Surfers pass by Java Beach Cafe; in San Francisco's Outer Sunset.
5 great reasons to head to the beach in San Francisco
December 23, 2009
Why go in winter: Here’s a little locals’ secret―winter is when the sun comes out in the famously foggy Outer Sunset.
What’s changed: A bevy of new restaurants and cafes have suddenly put the Avenues on the map.
Catch the action: Winter waves make Ocean Beach a surfer’s paradise.
Unofficial neighborhood uniform: Hoodie sweatshirt, jeans, and flip-flops (yes, even in winter).
Newcomers’ uniform: As local artist Brian Kanbayashi notes, “the hipsters have discovered surfing,” so tattoos, skinny jeans, and secondhand chic are also on display.
Head to San Francisco’s far-western edge, south of Golden Gate Park.
Local transport: Bikes rigged to tow surfboards, or the N Judah streetcar, which runs the length of the neighborhood to the beach.
Pick up a souvenir: Don’t blink or you’ll miss the tiny Last Straw gift store (4540 Irving St.; 415/566-4692), with handmade jewelry, felted hats, and other trinkets and doodads.
Catch the surfing vibe. When the wetsuits come off, surfers head to Java Beach Café ($; 1396 La Playa St.; 415/665-5282), which feels like a neighborhood community center. Pints of Guinness are popular, as is the live music on weekends. And on a warm day, you can carry your sandwich across the street to tiny La Playa Park, soon to include a bocce ball court.
Get off to a good start. Trouble Coffee Company takes its java seriously. The tiny space is outfitted with a driftwood bar and decorated like a curio shop, but it serves fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (ask for the Yoko), tea, and a few pastries. No decaf, so don’t ask. Try the “Build Your Own Damn House”―a whole young coconut, a cup of the house blend, and a thick slab of cinnamon toast. 4033 Judah St..
Mollusk Surf Shop
Feel like a surfer, even if you aren’t. At Mollusk Surf Shop, a gallery and store dedicated to all things wave-related, you can shop for a longboard, get a limited-edition T-shirt, or attend an art opening. Ability to hang 10 not required. 4500 Irving St.; 415/564-6300.
Dine at the year’s must-try dinner spot. Beachcombers have always had a reason to venture west. Now food lovers are making the pilgrimage too, to try the fish stew, braised pork shoulder, garlic soup, and other wintry comforts at Outerlands. Add to that beer served in mason jars and an always-changing lineup of desserts, such as flourless chocolate cake and seasonal fruit tarts, and this eight-table restaurant paneled with driftwood is excuse enough to make the trek. $; closed Sun night; 4001 Judah St.; 415/661-6140.
Get a real slice of the neighborhood.The Pizza Place on Noriega became an institution the moment it opened in 2007, and it’s already been expanded twice. The counter is often lined with dudes in hoodies digging into hand-tossed brick-oven pies like the “Dimitri” (named after the local produce guy). $; 3901 Noriega St.; 415/759-5752.