Street View: Fillmore Street
Fillmore Street is a long one — stretching from the top of the Castro district all the way down to the Bay waters at Chrissie Field. As it makes its way through the various neighborhoods, it takes on the character of that particular part of town. It is best taken in parts, so today, I’ll start with the stretch that runs through Pacific Heights (from Geary St. to Broadway).
This part of Fillmore isn’t on the regular tourist track. While it is certainly not geared for the budget traveler, there are definitely bargains to be found. And, just walking up the street is worth a morning or afternoon.
Starting from Geary, at the base of the hill, you will find the Boom Boom Room. In their words, “the Club is a sultry, down-home Juke Joint providing cocktails, dancing live Blues, Boogie, Groove & Soul music six nights a week.” It is a cool little club that plays hosts to a variety of different musical groups, and was once owned (I believe it was founded) by John Lee Hooker. If you happen to be wandering in the hood one evening, check out the Boom Boom Room.
Heading north, you will pass the Sundance Kabuki theater. This is a newly renovated theater, that aims to show mainly independent films. Some of the theaters even have balcony seating, where you can eat and have a drink while watching the flick. Across the street from the Kabuki is a large Goodwill Store. This is also newly renovated, and has a really good selection of items, great in case you are tired of your traveling clothes and want something new and on the cheap.
Keep heading north, and you’ll find the street’s latest addition, The Wine Jar. Like the name says, this is a wine bar, and they serve a little food. If you continue, you’ll find a Walgreens — the perfect place to pick up any of those essentials you left at home! If you like paper, there is a fantastic paper store called The Paper Source. If you are looking for a unique photo album, card, or paper, they likely have it.
Soon you’ll find yourself in the midst of several good, and economical, eateries. La Boulange, 2043 Fillmore, serves a French provincial menu, full of open faced sandwiches on fresh baked bread. They also serve fries, which, in my opinion, are among the best. In addition to sandwiches, they have a full selection of pastries and cookies, cooked each day in the nearby Boulangerie bakery. Across the street, you’ll find Johnny Rockets, which serves typical American-style hamburgers. The Grove, 2016 Fillmore, has a full menu of salads, wraps, sandwiches, etc. It is also dog-friendly! Grab a table outside, a beer, something to eat, and watch the folks walk by.
Next up is Harry’s, which is one of the few bars in the neighborhood, and they have a full menu as well. It is right next door to the Grove. At the corner of Fillmore and California, you’ll find a La Salsa, the only chain restaurant around, and across the street from that, Dino’s Pizzeria, which slings a delicious pie. If you are looking for something a little more upscale, try The Elite Cafe, popular for its southern-influenced menu. They also have a nice bar and a dog-friendly seating area in front of the restaurant.
Continue up Fillmore, and check out the variety of cool shops. There are some boutiques that are pricey, but fun to walk in and check out. Jigsaw is one of my favorites, as well as several of the eclectic jewelry shops you’ll find along the way.
At 2122 Fillmore, Crosswalk Shoes, you’ll find a nice respite for your weary feet. Maybe you didn’t pack a great pair of walking shoes, or maybe you have worn their treads thin…Crosswalk to the rescue! After you find some new kicks, head across the street to Bittersweet, a fun chocolate shop ideal for a yummy midday snack. After you grab your snack, check out what’s playing at the Clay theater. Part of the Landmark group, it usually shows some off-beat, and excellent, independent movies. They also have a late night movie series on Friday and Saturday nights, which show movies like Rocky Horror Picture show, or, recently, The Princess Bride.
Diagonally across the street from The Clay is Nest, an adorable store full of knick-knacks for your home. I am not a big knick-knack person, but this store often causes me to rethink my stance. You’re getting close to the end of the street, and it’s worth getting to the peak at Broadway. Head up there and marvel at the view from the top. If you can, ask the super at the bottom of the building at Broadway/Fillmore if you can go check the view from inside. It is pretty spectacular.
As you head back down the hill, you’ll probably start getting hungry. Vivande Porta Via is a small Italian restaurant (next door to Bittersweet), that specializes in Sicilian cooking, and makes handmade pasta each day. Don’t let the small storefront fool you, this place is huge on flavor and selection. You may also like Via Veneto, at 2244 Fillmore, which serves a more broad Italian menu and has a full bar. Both are excellent choices.
In the mood for something a little more Latin-influenced? Try Fresca, a Peruvian restaurant. I recommend their lomo saltado. You can also try The Elite Cafe, a popular spot, or, the new darling of the City, SPQR, which serves traditional Roman cuisine. There are also several sushi places on Fillmore; I have heard great reviews of Toraya (full disclosure: this blogger doesn’t eat sushi).
Post-dinner, perhaps you want something sweet, or maybe to just chill out and browse a few books. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try Tango Gelato at 2015 Fillmore, which serves Argentinian-style gelato. Just want to relax and read? Check out Browser Books at 2225 Fillmore St., or Juicy News at 2453 Fillmore St.
As you can see, there is a lot to do, see, and experience on Fillmore St. It is a truly “local” area, full of good eats, fun (window) shopping, and fantastic people watching!
To get to Fillmore Street from downtown, you have several options. The 38 bus runs down Geary and will drop you off right where this little tour begins. The 2,3, or 4 buses will take you down Sutter St. directly to Fillmore. You can also catch the 1 California, which takes you down Sacramento Street and drops you right in front of several coffee shops on Fillmore.