Opened in 1913, SF legacy business Balboa Cafe remains an anchor in Cow Hollow. (Courtesy of Balboa Cafe)

Modern Guide to Cow Hollow: Boozy Brunches, Sweaty Workouts + Boutiques

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Basically the antithesis of the San Francisco hipster haven that is the Mission, Cow Hollow, anchored by Union Street, is the city's yuppie mecca—land of Lululemon-clad millennial moms pushing strollers between yoga class and mimosa brunch.

But SF is in flux, and the neighborhood's recent boom of new shops and restaurants came to halt during the pandemic, with countless storefronts and more than a few restaurants now permanently shuttered.

Still, you'll find countless small studios where you can work up a sweat, and juice bars remain plentiful. When you're ready to hit the harder stuff, Union Street has a plethora of casual restaurants and taverns. But first, get your shop on at the indie boutiques, where you can pick up everything from fresh-picked bouquets to a tin of caviar or a Casper mattress. Look out for the local street fair each June.


The Best Cafes + Restaurants in Cow Hollow, San Francisco

Chef Dominique Crenn's haute take on Fish et Chips at Atelier Crenn. (Nick Czap)

Fine Dining

For those who don't frequent this slice of the city that divides the Marina and Pacific Heights, chef Dominique Crenn's three-Michelin starred Atelier Crenn (3127 Fillmore St.) is the neighborhood's defining destination. Arguably San Francisco's most imaginative restaurant where each and every dish is a piece of poetry and a work of art, Atelier Crenn is a choice pick for special occasion dining. For a slightly more casual albeit highly stylish one-Michelin-star experience, the adjacent Bar Crenn (temporarily closed due to Covid-19) is a sexy spot for a glass of Champagne and a la carte luxuries such as caviar service, oysters with muscadet gelée, and perigord truffle mille feuille.

Casual Eats

Balboa Cafe (3199 Fillmore St.) is practically an official landmark: Opened in 1913, this legacy business is still hoppin'. Go for a burger and the famous espressotini. // Even omnivores are enjoying the modern vegan fare at Wildseed (2000 Union St.), which serves gorgeous cocktails alongside plant-based plates such as beet poke, mezze plates, and seasonal pizzas. // Spend your day on island time with a trip to Palm House (2032 Union St.) for Caribbean-inspired eats and tropical cocktails. // Try the refreshing Buckland Peach cocktail at The Brixton (2140 Union St.), where the barkeeps serve up tasty tipples along with solid burgers, tacos, and chicken and waffles at brunch. // Don't miss the zucchini-onion haystack side at toppings-centric Roam Burger (1785 Union St.), which has options of grass-fed beef, all-natural bison, turkey, and veggie patties. // On the hunt for something a little healthier? // For dinner, stop by Kaiyo (1838 Union St.) for Nikkei-style cuisine—think cebiches, tiraditos, and nigiri—paired with craft cocktails (pisco sours are the house specialty). // Keep the margaritas and chips and guac coming at Flores (2030 Union St.), a lively Mexican restaurant in a stylish space. // Just off the main drag, Terzo (3011 Steiner St.) serves Mediterranean-style dishes perfect for sharing. // Rose's Cafe (2298 Union St.) is a neighborhood favorite for its locally sourced organic produce, housemade pasta, and delicious baked treats. // The Italian Homemade Company (1919 Union St.) also satisfies cravings for lasagna Bolognese. // For something truly special, head over to The Caviar Co. (1954 Union St.), which is the first dedicated caviar-tasting room in the city to serve sustainably-raised caviar. If time's running short, pick up a tin to go. // Still feeling peckish? Follow up with a cheese and charcuterie platter and round of craft beers at West Coast Wine + Cheese (2165 Union St.); shop their exhaustive range of products that have been specially sourced from along the West Coast.

Cafe Culture

Stroll down to the corner of Fillmore and Union where you'll find the charming Union Street Coffee Roastery (2191 Union St.) with its delicious brews made from beans that are roasted on site. // Coffee snobs will also appreciate Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters (2271 Union St.), a cozy spot that also has an impressive inventory of specialty coffee curated by husband-and-wife team Nick Cho and Trish Rothgeb. // Pop into Loving Cup (2201 Union St.) for a delicious frozen yogurt treat.

Where to Workout + Get Juiced on Union Street

(Courtesy of @samsasyniuk)

Cow Hollow's Union Street is ground zero for the mesh-legging set who can be seen zipping between yoga and SoulCycle with green juices in hand. Whether you live in the hood or are just looking for a great workout, this stretch of SF has a class for even the pickiest of yoga bunnies.

Sweat

At Karma Yoga (1906 Union St), try the signature Inferno Hot HIIT Flow classes—a mix of Pilates and yoga principles with the added intensity of a HIIT workout. // Align your breathing and movement at Yoga Flow SF (1892 Union St), which focuses on all-levels classes. // Check out The Pad (1694 Union St)—a spacious studio that provides Vinyasa, slow flow, and pre-natal yoga classes 364 days a year. // Practice Yoga Studio (2901 Webster St) offers an integrated range of prenatal and postnatal yoga classes, along with teen, youth and family wellness programs aimed at fostering mindfulness and reconnection. // The Lotus Method (1775 Union St) is a holistic studio that focuses on pre-and-postnatal yoga instruction. // Those looking for a high-intensity cardio workout can sign up for a spin cycle class at SoulCycle (2095 Union St.). // If it's an all-out gym session you're looking for then Crunch (1725 Union St) and Equinox (2055 Union St) will help you work up a sweat. Crunch offer free three-day trials, while Equinox has an Earth Bar and spa for a touch of post-workout indulgence.

Juice

For a shot of vitamin-enriched hydration after a good sweat, pick up a Dandelion Pear at Pressed Juicery (2162A Union St) or a raw, cold pressed Plant Protein X at Juice Shop's (1994 Union St.) on-the-go window. // Still recovering from your workout? Grab a couple fruit-infused waters at Hint's (2124A Union St.) "experiential water bar" or a refreshing Watermelon Ginger at Urban Remedy (1957 Union St), which also stocks organic ready-to-eat meals for those feeling peckish on the fly.

The Best Shopping on and Around SF's Union Street

Birdies' Union Street slipper salon. (Janie Cai)

Union Street has long been dotted with high-end boutiques, but Covid-19 took a toll here, shuttering several mainstay and newer shops including Modern Citizen, Sui Generis, Krimsa Fine Rugs, The North Face, Sweaty Betty, and Chubbies.

Fashion

Shoe lovers should head directly to Birdies (1934 Union St.) to check out their collection of lounge-worthy slippers made from lush velvets, leathers and silks, all artistically displayed in a bright airy showroom decked out with beautiful furniture. // For separates and gifts, Anomie (2149 Union St.) is an independently owned boutique that stocks handcrafted objects and apparel including Australian label Finders Keepers and botanical soaps by Portland-based Midnight Collective. // Get your European style fix at Union Street stalwart Danielle, which stocks hard to find French and Italian labels (they carry select pieces from Parisian label Majestic Filatures) alongside U.S. brands. // Check out Carats and Stones (1833 Union St.) for their selection of stunning bling rings. // As the throngs of athleisure-clad women in the 'hood will indicate, fitness is a big deal here. Get your fix at Lululemon (1981 Union St). // Bonobos (1964 Union St.) stocks a stylish range of contemporary men's apparel, ranging from suiting to resort-wear tailored just for you. // Nearby, Untuckit (1872 Union St) carries the brand's signature casual and collared shirts, all meant to be worn effortlessly untucked, of course.

Specialty Shops

For cycling enthusiasts, the SF outpost for UK brand Rapha (2198 Filbert St.) which stocks cycling gear and apparel for men and women alongside a hip coffee bar. Or roll into Trek Cycle (3001 Steiner St.) for a precision fit appointment. // TopDrawer (1840 Union St.) has all the gear you need to schlep it across the globe, along with an enviable selection of writing tools to help you achieve those #desktopgoals. // Get your makeup fix at Sephora (2083 Union St.) or at professional make-up purveyor Kryolan (1684 Union St.). // Feast your eyes on the discerning collection of delectable small-batch goodies (craft whiskeys and mezcal) at The Epicurean Trader (1909 Union St.). // Swing by the conceptual Casper showroom (2174 Union St) where you can try out the brand's award-winning mattresses, pillows, and bedspreads while lounging in super cute wooden house displays. // Treat yourself at Jo Malone London (2157 Union St.), where botanical-based scents are sold in an extensive home collection. // Swing by to pick up a posy of fresh blooms for the weekend at local icon The Bud Stop (2200 Union St), which has been selling its beautiful flowers in the area for the past 34 years.

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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