The People's Guide is Curbed SF's tour o' the nabes, lead by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone. Here's one of our Curbed operatives, blogger Andrew Dalton.
[Occasionally, the line for chicken is longer than the wait for a table across the street...]
Nabe: The Panhandle - I don't care what the MLS calls it, I'm leading the charge to drop that pretentious "North" modifier.
Q: Tell us something we don't know about the Panhandle
A: Someone recently told me that Fell and Divisadero is the geographical center of the city. Looking on a map, I don't think that's quite accurate, but it is a good metaphor for the neighborhood, which is at the nexus of adorable and obnoxious.
Q: Local Customs of note:
A: People live in cafes here. Which is great because the beer tends to be cheaper, so we drink a lot of it and everyone is immediately more social and neighborly. Bean Bag Cafe started a $2 happy hour some four years ago (with actual beer! that tastes good!) and it set off price war that's been raging ever since. If you're paying more than two bucks a pint and it's before 8pm, then you're at Nopa and that is way too early to be at Nopa.
Q: Hidden Gems in the Panhandle:
A: The Patios! There's a parklet in front of Mojo and plenty of tables crowding the sidewalk around Bean Bag Cafe, but people tend to overlook Ziryab - which gets the afternoon sun on Divisadero and actually has a heater. Not to mention the truly hidden patios in the back of Blue Jay Cafe, Mojo and now Ragazza and Population as well. (The last one is actually a salon, but the owner has assured me there will be opportunities to sneak a beer out back). You might say the Panhandle itself is Golden Gate Park's patio.
I also love everything around McAllister and Baker: Matching Half encourages you to spend a lazy Sunday sharing a carafe of coffee out on their wide sidewalk and the expanded Green Chile Kitchen has one of the best dinner deals in the city if you're down to eat family-style. Afterward, you can go down the block to Chile Pies & Ice Cream where they literally put slices of pie in a blender to make a milkshake. (And beer floats!)
Q: Are your neighbors "Rotten Neighbor" worthy? If so, dish. If not ... well, why not?
A: I live incredibly close to The Independent which books about two shows a month that I'm excited about and then fills out the rest of their concert schedule with distant relatives of reggae legends or solo projects from former members of Phish who insist on noodling around until 2am. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, the block either smells like Popeye's Chicken or Lilly's Bar-B-Que. Which is probably why I'm always hungry.
We also get front row seats to the part of Bay to Breakers where the whole thing starts to fall to pieces. This year I saw someone dressed as a Caveman eating at Herbivore. So, you know... mixed blessings!
Q: Inflate the bubble or burst it: What's not-so-swell about your "perfect" neighborhood? If your nabe is an underdog, what's being overlooked?
A: With coffee shops as your living room and plenty of outdoor space to go around, you kind of stop caring that you live in a boring, cheap apartment. And we're not necessarily a destination neighborhood, but if we were it'd be really easy to get here by pretty much every form of transit.
Q: The final word on the Panhandle:
A: Its appeal suddenly makes perfect sense once you realize Nopa, a restaurant everyone was talking about two years ago, is directly across the street from a Popeye's Chicken.