While the name suggests otherwise, Inner Sunset sits in a perennial layer of fog, keeping residents happy and visitors a bit chilly. Extending south from Golden Gate Park and just above lovely Forest Hill, the nabe sees steady foot traffic from visitors to the park. The intersection of Ninth Avenue and Irving Street creates the main commercial hub where local businesses and a host of ethnic restaurants thrive. Home to UCSF and its student population, Inner Sunset has an undeniably laid back vibe.
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The Inner Sunset is foggy, yes. All your friends might be tanning in Dolores Park while you’re huddled by the radiator, yes. But don’t write it off just yet. The Inner Sunset is one of San Francisco’s best kept secrets. If you’re standing at 9th and Irving you’ve got the following options at your fingertips:
1. Walk 5 minutes North into Golden Gate Park and checkout the California Academy of Science or the De Young Museum– Penguins or Warhol? You Pick.
2. Walk 1 block South to Arizmendi Cafe and enjoy the best bakery in the city. If you want one of their legendary Vegetarian Pizzas, get there early– they sell out fast.
3. Flip a coin and take a 15 minute MUNI ride on the N Judah to either Ocean Beach or Downtown. It’s roughly the same travel time to Union Square as it is to the sandy dunes on the Great Highway.
4. Get adventurous and hike up to Buena Vista Park for an unforgettable view of the entire bay. Twin Peaks might be more popular, but it’s hard to beat Buena Vista.
5. Make a deposit. While your tan buddies in the Mission are flat broke trying to pay for that studio off Valencia, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. It doesn’t matter which bank you use. They’re all here.
It’s the Inner Sunset not the Inner Sunshine (which you can probably find in a Yoga Class in Noe Valley). Take advantage of this nabe’s proximity to the park and the beach. It’s the perfect blend of Nature and Urban. Even if you haven’t committed to full-time residence, at least take the time to visit the Inner Sunset, you won’t regret it.
A Light in the Fog
The Sunset is a pretty ironic name to be given to an area that is, all too often, not so sunny at all. In fact, many would speculate that it is commonly the most overcast and gloomy place in the city, thus really causing San Francisco’s nickname “Fog City” appear to be quite an accurate one. However, the Sunset isn’t all dark and dismal, and is actually equipped with quite a few positive characteristics that allow some light to shine boldly through the fog.
The Sunset is a great representation of the picturesque, conventional San Franciscan image that sits in the visualizing minds of most people. It is characterized by classic Victorian rainbow houses, all sitting clustered together up and down the rolling streets. Green hills line the surrounding area, and from many points of the Sunset, one is able to capture a glance of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. A diverse collection of restaurants also reside within the Sunset. In fact, it would be quite easy to find just about any type of food that one might be craving all within its parameters. Such restaurants are characterized by cultural diversities, including Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Indian, American, Mediterranean, as well as many types of baked goods. Further, the Sunset is in quite a decent location. It is a mere distance from Golden Gate Park, which provides entertainment and activities suitable for biking, picnics, meandering, and it even hosts fun events such as concerts and festivals. Beautiful Ocean beach is nearby as well, allowing for a nice escape from the city life when needed.
For somebody who is looking for adventure, trendiness, and big buildings, the Sunset is not the place to be. However, if someone happens to be searching for a peaceful, quiet, and family-friendly area that offers all of the necessities in terms of shops and conveniences, the Sunset is a great area. Not to mention, it is relatively affordable, especially compared to the rest of the city. And if an individual happens to be in a more adventurous mood, there are many easily accessible Muni stops all over the Sunset that will take that individual to his or her desired destination. Oh, and, in all fairness, lastly, I must mention that the Sunset is not cloudy and gloomy all of the time. It has the tendency to provide some very gorgeous and sunny days every once in a while as well. Overall, it is a nice area of the city and should definitely not be overlooked.
The Silver Lining
The Sunset is largely responsible for San Francisco’s reputation as Fog City.
Having grown up in the Sunset, I can confirm that the neighborhood has some of the city’s most dismal weather. Still, I count myself lucky. The Sunset is a gem of a place to live for those who take the trouble to familiarize themselves with it.
I’ve always thought of San Francisco as a food Mecca for three reasons: the diversity of the food, the quality and the affordablity. While plenty of cities have two of these, none can match San Francisco in all three. The Inner Sunset proves me right. Along Irving Street alone, hungry locals can eat excellent Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Mediterranean, Italian, Eritriean or Californian cuisine, along with great pizza, gelato, an organic bakery, a Top 100 Resturant for under $25 per person, and much more. All quality. All relatively inexpensive.
Just a few blocks away from Irving Street is Golden Gate Park, a sight-seeing destination to match Central Park. Though it’s always a nice place to take a stroll, the city closes off part of the road within the park each Sunday for cyclists, roller bladers and break dancers to enjoy. The park also regularly serves as a venue for events like environment and crafts festivals, concerts and the Renaissance Fair, attracting crowds of hippies, hipsters and tourists respectively. There’s plenty of free fun to be had here, particularly since the new DeYoung Museum began its free Friday night concerts.
All of this, the food, the park, and nearby Ocean Beach are easily acessible from the rest of the city by Muni, the city’s public transportation system, making the Inner Sunset a popular hangout spot for SF locals from other neighborhoods as well. While largely a residential area not generally considered as trendy as the Mission or as colorful as the Haight, I find the Inner Sunset to be so very San Francisco. It’s a quiet neighborhood home to an elecctic mix of students, young families of various ethnicities, foodies and a few of your traditional San Francisco oddballs. Although the areas further removed from the main streets can be a bit too quiet, the Inner Sunset more than makes up for the overcast weather. Whether as a place to spend a Sunday or a spot to raise a family, it’s certainly worth a look.
Missing a central plaza or park,..is all.
Nob Hill has the great park in the epicenter of Nob Hill, which actually defines it.
Plaza Major in Madrid, Spain, is the best example of this, world-wide. Norrth Beach has the park opposite St. Peter and Paul Church. The Mission has Dolores Park.
What Inner Sunset misses is also what the Richmond and most other neighborhoods miss: a focal place. These are the hallmarks of the great old New England towns
The rebuttal is : Golden Gate Park… Well, that is great, but is off center by a lot, that “lot” being the “de facto freeway” that Lincoln Way is… I propose that the Paking Lot behind Hotei, on 9th AVe, just 100 feet north of Irving…be condemned, and that the owner be paid a fair price for it, and that a surcharge be approved by the property owners in the vicinity, by vote. (The case can be made that their values will go up by more than, say, 1%, per year. …The commercial props could be sur-taxed, say, 3 %… This issue has to be addressed.! Where would the Union Square area be, value-wise, if the plaza went away.?What's awesome
The variety of restaurants.What's not so awesome
The flight of the bookstores
Food, Fog, and Fun
The Inner Sunset is a great little nabe that you will never see mentioned in the loads of touristy-type guides about San Francisco. Sure, North Beach and Haight-Ashbury are amazing areas with interesting and eclectic vibes, but for a truly San Francisco experience, grab the Outbound N-Judah train, and get off at Irving Street at 9th Avenue. Voila, you’re there.
What makes the Inner Sunset “inner”? The fact that it’s not “outer”, of course. Kidding aside, the unofficial boundaries of the Inner Sunset are Lincoln Blvd. to the north, and 19th Avenue to the west. Beyond 19th lies the Outer Sunset, which is a neat area to check out. However, it is cold and covered in fog 360 days a year. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but there is a reason why it’s one of the few affordable (and I use this term very loosely) nabes in San Francisco. Seriously, the weather stinks. Unfortunately, it’s not much better in the Inner Sunset. A little, but not much.
Like the rest of the city, the Inner Sunset offers many excellent dining options. My personal favorite is Pasquale’s Pizzeria at 8th and Irving. This is the best pizza in the Bay Area, period. It’s authentic and delicious. Anyone from Boston or New York will likely feel at home eating here. I think they still have a Pacman table too.
Then there is Ebisu, which which is known as arguably the best sushi restaurant in San Francisco. It is sensational. I could write pages about all the food in the Inner Sunset. There is Persian, Ethiopian, a Chinese place with a wide range of vegetarian options (called “Enjoy”), Thai, Indonesian, Indian, burgers, and more – all within a few blocks, and all excellent. Parking in can be difficult, especially on the weekend. So take the N-Judah if you can. That way, you can visit Yancy’s Saloon and knock back a couple while watching the game, or just chill with friends. It’s popular with the UCSF crowd, which is close by. But its not a college bar and has nice, laid back atmosphere. If memory serves me correctly (and it probably doesn’t), they pour a mean drink here. Note that it’s cash-only, but there is free popcorn. Sweet.
Also check out the Blackthorn. It’s nice spot, a quiet pub that has trivia night and an outdoor area with heat lamps. Speaking of the outdoors, just steps away is Golden Gate Park. I won’t even begin to describe all the things you can do here. If you are planning on spending some time in the nabe, grab a picnic blanket and your frisbee and enjoy the great outdoors right in the middle of the city.
The Inner Sunset is a lively, dynamic place. You’ll see hipsters, college students, a few citizens of the street, some baby strollers, and everything in between. Add it to your todo list when in San Francisco.
Inner Sunset: Not much sun, but plenty of diversion to make up for it
This neighborhood’s name belies its actual feeling: its often fog-clad streets lend it a somewhat romantic aspect, and it’s easy to see here why San Francisco is sometimes compared to European cities. The houses are not ostentatious, but still their Edwardian and colorful designs give the area charm. It isn’t the cleanest neighborhood either: its subtly grimy feeling and abundance of corner stores and cheap and quick Asian or Mexican restaurants puts it squarely beneath, in terms of classiness, the trendy, polished neighborhoods of San Francisco. But this casualness and lack of pretension may be precisely what appeals to some. The streets are wide and spotted with trees, and you’re more likely to see 30-somethings and families than the more provocative, experimental types you’d find in theCastro or Mission districts. It’s also a stone’s throw from Golden Gate Park and all the attractions one finds there: the wonderful deYoung Museum, Academy of Sciences, Japanese Tea Garden. 9th Avenue, with its coffee shops and wonderful Park Chow Restaurant provide ideal places to sit and enjoy food or coffee after a long day at the museum or ambling around the park (itself more fecund and labyrinthine than Chicago’s or New York’s central parks). The people are awfully friendly too, and do not be surprised if you fall into conversation with a local at The Beanery cafe on 9th or an employee at Le Video.
It is also vital to your well-being and happiness to purchase an over-sized mint chocolate-chip cookie or slice of foccaccia covered in artichoke and sea-salt from Arizmendi’s Bakery (the bakery is a cooperative, worker-owned store).
If you’re looking for a friendly neighborhood to explore with your children or that special someone on a Sunday afternoon, Inner Sunset and Irving St are probably ideal for you. Just be prepared to confront homeless people asking for money and the occasional evangelical or solicitor dutifully manning the street corners!What's awesome
The Beanery on 9th, Koo Restaurant, Crossroads ClothingWhat's not so awesome
No Peet’s Coffee, many vocal homeless people
Something for everyone
The reviews speak for themselves, Inner Sunset is a neighborhood that is loved by many, residents and visitors alike. Irving and Judah are both jam packed with good eateries, and it’s just a short walk from Golden Gate Park. It also offers different types of houses, from apartments to split level houses to nice several story homes. It’s foggy, sure, but that’s the way local like it. There’s something there for everyone.
HEY HEY HEY!
9th and Irving is THE SPOT! Food, food, food and more food. My stomach starts talkin’ in tongues anytime I think about heading to this area. I feel all Fat Albert after eating at Arizmendi. I’m all “Hey Hey Hey’in” my ass back to the muni stop. I would inhale your hand if it got caught in my french toast at Park Chow. I would sell one of your children for a dog at Underdog. I would shank you if you even thought about taking away my sambusas at Assab Ertrean Restaurant.
Seriously. I would have to shank you.
A place I call home
As a resident of the Sunset District I can honestly say it was an amazing place to grow up. The Sunset provides a family style environment in the middle of a wild and exciting city. It also holds well renowned schools like Lowell which is ranked in the top 30 public schools in the nation. Public Transportation is accessible in literally every block and with such a compact city it is truly a convenient feature. With an international presence throughout the city, the Sunset doesn’t disappoint. Ranging from Irving and 9th to Ocean and 19th you can find foods from every corner of the Earth, and if you follow restaurant ratings than you will be astonished at the numerous places around the Sunset that are in fact Zagat rated. I personally grew up near Ocean Beach, starting at the San Francisco Zoo and ending at the Cliffs, its a place that all San Franciscans love because of the sun sets and the environment it brings to the city. Whether its the museums, the parks, or the beach the sunset is a place I call home and will always appreciate what this Nabe did for me.
What was once a collection of mom and pop shops patronized by locals has morphed into a destination neighborhood as people move into the fog of nabes like the Inner Sunset. The neighborhood has a lot going on around the intersection of Ninth Avenue and Irving Street. Nearly every ethnic food offering you could think of is jammed into a few block radius and the food is good too. I’d say the best part about the Inner Sunset is Golden Gate Park. A few block stroll and you’re at the De Young Museum or the arboretum. Great food, easy transport, the park…what more do you need?
You’ll see a lot of non-San Franciscans lingering in Inner Sunset to dine after a day in Golden Gate Park.Jessie