This story is brought to you by Poppy the AV, an all-electric self-driving Cruise vehicle, who knows the ins and outs of the City.
Rarely is a city's picturesque coastline among its less popular destinations. And yet, San Francisco's Ocean Beach usually takes the back seat to the bay and bridges when it comes to postcard-worthy photo ops.
On the bright side, this means that the western edge of SF, lined with a wide stretch of white sand lapped by crashing Pacific waves, retains all the laid-back beach vibes of a getaway from city life.
Primed to partake of crowd-free days at the beach, the Outer Sunset neighborhood covers the area south of Golden Gate Park and west of Sunset Boulevard, though some may argue west of 19th Avenue. There's nothing forced about the vibe here, where rows of candy-colored houses meet cozy coastal restaurants, cafes, surf shops, and boutiques. It's an authentic slice of SF even if the actual sunset is often obscured by the fog. Wear layers, and go explore.
Outer Sunset's Best Restaurants + Bars
(Courtesy of @outersunsetspotz)
Java Beach Café (1396 La Playa St.) serves up coffees and carbs of all kinds. Their Pullman loaf toasts, breakfast burritos, lavash wraps, and specialty bagels are perfect for a quick pre-beach brunch or lunch. // Longtime fans of the homey, seaside fare flock to Outerlands (4001 Judah St.), famous for its Dutch baby pancake. They are currently only open for brunch outside. // Vegans and non-vegans alike will love the heaping açaí bowls, fresh juices, and vegan dishes at Judahlicious (3906 Judah St.). // Visit neighborhood favorite The Pizza Place (3901 Noriega St.) for dinner and order a large Spicoli—"Who ordered the double cheese and sausage?"—or create your own pie from a list of more than 30 toppings. // The crowd outside Hook Fish Co. (4542 Irving St.) is the giveaway: From poke burritos and trout salads to fish-and-chips and tacos, this sustainably-sourced seafood spot lives up to the hype. // The multi-million-dollar An family restaurant empire (which includes Polk Street's Crustacean and various restaurants in Southern California) all started in 1971 with Thanh Long (4101 Judah St.), which is known as SF's first Vietnamese restaurant. Fifty years later, their famed roasted crab and garlic noodles with tiger prawns are still worth the wait. // Cure the foggy day blues with heaping plates of enchiladas and fajitas—and plenty of margaritas—at Celia's by the Beach (4019 Judah St.). // Another great Mexican option is Sunset Cantina (3414 Judah St.), which has a chill back patio and an interior that's the perfect place to watch some sports. // Directly next door is DamnFine (3410 Judah St.), serving up wood-fired pizzas, salads, cocktails, and wine. // Palm City (4055 Irving St.) was started by a Sunset native and a Philadelphia transplant, and their menu reflects it. Here you can sip fine wines and beers while chowing down on a selection of hoagies. The restaurant also functions as a wine store, so pick up your favorite bottles before heading out. // Yonkers Cafe (3815 Noriega St.) does gourmet sandwiches, coffee, smoothies, and wine.
Coffee and Treats
Devil's Teeth Baking Company's (3876 Noriega St.) sweet and savory treats have proven to be the tastiest in the Outer Sunset. Get the special breakfast sandwich—two scrambled eggs, pepper jack cheese, avocado, and bacon on a buttermilk biscuit with lemon-garlic aioli—or a cheddar bacon beer muffin if that's more your thing. // A neighborhood success story turned Bay Area favorite, Trouble Coffee (4033 Judah St.) has its OG location here in the Outer Sunset. Grab an espresso, a fresh coconut (yes, a coconut), and a thick slice of their signature cinnamon-sugar toast and take it outside where you can perch on a piece of driftwood in the parklet // Spend a grey afternoon in a coffee-scented nook at Andytown Coffee Roasters (3629 Taraval St. & 3655 Lawton St.). Make sure to try a baked good from their Northern Ireland–inspired menu—a nod to co-owner Michael McCrory's Irish roots—and the Snowy Plover, an espresso soda topped with whipped cream. // If you're lucky enough to find yourself in the 'hood on a sunny day, be sure to grab a freshly made scoop at Polly Ann Ice Cream (3138 Noriega St.). Spin the flavor wheel if you're feeling adventurous.
Drinks + Late Night Eats
Trade your ideas of a sand-filled surfer bar for a more upscale but cozy cocktail bar. White Cap (3608 Taraval St.) is a stylish little spot for enjoying seasonal drinks, craft beers, and boozy slushies. // Grab a seat by the fireplace for drinks and live music (maybe even karaoke) at Riptide (3639 Taraval St.), the "best little honky-tonk by the beach." // For a selection of beers on tap and tasty bar bites—think wings, burgers, and stuffed jalapeño poppers—stop by After Hours (3044 Taraval St.). // Quite literally a hole in the wall—the restaurant is in a converted garage—and with a kitchen open until midnight or later, Toyose (3814 Noriega St.) is one of the city's best spots for late-night Korean comfort food served with soju and hot sake. // Just a few blocks from the beach you'll find Woods Outbound (4045 Judah St.), a narrow bar serving their Woods beers and an array of wines, as well as empanadas. // Order a sour saison or a Slo Flo Pilsner to pair with some light bites at Seven Stills' Outer Sunset Taproom (3645 Lawton St.).
Shopping in the Outer Sunset, San Francisco
(Courtesy of @generalstore)
Mollusk Surf Shop (4500 Irving St.) is still the go-to for everything from wetsuits and surfboards to casual summer wear and sunglasses. // General Store (4035 Judah St.) is beloved among boho style lovers with an eye for well-made goods, be they soft sweaters, boyfriend jeans, household items, jewelry, or small treasures. Be sure to head out back to their photogenic garden. // Just up the block, grab a stack from Black Bird Bookstore's (4033 Judah St.) light-filled, minimalist shop. Keep an eye out for events, too. // Shop surfboards over a spam musubi or avo toast at the coffee-slash-surf-shop Avenues San Francisco's (3606 Taraval St.). // Artists will love Case for Making (4037 Judah St.) for handmade watercolors, art supplies, and various workshops. // For cute gifts of jewelry, clothing, and handbags sold in an even cuter storefront, head to The Last Straw (4540 Irving St.). // Shop artisan home goods, apparel, candles, and a bunch of other aesthetically pleasing pieces at Avenues Dry Goods (4120 Irving St.). // Big K-pop fan? Then it's a no brainer to check out SarangHello (1700 Taraval St.), the Bay Area's first K-pop store for albums, light sticks, photo books, and merch. // For all other musical genres, neighborhood record store Tunnel Records (3614A Taraval St.) has you covered.
Things to Do in the Outer Sunset, San Francisco
(Courtesy of Trent Haaland on Unsplash)
A verdant oasis with steep, forested slopes, Pine Lake Park (Sloat Blvd. & Vale Ave.) is home to one of the few remaining natural lakes in San Francisco. The park's main attraction, Sigmund Stern Grove, was private land until 1932. Since 1938, it has hosted free musical performances June through August. // Ocean Beach, the Outer Sunset's three-and-a-half-mile stretch of sand is one of the best parts of living in the city. Almost never crowded and not the tourist trap it should be, the shore is dotted with runners, surfers, and dogs playing off their leashes. Chill at the beach at night and have a bonfire when conditions permit. // Spending the afternoon in Golden Gate Park is always a great option. Some of the park's Outer Sunset attractions include the Murphy Windmill and the Chain of Lakes Meadow. // Head to the Outer Sunset Farmers Market & Mercantile (1994 37th Ave) on Sundays (9am to 3pm) and Wednesdays (4pm to 7:30pm) to shop everything from fresh produce to handmade jewelry. // If the Outer Sunset's constant fog is too much for you, center yourself inside Yoga Beach's (4501 Irving St.) tranquil space. // Don't forget about the San Francisco Zoo (Sloat Blvd & The Great Highway), which has been a part of the neighborhood since the 1920s.
Meet Poppy, Cruise's all-electric self-driving spokesvehicle. Five years of nonstop driving in San Francisco has made her a local's local. Like you, Poppy has been exploring every corner and celebrating all the city has to offer. From her very first drive to delivering thousands of meals during the pandemic, Poppy's journey is a love letter to San Francisco, one neighborhood at a time. Be sure to also follow her adventures and unique city knowledge on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
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