The Lower Haight is the Upper Haight’s hip younger sister to the East. The neighborhood has been described as “low-key grunge meets bohemian” and features a plethora of bars, restaurants, and shops while still maintaining a neighborhood vibe. Disclaimer: the author lives in this neighborhood and is only slightly biased about its extreme radness.
Once known as “Pine Valley” thanks to the abundance of pine trees, the Lower Haight has made strides in the last thirty-something years at becoming an extremely desirable place to live. Like many parts of San Francisco, the Lower Haight was at one time victim to a great deal of crime, correlated with the introduction of the Hayes Valley housing project. A public lawsuit and the eventual restoration of the projects around San Francisco has seen the furthered success of HOPE VI, along with a decrease in crime in Lower Haight. Today the neighborhood features easy access to public transportation and a variety of locally owned businesses.
Far from living in the shadow of the Upper Haight, the Lower Haight offers a taste of San Francisco culture that makes it easy to imagine you’re a full-time resident of the city. The bars in the neighborhood feel more like pubs, pulling in regular crowds who live in the hood, as opposed to those just stopping by to party. The diversity in age and race, along with the general grunginess makes the neighborhood less of a target for cries of “gentrification!”, especially given that the decrease in crime there has been a welcome thing for all residents. Head to the Lower Haight for dinner or drinks, an afternoon stroll (check out the street art), or when shopping for a unique gift.
Fifty24SF: A cool art gallery with a funky vibe. Art openings at Fifty24SF are always a party, and typically the boxed wine is freely flowing (a sign of a truly good time).
SF Zen Center: A uniquely San Francisco part of the Lower Haight, the SF Zen Center offers free Zazen (seated meditation) hours every day of the week.
Upper Playground: The perfect spot to pick up some “Left Coast”-positive apparel. Featuring their signature “San Fran*******sisco” garb.
Rooky Ricardo’s Records: Old school vintage vibes for every record collector.
Cafe International: A great spot to sit and read or hang out for some live music during their weekly open mic nights.
Eat & Drink:
Wing Wings: Two words: Angry. Korean. (But really, eat here as soon as you can).
Kate’s Kitchen: A fantastic place for brunch- make sure to check the specials board, as they incorporate in season fruits and veggies into their offerings.
Uva Enoteca: A wine bar with the knowledge that goes light on the pretension. Grab a seat at the bar during happy hour for great wine and delicious snacks.
Toronado: There’s no way to write about the Lower Haight without mentioning Toronado. When ordering at Toronado it’s important to: 1. Know exactly what you want, 2. Pay in cash, 3. Not ask for bud light, 4. Not expect service with a smile. Needless to say, it’s not for everyone, but their craft beer list is killer.
About the Author // Eliza Dropkin is a Vantigo Tour Guide. She enjoys live music, good food, and cruising around town in Lillie (though she loves all the vans equally).