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LocalFriend Travel

The Local Guide to NoPA, San Francisco

NoPA is a neighborhood often overlooked when people think of the top places to visit in SF. For this reason, we believe that NoPA is actually one of the hidden gyms of San Francisco. There are tons of great restaurants (that don’t require you to wait 2+ hours), and so many things to do and see. We have posted our list of the top spots in NoPA on the LocalFriend google map here.

Feel free to comment below, or reach out to our LocalFriends via the chat, with any questions you may have about these places! You can also download our iPhone app to chat directly with a local here.

Where to Eat in NoPA:

  1. Nopalito – one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, and as close as you can get to authentic Mexican cuisine in the city. Get there early as all seating is first come – first served, and it gets (understandably) packed!
  2. Che-Fico / Alementari – This is actually two sister Italian restaurants. The upscale, classy Che-Fico upstairs, and the more casual but still delicious Alementari downstairs. Both are very popular and tend to book out so make sure to make your reservations a few weeks in advance!
  3. Bar Crudo – NoPA’s premier hip seafood restaurant. Great for date nights or dinners with friends in town.
  4. Barvale – Some of the best Spanish tapas you can find in SF. When we have people from different parts of the city come to our neighborhood, this is the first spot we take them. It’s a guaranteed hit.
  5. Brendas Meat and Three – If you know anything about food in SF, you know Brendas is the place for Southern food. Get the beignet flight, you wont regret it. I didn’t even know it was possible for beignets to have a flight before Brendas.
  6. Papalote – Best Taqueria in NoPA, hands down. Their salsa is amazing. We randomly met the owner in a cooking class in Mexico City. He was on a trip doing “research” by trying all the best barbacoa in the city. Best job ever?
  7. 4505 Burgers and BBQ – I’m from Texas, so my BBQ standards are high. I was a bit hesitant to try 4505 because of this, but let me tell you, it more than exceeded my expectations. This is my go-to spot if I want to indulge for lunch.
  8. Souvla – There’s a few different Souvlas around the city. It’s great causal Greek restaurant. Their salads offer a healthy yet delicious options for weekday nights.
  9. Ju-Ni – NoPA’s Michelin star sushi bistro. According to their website, they are “devoted to crafting moments that transcend”. I mean god damn, do you need any other convincing to go here? It only seats 12 people, and has 3 chefs, so this is as close to a personal chef as you’ll get. Of course it’s pricey, so if you’re celebrating something big (maybe an anniversary, promotion, or big IPO) then get a reso and prepare for your life to be changed.
  10. Little Star Pizza – You can enjoy pizza in so many forms. There’s the “late night stumble drunk” pizza, there’s the “I’m too lazy to get off my couch, hopefully the delivery guy can walk into my apartment and set it on my lap” pizza. And there’s the “Lets go out for a pizza dinner on a Friday night and have a few pinot noirs like classy adults” pizza. Little Star is that last type of Pizza.
  11. Barrel Head Brewhouse – My go-to spot for great burgers and beer, every neighborhood needs that. I wouldn’t call it upscale, but it’s definitely not grungy. All-in-all great place for dinner with friends.

Where to Drink in NoPA:

  1. Madrone Art Bar – Late night, sloppy drunk dancing with a DJ cranking the jams. What’s not to love?
  2. Horsefeather – This is that first bumble date type of cocktail spot. This is that let’s go someplace where that I can get a good instagram photo type of cocktail spot. This is that lets go out for a pre dinner drink but I had a few too many cocktails so fuck it lets order food type of cocktail spot.
  3. Fly Bar – Your classic neighborhood bar. They host trivia on Monday nights. Also they serve great pizzas, salads and flatbreads.
  4. Fools Errand Wine Bar – Cute little wine spot on Divis. Great place to “wine down” from the stressful workday.
  5. Kava Lounge – In doing research for this post I found out that Kava is some plant that makes you super relaxed, and that sounded cool. So I tried this place out. They give you a “welcome ceremony” with a free drink when it’s your first time and the place has got some real new age hippie vibes. Kava itself tastes like the ground, but they have some cool drinks they make out of it.

Things to Do in NoPA:

  1. Alamo Square Park – This is the park were you can get a view of the painted ladies, commonly referred to the as “the full house houses”. This is also a great city park to relax and take in the views. There is currently a crazy guy who dances there all day in a thong, so that provides some entertainment value.
  2. Emporium Arcade Bar – I never really cared for Arcade Bars until I went to the Emporium. It’s a huge 3 story space with an awesome DJ and old school fighting movies playing on a screen overlooking the bar. They have all types of games, and I can sit there, drink beers, and play NBA Jam for hours.
  3. The Independent – this is a pretty intimate spot for a music venue, and I love it. They do a great job of sourcing the music, and there isn’t always biggest names, so just grab a ticket and go!
  4. Panhandle – The stretch of land that juts out of Golden Gate park, and gives our neighborhood its name. There’s great running and biking trails, basketball courts, and plenty of room to lay out and enjoy a picnic in the sun.
  5. Check out the Farmers Market – On Sunday’s from 10-2pm, a few local farms from the South Bay and central valley come in to deliver their freshest products. Head to the corner of Grove and Divisadero to check it out.

Ice Cream and Coffee Shops in NoPA

  1. The Mill – The mill is first and foremost a bakery, and their bread is really tasty. They are also a coffee shop that serves amazing toast. If you haven’t had avacado toast from a bakery in SF, are you truly basic?
  2. Bean Bag Cafe – There’s is nothing insanely special about bean bag. Their food is good, their coffee is plentiful and their wifi is fast. For those reasons, I’m at bean bag a few times a week.
  3. Loving Cup – I have a weak spot for frozen yogurt, and this is a fresh as it gets. They only have chocolate and vanilla as base, then you can mix in as many fresh toppings as you want. It’s magical.
  4. Boba guys – Boba tea is one of those things I enjoy on occasion. If you’re going to get Boba in SF, this place constantly raved about and is always packed.
  5. BiRite Market – So BiRite Creamery next to Dolores park always has lines around the block to get their Ice cream. At their market on Divisidero you can get the same Ice-Cream with hardly any lines.
  6. Bobs Donuts – Okay I have to include Bobs on this post even though it isn’t even open yet. Bobs is the super famous, extra delicious donut shop on Polk. They are opening their only other location on Baker street in NoPA, just a few blocks from where I live. I’m preparing to gain at least 10 pounds.

I hope this guide helps to make your time in San Francisco unforgettable! If you have any questions, feel free to download our LocalFriend App here, or chat with a local directly on this site. We are happy to help you experience the best things to eat, see and do in SF!

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