Neighborhood Guide: The Chameleonic Fillmore Street

Once known as the “Harlem of the West,” Fillmore street was a proud neighborhood where African-American culture thrived. African-American-owned businesses lined Fillmore street. Black jazz musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and John Coltrane played in clubs there and businesses like “Gussie’s Chicken and Waffles” and “Powell’s Place” were San Francisco destination spots. For better or for worse, Fillmore street is now known for its high end designer  goods. In recent years, Fillmore Street has become a new design and food oasis for the wealthy, with new cafés and boutiques opening on every block.

Don’t discount the Fillmore District as a destination neighborhood, however. It has restaurants, cafés, shops, and parks. Fillmore street is easily accessible by the 22 Fillmore, the 1 California, or the 38 Geary.

Jane’s avocado toast with a soft-boiled egg and pickled shallots. photo by Jill Reilly

Jane’s avocado toast with a soft-boiled egg and pickled shallots. photo by Jill Reilly

Jane on Fillmore: Jane is continuously bustling with diners eager to chow on sumptuous avocado toast and healthy green smoothies; the lively buzz creates the quintessential coffee shop experience. Jane attracts a variety of Fillmore locals — writers, friends, coffee and pastry enthusiasts, students — and creates the ideal space for sharing, working, eating, and talking. Large windows lead to a light, airy space, filled with black leather booths, geometrically-tiled tables, and dark floral wallpaper. Although the wait can be long, the skilled baristas and chefs make the wait worth-while — don’t limit yourself to working at home or the library when S.F. boasts coffee shops like Jane. Study, bask in the morning sun while sipping on a cappuccino, or meet friends for brunch. Jane offers colorful and healthy organic salads, toast, paninis, and soups. An ideal meal at Jane: a slice of avocado toast with a soft-boiled egg and pickled shallots, a classic and crunchy caesar salad, and a freshly-squeezed lemonade. For breakfast, sample their almond chia pudding parfait with toasted super-berry muesli and macerated berries, served in a mason jar.  

Interior of Steven Alan. Photo by Amelia Levin-Sheffield

Interior of Steven Alan. Photo by Amelia Levin-Sheffield

Steven Alan: Steven Alan, a curated brand and store sells their own tailored shirts and modern basics along with pieces like well-made sweaters from Demy Lee, a New York based sweater company. Steven Alan has been at the heart of the Fillmore street shopping scene for the past four years. Although their goods are pricier than most, the emphasis on high-quality materials, like French terry and Italian wool, is apparent. Steven Alan’s collection is comprised of classic silhouettes with a hint of modernity in their patterns, materials, and colors. The interior design of the Fillmore location is a treat for architecture lovers and fashion enthusiasts. New York based architect, Taryn Christoff, designed an open space that displays goods on tall wood shelves reached by sliding white ladders. Steven Alan says, “We see our customer as creative thinking. They have an urban or New York sensibility even if they don’t live here. They are looking for the “special” thing.”

Nest: Nest is an interior design heaven; vintage glass cases with embroidered tablecloths display gorgeous coffee table books, vintage clothing, and dainty jewelry. Nest is a whimsical and magical treasure box. Sample their Ineke perfumes, made with freshly-picked flowers from a San Francisco garden. Flip through their countless Tartine cookbooks. However, most of their globally-sourced products are higher-end, so a Nest item is a rare, costly treat.  

Fraiche: A glass facade with dark wood detailing leads into San Francisco’s best frozen-yogurt spot, Fraiche. The company serves yogurt made with natural and organic ingredients, like Clover organic milk and probiotic culture, along with coffee and tea. This froyo shop creates a variety of California-inspired flavors, like Valrhona chocolate, plain tart, pomegranate, pumpkin, or soy. Far from offering artificial sprinkles and gummy bears, Fraiche’s toppings consist of innovative confections like ollaberry purée, fresh raspberries, homemade granola, and freshly-shaved dark chocolate. For an afternoon snack after a day of shopping, I recommend original tart with mangoes and homemade mochi or Valrhona chocolate with fresh pomegranate seeds. Devour Fraiche’s yogurt in the airy and open café or stop by Alta Plaza Park.  

Peter Luong, owner, sits in Song Tea & Ceramics. Photo by Alison Christiana

Peter Luong, owner, sits in Song Tea & Ceramics. Photo by Alison Christiana

Song Tea & Ceramics: As you walk into Song Tea & Ceramics, the scent of jasmine tea fills the air as you browse delicate and traditional Asian teas and minimalist ceramics and teaware. Tucked away on a neighborhood street, Sutter, the maple detailing, white walls, and concrete floors create Song’s peaceful atmosphere. The owner, Peter Luong, describes his transition from Red Blossom Tea, his family’s Chinese tea apothecary, to Song: “Somewhere along the line I wanted more specialization. I wanted to carry only a small line of beautiful teas that I could actively curate and rotate year to year.” Song offers a variety of sourced teas from China and Taiwan that make up the selection at Song — stop in for a tea-tasting or to pick up a jar of Old Tree Shuixian, an oolong tea with hints of cocoa and espresso.

Bun Mee: Bun Mee is self-described as “a gourmet Vietnamese sandwich eatery that blends the street food concepts of Vietnam with founder Denise Tran’s flavorful modern interpretations using fresh, local ingredients.” In cities like Saigon and Hanoi, banh-mi sandwiches are sold by street-vendors on scooters. Thus, Bun Mee mimicked this atmosphere through its interior design, accentuated with red doors, murals of Vietnam, Cafe Du Monde coffee cans, and red metal chairs. A quick and easy lunch spot, Bun Mee serves traditional bahn-mi sandwiches — sample the grilled lemongrass pork with garlic mayo, pickled carrots, and cucumbers or the smoky eggplant with roasted cauliflower relish and cilantro.

Nijiya Market: Nijiya Market is a one-of-a-kind, Japanese market located in the heart of Japantown on Post street. Browse through the aisles to discover imported goodies, like ramune (a Japanese soda) and green tea flavored coffee. Nijiya Market is the perfect place to stock up for a “make your own sushi night” — sushi rice, nori, Japanese pickles, and fresh fish are readily available. If you’re not up to the task, visit their prepared food section. I recommend the seaweed salad, the onigiri with salmon, and the tuna rolls. Walk up the block to the Japantown plaza to enjoy your delicious meal under the trees.  

 Alta Plaza Park: Alta Plaza Park, located on a hilltop on Pierce and Clay street, and its panoramic views of San Francisco are a breath-taking slice of nature in the otherwise bustling Fillmore street neighborhood. Alta Plaza Park has a variety of landscapes — benches and steps where families picnic, a playground where children climb, and green hills where dogs run. Pick up a warm panini from Jane to enjoy while lying out on a picnic blanket under the sun.

Tip: Visit Alta Plaza and bring your pug on the first Sunday of each month to attend the Pug Meetup!     


Gimme Shoes // An eclectic mix of modern shoes and socks   

Paper Source // Trinkets galore: Kate Spade phone cases, colorful paper clips, and floral wrapping paper by Rifle Paper Co.

Zinc Details // An old-time San Francisco shop that carries Marimekko hand towels and Eames chairs  

Waraku // A modern Japanese ramen shop

The Fillmore // An old-time, new-time San Francisco music venue  

State Bird Provisions // Contemporary, American small plates served dim-sum style

The Clay Theatre // Another San Francisco favorite that features new indie films in an art deco venue

Posted in Neighborhood Guides, Paper Tiger | 2 Comments »

About Elena Moore

Elena, a junior at Lick-Wilmerding High School, is one of the co-editors of the Arts and Leisure section of the Paper Tiger. Along with writing, she is an avid reader and recently finished the Elena Ferrante series (which she highly recommends). In her free time, she enjoys working at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, eating delicious and local food, and spending time walking around San Francisco.

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