With its quirky boutiques, feel-good food, surfer scene and lively artists’ community, the seaside neighbourhood of Outer Sunset is one of the most laid-back parts of the city.
If there is one place that will make you wish you lived nearby, it is Outerlands (pictured), with its driftwood decor, homey vibe and excellent coffee served in glass carafes. A small, ever-changing menu includes dishes such as homemade yoghurt with granola, richly flavoured early-girl tomato soup and Dutch pancakes topped with caramel apples. 4001 Judah Street (00 1 415 661 6140; www.outerlandssf.com). Lunch for two around $25
Old-fashioned ice-cream parlour Polly Ann has been serving up scoops to the neighbourhood for more than 50 years. The shop is known for its huge flavour selection (all made in-house), of which about 50 are available at any one time. Exotic options include red bean, lychee and sesame, but if you can’t make up your mind staff will spin the ‘wheel of fortune’ and let fate decide for you.
3138 Noriega Street (00 1 415 664 2472)
The phrase to know at Trouble Coffee Company, a tiny joint where locals go to talk wave conditions and sip perfect Americanos, is ‘build your own damn house’, aka ‘the happy meal’: a small coffee, a whole Thai coconut you drink through a straw and a thick hunk of toast sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, all for $8. It might just be the perfect post-surf breakfast.
4033 Judah Street (www.troublecoffee.com)
Above the Golden Gate Park Visitors’ Centre (you’ll walk past the amazing Arts and Crafts-style frescoes created by artist Lucien Labaudt), the Beach Chalet is the place for cocktails with a sea view. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the Great Highway and the Pacific; reserve a window table and order a Bloody Mary or one of the excellent local microbrews on tap.
1000 Great Highway (00 1 415 386 8439; www.beachchalet.com)
A surfing institution that also has locations in Venice Beach and Brooklyn, Mollusk Surf Shop is a gallery and boutique store dedicated to the craftspeople behind everything wave-related: surfboard shapers, film-makers, artists. On offer are well-curated collections of limited-edition boards, T-shirts, screen prints and photographs, many in a retro style.
4500 Irving Street (00 1415 564 6300; www.mollusksurfshop.com)
The arty little General Store captures the thoughtful, eco-chic aesthetic of Outer Sunset, selling linen shifts made by local designers, organic cotton T-shirts with whale prints, Japanese-enamel kettles and glass apothecary bottles. An inviting garden at the back of the shop is lined with succulents and rough-hewn wooden benches, and its greenhouse showcases plants for sale.
4035 Judah Street (00 1 415 682 0600; www.visitgeneralstore.com)
There aren’t many hotels in this neighbourhood yet, but there are plenty of amazing houses to rent near the beach. Go with Vacation Rentals by Owner (www.vrbo.com) and you will find such steals as a two-bedroom house with expansive ocean views and a designer kitchen for $229 a night.
A stroll along the Pacific at Ocean Beach, with its glorious, four-mile stretch of sand; there are all manner of people and sports here, from surfers and kiteboarders to martial arts and ultimate Frisbee. A little-known fact: the National Park Service (www.nps.gov) allows beach fires in fire rings at selected areas along the strand.