more established brunch places of areas like the Mission. Keep this rookie neighborhood gem alive and head over to Sparrow to experience the deliciousness firsthand.
Snack: Flywheel Coffee Roasters (672 Stanyan St)
Keeping within the theme of my fervent appreciation for well-decorated restaurants, Flywheel Coffee Roasters never fails to blow me away with its industrial-meets-rustic wood vibe. Similar in success –– not surprisingly –– are their caffeinated beverages and small selection scrumptious housemade pastries. Though I’m not usually someone who can stomach coffee, I’ll gladly gulp down a lusciously rich Flywheel mocha in a heartbeat AND still have room for a dessert (like the pumpkin pound cake pictured here)…or four. With unbeatably quality products and a welcoming space, Flywheel is perfect for cyclists on the go, students seeking a midday pick-me-up or any other coffee enthusiasts who find themselves wandering the Haight.
Do: Free Gold Watch (1767 Waller St)
If you’re in need of a break from the humdrum activities of the modern era and instead seek the sort of old fashion fun your parents had, look no further. Free Gold Watch is your one stop shop for all pinball playing desires. And I’m not talking about the kind of computerized default game that came with Windows XP (you know the one…). The art collective slash arcade is entirely filled wall to wall with vintage pinball machines inspired by classic cartoons, blockbuster movies and other fads of yesteryear –– leaving something for everyone. Here, theres a special sense of false nostalgia that can’t be experienced through Candy Crush or Doodle Jump, as it ‘s easy to be quickly suckered in by the flashing lights, clacking noises of the flippers and clinking of change falling into the machines’ coin slots. So lose yourself in the magic of pinball and come prepared with an open mind and pocketful of quarters.
Right off the bat, you’ll probably be able to determine through the photos above that my chosen outfit for this day was a far cry from a practical San Francisco getup. Despite my lack of layers and proper walking shoes, I aimed to channel the bold spirit and in-your-face attitude of the legendary Haight Ashbury –– all while staying true to my own style by sticking to minimal and clean pieces with interesting silhouettes. I may have endured countless stares from tourists rocking tiedye San Fran hoodies, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was momentarily a contributing to small piece of the city’s larger eccentric identity.
Shop: Recycled Records (1377 Haight St)
I’m throwing you another #TBT, as I begin to delve into the newly-cool-again world of record collecting. Anyone who’s ever bought an album on vinyl can probably relate to the overwhelming tension I experience every time I step into a large-scale record store like Rasputin or Amoeba. Usually the selections are endlessly vast and I’m forced to leave empty handed –– unwilling to sort through anymore humungous, time consuming piles of dusty LPs. For this reason, independent record stores like Recycled Records are a saving grace. The tiny hole-in-the-wall offers up a cultivated collection of pristine vinyl — selected by people who are clearly gifted with both a great ear and passion for music. So whether you’re a Lennon, Dylan, Sinatra or Cash fan, Recycled Records holds musical treasures of every genre that are just waiting to be discovered.