With office buildings reaching up and above the fog, and traffic like you couldn’t believe, San Francisco’s Financial District seems like an odd place to spend a weekend afternoon. The rush of businessmen and women to work, the incessant honk of taxicab horns, and the intimidating skyscrapers that rise from the ground cast a shadow over the hidden gems that await discovery in this neighborhood. In an area of the city that feels full-speed ahead, stopping to cast a curious eye around yields a surprising surplus of over-looked locales.
The best way to start any venture around San Francisco is with a crave-quelling indulgence. While trekking around the Financial District I like to get my fix at Uno Dos Tacos on 2nd and Stevenson, just off Market Street. This small Mexican bar and restaurant is fairly quiet in the afternoon, and it’s simplistic menu offers a small variety of tacos, burritos, and salads. While dining here my brother and I shared an order of chips and salsa as well as an Asada burrito. The salsa was a mild blend of garden vegetables, and was light enough not to fill you up before your main course. The Asada burrito was a delectable blend of beef, black beans, cheese, and salsa wrapped in a flour tortilla. While it surprisingly contained no rice, the burrito was delicious and contained the perfect proportions of each ingredient. The outdoor patio seating was amiable and impeccably clean– not a trait many restaurants can boast! Uno Dos’s wait staff was incredibly gracious and their service was fast, making a quick lunch all the more enjoyable.
After enjoying a filling lunch, a short lap around Mission Street gives you a feel for the atmosphere of the neighborhood. While Mission Street is better known for it’s strong and colorful culture in the Mission district, the end of the 3 mile stretch is much different, shouldered by huge buildings and quiet courtyards. Many of these buildings’ public courtyards contain interesting sculptures and are a part of the Financial District that is commonly over-looked. On weekend afternoons, these courtyards are calm, quiet, and compelling spots to spend time. Farther down Mission are enormously tall, modern buildings growing rapidly in numbers. The construction sites that sprinkle the area serve as a symbol of the city’s progression and the success of the dot com boom.
Looping back to Market Street via Beale, a short stroll down San Francisco’s busiest street will bring you back to where you started. Down Pine street, about a block from Uno Dos, is the small and virtually unknown Crocker Galleria. This small centre is tucked away along a street with less foot traffic than Market, which lies 20 yards away. With a little under 30 stores, and about 13 different eateries, the tiny mall is not your typical stop for a shopping spree. However, it’s charming and cozy demeanor make for a worth-while visit.
Of the small array of stores, my personal favorite is T-We. This San Francisco-based company is devoted to the natural and honest production of the finest (and funniest) teas in the city. T-We has everything needed for the ultimate tea lover; with everything from mugs and teapots to specialty teas and strainers. All of the stores unique and quirky blends are created with organic ingredients right in the store. The staff takes requests if you have certain flavors you prefer together, and will assist you in the creation of your own tea.
Aside from their tailored options, the shop offers a wall of hilariously named creations of their own. With names from ‘Cuddle Bug’, ‘Hipsters in Wonderland’, and ‘Grumpy Dinosaur’ to ‘Ghetto Fab’, ‘Lesbi Friends’ and ‘Santa’s Little Harlot’, these home-made brews are bound to crack you up in the process of shopping. In addition to the giggle-inducing titles, the boxes of tea have clever one-liners and lists of ingredients on them. On display next to the packaged boxes are clear cases containing the contents of the boxes themselves, giving buyers a view of what they’re actually buying.
While managing to be ridiculously cute, completely accommodating, reasonably priced and side-splittingly funny, T-We can win over almost any customer. I walked out with a box of their ‘Chai-Hard’ tea; a blend of black teas, spices, and coffee beans. T-We has definitely charmed it’s way into my top 10 favorite stores in San Francisco.
Once you walk out of T-We, hopefully with a delicious purchase in hand, the best way to finish off your outing is with a pastry. To satisfy your sweet tooth without breaking the bank, Tart to Tart on New Montgomery and Mission is just the place to go. This quiet and laid-back cafe hosts a variety of sandwiches, cakes, cookies, and other pastries. While snacking here, my brother and I indulged in their chocolate ganache cheesecake. This delectable dessert consisted of two layers; a thin top layer of rich chocolate ganache, and a thicker bottom layer of decadent cheesecake. The two lavish tiers compliment each other perfectly, and make for a sinfully scrumptious end to your afternoon.
Words and images by Clare Kanaley