NFT San Francisco West Portal

West Portal

Hop the K-L and M MUNI Metro and head through the tunnel. The "Main Street" is a classic, somewhat lost in time strip of shops and restaurants catering to the quiet, laid-back middle class residents. To the south is the exclusive, mansion-studded enclave of St. Francis Wood.

Clustered around the train station are some great diners, restaurants, and old-fashioned storefront shops along West Portal Avenue. When you're done trying to eat cheap (try Submarine Center), the Philosopher's Club offers an ongoing symposium about the ravages of long term alcoholism.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Ivana Ivanovic
Photo:  Ivana Ivanovic

Parkside Farmer's Market
On the unfashionably foggy corner of Taraval and 15th Avenue lies a little gem of a food store by the name of Parkside Farmer's Market. At first glance, the place looks like your typical corner store with mediocre produce on the outside and packaged foods/nasty wines inside. But at a closer look, one realizes that the rainbow-colored display contains some of the best veggies and fruits around, and that the inside is a veritable Ali Baba's cave of global edible treasures. From obscure jams (mulberry, pumpkin, rose) to the shiny olive bar; from exotic spice racks to fancy canned fish (Portuguese sardines, Italian tuna); from enticing Middle Eastern concoctions (stuffed eggplant, dolmas) to shelves laden with pasta of every ethnic persuasion--the cook, the immigrant and the food lover will rejoice. Whether you want to throw a cheap and chic cocktail party or bring an easy yet exotic contribution to a potluck, Parkside has it all (including the lazy urbanite basics like organic eggs, dairy and cereal). And at incredibly low prices! After paying $30 for two bags of fabulous goodies, you will drive to the unfashionable foggy corner more often than you ever imagined.

Posted By:  Ivana Ivanovic
Photo:  Ivana Ivanovic

Guerra Quality Meats
A while ago, a local magazine (7x7, SF Magazine?) published a list of the last real butchers standing, and Guerra's was there. An old school Italian butcher shop in SF--a rarity, for sure--but the real reason I'd like to tell you about Guerra's is that these guys are... for real. As in: really nice people. Years ago, the first or second time I walked in, the owner actually recognized me as a former hostess of a former neighborhood restaurant. His younger brother likes to chat about the right espresso machine. People actually speak Italian in an Italian deli! People also tell you what to buy and when, even when it might mean less sales for them. People make calamari salad, Nonna's pasta salad, frittata, stuffed eggs and just fantastic old school sandwiches. For your home meals, you can buy some real meat or fish (and they'll even cook it for you--see very good web site!), home made pasta, salami, tiramisu, Italian jams, and for your picnic, fresh bread, cheese from a charming little fridge, a little wine and a little fruit and great mustard.

Posted By:  Ivana Ivanovic
Photo:  Ivana Ivanovic

San Francisco Wine Trading
In the vast, complex universe that is San Francisco wine culture, claiming that your favorite wine place is in any way special is the conversational equivalent of justifying the war in Iraq: you are guaranteed to waste much time and get nowhere. Therefore, I won't even try to convince you that SFWTC is the best wine shop in town. After all, oenophilia is a highly individualistic and personal pursuit. I'll just give you the facts and let you decide. OK? 1) It has a diverse, prominently displayed selection of $10 bottles that look and taste far more expensive: exotic, beautiful wines that were clearly chosen with some TLC, 2) There is a serious assortment of bottles at every other price level and from every corner of the globe, 3) There exists kind, knowledgeable owners who know and understand their customers, regardless of budget, 4) They have pleasant Saturday wine tastings (devoid of Parker-adoring trendoids in search of a soul mate) where you will taste the true best-of the region and/or variety, and (only if you wish) be educated in a mild yet effective manner. End of facts. See you soon.

Posted By:  David MacFadden
Photo:  David MacFadden

Goodwill Boutique
As someone who has ruffled through many thrift—or vintage—shops, this writer is rarely surprised by the sight of stained blazers, 46-inch Hagar leisure pants and stacks of self-titled Boston LPs. Media aside, for they carry few books and no records, this Goodwill is a cut above the rest, as befits a Goodwill Boutique. They focus on fine, hand-selected garments. Ever wonder where dead rich folks’ clothes end up? This is the place. It’s as if a row of Skylarks and Cadillacs, each packed to the gills with blue-hairs, paraded past the shop to deposit boxes of retired formal wear so that the elders could coast into the sunset wearing nothing but sweat-suits and muumuus. Gentlemen can expect a healthy selection of blazers in much better condition than the average shop yields, as well as a wide selection of slick shoes and collared shirts from the likes of Kenneth Cole and Banana Republic, respectively. Ladies looking for leather will be satisfied, but those seeking pantsuits will be elated. An additional bonus: a selection of eveningwear focused on sequined gowns.

Posted By:  Andrew Vennari
Photo:  Andrew Vennari

There is a certain art to making a good sandwich, and here is a place where artisans have perfected their craft. Submarine center is—for many locals—the best sandwich in town. (Though Roxie’s on San Jose is some stiff competition.) This cozy west portal nook has been cranking out subs since the 49ers started winning Super Bowls. The place has achieved such renown in this part of the city that one former employee defected down Taravel Street to a mom and pop store operation called Gene’s, where he recreated the Sub Center setup and sells the sandwiches for less inflated prices. The Super Atomic: fresh sliced turkey, brisket, and hot pastrami topped with onions, jalapenos, and cheese. After the journey into the oven, the crispy baguette is topped with cold salad ingredients. The shredded lettuce soaks up a squeeze of Italian dressing like a sponge. Watching these guys work in a rush is something to marvel at. They handle their serrated knives with lightning precision. There’s a reason this place has a line out the door. And if there’s no where to sit, you can go next door to the Philosopher’s Club to discuss Kant or get shit-faced.

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