April 10, 2013
Alamo Square & NOPA Neighborhoods - San Francisco: Travels
I was staying one street away from the famous "Painted Ladies" in Alamo Square Park or "Postcard Row" as others call the highly photographed Victorian/Edwardian colored houses. If you ever watched the intro to the show "Full House" then you have seen the Painted Ladies. With winter still happening here in Edmonton, I was in my glory of green grass, blossoming trees, chirping birds and warm weather.
There has been a lot of change in the Alamo Square and NOPA (North of the Pan Handle) neighborhoods, particularly Divisadero St, which divides the 2 neighborhoods. Restaurants like Little Star Pizza (my brother in law's family loved the pizza) and the upscale Nopa set up shop many years ago but are welcoming a second influx of new hip eateries, shops and markets which has been drawing more attention from people to not only visit but also live in the areas.
Isn't there something so charming about a neighborhood coffee/bakery shop, complete with sweet spot-eyed dog leashed outside (isn't he adorable!)?. The idea of waking up and walking down for your morning espresso before work, grabbing a rustic loaf for breakfast or enjoying baked goods and coffee with friends, sounds so lovely. I had read about the The Mill, a joint venture between Josey Baker Bread and Fourbarrel Coffee, on 736 Divisadero street, which is a stone's throw from Alamo Park Square.
Josey started as a hobby baker but it soon became more when he started running a "Community Supported Bread" (much like a CSA), where people subscribed online and he would drop off breads at various destinations for pickup. He worked out deals with restaurants to use their commercial or wood-fired ovens to produce enough loaves but he quickly grew and as a result came together with Fourbarrel coffee to open The Mill.
I read that a must is the Toast! (complete with exclamation mark). I grabbed the country bread Toast! with butter, cinnamon sugar, and a sprinkle of sea salt along with an Americano and sat down in the high-ceiling modern room, complete with a long communal table. I sipped coffee, listened to the hum of the open kitchen and watched people rifle in and out, ordering a coffee along with a loaf or other baked goods in hand. I didn't particular care for the sea salt on my thickly cut toast but then, to each his own I say.
Heading down the Divisadero corridor, you will find the newly opened Bi-Rite Market (550 Divisadero St, doors opened mid-March of this year). This is their second location, the original being in the Mission area, open since 1940. They are your environmentally-conscious "one stop, full-service market" and pride themselves on really getting to know their vendors. Of course, they are also known for their creamery! Make sure to pop in and grab a scoop.
Nopa, the well loved Californian restaurant, can be found at 560 Divisadero but is only open for dinner service and weekend brunch. But if you are looking for lunch, try their "sister restaurant", Nopalito, 2 streets south and one street west on 306 Broderick St., where they serve sustainable and organic mexican cuisine. They offer dine in and take out. Since I wanted to keep exploring all the shops and stores, I grabbed the Quesadilla Roja con Chicharron($9.50), crunchy corn tortilla with crispy pork belly, queso fresco and salsa to go. I later read in their local paper that their carnitas are a must.
Right next door, you will find Falletti Foods and Delessio's Bakery. It is a full service market and a gourmet grocer. I picked up a samples Tcho Chocolate since I didn't make it out to Pier 17 (Tcho offers free daily tours at their Pier 17 location! Make sure to go!) and, of course, some of the infamous Ghirardelli chocolates. Want to try the wacky flavours of Humphry Slocombe ice cream but can't make it all the way down to their flagship store in the Mission? Then you are in luck, because the bakery also offers a small selection of flavours. I tried their signature Secret Breakfast flavour, which is bourbon ice cream with cornflakes. 2 thumbs up!
The Divisadero corridor is changing and Alamo Square and NOPA neighborhoods are becoming a hip place to live, shop and eat.