Nestled in between San Francisco’s Western Addition and Civic Center, lies a small and unsuspectingly charming neighborhood called Hayes Valley. This little community blends the hip and modern with the traditional and laid-back, yielding the perfect hang-out spot for San Franciscans of all ages.
Sunny afternoons with a few hours to spare were made for one thing, and one thing alone — brunch. Hayes Valley offers no shortage of mouth-watering eateries for every palate, but my choice indulgence is Straw Carnival Fare. The tiny restaurant, tucked away on Octavia Boulevard, serves carnival-themed dishes for the most gluttonous of souls. The best testament to their unique menu is the Ring Master, better known as the Donut Burger. This heart attack-inducing delicacy is exactly what it sounds like, a hamburger with a sliced donut in place of a bun.
While brunching at this hard-core dig, I opt for one of their only slightly healthier dishes, the Turkey Club. Deli turkey, garlic aioli, lettuce, tomato and maple glazed bacon layered atop three slices of toast makes for a mouth-watering start to your day. On the side, of course, are fries sprinkled with a sinful amount of salt and pepper. Provided with your meal is a mason jar glass of water, and with the amount of sodium in each dish, this cute recyclable is a necessity.
Once you’ve completed a brunch that could rival a meal at any county fair, it’s about time to take a couple laps. Hayes Valley has a definite San Fran hipster vibe, and it’s all in the details. Sure, you can go into one of the Valley’s ultra-alternative, borderline-pretentious, renewed-vintage thrift stores to experience that gripping sensation of subculture. However, the subtler way to get a feel for contemporary San Francisco is through a stroll around the neighborhood. Small, independently owned stores sprinkle the community as well as chain stores and restaurants like La Boulange and Patxi’s Pizza.
After popping your head in some stores, and walking off at least some of your brunch, a good place to wind down in is Patricia’s Green, which serves as an outdoor center for Hayes. Around the Green are public displays of art, in particular the interactive ‘Before I Die’ wall. On the wall, passers-by write down one item on their bucket list they absolutely want crossed off. The colorful chalk that covers the wall reflects the vibrancy of the intentions scrawled along the exhibit. In the middle of the Green is an intricate cube structure, that looks more like it belongs in a museum than a public park. Despite its slightly intimidating demeanor, the sculpture is there to hang on to and take pictures of as well as admire from afar. The Green is the heart of this uniquely San Franciscan neighborhood.
Once you’ve cooled off for a bit, it’s time for everyone’s favorite part of an outing –– snack time. Luckily for ‘lovers of cravings,’ like myself, right off the Green lies the adorable sweet-tooth haven, Miette. This sweet shop offers a wide variety of tasty treats for every kind of candy connoisseur, with goodies ranging from the saltiest caramel to the most bitter chocolate. The pastel vibe of this cozy store makes you feel like a little kid again, and it’s easy to revert back to your six year-old self, while grabbing your favorite comfort snacks. I opted for a bag of dark chocolate snow-caps and a few small fair trade extra-dark chocolate bars for the road, while my friends divulged in green apple sour gummies, sea salt milk chocolate, and two jaw-breaking caramels. Without a doubt, these mouth watering goodies were the easiest purchase ever made and worth every dollar.
Words and images by Clare Kanaley