Potrero Hill: A Neighborhood Guide

No matter where you live in the city, there is most likely always going to be somewhere you haven’t explored before. That’s the beauty of living in a place as diverse and filled with excitement as San Francisco. The Potrero Hill neighborhood is one of those off the beaten path gems. It is never overflowing with too many people and yet those who live or venture there are blessed with small restaurants that offer delicious food and fun shops with eclectic wares. The neighborhood is easy to get to by taking MUNI – 22 Fillmore. Once you get off Muni at 18th and Connecticut, if you look out towards the city, or across the Bay, you are greeted with one of the most beautiful views of San Francisco. I am fortunate enough to work at Christopher’s Books in Potrero Hill and have discovered multiple delightful restaurants and stores in the neighborhood:

1. The Brunch of Your Dreams: Plow

The french toast at Plow. Photo courtesy of Plow

The french toast at Plow. Photo courtesy of Plow

Locally sourced food, a menu containing “French Toast with Caramelized Apples, and Mascarpone,” a light and airy interior and a wait list that extends for 2 or 3 pages. That, in my opinion, is the perfect brunch spot. Plow was started by Joel Bleskacek and Maxine Siu 5 years ago in a vacant architect studio. And, if the predictable 45 minute to an hour wait doesn’t tell you, the crowded tables and loud chatter make clear that Plow has become an exceedingly popular breakfast place for Potrerians and locals alike. Their tagline, “Plow is Midwest country boy meets San Francisco China girl,” speaks volumes about the organic comfort food and their ability to not make you feel guilty while gobbling down lemon ricotta pancakes and their signature crispy potatoes. Plow transcends into the heaven of brunches,

The interior of Plow. Photo courtesy of Plow

The interior of Plow. Photo courtesy of Plow

and don’t worry, no one will catch you closing your eyes and sighing as you take your first bite; everyone else is doing it too.

Tip: The best way to deal with the wait is to plan a few activities in between putting down your name and eating. A lot of the places I will list below are fun things to do instead of checking your watch. Grab a coffee, check out the bookstore, look through the magazines at Farley’s Coffee or just take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood.

2. The Bookstore: Christopher’s Books

Christopher’s Books has been the community bookstore since 1983, sitting on the corner of Potrero’s main street. Its festive decorations and friendly atmosphere have made it a fun hangout for kids and adults. Christopher’s makes a point to have something for everyone. The cards, notebooks, newspapers, toys, maps, lunch boxes and t-shirts that line the shelves turn it from an ordinary bookstore into a candy store for bookworms. Their YA section is a must see as I’m convinced that their one shelf carries a better selection than the entire Barnes and Nobles store. Another reason to support: Tee Minot is the owner of Christopher’s and her son, Nicolas, is a current freshman at Lick.

Tip: If you decide to make a purchase when you stop by, tell the clerk that you go to Lick- Wilmerding and you read this article; they will offer you 20% off one purchase when you sign up for the Frequent Buyers Book Club. Signing up for the Book Club is as simple as giving them your first and last name to enter into the computer and, if you become a regular, you will get $5 off every time you spend $100.

3. The Hipster Hangout: Front

Café Front Café is situated inside a former industrial loading dock. With their wooden tables lining the sidewalk and slightly pretentious glass cases, Front is the ultimate hipster café, proven by a cup of their Vibrant and Chocolatey Swiss Water Process Washed Decaf Huehuetenango French Pressed cup, (Western Guatemala). Each steaming mug has an attention to detail that you don’t get everywhere. Front’s menu has delicacies ranging from coffee, coffee and coffee to Valrhona Chocolate Croissant and a Seasonal Veggie Tart with Goat cheese & seeds. Front also substitutes as a small shop; they sell homemade granola, chocolate, ceramic bowls, wooden trays and ground coffee. The atmosphere is friendly and I fully admit to spending a few hours gazing longingly through their glass cases at the milk and cookie arrangements that I swear could pass for art. Just put on a beanie, grab your homework and set up shop outside the Café.

4. The View: Potrero Public Library

The best place on Potrero to curl up with homework or a good book is a chair in front of the glass windows in the Potrero Public Library. The windows give you a spectacular view of San Francisco and it’s one of the most beautiful places to be productive. Starting through February, the library is offering intensive courses in preparation for the SATs, including workshops for math and writing. They also have a designated Teen space stocked with a large YA book section. Although this may not be the closest library to you, the view and architecture is so calming that I actually think I end up getting my work done faster there. Or, possibly, it could be because I know I can run down to Chez Maman after.

Tip: The library is open until 8 pm Tue-Thurs and the view when it gets dark is even more spectacular.

5. The Entertainment: Thick


Potrero Hill is not a large area; they have a small, short street of activity and a few nice ships. So understandably, their theater is not large either. However, it puts on quality productions. I visited a few weekends ago to check out their latest production, Girl Talk, which was directed by Karen Lowe and co-produced by 3Girls Theatre. It centered on seven girls all dealing with the trials of being a young adult. The spoke freely during their monologues about eating disorders, relationships, troubles at school and bullying. It was a performance with true heart. None of the actors were professionals, but they were fully committed to their characters. Next up for the theatre is The Lariet, an opera about the Esselen tribe of Big Sur as its people face the influx of Spanish Missions. During the summer a host of other plays will be shown, including another production by 3Girls Theatre.

Tip: The Thick Theater space is available to book from August 10 to September 13 so if you need a space to perform art, let them know!

So there you have it. Potrero Hill may not be the hippest, or the biggest, or the most exciting neighborhood in San Francisco, but it is a great place to get away from the clutter of city life and go exploring. Take a day off from studying, bring a good book, a little money, some time and take a deep breath.

Other Options:

Farley’s Coffee // A great magazine rack, board games, ice cream and lots of communal tables

Papito // The Mexican brother to Chez Maman

Goat Hill Pizza // A family favorite with sourdough crust

Aperto // Organic, local Italian and lamb sausage pasta that has a cult following

Baked // Their made- in-store brownies have caramel chunks. ‘Nuff said

Gaelan // The newest indie boutique on Potrero



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About Amelia Levin-Sheffield

Amelia is a junior at Lick-Wilmerding High School and writes for the student newspaper, The Paper Tiger. She also manages the Style section and is one of three co-managing editors of the on-line LWHS community news source, Hyphen. Amelia is a voracious reader and started writing in second grade after getting a flash of inspiration from a gnome sighting in the hollow of a tree in her backyard.

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