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Posts Tagged ‘Noe Valley’

Neighborhood hangout

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 13, 2016

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In New York City, its a bodega on every corner. In LA, its corner liquor stores. Here in San Francisco, its the corner grocery store which, unfortunately, is being threatened by rampant gentrification.

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We live in an already upscale part of the City, between Noe and Eureka Valleys. Two blocks down from our house, an old funky grocery store (no fresh fruits or vegetables, just canned or packaged food items, often with expired dates, plus the usual alcohol) gave up the ghost several years ago. This allowed four local entrepreneurs to take over the empty space and do a soft-story earthquake retrofit in addition to overall improvements.

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The resulting business is part coffee shop/ice cream bar/prepared food store/event and class location/commercial popup/neighborhood hangout. And its been successful from the start. They’ve scheduled a class on the “Art & Science of Saving Bees, Birds & Trees,” and host boutique flower arranging by the FloraCultural Society on weekends.

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Ryan and Laurel can often be found preparing gourmet coffees and teas or serving Laurel’s sweet and savory pastries. And people do what they usually do in San Francisco coffee shops, set up their laptops for long sessions of work and play online. Neighbor’s Corner is bright and airy, with a modern bathroom to boot.

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The previous store owner left quite mysteriously and was unable to pass on the location’s liquor licenses to the new owners. Now the new owners are working through the lengthy city permit process to allow for regular coffee shop occupancy and patronage during business hours. Given the enthusiastic response from the residents, Neighbor’s Corner looks like it’s here to stay.

UPDATED 2-14-16:
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Posted in Eureka Valley, gentrification, life, Noe Valley, Paris of the West, San Francisco, San Francisco neighborhoods | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Walking in the nabe

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 14, 2014

After breakfast and the morning paper, it was time for a walk down to one of our local neighborhoods. Noe Valley had the Summer Fest in action, with a bouncy castle and a petting zoo for the kids.
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The Real Foods Daily storefront, owned now by Nutraceutical but kept abandoned despite every effort by San Franciscans and Noe Valleyans to put something of use and value to the community in its place, hosts regular performances by area musicians. These folks have played here often on the weekends. (Here’s a link in the Noe Valley Voice providing background to the abandoned storefront.) My suggestion is to make this patch of sidewalk a regular venue for local musicians on the weekends.
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Then it was back home via the bus. Not quite as snazzy a form of transportation as this, but it did the job.
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Posted in life, neighborhoods, Noe Valley, Noe Valley Voice, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Oh No!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 9, 2014

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For being such a radical commie pinko would-be revolutionist, I really don’t handle change all that well. Case in point: Cafe Ponte is, or was, a neighborhood coffee shop/eatery within walking distance of my home, at 24th and Diamond Streets. I spent many an afternoon comfortably nestled among its worn cafe furnishings and odd artwork with my laptop, availing myself of their free wifi, and happily working on my writing while people watching. I enjoyed their chai lattes, green teas and fruit smoothies, as well as their spinach salads, pastrami sandwiches, and chicken pot pies. They baked their own cookies and pastries, but I deliberately avoided indulging my sweet tooth on these items.

Imagine my consternation when I recently passed by the location and discovered Cafe Ponte’s windows covered with newspaper, with no notice of what might become of one my favorite writing spots. If I’m not mistaken, the owner once owned an Italian deli specializing in hefty sandwiches just a block down on Elizabeth and Diamond that closed some ten or so years ago. And now Cafe Ponte is closing. According to the folks at Pasta Gina next door, the owner sold the cafe to people who plan to reopen as the Diamond Cafe (a name used by a previous incarnation of this location) with a different menu.

True, all things change, although I wish they wouldn’t.

Posted in life, Noe Valley, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Changes to the neighborhood

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 26, 2013

I did a series on Paris (“City of Light”) and San Francisco (“San Francisco, Paris of the West”), part of which involved comparing the neighborhoods I live in or near to where I love to vacation. This post will note that there’s been a recent change to my Noe Valley neighborhood.

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I reported on Phoenix Books which has since changed hands, and is now called Folio Books (3957 24th St). Folio specializes in new and remaindered books, and is working to fill its shelves since opening the first of October, 2013. They’ve already set up an extensive children’s section, given that Noe Valley is full of young couples with kids in strollers. Glad to see that 24th Street has retained a full service bookstore.
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This blog will also now feature some of my own pictures/jpegs. I recently purchased a Canon PowerShot ELPH 130 IS and I’m just getting used to working with it. That doesn’t mean I won’t stop doing what everybody else does and steal the pics here from the web. But I will intersperse these appropriated photos with my own.

Enjoy.

Posted in independent bookstores, life, Noe Valley, Paris of the West, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

San Francisco, Paris of the West, part 5

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 27, 2013

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I once asked the late, great Bruce Roehrs why he lived in the Haight.

“All the bars I like are in the Haight,” Bruce said.

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I was never a fan of bars and “bar culture,” even when I was a drinking man. And I’ve never been a fan of the Haight-Ashbury. I arrived too late for the hippies, even to visit during their heyday. Then the Haight careened, crashed, revived, gentrified, and here we are in 2013 with the part circus, part zoo, part snooty neighborhood off-the-main-drag but on all the tour bus routes that is today’s Haight. There are plenty of accounts of the Haight, starting with David Talbot‘s Season of the Witch, which I critiqued on my other blog. For other histories, and some primary sources, consider the Diggers Papers site, including the various links provided there. Since I’m not into pointing out which Haight-Ashbury Victorian was rented by what famous psychedelic band, or where Anton LaVey held his Satanic black masses, or when white power skinheads tried to take over the neighborhood, let’s get on with a few Haight-Ashbury points of interest.

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Goorin Brothers Hat Shop (1446 Haight Street) is a fabulous find and potential haberdashery, now that I’ve taken to wearing styling head gear. If you don’t want to visit the store in person, you can check out their website and shop for hats by shape, by lifestyle, and by what’s new. Goorin’s is not some Parisian boutique. It’s a chain, but it’s service is high quality and it’s inventory is impressive. Cool. The Pork Store Cafe (1451 Haight St) is a wonderful place to get a heavy duty, stick to your ribs breakfast or lunch (or dinner) up to 3:30-4:00 PM. The food here is rich and large-portioned, and the lines are always out the door and down the block. Don’t bother worrying about your diet or your cholesterol levels if you intend to dine here. And don’t look for four star Parisian cuisine. This is comfort food, diner food, piled high food. Heart attacks are extra.

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Cole Street Hardware (956 Cole Street) is in Cole Valley, up from the Haight. And while the whole Cole Hardware chain is great, this particular store goes the extra mile, with inventory, with service, with resources. Cole Street Hardware has a handyman/contractor/etc referral service that links people in surrounding neighborhoods with skilled workers and professionals. Cole Street Hardware is all American do-it-yourself, not available in Paris. A real find. Finally, there’s Amoeba Music (1855 Haight St) at the end of the block. New and used music; vinyl, CDs, DVDs; movies on DVD or blu-ray; posters, books, turntables, etc; there ain’t nothing you can’t find at Amoeba, understand? Nothing like Amoeba can be found in Paris. Nevertheless, Amoeba has to struggle in order to survive, now that music and movies are digital, downloadable and streamable. So patronize them, damnit!

Below are a couple of shots of the Golden Gate Panhandle, to the north of the Haight. Not grungy and encamped with gutter punks like the entrance to Golden Gate Park proper at the end of Haight Street, the Panhandle is a cool, shady, relaxing strip of parkland buffering the Haight from the rest of the City. These photos also buffer the above section of this post from the section below.
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I’m returning to Noe Valley for a few more entries. The Haight is not my favorite neighborhood. I’m much more at home in Noe Valley and the Castro. The Castro got a thorough treatment in part 4, so this should round out Noe Valley, started in part 1.

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I love libraries. I love hanging out in them, reading books and newspapers in them, writing in them (both long hand and on computers), researching in them, etc. I love the smell of books, the tactile feel of printed paper, the sounds of their mandatory silence. I have an SF Public Library card, and I frequent my local libraries often. Noe Valley Public Library (451 Jersey St) is architecturally classic, with renovated interiors that are quite comfortable. I never visited libraries in Paris, but I would say my love for libraries is world-wide. Given right-wing attempts to gut the public sector in the United States in general, and to defund public libraries in particular, your public library needs your support. Just down the block is Video Wave (1431 Castro St), a tiny store stacked from floor-to-ceiling with rentable CD, DVD, and blu-ray movies. They have the entire Criterion collection, and also sell movie related “concessions” such as popcorn, ice cream and candy. Video Wave, as well as a number of other Noe Valley and SF small businesses, have been harassed by an abusive lawyer taking advantage of provisions in the California and Federal ADA laws, hoping to make a quick buck suing mom-and-pop sized stores for lack of compliance for disability access. Never mind that these establishments can’t control such access because they are often owned by absentee landlords who don’t, or won’t comply. Video Wave has spearheaded efforts to amend the ADA laws and to compromise with this rapacious lawyer (and it’s just one). But they’re still under threat of bankruptcy and closure. Patronize them!

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Contigo (1320 Castro St) is a Spanish Basque restaurant offering small plates (tapas), Spanish wines, excellent service, and a congenial atmosphere. Their Spanish hams are imported directly from the Iberian peninsula, and the churros and hot chocolate for dessert is a marvel. I’m sure similar cuisine is available in Paris, though we never found anything comparable. In Paris, whenever I noticed the bright red and yellow Presse sign above a shop or kiosk, I knew I could look for my favorite newspapers. Those Presse signs were everywhere. Not so in the United States, where I guess most people don’t read. In Noe Valley, Good News newsstand (3920 24th St) has the most comprehensive selection of newspapers and magazines around. Its owner, Sam, a Palestinian originally, is a cheery, friendly, helpful man always willing to aid the customer in finding what they’re looking for, and if necessary to special order what they can’t find. This store is a neighborhood staple. Standing around and browsing the shelves, you can watch all the locals come in for their favorite publications, and their cigarettes as well. A really fine store.

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I’ve mentioned the French interest in tea, and the tea shops of Paris, which really can’t hold a candle to a good American tea shop. David’s Teas (3870 24th Street) is just such a place, where there are umpteen metal canisters lining the long back wall filled with white, green, oolong, black, pu-ehr, mate, rooibos and herbal selections, and most of these further differentiated into straight tea vs flavored tea. Further divisions into organic, chia, etc. can be had, depending on the type of tea. You buy in bulk or by the cup, sample ahead of time, and sit around drinking your purchase. They have a quarterly catalog and also sell tea-related accoutrements. Wonderful. Speaking of tea, Lovejoy’s Tea Room (1351 Church St) attempts to replicate the experience of an authentic British tea room, complete with scones and crumpets, finger sandwiches (without the crusts), jam and marmalade, Devon cream, and the like. There’s more, much more, including pub food, and many more types of tea than would normally be found in your average British establishment. You can decide on a particular service (sandwiches, salad, tea, pastry) or order a la carte. I say!

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Chloe’s Cafe (1399 Church St) is a favorite of ours for breakfast, albeit with a somewhat limited menu. You can get eggs, but only scrambled. The rest of the menu is pretty standard, homemade potatoes, and fabulous buckwheat pancakes. My wife and I would each order a different, separate dish and share them. It’s small indoors, but offers sidewalk seating in good weather (much like a neighborhood Parisian cafe), and there’s always a 15 to 30 minute waiting list. The last stop on this Noe Valley tour is Omnivore Books (3885 Cesar Chavez St). I can’t say enough about this place. Floor-to-ceiling books devoted entirely to cooking. You heard me, cookbooks! Cookbooks by cuisine, cookbooks by ingredients, cookbooks by chef, cookbooks by preparation, antiquarian cookbooks, cooking monographs, the science of cooking, damn, this place have everything. And if it isn’t here, they will order it for you. Oh yes, there’s also select cooking magazines. There are special events (author presentations, book signings, food tastings). They even sell fresh eggs from free range chickens! There is no place like this on the planet, let alone someplace like Paris, where food and cooking are a religion.

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Finally, this is not a place, but an institution, the Noe Valley Voice (P.O. Box 460249, San Francisco, CA 94146). This is a neighborhood newspaper that, yes, is heavy on the advertising, but also local news of note. If something happens in Noe Valley, you can frequently find it covered in the Voice. Plus, there are police blotters, rumors, classifieds, all you need to keep up with what’s happening in the neighborhood.

Posted in Bruce Roehrs, Chloe's Cafe, Cole Street Hardware, Contigo, David Talbot, David's Teas, Golden Gate Panhandle, Good News newsstand, Goorin Brothers, Haight-Ashbury, hippies, life, Lovejoy's Tea Room, Noe Valley, Noe Valley Public Library, Noe Valley Voice, Omnivore Books, Paris of the West, Pork Store Cafe, public libraries, San Francisco, Season of the Witch, series, The Diggers, Video Wave | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

San Francisco, Paris of the West, part 2

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 14, 2013

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In an alternate evolutionary scenario, the asteroid that slammed into the Earth some 66 million years ago to create the Chicxulub crater, enshroud the planet in a decades long “nuclear winter,” cause the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, and bring about the rise of the mammals never happened. The large dinosaurs grew bigger, more competitive and fewer, leading to the virtual extinction of all their smaller cousins and competing mammals. Then, in a further evolutionary twist, a handful of ultra-dinosaurs developed and all but wiped out the large dinosaurs, leaving only a scattering of small dinosaurs and mammals to survive across a gutted planet.

The somewhat flawed analogy here is to bookstores.

When I was growing up, and aside from paperback book racks in every drugstore and mom-and-pop bookshops, small, medium and large bookstores abounded. Then came the book chains—the Pickwicks, Crown, B Daltons, Borders, and Barnes & Nobles. Following Marx’s inescapable logic of capitalist competition, the bookstore chains grew and competed and killed each other off, until only two monopolies remained; Borders and Barnes & Nobles. In the process, virtually all the smaller bookstores disappeared or were done in. When I last visited NYC, Barnes & Noble was on every other block, and bookstores like Forbidden Planet had been unceremoniously killed off. Then, Amazon, the mega-monopoly, arose. Borders bit the dust, and sickly Barnes & Nobles is holding on by a thread. In the cracks left by this “free market” debacle, there are still small bookstores left, but they are non-existent in some places, and few and far between in other locations.

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So now we’re in the present, both here in San Francisco and in Paris. Paris first. As I posted below, there are three well-known English-language bookstores in Paris, and the San Francisco Book Company has kindly provided this link to a list of some 240 plus bookstores in the 6th Arrondissemont alone. In Paris, France, where the bourgeoisie rose to power and ushered in modern capitalism, chain bookstores are held at bay and independent bookshops of all sizes and shapes are alive and well.

Not so in San Francisco. Borders is gone, and Barnes & Noble has been reduced to four stores scattered in Bay Area cities immediately surrounding San Francisco. In the process of the demise of these two monopolies, a number of other local independent bookstores went belly up; Stacy’s, Clean Well Lighted, Cody’s… Amidst the carnage however, small indie bookstores have survived and some still thrive in the Bay Area. In my three neighborhoods, three bookstores of note pursue differing strategies for survival.

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In the Haight, and aside from the very limited, anarchist specific Bound Together Books, there’s Booksmith. Booksmith is a full-service, full-hour, full-inventory destination bookshop that is a wonder to browse. It’s a stand alone bookstore with book events, author signings, literature readings, etc.

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Phoenix Books in Noe Valley is part of a small, local, one-owner chain of used bookstores that also sells new books. This indie chain includes Alley Cat Books, Badger Books, and Dog-Eared Books. Phoenix survived the death of Cover-to-Cover and the Mystery Bookstore in Noe Valley and was recently sold to a local buyer to keep the rest of the chain solvent. Unfortunately, Zoltar, the gypsy fortune teller, will not be staying.

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Finally, there’s Books, Inc in the Castro/Eureka Valley neighborhood; gay-oriented, but still very much a full-service bookstore that weathered the death of A Different Light bookstore. Books Inc is an example of a mini-chain that is bigger than just San Francisco. Bay Area wide, Books Inc is a regional success story, with stores at SFO, the Ferry Building and surrounding cities, that hasn’t gotten too big for its britches. It also has book events, author readings and signings, and the like.

Books Inc is part of IndieBound, a consortium of independent bookstores which uses Kobo, the ebook reader as an alternative to Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. I own a Kobo, and I’m proud to support local, independent bookstores.

Posted in Barnes & Noble, Bay Area, Books Inc, Booksmith, Borders Books, Bound Together Books, Chicxulub and dinosaur extinction, City of Light, Eureka Valley, Haight-Ashbury, independent bookstores, IndieBound, Kobo, life, Noe Valley, Paris, Paris of the West, Phoenix Books, San Francisco, San Francisco Book Company, series | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

San Francisco, Paris of the West, part 1

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 13, 2013

I live in San Francisco, when I’m not visiting Paris. SF is a much smaller city than Paris, but both are comprised of distinct neighborhoods that are easily walkable, and that offer its residents a myriad of interesting non-corporate experiences. My intention here is to describe the area where I live in SF and compare it to Paris. To reiterate, my three rules are simple:

1) What I experience must be in the context of a neighborhood. My neighborhood.
2) My experience should be comparable to Paris, good or bad.
3) My experience should not be corporate in nature. No fucking Whole Foods or Starbucks, please!

I live at the intersection of two SF neighborhoods; Noe Valley to the south and Eureka Valley to the north. The Haight-Ashbury is just over the hill. First, let’s start with Noe Valley, and let’s begin by talking about food, something omnipresent in Paris.

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24th Street Cheese Co. This is the equivalent of a Parisian fromagerie, with the variety of cheeses from around the world as well as the necessary accoutrements such as crackers, breads, olives, etc. The smells here are wonderful, and you can sample what you wish to buy. There’s a chalk board high up on the wall where what’s in and available is listed. An excellent little shop that has managed to withstand the competition from nearby Whole Foods.

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Drewes Meats. A boucherie in the Parisian sense, but one that hasn’t done well in competition with places like Whole Foods. This neighborhood establishment is barely holding on, and deserves to be patronized. Wonderful meats, sausages, fish, marrow bones, etc. cut and prepared to order. You can order your Thanksgiving/holiday turkey or ham here.

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Noe Valley Bakery. Okay, there’s nothing like a real Parisian baguette, but this bakery comes pretty damned close to a Parisian boulangerie. Lots of fresh baked breads, baguettes, croissants, scones, eclairs, tarts, etc. When La Boulange moved into the neighborhood, everyone thought Noe Valley Bakery was doomed. Not so. Now La Boulange has sold out to Starbucks, and this place is still rocking.

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Chocolate Covered. This dude is world famous. No, he’s not a chocolatier, in the Parisian sense, since he doesn’t make his own chocolates. But he does find gourmet chocolates from around the planet and sell them at his shop. All that’s missing here is a constantly swirling dispenser of chocolat chaud. Then there’s his walls of tins featuring prints of SF street signs and famous city landmarks.

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Pasta Gina. A deli like this properly belongs in NYC, although Paris did have the occasional Italian food shop, by no means as extensive as this one. This one isn’t quite as stocked as a Lucca or UltraLucca, nor nearly as cheap, but most of the prepared food here is homemade and wonderful. Homemade pastas, meatballs to die for, even black-and-white cookies. Yum.

Next, neighborhood bookstores.

Posted in 24th Street Cheese Company, Chocolate Covered, Drewes Brothers Meats, life, Noe Valley, Noe Valley Bakery, Paris, Paris of the West, Pasta Gina, San Francisco, series | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »