Haight Street, like a great record, invokes a by-gone era of great musicians, daring artwork, and high, um, fidelity. That's why out of the list of San Francisco's best record stores, many of the greats are just blocks from each other down Haight Street.
So grab an eco-friendly bag, hop on the 71, and prepare yourself for an afternoon of musical nostalgia on this do-it-yourself walking tour:
Located a few steps East of Golden Gate Park, Amoeba Records is the world's largest independent record store. A large staff and a help desk await to guide you through the 24,000 square feet housed inside of a former bowling alley. Start by touring the perimeter of the showroom to admire the collectible records hanging from every wall, then explore the clearly marked rows for every conceivable genre (they even have a Christmas section year around), at prices ranging from brand new to bargain bin. // 1855 Haight St, amoeba.com
Rasputin Music (1672 Haight)
This Bay Area independent staple lacks in size but Rasputin makes up for it with an intimate staff ready with an answer or to place a special order. Use their size to your advantage–while this shop is some times passed over for other record stores nearby, you can enjoy smaller crowds and less combed through bins to hunt for an overlooked gem, especially if you're digging on Record Store Day. // 1672 Haight St, rasputinmusic.com/haight
Rare and vintage vinyl isn't cheap, but neither is the cost of an eBay bidding war over that Kevin Ayers' record that ships from Japan. Recycled Records is everything a classic record store should be with tightly packed bins full of reasonably priced classics and oddities from every era. The staff is quick to help you navigate their maze of genres–Gospel is knee level, back center–but once you're in the right place, their combination of selection and value is sure to make the stop worth your while. // 1377 Haight, recycled-records.com
Break: The Pork Store and Buena Vista Park
Before the six block walk to the next record shop, fuel up at The Pork Store Cafe, serving diner-style brunch, sandwiches and burgers until 3:30 everyday. Don't let the store name fool you. From pancakes to biscuits with mushroom gravy, The Pork Store has something for every record store crawler. // 1451 Haight St, porkstorecafe.com
Once you're back on the street, take a time out and walk around Buena Vista Park. From it's untamed, zig-zagging trails to random appearances from off-leash furry friends. Buena Vista Park is packed with surprises, including a drainage ditch lined with gravestones and flashes of the city skyline peeking through its wooded peak. // Buena Vista & Haight Street
Jack's Record Cellar
On the other side of Divisadero, “Like stepping back in time" doesn't begin to describe this treasure chest lurking just off Haight on Scott Street. A San Francisco institution since 1951, Jack's Record Cellar features records stacked in boxes or rows so tight that you need to keep an eye out not to get cornered. Despite all this, this beloved record shop embodies the magic of The Haight with it's old school staff and nostalgic knickknacks from music's golden age. // 254 Scott, facebook.com/pages/Jacks-Record-Cellar...
Groove Merchant Records
Aficionados will rejoice in Groove Merchants' no filler cannon of rare grooves. Every bin is a museum exhibit of music history, specializing in soul, funk, jazz, and world. Cool Chris and company are a set of encyclopedias waiting to be opened, even if the question is, “What is the name of the jam you're playing?" Though packed with appropriately priced one-of-a-kind records, vinyl hunters on a budget shouldn't pass on this place–check our their “Awesome albums for $5" bin tucked within this one-of-a-kind location. // 687 Haight St, facebook.com/groovemerchantrecords
If nostalgia isn't in your record rotation, head to the future of music at this mecca of house, disco, and electronica. The owner is a DJ and ready to recommend the latest EPs to add your mix or play some tracks to hot wire your electronic enthusiasm in this intimate, organized shop. // 593 Haight, vinyldreams.storenvy.com
Rooky Ricardo's Records
Practiced in the art of soul and funk 45s, Dick Vivian is the master of this soul record shrine. Tell him what you like and let his insights unfold at one of their many listening stations or if time is of the essence, grab one of his mix CDs. From turntable repair to dance lessons, there are plenty of reasons to stop by this 28-year-old San Francisco institution. // 448 Haight, rookyricardos.com