San Francisco’s Richmond District is a middle-class residential area with some of the best moderately priced restaurants in town. Too bad that it’s usually a flyover zone for visitors going to Golden Gate Park to the south or Ocean Beach to the west. Still, those in the know, who have done Fisherman’s Wharf and the Mission District, come here to eat and discover the main shopping streets. Buses going to Geary and Clement run from downtown on Market Street and cost $2 (75 cents for seniors).
Some years ago the locals started coming to the Richmond for the neighborhood Asian restaurants – there are great Chinese, Vietnamese, Sushi and Thai eateries. But the Richmond is also an Irish and Russian enclave, with Russian restaurants and Irish Pubs.
Exploring the ‘hood’
Clement Street is best for strolling the area. At 116 Clement, near 2nd Avenue, is The Plough and the Stars, an Irish pub that serves expertly poured Guinness and hosts famous Irish musicians.
For a pan-Asian dinner, Burma Superstar, is at 309 Clement Street near 4th Avenue. Veggie-friendly, Burmese cuisine combines Thai, Chinese and Indian dishes. Burma Superstar’s no reservations policy doesn’t deter San Franciscans coming for the Rainbow salad, which has 22 ingredients, including four types of noodles, green papaya, tofu and diced shrimp in a tamarind dressing.
Walking towards 6th Avenue you will see the large, whimsical sign for Green Apple Books (506 Clement) which opened well before the fruit-named computer was known. One of the best independent bookstores in the city, Green Apple has expanded into two storefronts and three stories full of new and used books. .There’s an entire section devoted to San Francisco
Two blocks down is Good Luck Dim Sum, at 736 Clement. It’s hard to believe that succulent dim sum can cost $1.60 for three pieces. There are only a few tables, so most people buy their hargow and pot stickers to take out. If you’re hungry, you can munch and walk. If the line is daunting, try one of the other dim sum places nearby
Ready for dessert? Sees Candies, at 754 Clement, is on the corner of 9th Avenue. Many San Franciscan’s prefer these locally made chocolates to any other brand, including the more expensive. Since 1921 Sees, which has stores across the western US, has been calling itself “the happy habit”; when you enter, you are offered a free chocolate du jour.
The bridge mix and nuts and chews are favorites.
The Richmond is a real neighborhood and its stores meet practical needs. You won’t find chain stores or tourist trinkets here, but there are some finds. Kamei Restaurant Supply (547 Clement) is a treasure trove of kitchenware, much of it from Japan. The locals frequent this store for its huge inventory, high aesthetic level (see the Japanese pottery) and notably low prices. The enamel sushi dishes and bamboo place mats can travel without breaking.
A few blocks down, at 905 Clement, is Get Thee to Nunnery, a fashion boutique that sells casual and business clothes by mostly California designers. The clothes are distinctive and moderately priced. Typical of the neighborhood, the owners run the store. 415 752-8889.
Parallel to Clement and one block over is Geary Boulevard. Peets Coffee and Tea cafe on 16th Street is a must try. And a few blocks down, at 5800 Geary, is the Richmond’s very own Michelin-starred restaurant, Aziza The food here is Moroccan-influenced and California inspired. And despite the fine food and chic minimalist decor, there’s no need to dress up.
Four blocks south is eucalyptus-scented Golden Gate Park. The de Young Museum, renovated in the last few years, is a draw for museum-goers. But don’t miss the California Academy of Sciences, with its planetarium, its African penguins and its atrium of atriums: three levels of rainforest, from Borneo to Madagascar to Costa Rica. The “Earthquake!” exhibit delves into the science behind earthquakes; and you can experience a simulated high-magnitude jolt.
The Academy’s moderately-priced cafeteria offers a dazzling variety of food, from mac and cheese to vegan tofu Thai curry, and you can eat outside in the picturesque garden in the park. There’s a reason why the food is so good: It was created by Charles Phan, of the renowned Slanted Door restaurant uptown. Just another Richmond find.
Back to Clement Street is another museum, this one much lesser known, but certainly worth visiting. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor was modeled on the one in Paris, and its French-accented collection includes an important group of Rodin sculptures. Currently, until Oct 13, 2013, there’s a traveling exhibition titled “Impressionists on the Water”. May of the painters were sailors and yachtsmen – Camille Pissarro sailed the Atlantic, Claude Monet sometimes painted from a floating boat. Cezanne, Signac and Renoir make an appearance. And no one who appoaches this museum that sits on a bluff (at Clement and 32nd Ave.) fails to be impressed by the sweeping view of the Bay.
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