When I moved back to San Francisco and scored an affordable, rent-controlled studio in Pacific Heights (it was 2010, okay?), I was unprepared for the raised eyebrows when I answered the ubiquitous question, "So, which neighborhood do you live in?" But dining and shopping in Pacific Heights isn't just for the wealthy, especially along Fillmore Street.
Although my hood is indeed home to the well-to-do, high-end restaurants, and salary-eating boutiques (e.g., Rag & Bone), it's also a treasure trove of local establishments that can be, dare I say, wallet-friendly. Read on for this editor's neighborhood picks, organized within each category from north to south on Fillmore Street between Jackson and Bush.
Eat + Drink
Full disclosure: The author is mildly obsessed with this establishment. Stepping into Palmer's Tavern transports you into the splendor of years past, with rich, red leather stools and a host of bartenders known for their impeccable cocktails as well as their artfully shaped facial hair. Palmer's hosts a decadent yet wallet-friendly happy hour from 4 - 6pm, including $4 draft beers, $7 cocktails, and a rotating list of discounted appetizers such as baby back ribs. 2298 Fillmore (at Clay)
Even if you've never tasted this local pizza joint's fare, anyone passing through the neighborhood has definitely noticed the large window displays chronicling the life and times of owner Dino's young son, Santino. With Fillmore cred dating back to 1988, the family-run joint has a solid, casual menu chock-full of pizza and authentic Greek family recipes. Their pizza by the slice is $3 until 5pm, making it the best local deal around. 2101 Fillmore Street (at California)
Opened in 2011 by Denise Tran, Bun Mee combines American influences with Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. Noted for their messy Sloppy Bun, Bun Mee's solidly good sandwiches range from $6.50 to $7.95. It's certainly no hole-in-the-wall joint, but this is Fillmore we're talking about here. Local tip: Come in on a weekday from 3 - 6pm to score a grilled five spice chicken or crispy tofu sandwich for $5. 2015 Fillmore (at Pine)
A newer addition to the Fillmore Street restaurant lineup, Glaze Teriyaki brings "Seattle-Style Teriyaki" to San Francisco (teriyaki to those northerners). Although they don't offer a happy hour special, they do offer local draft beer for $3-5 (whoa) and house wine from California vineyards for a cool $5. You'll have plenty of cash left over for a combo teriyaki plate ($11) large enough for two. 1946 Fillmore (at Pine)
Although the Fillmore Bakeshop first lured me in with its sweet window paintings and father-daughter backstory, the $1.95 French macarons and $1 sugar cookies keep me coming back. After a naming scuffle with the cronut inventor Dominique Ansel, the shop rebranded their flaky confections as "D's Nutz," proving that trends can have staying power, provided that they're tasty enough and have a cheeky name. 1890 Fillmore (at Bush)
After serving as a fixture at the corner of Jackson and Fillmore for nearly a quarter of a decade, Juicy News is preparing for a move down the hill to Union Street at the end of the month. The local favorite is an unparalleled source for every form of print media imaginable, from impossible-to-find specialty magazines and journals to coffee table books, greeting cards, and travel guides. Be sure to stop in before the move, tentatively scheduled for this Sunday, March 15. 2453 Fillmore (at Jackson), through March 15, 415-441-3051
In a city where $16 movie tickets have somehow become par for the course, the Clay Theater is a refreshing, quirky alternative. Known for its midnight showing of cult classics, the Clay Theatre offers bargain weekday tickets for $8 (sneak out of work early to catch the daily 4:15pm showing) and $10 tickets for their midnight screenings. Keep an eye out for their special events, including opera debuts and filmed Shakespeare stage productions. 2261 Fillmore (at Clay)
Browser Books has been part of the SF Literary community since 1976, earning a solid reputation for their extensive selection of books and knowledgeable, friendly staff. Stop by for books in nearly every subject matter, and don't miss the al fresco sale section, starting at $5.50. They're friendly, too; when I finished book four of Stephen King's Dark Tower series and couldn't sleep without starting the fifth, they kindly stayed open ten minutes past their already impressive 10pm closing time. 2195 Fillmore (at Sacramento)
Shopping & Beauty
Persistence is the key to success at this 40-year-old neighborhood thrift store, as their inventory turns over quickly and can range from vintage chic to '90s polyester. Repeated visits can yield true gems, such as a near-mint pair of patent leather Manolos ($70) and a Betsy Johnson party dress ($25). Proceeds go to tuition assistance at neighborhood Schools of the Sacred Heart, so you can feel even better about funding your finds. 2252 Fillmore (at Clay)
A welcome, friendly alternative to other haute athleisure lines, Athleta has made a name for itself for quality, chic clothing that bridges the gap between pilates class and streetwear. Although the clothing isn't exactly budget-friendly, the workout classes held in the store's studio are quite affordable—free, to be exact. Keep a sharp eye on Eventbrite for upcoming candlelit yoga and mat pilates classes, as they tend to fill up fast. 2226 Fillmore (at Sacramento)
When it comes to brows, there's no better choice than Benefit on Fillmore. The quick and easy service gets you in and out over a coffee break, with brow waxing ($23) and brow tinting ($20) to give you perfect arches. Local tip: Benefit offers "Happy Birthday Brows," which includes a free brow wax on your birthday. Score! 2117 Fillmore (at California)