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Curbed SF's Associate Editor Tracy Elsen Talks Noe Valley

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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. This time around, we welcome Tracy Elsen, Curbed's new associate editor.
Tell us something we don't know about Noe Valley: When people come to Noe, they mostly visit the 24th Street strip, where parking is tough to find and always metered. Away from the main stretch, though, parking is surprisingly easily. There are tons of streets with all-day parking that doesn't require a sticker. But... watch out for street cleaning!

Local customs of note: Flocking to the Noe Valley farmers' market on Saturday mornings. Shopping at Whole Foods (where I once saw a little girl of about four running after her mother and yelling, "But Mommy, I don't want regular, I want GLUTEN FREE!") Talking about the big empty retail space on 24th Street that was abandoned by Real Food Company over ten years ago. Enjoying the sunshine, especially when the fog is hitting the top of Twin Peaks but not making it down into Noe.

Hidden gems in Noe Valley: PastaGina on Diamond Street makes arguably the best pasta in all of San Francisco. It's labeled as a "take-out" place, which it kind of is—they hand you freshly cut pasta and your choice of sauce, which you then go home and cook. The cooking part takes about 90 seconds because the pasta is so fresh. They also have an incredible goat cheese dip, which is best accompanied by Acme Bread.

One of my other favorite places in Noe isn't actually a business. It's a house on 24th Street near Douglass that decorates for every holiday and season in elaborate fashion. For Halloween they had a pirate graveyard, for Christmas there was a polar bear theme and now it's all done up for the Chinese New Year.

Are your neighbors "Rotten Neighbor" worthy? If so, dish. If not... well, why not? Generally everyone in Noe is friendly and pleasant. There is a lot of smiling and petting other people's dogs. However, Noe residents also seem especially willing to stick their noses in other people's business. For example, not long after I moved to the neighborhood, I watched an older woman walk up to a guy with a pickup truck and hiss, "Polluter!"

Inflate the bubble or burst it: What's not so swell about your "perfect" neighborhood? After about 9 p.m., Noe is seriously quiet. This is great if you're looking to get a good night's sleep, less great if you're after just about anything else. At all times of day, food and coffee options lag behind those in some other SF neighborhoods (although there are a few worthy spots!). There's easy access to freeways, the Mission and the Castro, but the rest of the city can feel pretty far away. Parks and green space are limited. Despite all of that, I adore Noe. There's something about its quaint, wholesome, village-like atmosphere that made me feel at home from the first day I moved in.

The final word on Noe Valley: It reminds me of Sesame Street. There are sunny days, interesting characters everywhere, and it's child friendly.