In the tug-of-war between Burlingame's chains and local merchants, the real winners are visitors. A whole crop of independent stores has popped up lately, and a number of boutiques from San Francisco have ventured south.
The new mix adds fresh energy to downtown. Yet wholesomeness is in evidence at summer movies in the park, proving that even with the metropolitan move-in, Burlingame still retains its hometown heart.
Info. Burlingame is 15 miles south of San Francisco. Downtown's main drag is Burlingame Ave. Park at metered lots on Park Rd., Primrose Rd., and Lorton Ave. or take Caltrain.
Fortezza. Run by a local, the home store mingles contemporary furniture and retro accents with original artwork and bold pottery. Tue-Sun. 269 Primrose Rd.; 650/685-6211.
Therapy. The suburban outpost of this edgy retailer is the place for sushi magnets, boomerang ashtrays, and Barcelona chairs. Open daily. 264 Lorton Ave.; 650/375-0678.
Washington Park. Good for a picnic anytime, with kid-friendly movies screened outdoors once a month in summer. Arrive early, blankets and low chairs in hand, to get a spot and buy fresh popcorn. Movies at 8:15 p.m. Jul 29, Aug 12, and Sep 9. Free. 850 Burlingame Ave.; www.burlingame.org or 650/558-7300.EAT
Crepevine. The covered front patio is a great place for lunch; generous portions make sharing easy. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. $. 1310 Burlingame Ave.; 650/344-1310.
Piazza Italia Café. The aroma of toasting bread and murmurings of Italian emanate from the kitchen of this cozy locals' secret. Have the panini. Lunch Mon-Sat, dinner Thu-Fri. $. 321 Primrose Rd.; 650/343-4444.
Tea Celsius. Break for a creamy iced vanilla chai and a warm chocolate waffle. Open daily. $. 283 Lorton Ave.; 650/685-1288.