Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weekend Neighborhood Guide: Saturday Morning in the Castro

San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods. Each one has a distinct flavor, a specific look and a stereotypical cast of characters that live and hang out there. It's my favorite thing about this city; there are so many great options on where to hang out, get dinner or walk around depending on your mood. This post is dedicated to one of my favorite San Francisco neighborhoods, the Castro.

The Castro is a centrally located well manicured neighborhood just a few minutes from my hood (SOMA) that has lots of fun restaurants, shops and bars as well as the city's best people watching and people watchers! It is also San Francisco's gay center and the historical home of Harvey Milk. If you are ever lost walking around San Francisco and you look up and see rainbow flags out of every single corner of your eye, you know you're in the Castro! :)

When Nic and I first moved out here we sublet an apartment in the Castro so we would have a centrally located homebase in a safe and convenient neighborhood while we looked at apartments to rent. We fell in love with the location, the cute houses and a few of the cafes so even now that we live in SOMA we spend a lot of Saturday mornings in the Castro getting breakfast at our favorite spot and running errands at the conveniently located Walgreens and Safeway.

Whether you're a modern American history buff, a LGBT supporter, a cute-home hunter or merely looking for some of the strongest mixed drinks in the city, I would strongly recommend checking out this neighborhood.

Here are my tips and fave spots for a visit to the Castro, all timed for when we're usually there - Saturday mornings for breakfast.

Saturday morning in the Castro:

Eat breakfast: Castro Tarts is an amazing Vietnamese cafe on Castro street that Nic and I came to when we first moved out here and now come back to 3 or 4 times a month. The place is a very casual cafe San francisco style (this means you order at a counter and then your food is brought to your table) which focuses on Vietnamese/French food. They have delicious pastries and french bread as well as Vietnamese favorites like Pho or Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwiches on homemade french bread.) Nic is obsessed with their croissants and I live for their low-fat bran muffins. They also have the usual breakfast egg offerings in addition to their amazing Vietnamese cuisine and cross-over plates like Nic's favorite "Fried Rice Omelet." The man and woman who run the cafe are super friendly and nothing makes me love a place more than walking in and having the host see me, smile and shout, "Bran Muffin!"

Get a Latte: If we haven't already gotten our caffeine fill at breakfast, Nic and I walk up the street to Spike's Coffee house, a cute little cafe with friendly staff and delicious lattes.

Haircuts for Dudes: The most obvious thing we learned when we lived in the Castro for our first two weeks in San Francisco is that it is an incredibly convenient neighborhood for a man to live in. As San Francisco's gayest neighborhood, the Castro is ENTIRELY made for men. Every clothing shop is all men's clothing, every barber only cuts mens hair, every pharmacy has protein powder in the first aisle, the list goes on and on... It's a man's town! For Nic, it was as convenient as could be! The abundance of men's barber shops and well groomed men made it the ideal place for him to get a cheap but good haircut and now he's a regular at his Castro Barber, Joe's. I like the simple cuts he gets here and if you're man enough to walk into a place with pinup posters of male weightlifters you should try it out :)

Get your Nails Done: Just a couple of weeks ago when Nic was going to get a haircut and I was thinking how unkempt my nails were I remembered the BRILLIANTLY named nail salon across from Castro Tarts--- "Hand Job" Nail Salon. I'm a sucker for a sense of humor so I had to hit up the Hand Job for my mani/pedi! In spite of it's sexual innuendo name, Hand Job is a very fancy upscale salon --- who knew! It's a very pretty place and the attentive staff brews you fresh leaf tea or pours you a mimosa while the polite and quick manicurists give you a mani and pedi in a very plush comfortable chair... with zen style music lulling you the whole time. It wasn't cheap but my manicure and pedicure lasted almost a MONTH! It's a great spa.

The Castro is chock full of many more amazingly named businesses, like this cheeky sex shop that's name makes me giggle every time we walk past it...

Walk Down to Delores Park:
On a sunny day, walk your breakfast off by Heading down 18th street to Delores Park. Sit and people watch the mix of families, dog owners, trustafarians and hippies or play tennis at one of their four free public tennis courts (HOT TIP: These courts are open at night, with lights!) We like to then walk across the street to Bi-Rite market --- an amazing gourmet market where the produce is all farm fresh and delicious, the deli has great meat, fish and prepared food perfect for a picnic. For some reason we can't seem to leave this place without a vegan cookie but you could also cross the street to the world famous Bi-Rite ice cream shop and get a cone or a sundae. They have a deliciously creamy coconut ice cream made with coconut milk for your vegan or lactarded friends.

Next time you are sick of your neighborhood or visiting San Francisco from afar, check out the Castro, try out some of my favorite spots and let me know yours!


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