Welcome to 1181 Alabama Street! I hope you enjoy my home in San Francisco. I've compiled some information here to make your visit easier, and to encourage you to explore the neighborhood. If you have suggestions for me like these, I'd love to explore in the same way. I've hyperlinked as much as I can below, so you can access directions and menus while on-the-go.
The Important Stuff
Arriving: The best route from the airport is to take BART to the 24th Street stop ($8.80), and then walk 10 minutes down 24th street to Alabama. I'll send you the front door code privately (plus my What's App and email.)
While Here: Please keep the entry door and the garage door locked. Linens, paper goods, soap, kitchen spices/oils/etc. are yours to use, but please replenish anything you finish. Laundry is in the back of the garage. I've arranged for a house cleaner to clean between visitors, but please treat the place as you would your own home.
Leaving: On the last day of your stay, please run the dishwasher, and put all used linens in the washing machine. I'll wash them when I get back. Put garbage downstairs in the trash cans (blue for glass, plastic and cardboard, black for everything else), and make sure the doors are locked when you leave.
Safety: In case of fire, the window at the top of the stairs is another exit--it goes to the neighbor's porch, and another set of stairs that lead to Alabama Street.
Getting in: The entry door has a keypad. It works best if you pull it toward you when locking and unlocking. To unlock, enter the four digit code. To lock, press the center button with a padlock on it. Please always check to make sure it has locked.
Smoking: Please don't smoke in the house.
Ceiling fan: The light/fan over the bed is controlled with the pull chains (there are symbols for light and fan on the two chains). The switch is by the green couch, but you can do everything with the chains if you leave the switch on.
Windows: The bay window is great for solar gain in the afternoon. On warm days, I pull the curtains closed to keep the place cooler. I turn off the heater in the summer, to save energy. It's usually on in December-March.
Linens/supplies: Extra linens are in the black locker beside the shower, and cleaning supplies are under the kitchen and bathroom sinks.
Cleaning: I use a dry Swiffer to clean the floors (mop and cloths are in the bathroom). The kitchen counters are zinc, so they stain and tarnish naturally. You can use non-abrasive cleaner to wipe them (So, sponge=good, Scotchbrite=bad). Please don't let wine or acids like lemon juice dry on them.
Trash Day is Wednesday!: But you don't need to worry about it unless you are staying multiple weeks. Bagged trash goes in the black cans, and all recycling (cardboard, paper, glass, plastic, and metal) goes in the blue. If you want to compost, throw your food scraps in a neighbor's green bin. I personally don't bother because I am a terrible person. Always keep the garage door locked.
Dishwasher: Use only dishwasher soap pouches (under the sink). Press Normal Wash, then Start, and close the door firmly. The water will start, and 99 will show on the display. If you don't hear the water right away, close the door more firmly than you did the first time.
Freezer: The freezer drawers are on the left under the island. Make sure they close all the way, or your ice cream will melt and you will be sad.
Stove/oven/microwave: The stove and oven are gas. The microwave is also a convection oven. The microwave also has a light and an exhaust fan--please use that fan while frying on the stovetop.
Garbage disposal: The kitchen sink has a garbage disposal (grinder). The switch nearest the sink controls it; please run the water at the same time. It can grind up food scraps, but cannot grind up bones. But it will try, and also lost forks and bottle caps, so be careful what goes down the sink drain. Good rule: If you can't chew something, it can't either.
Laundry: The laundry is in the back of the garage, and supplies are in the cabinets above. I usually use warm water and Normal Wash, with the timer dial starting at 12 minutes, for a whole cycle of 30 minutes. If you overload it, it might need a second spin--crank the dial to the end of the cycle again, and it will do another spin. The dryer has a number of settings. I use the regular heat, and 60 minutes. People with more delicate and perhaps lacier articles of clothing use Permanent Press heat and "More Dry" on the timer dial. There is an over-the-door ironing board in the bathroom, which can be used hung over the bathroom door, or thrown on the bed for a quick job. The iron is either in the bathroom upstairs, or in the cabinet over the dryer. If you need dry cleaning or repairs or want wash-and-fold service, the laundry shop at 25th and Florida is dependable.
WiFi—The password is on the router at the front window. In mid evening, you may need to plug into the router to stream movies. I don’t have a TV, but feel free to use the big monitor at the desk for work or play.
Neighborhood: Like any urban environment, pay attention to your surroundings and stick to well-lighted streets at night. There's plenty of time to wander around mural-filled alleys during the day. When I'm walking home late at night, I stick to major streets like 24th and Valencia. If you’re walking alone and don’t feel comfortable, flag a cab or call an Uber.
Transit: To reach my house from the airport, take BART to the 24th Street Station, then walk down 24th Street to Alabama Street. If you arrive at SFO after ~11:30pm, you will need to take a cab.
I recommend buying a Clipper Card at the Walgreens at 24th and Potrero. It works for works for MUNI (bus), BART (subway), Caltrain (southern commuter trains), and other transit systems. The Google Maps app is good for mapping walking/BART/Muni (bus) combo trips. It doesn't know if the buses are late, but other than that, it's good.
The MUNI system includes street cars and buses, costs $2.50, and includes free transfers within a window of time. BART is a pay-by-distance subway system (~$3 within the city, $8.80 to/from the airport.) To access Caltrain, take the 48 bus to the 22nd Street Station.
Many folks use the Uber or Lyft ride sharing apps as a cab alternative. It can save an hour-long wait for a bus sometimes... FreeWheel is a cab calling app, but I haven't used it.
Banks/ATM--There is a Bank of America ATM at 24th and Bryant, on the Bryant side of the paint store. The nearest full service bank is the Chase at 25th and Mission.
The Fun Stuff
Philz @ 24th and Folsom: Cup-at-a-time pour over--Not cheap, but a local institution
Dynamo Donuts at 24th and Hampshire: Semi-unusual donuts and a nice café with outdoor seating.
Blue Bottle Coffee at 18th and Alabama: Coffee inside Heath Ceramics' fun designy store. The kitchen and entryway tile in my house are from Heath.
Universal Cafe at 19th and Florida: My favorite nice-brunch place. Fifteen minute walk, busy on weekends but not too bad.
Wise Sons Deli at 24th and Shotwell—Jewish deli, makes their own bagels. Get it to go and eat in Precita park on a nice day. Sandwiches are good, but they approach my limit of what-I'll-pay-for-a-sandwich. I like it better for breakfast than for lunch.
Atlas at 20th and Alabama: My go-to café to work and munch and caffeinate or have an afternoon beer on the back patio. Occasional live music.
Haus at 24th Street and Folsom is another good "working on your laptop" cafe with a back patio. Also Tartine Manufactury at 18th and Alabama
Tartine and Craftsman & Wolves: Higher-end bakeries on Guerrero and Valencia, respectively, that are both worth the walk, and best experienced during the week. Tartine has another location at 18th and Alabama inside the Heath Ceramics building.
La Victoria: Sadly, closed. RIP.
Nearby lunch/casual options
La Torta Gorda at 24th and Bryant: Mexican sandwiches (the small size is not really small...) and a pretty back patio
Gallardo’s at 18th and Van Ness: This is the real deal. Best pozole in SF. A "small" bowl with all the fixings is a great meal. I hear the menudo is good too, but menudo is weird.
Discolandia on 24th—The records are gone, but now it’s roast beef! Like Arby’s but $2 better. Between 4 and 7 you can get a sandwich, a kale salad, and a craft beer for about $15, which is not too bad for 2019 San Francisco.
Burritos are everywhere! I personally like Vallarta's (24th and Balmy) al Pastor Super Burrito, and it's big enough for two meals. El Farolito is right across the street, but the only thing I order there is the carne asada tostada. It’s lunch for $5. Win.
Spice Jar on Bryant and 23rd--A worthy step above carryout. Asian fusion at reasonable prices.
Manivahn—Potrero and 24th—solid, carry-out quality Thai, but nice to eat in too.
Burma Love on Valencia: Higher end Burmese, very popular, and worth it. Burmese friends tell me it's too sweet, isn't like their mom's, blah blah blah. I do not care because it is delicious.
Yamo at 18th and Mission: The best cheap noodle bowl in the Mission. Don’t be put off by size or appearance. Embrace the chaos, don't get offended if you get yelled at, order the house noodles, and hope you get what you ordered. I love Yamo.
Nice dinner—too many to list, depends what you’re looking for, and other lists will do it better than me. Heirloom on Folsom has good wine, open kitchen, and you can usually get a reservation day-of. Flour and Water makes their own pasta, and their wait list indicates they’re popular.
For the best value, I recommend Roosevelt Tamale Parlor on 24th. Two people can have a nice sit-down meal for under $30. The Chiva Tamale is amazing.
Food and staples
Casa Lucas (my side of the street): Groceries. Has some organic food, friendly folks.
El Chico (diagonal from my house): Cheaper groceries (99 cent pineapples!) and a full meat counter (the bacon and the Salvadoran chorizo is good).
Grocery Outlet between 24th and 23rd on Van Ness. Discount/odd lot chain. Best deals are in the section by the entrance. I don’t eat too much pre-packaged food, but this is the cheapest place to get it. Good stock-up place before a road trip.
Low Cost Carcineria at 24th and Florida--no-frills meat counter.
Safeway: Large chain grocery store at 16th and Bryant. You can take buses up Bryant or Potrero to get there. It is not fast or clean, but it is there.
Whole Foods and Trader Joes: There is are WF's in Noe Valley and in Potrero, and a Trader Joe's in SOMA--all are bus trips you can plan with Google Maps.
Rainbow Co-op at 14th and Mission--a bulk-bin wonder and accessible by bus. If you like to cook and will be staying for a while, it's worth the trip. It has a parking lot, but it's only useful on weekdays. On weekends, you will see raw food vegans fight to the death for a parking spot.
Pharmacy/bath products/batteries: Walgreens is a chain drugstore at 24th and Potrero. Many of the small grocery stores also have basics (cold meds, batteries, etc) behind the counter if you ask.
There are better guides than I can write... but to get to Golden Gate Park (and the upper Haight), take the 33 bus. GGP is bigger than NYC's Central Park and has buffalo. Precita Park is five minutes walk at the base of Treat Street on the other side of Cesar Chavez and is a close-by, family park. Dolores Park is the cool kids' hangout at Dolores and 18thish, and is walking distance, or take Muni. Land's End and Sutro Baths are Muni accessible and are most fun on a sunny day. The Baths are ruins of an earlier recreational spot, and you can walk through tunnels and see container ships coming into the bay. Tank Hill Park near the Castro is tiny, but the views are incredible--good spot to take a picture that doesn't look the same as everybody else's.
You can also visit both Mt. Davidson and Mt. Sutro parks via bus. Mt. Davidson is the highest point in the city and has a 270 degree view of ocean, city, and East Bay on a clear day, as well as a giant concrete cross. The best views are only a 10 minute walk from a bus stop. Sutro is probably the most forest-like hike within the city. Trails are good, views are limited. Nice, shady walk on a hot day, and also kinda spooky in the fog. The 36 bus picks up at Cesar Chavez and Mission Street and travels to both parks. Google Maps sometimes suggests a route with the 44 and 48 buses, which happens to pass near the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, which a previous guest said was her favorite sight in SF!
Close-by Neighborhood Bars
Pop’s on 24th and York: My go-to, neighborhood bar. Diverse crowd, different styles of music each night.
Blind Cat at 24th and Treat: Divey, slightly smelly, but has a great jukebox, cheap specials, and a pool table. Decent whiskey selection.
Phone Booth on 25th and Van Ness—another good corner bar with a pool table.
Napper Tandy at 24th and Van Ness. Irish Pub, lots of TV’s. Don’t stray too far from the burgers and wings… but the French Dip special is good.
Jay N Bee Club at York and 20th—Tucked back in the neighborhood. It may be closed for good, which is a tragedy.
Big Rec on 24th and Treat—Best craft beer selection in the ‘hood, and the food is as good as bar food gets. It’s a little pricey, but I find myself going back. Hit it before 6 pm and there’s usually a drink or food special. If you can handle the heat, the Korean Chicken Sandwich is bomb.
Trick Dog on 20th between Alabama and Florida makes every Best-Of list. Crowded on weekend nights. Food is better than you'd expect for a cocktail bar.
Asciento at Bryant and 21st: More low key than TD, and lower priced, but not as novel. Good on warm afternoons when they have the windows open. It’s the kind of bar where you can drink nice cocktails and play board games (and eat queso) all afternoon.
Nihon on Folsom reportedly has the largest whiskey selection on the West Coast. I believe it. The food (Japanese small plates) is consistently good. It can be sneak-up-on-you expensive.
Doc’s Clock on Mission—Cheap, friendly. No food. Great central-ish spot to meet people.
Best tap lists in the ‘hood are Pi Bar (Valencia), Rosamunde (24th and Mission) and Big Rec. Pops has less taps but rotates in good stuff.
Venturing further in the Mission, Zeitgeist has a big tap list, rude staff, greasy burgers, and a big outside area. Mostly an under-30 crowd. Great place to meet a group on a sunny day, and I hear the Bloody Mary is pretty good too. Monk’s Kettle is higher end, more expensive, and better showered. Crafty Fox has a good Cali-centric list (same folks that own Big Rec).
Venturing down Mission, Cellarmaker House of Pizza and Old Devil Moon in Bernal Heights are solid choices. I recommend a bus or Uber at night to get to that neighborhood. It is walkable, but there’s a bit of sketchiness between here and there. That area of Mission is known as La Lengua, and has other worthy destinations—a barbecue joint that’s decent, The Knock Out (bar with live music), Blue Plate (nicer restaurant), The Porch (fried chicken at brunch!), Pizza Hacker, and Zanti’s (the name is longer than that, but you’ll see it), which has weird/wonderful Indian pizza. The El Rio bar is around there too—pretty popular, pretty gay. Their weekend themed parties are famous and attract lines down the street.
Outside of the Mission, Beer Hall, City Beer, and Toronado are all great, and accessible by transit.
For bottles of beer and wine, the best selection is at the market at 24th and Hampshire. There's another market at Florida and 23rd that recently changed hands—small, eclectic selection. The corner store at 24th and Alabama is a typical corner store: if you need cheap wine, toilet paper, and ice cream before 9 pm, go see Sam.
Cellarmaker downtown is IPA heavy, and they do it well. It can be a sketchy walk back to BART at night, so consider an Uber. Their House of Pizza in Bernal is a closer option.
Speakeasy is bikeable and has fun weekend events.
Cerveceria de Matevesa by Dolores Park makes some… unusual beers. Worth checking out if you go to the park. Yerba Mate beer?
Hop Oast opened recently on Caesar Chavez—it’s a short walk, though CC is a little sketchy at night, so don’t go wandering off. Small volume brewery, sausages/grilled cheese, and very low-key.
Triple Voodoo and Magnolia Smokestake are on Third Street in the Dogpatch (48 bus takes you there). 21st Amendment, Speakeasy, and Harmonic are better accessed by bike or car.
Culture and Entertainment
Again, other lists can do this better than me, and tastes vary. Do415 and Funcheap are good websites to check out local happenings.
Staying close to my house, Brava Theater and Red Poppy Art Gallery have some unique programming, but it's good to check out what's playing/happening online first. The Make-Out Room and Amnesia often have low-cost shows (stand-up, bluegrass, literary, dance nights...) The Mission Theater/Alamo Drafthouse on Mission has first-run movies. It often sells out, so buy in advance online. And if you want to rock, Thee Parkside, Bottom of the Hill (both in Potrero) and The Hotel Utah (SOMA) have shows most nights of the week, and are bus-able or an affordable cab ride. Bender’s on Van Ness usually has something really loud happening on Saturday nights for a $5 cover.