5 Hidden Gems in San Francisco’s Tenderloin

5 Hidden Gems in San Francisco’s Tenderloin

The Tenderloin is a great place. Some people may not agree; you have to really understand it’s troubles to appreciate the problems that are being shoved in your face. The Tenderloin is home to the LGBTQ movement, which is commonly mistaken as having it’s start in the Castro District; it has a “legacy of artists and activists” and is home to the most dense population of school aged children in San Francisco, among many other things.

Photo by Me

The Tenderloin has fought it’s way during the sweeping age of gentrification as the nonprofits and unions that have built up this part of town fight for their space and rights in the richest city. In this part of town, you have some of the richest people walking next to and stepping over some of the poorest, and most distressed individuals. The Tenderloin is also covered in some of the coolest murals next to those in the Mission district, and is the forefront of political marches as crowds of passionate people march from Civic Center to the Embarcaderro; in the Tenderloin, you see it all.

Photo my Me πŸ™‚

Having lived in the Tenderloin for two years, I loved that I was in the hub of all the weekend festivities: it was just a short walk or bike ride away from meeting up with my friends. On a Friday night, my place was always the pre-game or after party spot as we stumbled from the bars to keep the party going. Not only did living in the Tenderloin allow me to have a more vibrant nightlife, but it’s also introduced me to some of the best cuisines. Here are 5 of my favorite places to eat and spend a Friday (or Saturday) night in the Tenderloin.

#1. Yemen Kitchen

Photo Source: Yelp.com/Yemen Kitchen

This is the ultimate hole-in-the-wall you will ever find. When people ask what it’s all about, I say that it’s a mix of Indian and Mexican food. Their fava beans hit the spot like refried beans with flavors as bold as Indian food, but without the commitment. What I mean by that is, you’re either in the mood for Indian food, or you’re not… there is no in between, it’s a commitment to the flavor of curry or masala.

Their bread is a cross between a freshly made flour tortilla and a nice hot doughy naan. According to Yelp, they have some of the best-roasted lamb in town. I love that the owner has old and new soccer team photos of himself and what looks like family members. From what I’ve gathered by the news articles posted on the wall, they started out in Brooklyn, then came out to SF, which is why they keep the Brooklyn soccer sign out front, so look out for that, otherwise, you would totally miss this gem.

#2. The Beer Basement

Photo Source: Hoodline.com
Photo Source: Goldstar Events

This is the best kind of spot to have around the corner from your house. Great beer on tap, and a speak-easy- like- basement that hosts comedy nights Thursday through Saturday every week. When I lived around the corner, this made it easy on nights where I wanted to be social but didn’t want to go far. I would just plop down in the Beer Basement, drink one of their delicious ciders, and laugh to some of San Francisco’s up and coming comedians.

Tickets run about 15$ but you can get a discount code on funcheapsf.com.

#3. The Black Cat

Photo Source: SF Chronicle, Carlos Avila Gonzalez

Speaking of speak-easies, this is a legit one. The signage out front is super discreet and only ones in the know, know. When you walk in, it’s super classy, and trails of live jazz linger up to the front door from the downstairs basement, making it all the more intriguing. There is a cover to dine and sit downstairs so check out their calendar and ticket prices online before you go in, sometimes it fills up fast. This would be the ultimate date night if you need any tricks up your sleeve. I’ll just go ahead and say this now… you’re welcome.

#4. The Tenderloin Museum

Photo Source: Brand New

If you absolutely detest walking through the Tenderloin, please do me a favor and just visit the museum one time. Take a Lyft if you really must, I get it, wading through people loitering and getting slapped in the face with the sensory overload isn’t for the faint of heart… This museum puts in perspective the shine behind the grime. It will help you see San Francisco and the Tenderloin in a new light, and you will learn a lot! You will learn about the famous people who stayed and worked in the tenderloin – Mohammed Ali, The Grateful Dead, to name a few; and the famous movements and riots that took place here such as the Compton Cafeteria Riot that was a pivotal moment in time for the LGBTQ community.

#5) The Phoenix Hotel

Photo Source: MakemyTrip
Photo Source: Chambers SF

Last, but not the least, is the Phoenix Hotel and Chambers Restaurant. The outside is super sketchy, which makes the contrast of walking into this rock and roll-themed restaurant all the more surprising. Once inside, you feel like your in LA with views of the hotel pool lined with palm trees and brightly colored decor. The inside of the restaurant is dark and mysterious with erotic photos and nostalgic records covering the walls.

The Phoenix hosts summer parties with DJ’s, drinks and the whole bit definitely worth checking out as the Tenderloin is probably the only place in San Francisco that actually has a “summer”.

You can check out their pool party schedule here.


Photo by Me πŸ™‚

The Tenderloin is a special place. It’s not too far off from Union Square, allowing visitors an experience that has more grit, and quite frankly, more interesting options. Don’t let San Francisco’s problems scare you away, most people just want to be acknowledged, a gesture to remind them that they aren’t invisible.

If you live in San Francisco, I hope this gave you some good recommendations, and if you visit the city, I hope you stop by at one of these places. Other honorable mentions include:

How to Spend a Day on the Bay: Boatsetter + Snacks

How to Spend a Day on the Bay: Boatsetter + Snacks

Spring is coming! Rain, it was nice to see you, we really needed you, but now it’s time to play and frolic in the beautiful Bay weather again. January is practically over, which means with Valentine’s Day decor already hitting the shelves at Target; Easter and spring will be in our faces faster than you can say “Bon Weekend!” .

Here is a fun, unique way to spend a day in the Bay. I’m giving you a head start so you can be the first of your friends this spring to have the dopest #sundayfunday.


Airbnb for boats

Yes, there is an Airbnb for boats. Of course. 

As a blogger, I usually turn to blogs when I want to try something, go somewhere, or need inspo. For my fiance’s birthday, I wanted to put something special together, so I turned to some of my favorite blogs: http://www.funcheapsf.com, http://www.upout.com , and http://www.bloglovin.com , just to name a few.

Along my research, I came across the idea of having a party on a boat (duh). That led to another rabbit hole of finding a dinner cruise, and then then there she was: http://www.boatsetter.com .

In short, Boatsetter provides an easy boat rental experience where you can pay by the hour to drive a boat if you already have a boating license, or you can add the captain to your rental as well. There are no monthly membership fees, it’s free to join, and get this… they are almost completely international!  

You can filter based on your budget. I filtered on the cheapest hourly rate and was able to find a boat that fit 6 people. I split the cost with friends who were down & promised them beer and snacks (of course).

How we spent the day:

We met our captain at the Berkeley Marina and sailed under the Bay Bridge and back, which was a good 4 hours. Our boat was named Blue Haven and it was equipped with a small cabin that housed a cooler, small kitchen sink, some built in benches and a small restroom.

I jumped down into the cabin and served my friends plates of munchies and handed out beer and wine that we kept down in the cooler. We couldn’t exactly walk around, and had to basically just chill out in our chosen seats — no biggie, we were on a boat!


We brought our portable speakers and blasted Nirvana, we were feeling nostalgic ;). After, feeling completely toasty and high on life (because that’s what partying on a boat does for you) we stumbled in a Lyft to Casa Latina Bakery.

After lunch, we made it back to the city just in time to crash face first into our pillows and take a siesta. Day drinking always knocks me out.

It was a great time and all the friends I invited had a blast and couldn’t believe how easy it was to coordinate all of this. Not only that, but everyone thought I had the best snack spread. πŸ˜‰


The Best Snack Spread: Using items from Trader Joe’s

Being Filipina and Mexican, I am always 1) hungry and 2) feeding people. Raise your hand if you know the type… Needless to say, when I entertain people, I am always afraid of running out of food. My friends love this about me; my wallet, sometimes not so much… Since I was shifting the bulk of this birthday bash budget towards the boat experience, I wanted to still make sure I had a substantial amount of food without breaking the bank.

With that said, I wanted to share my picnic spread for 6 people.

The key to making a party spread is that you have to have a balance of substantial food and sweets, especially if people are drinking.

Sweets:

  • Nutella Sread with Strawberries
  • Chocolate covered pretzels

Savory:

  • Lentils and Bruschetta Dip with water crackers
  • Hummus and Carrots
  • Lemon Basil Pasta Salad

Drinks

  • Wine, red and white
  • IPA beer
  • Water – Never forget!

This picnic brought to you by Trader Joe’s:

The day before, I went to trader joes and purchased items that required the least amount of preparation. Everything was already pre-packed or made, like this bowtie pasta. I just threw about 3 of these packages into a Tupperware to serve 6 of us.

Of course, who doesn’t love the samples at Trader Joe’s? A while back I tasted this sample below with their steamed lentils and bruschetta sauce.
This recipe is delicious and so easy to make. It’s filling, and when garnished with some fresh basil, everyone is asking what it is, like you’re some kind of culinary god or something. Seriously.


Simply mix the two together, with proportions to your liking, and serve with crackers. Read more about this “more filling appetizer” from the Conscientious Eater Blog


If there is one thing the bay area loves to do, is brunch. I get invites to bonnet brunches, wig brunches, costume brunches, and murder mystery brunches… we love to brunch.

So the next time you are looking for something to do with your crew, get on boatsetter, pack a picnic and sail away.

A Place to Hang When It's Nice Out | Embarcadero, SF

A Place to Hang When It's Nice Out | Embarcadero, SF

Not a lot of people know about the bocce ball courts at the Embarcaderro! This is a favorite spot of ours when we want to enjoy the nice weather and don’t necessarily want to spend too much money to be a part of the city buzz. We picked up a set at a garage sale and it has served to be one of the best purchases we ever made. It’s located right across the Ferry Building @ 10 Market St. 94105 , bocce balls not included.

Other notable bocce ball courts with balls included are:

Javabeach Cafe

The Hidden Vine

STEM kitchen and Garden

Jones Bar | Tender Nob, SF

Jones Bar | Tender Nob, SF

It’s happy hour in the city, and the weather is great. Where should you go? Jones Bar located at the base of Nob Hill, 620 Jones street. With a great patio that sits above the street, you can enjoy a rooftop-like scene in the middle of downtown San Francisco. Be sure to try their RosΓ© Slush- my favorite drink.

Camera: Minnolta x700

Film: Kodak 400

Model: Luis Quiroz