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San Francisco/Civic Center-Tenderloin

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Civic Center-Tenderloin is an area of Downtown San Francisco. As the name implies, the Civic Center is the primary center of government within the city and many important civic institutions are housed here. Aside from its official duties, it also moonlights as a cultural center with many fine museums, theaters, opera houses, and symphony halls located here. Over the years however, it has developed a reputation for attracting many of the city's drug-addicted and homeless to its open plazas. The Tenderloin is one of San Francisco's lowest income neighborhoods. It has a rich history and eclectic community, but unfortunately it also has a reputation for poverty, drugs, and crime, particularly violent street crime. The Civic Center-Tenderloin area is bounded roughly by Market St to the southeast, Mason St to the east, Franklin St to the west, and Sutter St to the north.


Civic Center[edit]

Blue skies at Civic Center Plaza and City Hall

The Civic Center is on Van Ness Ave, north of its intersection with Market St. The city began developing the area in 1913, and most of the buildings there are of a "Classical Style", with their development being heavily influenced by the "City Beautiful Movement". Most of the city's integral governmental institutions are located here; like City Hall which dominates the Civic Center with its impressive "Beaux-Arts" style dome. There are two main plazas in the area; Civic Center Plaza and United Nations Plaza. The Civic Center Plaza (in front of City Hall) has been a popular place for holding rallies, protests, and festivals. As well as being a hub for city government, the area is also a serious cultural center. "Culture vultures" flock here at night to see performances of the San Francsico opera, symphony, and ballet, as well as to attend theater, galas, concerts, plays, and special events. During the day you can get your "culture fix" by visiting one of the many excellent museums and galleries such as the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum, and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. There are also several other smaller private galleries in the area.

Architecture aficionados will be happy to know that some of the most beautiful buildings in the city are cloistered within a few square blocks here. Examples include the War Memorial Opera House, the Asian Art Museum, the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, and the War Memorial Veterans building with the Herbst Theater (where the U.N. charter was signed in 1945). The Asian Arts museum is located in the refurbished Beaux Arts style former San Francisco Public Library. The move of the San Francisco Conservatory to van Ness Avenue near Market caused major refurbishing of other classical buildings. The building at the corner is a take-off of a Florentine palazzo. The 2013 San Francisco Public Utilities Commission building on Golden Gate and Polk is an example of low-energy use design; it can be toured. In 2013 SFJAZZ moved into a fine, modern venue on Franklin and Fell.

A popular farmers market is held three times weekly (Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday) in United Nations Plaza. Most activity is before noon.


Many guidebooks will tell you to avoid a large part of downtown — the Tenderloin. It's true that this "bad neighborhood" is rife with panhandlers, adult bookstores, and massage parlors, but it's also full of good, cheap ethnic restaurants and colorful dive bars. The 'Loin is probably the last area of downtown to experience real gentrification, a process that seems to be taking its time, but the early signs are already here. Culture vultures will find several cutting edge, alternative/experimental theaters and high-culture galleries, which are attracted by the neighborhoods low rents and proximity to downtown. Sleek lounges and trendy clubs are also increasingly making a home in this eclectic neighborhood, side by side with the traditional dive bars it has always been known for.

The name "Tenderloin" comes from the overall shape of the area's boundaries: triangular, like the cross-section of a tenderloin steak. According to a different explanation the area was originally called "The Tenderloin" by the police officers, since they were paid more to work there — the most notorious part of the town. There are many different ways to define its boundaries; the official and original three corners (making a Tenderloin shape) may be delineated by Market St and Larkin St to the south, Geary St and Larkin St to the northwest, and Market St by Geary St to the northeast. Today the area would be more better defined between Polk St, O'Farrel St, Mason St, Market St, and Golden Gate Ave.

Although it has a reputation as one of the tougher parts of town, in reality the Tenderloin is quite variegated and can change drastically from block to block. There are many different sub-neighborhoods within the 'Loin. Much of the area on the east side of Mason St (above O'Farrell St) is high-rent and more properly considered part of downtown Union Square. The western area around Hyde and Larkin Sts, from Turk St to O'Farrell St, is a colorful Vietnamese neighborhood known as "Little Saigon".

Geary St, Post St, and Sutter St, especially the blocks west of Jones St, are part of the so-called "Tendernob" or "Tenderloin Heights" bordering Nob Hill; sometimes this definition also includes southern Nob Hill as far north as California St or Sacramento St (especially the western blocks around Polk St). The Tendernob (at least on the 'Loin side) is considered a nightlife hotspot by some folks who like their drinking milieu a bit rough around the edges. It connects with Polk St on the western edge of the Tenderloin. Known variously as "Polk Gulch", "Polk Village", or the "Outer Tenderloin", this very lively area of Polk St, from Geary St to Union St, is populated with all types of restaurants, cafes, bars, venues, bookstores, and other shops. Finally, an area bordered by O'Farrell, Geary, Leavenworth, and Taylor Sts, is sometimes called the "Tandoor-loin" because of the high concentration of excellent and affordable Indian restaurants.

Dashiell Hammett's novel, "The Maltese Falcon," was set in the Tenderloin, and the 1941 movie adaptation for the Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, was also set in the Tenderloin.

Get in[edit]

Map of the Civic Center-Tenderloin

By car[edit]

Directions for driving to the Civic Center are marked on the freeways. Once inside the City limits, two main arteries serve the area — Van Ness Ave and Market St.

There are several garages, such as the Performing Arts Garage at Grove St and Gough St, an underground garage under the Civic Center Plaza (entrance on McAllister St), open from 6AM to Midnight, or 24-hour valet parking at Opera Plaza on Turk St just off Van Ness Ave. Where the freeway was prior to 1989 earthquake (between Grove St at Gough St and Turk St at Franklin St) there are several smaller open air lots, which will charge about $10 for all day or $6 for an evening. Those lots are gradually being displaced by new construction. Street parking in the Tenderloin is extremely difficult to find, but parking garages are plentiful.

By MUNI[edit]

The neighborhood is well-served by public transit, provided by MUNI [87] in the form of the Metro system, the F-Line streetcar and various bus lines. MUNI Metro lines J, K,L, M and N serve the Powell/Market and Civic Center/United Nations Plaza stations under Market St along with the BART line. The MUNI Metro also serves the Van Ness/Market station, which is part of the same subway tunnel but is not shared with BART.

The historic F streetcar line runs on Market St between Castro St and the Ferry Building (where it turns north on The Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf), passing by both the Civic Center and the Tenderloin.

From the Caltrain station the #47 bus takes you to along the western border of the area (Van Ness Ave) to City Hall. Other MUNI bus lines serving the area are: 49 Van Ness, 9 San Bruno, 31 Balboa, 5 Fulton, 19 Polk, 21 Hayes and 38 Geary.

Civic Center BART Station

By BART[edit]

BART [88] runs under Market St with two stops in the area; both the Powell/Market and Civic Center/United Nations Plaza. Both BART stations will put you well within walking distance of any Tenderloin attraction; the latter is the most convenient BART stop for the Civic Center.

By cable car[edit]

One or other of two cable car lines — either the Powell/Mason cable car line or the Powell/Hyde cable car line [89] — can take you from Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, Nob Hill, or Russian Hill to the intersection of Market St and Powell St in Union Square — near the Powell/Market BART and Muni station. From here it's just one block to the Tenderloin.

On foot[edit]

Given that the area is centrally located downtown, it is extremely accessible on foot. From the SoMa area walk northbound on anywhere from Fifth St to 11th St. Market St forms its broad southern boundary and makes the area easily accessible from either the east (Union Square-Financial District) or west (The Castro), and from the north (Nob Hill-Russian Hill) it's just a 10-20 minute walk directly due south.

Get around[edit]

As this is a relatively small area, the best way to get around is on foot. To help you navigate around there is a Visitor Information Center [90] located at 900 Market St on the lower level of Hallidie Plaza, next door to the cable car turntable at Powell and Market streets. The V.I.C. is open M-F 9AM-5PM; Sa, Su, and holidays 9AM-3PM, PST. Telephone inquiries may be made M-F from 8:30AM to 5PM PST, by calling +1 415 391-2000 or +1 415 392-0328.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Little Saigon (Sài Gòn Nh), (Larkin St between Eddy St and O'Farrell St). A tiny two block strip of Larkin St houses an active Vietnamese American community where the vast majority of shops and restaurants are Vietnamese owned and operated. Little Saigon functions as a both a Vietnamese commercial and cultural center, and there are some excellent restaurants and stores here.  edit

Museums and galleries[edit]

  • The Art Institute of California — San Francisco, 1170 Market St (at Civic Center Plaza), +1 415 865-0198 (, fax: +1 415 863-5831), [1]. Check their website for a schedule of exhibits. The institute holds public multimedia exhibitions in the fields of media arts, fashion, animation and design.  edit
Asian Art Museum
  • Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St (between McAllister St and Fulton St), +1 415 581-3500 (, fax: +1 415 581-4700), [2]. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM (with extended evening hours every Th until 9PM) Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Built in 1917, and formerly the old library building, this building is a fantastic blend of "Beaux Arts" and modern design elements. It was designed by renowned architect Gae Aulenti (architect of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris). Inside, you'll find many interesting architectural details including the grand staircase, loggia, vaulted ceilings, the great hall, stone floors, period light fixtures, and inscriptions. The museum is one of the largest and newest museums of Oriental art. It has circa 15,000 artifacts covering 6,000 years of Asian history. The Asian Art Museum hosts many special exhibits as well. First Sunday of every month: Free, Adults: $12, Seniors 65 and older with ID: $8, College students with ID and youths ages 13 through 17: $7, Children 12 and under and SFUSD students with ID: Free, Th evenings at a reduced rate ($5) after 5PM.  edit
  • John Pence Gallery, 750 Post St (between Jones St and Leavenworth St), +1 415 441-1138 (, fax: +1 415 441-1178), [3]. M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-5PM. This 8,000 square foot gallery exhibits art of the realism movement (particularly academic realism) as well as "Beat Generation" art works. Free.  edit
  • Luggage Store Gallery, 1007 Market St (at 6th St), +1 415 255-5971 (, fax: "="+1), [4]. W-Sa noon-5PM. They organize exhibitions, performing arts events, arts education, and public art programs in order to encourage and facilitate the flow of artistic ideas between the different cultural and socio-economic stratums in society. They also host exhibits at the Luggage Store Annex (a.k.a. 509 Cultural Center) at 509 Ellis Street (near Leavenworth St). Free.  edit
  • Museum of Performance & Design, War Memorial Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Ave, 4th Floor (at McAllister St), +1 415 255-4800 (), [5]. Library Hours: W-F 11AM-5PM, Sa 1PM-5PM; Exhibition Hours: Tu-Sa noon-5PM. The museum is dedicated to celebrating all aspects of the performing arts in San Francisco, from the mid 19th century to the present day. It hosts exhibitions and lectures by leading artists to encourage an appreciation of the diversity of the performing arts. Free.  edit
  • San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, War Memorial Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Ave (at McAllister St), +1 415 554-6080 (, fax: +1 415 554-6093), [6]. The Gallery at 401 Van Ness: W-Sa noon-5PM, The Window Site at 155 Grove St: 24 hours daily, Art at City Hall: M-F 8AM-8PM. The San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery supports a diverse range of Bay Area "Visual Art" culture by supporting artists projects through collaboration with community organizations, commissioning contemporary art, and curated exhibitions. They also have window installations at 155 Grove St and another in City Hall. Free.  edit

Parks and monuments[edit]

  • Civic Center Plaza, (between Polk St and McAllister St). This grassy plaza is situated at the heart of the Civic Center and its tree-lined central avenue visually draws the eye to the imposing structure of City Hall. Protests and demonstrations of all political persuasions are frequently staged here. There is a parking lot underneath the plaza.  edit
  • James Lick (Pioneer) Monument, (behind the Mail Library branch - near the Asian Art Museum). The monument is a tribute to California and its early pioneers like Sir Francis Drake. Atop sits a bear and a man carrying both spear and shied — all three objects are imagery that represent California.  edit
  • Large Four Piece Reclining Figure, 201 Van Ness Ave. This bronze sculpture was created by English artist Henry Moore in 1973. It poses happily outside Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall.  edit
  • Sgt. John Macaulay Park, (Larkin St and O'Farrell St). Named in honor of a police sergeant who died on duty, this vibrantly colored park and playground only allows adults in if they are accompanied by kids. It has become a bit of an urban oasis set amidst the grittiness of the Tenderloin.  edit
  • United Nations Plaza, (at Market St and Hyde St). The UN Charter was signed in the Civic Center in 1945, and this plaza was constructed in honor of its ideology and is ironically over the site of the original San Francisco City Cemetery. Designed by architect Lawrence Halprin, and completed in 1975, this is a three acre red-bricked pedestrian plaza. Brick columns inscribed with UN members country names line the plaza, and the UN Fountain sits at its center. Intended to be a visual gateway to the Civic Center, it is often habituated by the city's homeless, but has a compact and diverse Farmers' Market [7] on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.  edit


The Civic Center with its "classical" architecture was declared a national landmark in 1978. It has several buildings that are of architectural interest including the Asian Art Museum, listed under Museums and galleries above, as well as the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the buildings that comprise the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center (SFWMPAC), the Orpheum Theater, Golden Gate Theater, the Curran Theater, and the interior of the Great American Music Hall, which are all listed under Performing arts below. Other architectural points of interest include:

  • Alcazar Theater, 650 Geary St (between Jones St and Leavenworth St), +1 415 441-4042 (fax: +1 415 441-9567). M-Sa 9:30AM-5PM. Built in 1911 in honor of the Shriners (Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, a social fraternity); this Byzantine-style and Islamic-style building, is now a 500 seat theater showing Broadway and off-Broadway shows as well as a historical city landmark. The architect was T Patterson Ross. Free.  edit
City Hall's "Beaux-Arts" Dome
  • City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place (between Van Ness Ave, McAllister St, Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, and Grove St), +1 415 554-4933 (, fax: +1 415 554-4936), [8]. Brochures are available for visitors to take a self-guided tour: M-F 8AM-8PM Docent led tours: M–F 10AM, noon, 2PM. Designed by Arthur Brown Jr., and opened in 1915, the architecture of the building was heavily influenced by the "City Beautiful Movement," which in turn reflected the American Renaissance style of the time. Its "Beaux-Arts" dome (the fifth largest in the world) was modeled after that of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy. The building itself is huge, 393 feet long, by 273 feet wide, and 307 feet high — occupying a full two blocks of San Francisco's downtown real estate. It is considered by many admirers to be the most impressive building in the city. Inside, it features a large rotunda with a grandiose staircase leading up to the second floor. The walls are adorned with oak paneling and the ceilings with crystal chandeliers. City Hall is the site of much history — In 1954 Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe wed here. In 1978, Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated here. Tours: Self guided and docent led tours are free unless you're a private group of eight or more persons.  edit
  • Federal Office Building, 50 United Nations Plaza (just north of Market St, between Hyde St and Leavenworth St). Architect Arthur Brown Jr., who also designed City Hall and several other Civic Center landmarks, designed this building. It was completed in 1936, making it the last building to be completed in the seven-building complex of the Civic Center. It is an interesting six story, D-shaped, "Beaux Arts" building. It also has a 24,000 square-foot interior courtyard and many of its features such as the lobby and main stairway are subject to historical preservation laws. Unfortunately, the building is currently closed and can only be appreciated from the outside. Free.  edit
  • San Francisco Public Library - Main Library, 100 Larkin St (at Grove St), +1 415 557-4400 (), [9]. Su noon-5PM, M 10AM-6PM T-Th 9AM-8PM, F noon-6PM, Sa 10AM-6PM; Tour Hours: Offered on the first Tuesday of every month at noon. Completed in 1995 at a cost of $109 million, the main library branch is over 375,000 square feet of modern architecture. It has seven floors, over 2,000 seats, and an impressive foyer that has a five story high atrium. At the top of the atrium is a bright sky-light and a roof terrace. Internet: Free Tours: Free.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour, 100 Larkin St (n.w. corner of the new main library), +1 510 287-9540 (), [10]. May and Oct: Su noon-4PM. If you're a fan of mystery books, film, or would just like to recapture what San Francisco was like in the 1920s and 1930s; then you'll love this tour. It takes you round all the places where Hammett wrote his famous books. It also visits the exact locales where his famous characters like Continental Op and Sam Spade got into their storied adventures. The tour is about 4 hours long. $10.  edit
  • Glide Memorial Church, 330 Ellis St (between Taylor St and Jones St), +1 415 674-6000 (), [11]. M 7AM-2:30AM, Tu,Th 7AM-11:45PM, W,F 7AM-11PM, Sa-Su 7AM-1:30PM. Famous for its gospel music, as well as for its inner-city missions, the church is a pillar of this community and plays a vital role in Tenderloin day-to-day life; anyone truly trying to understand the area should visit here. Sunday services are a major musical event attracting crowds, and yes, even long lines to get in! Free.  edit
  • Heart of the City Farmer’s Market, United Nations Plaza (just north of Market St, between Hyde St and Leavenworth St), +1 415 558-9455, [12]. Su 7AM-5PM, W 7AM-5:30PM, Fr 7 AM-2:30 PM. The farmer's market held Sundays and Wednesdays offers a less expensive alternative to the yuppie Ferry Building Farmer's Market, though it helps if you're seeking the ingredients for Asian food. On other days, there are often tents with vendors selling jewelry, scarves, clothing, snacks, house wares, and who-knows-what. The fun is in the surprises. Free.  edit
  • St. Boniface, 133 Golden Gate Ave (just off Jones St), +1 415 863-7515 (, fax: +1 415 863-7602), [13]. The Catholic church features its original elaborately decorated interior from 1900, so why not come in and say a prayer! A Franciscan parish, it is also known for allowing the homeless to sleep in the pews on weekdays. Free.  edit
  • San Francisco City Guides, Main Library, 100 Larkin St (at Market St), +1 415 557-4266 (), [14]. Tours are offered year round, times and dates vary by tour - see website for schedule. They offer walking tours of the Civic Center, the Tenderloin, the main library, and City Hall, free of charge. The tours highlight the history, architecture, culture, events, and folklore of the area. Free.  edit

Performing arts[edit]

Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall — take it away, maestro!

The Civic Center is the center of opera, ballet, symphony, and theater in the city. Even if one hasn't bought a ticket in advance, there are often returned tickets available at the box offices before a performance. Make a night of it when you are here; take a walk around the Civic Center, enjoy the architecture, sit for dinner, or just have a cappuccino in one of the cafes before the overture.

  • The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove St (between Dr. Carlton B Goodlett Pl and Larkin St), +1 415 974-4060 (fax: +1 415 974-4073), [15]. The auditorium is not open to visitors or for tours, but only during event times which vary. This four-story tall, "Beaux-Arts" style building occupies an entire city block in the heart of the Civic Center and has 7,000 seats inside. Large and small bands, exhibits, concerts, and galas are all hosted at the Civic Auditorium. Check Ticketmaster to see what's playing [16]. Price varies depending on act.  edit
  • EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy St (between Mason St and Taylor St), +1 415 673-3847 (, fax: +1 415 931 2699), [17]. See website for exact hours. EXIT Theatre is a no-frills experimental/alternative theater in the Tenderloin. There are two performance spaces inside: Exit Theatre and Exit Stage Left; they have another theater "EXIT on Taylor" which is located at 277 Taylor St. They host productions like "Waiting for FEMA" and "Babylon Heights" by Irvine Welsh. They also host the Fringe Festival (listed under Events and festivals below), which is the largest grass roots theater festival in the San Francisco Bay Area. $6-$9.  edit
  • Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell St (between Larkin St and Polk St), +1 415 885-0750 (, fax: +1 415 885-5075), [18]. Shows: Hours Vary Box Office: M-F 10:30AM-6PM, Show Nights 10:30AM-9PM, Closed Sa-Su (except during shows - opens 1 hour before show time). Reputed to be the city's oldest nightclub, this ornate 600 capacity music venue presents hip music acts, some well-known among the cognoscenti, some so cutting edge that there's blood on the pavement. In the 1930s, this was fan-dancer Sally Rand's "Music Box." The interior, which was designed by a French architect, is known for its ornate balconies and columns. Ticket prices vary by act but typically run from $10-$30.  edit
  • The New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave (half a block from Market St and the Van Ness MUNI station), +1 415 861-8972 (), [19]. Box Office Hours: W-Sa 1:30PM-7PM, Su-Tu noon-3PM Show Times: Performances are typically W-Sa 8PM, Su 2PM, year round. The three small New Conservatory theaters present novel, musical, comic, and educational plays. Tickets generally cost $18-$40.  edit
  • Phoenix Theater, 414 Mason St, Suite 601 (at Geary St), +1 415 861-8972 (, fax: +1 415 664-5001), [20]. See website for performance dates/times. The Phoenix is a small theater that showcases the work of local and international playwrights. About $25.  edit

  • San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, 401 Van Ness Ave, Room 110 (between Grove St and McAllister St), +1 415 621-6600 (, fax: +1 415 621-5091), [21]. Tour hours: M 10AM-2PM — on the hour. This 7.5 acre complex comprises the War Memorial Opera House, Memorial Court, the War Memorial Veterans Building (including Herbst Theatre and the Green Room, which is a classically styled reception hall), the Harold L. Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall, and Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. The opera house and the veterans buildings (which are for the most part identical), along with the court, were intended to be appreciated in unison, and to compliment the surrounding architecture of the Civic Center. Their "Beaux-Arts" structures employ the Roman Doric Order and were designed by architect Arthur Brown, Jr. Both buildings were completed in 1932. Guided tours of the buildings are available. Free.  edit
  • Herbst Theater, War Memorial Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Ave (at McAllister St), +1 415 392-4400 (, fax: +1 415 986-0411), [22]. Box office: Opens 1.5 hours prior to performance. Herbst Theater, next to the Opera house in the similarly-styled War Memorial Veteran's building is host to a wide variety of activities. One can find plays, readings by well-known authors, chamber music, jazz performances, etc throughout the year. The monthly Friday evening talks of the Long-now Foundation [23], projecting the far future, are presented here or in the Fort Mason Center. Inside the theater it has impressive foyer, chandeliers, beaux-arts murals (symbolism for the different aspects of mankind), and over 900 seats. The UN Charter was signed here in 1945. Adult: $18-$81 Child: $10.  edit
  • San Francisco Ballet, War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave (at Grove St), +1 415 861-5600 (, fax: +1 415 865-0740), [24]. Box Office: M-F 10AM-4PM (10AM until start of performance on performance dates Performances: T-Su usually 8PM or 7:30PM with Sa-Su matinee 2PM. The repertory season begins in January and continues through May. $18-$250.  edit
War Memorial Opera House
  • San Francisco Opera, War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave (at Grove St), +1 415 864-3330 (fax: +1 415 626-1729), [25]. Box Office: M 10AM-5PM, Tu-F 10AM-6PM Performances: Tu-F usually 7:30PM or 8PM, Sa 12:30PM or 8PM, Su 1PM, 2PM, or 3PM. See website for exact schedule. There are Fall, Spring, and Summer seasons. The summer season focuses on lighter and popular operas. Performances are in the War Memorial Opera House on Van Ness Ave which has over 3,000 seats. The interior has a grandiose entrance hall with marble floors and a 38 foot high barrel vaulted ceiling. Two wide marble stairways at either end of the foyer, take you up to the main floor. The proscenium arch inside the theater is ornately decorated with gilded sculptures. In December and late spring the Opera House is used by the San Francisco Ballet. $15-$290.  edit
  • San Francisco Symphony, Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave (at Grove St and Van Ness Ave), +1 415 864-6000 (, fax: +1 415 554-0108), [26]. Box Office: M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa noon-6PM Performances: W-Su usually 8PM or 8:30PM with Sa-Su matinee 2PM, See website for exact schedule. San Francisco has an excellent symphony orchestra, with Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) as the principal conductor. The Season goes from September to April, with a break in the middle of December and January. When the San Francisco Symphony is on tour, other orchestras visit to fill the void. In July there is a "Summer in the City" program of light music; August is quiet. Opened in 1980, the building's sweeping wraparound architecture was elegantly designed to compliment the other buildings in the War Memorial complex. Inside, the building was designed to maximize acoustical tones with the exterior glass wall being used as a backdrop to capture sound. To further enhance and refine the sound it has adjustable acrylic acoustical panels around the stage area. There are circa 2,700 seats inside. $10-$50.  edit

  • SHN, 1192 Market St (at McAllister St), +1 415 551-2000 (recorded information) or +1 415 551-2075 (, fax: +1 415 431-5052), [27]. Show times: vary Box office hours: vary, See website for details. SHN runs three theaters in the area that focus on the usual Broadway classics like A Chorus Line, Grease, and of course The Phantom of the Opera. $25-$99.  edit
The historic Orpheum Theater
  • Curran Theater, 445 Geary St (between Taylor St and Mason St), [28]. Built in 1922, this theater was designed by architect Alfred Henry Jacobs. It has a very ornate and well-maintained interior featuring chandeliers and an intricately hand-painted ceilings.  edit
  • Golden Gate Theater, 1 Taylor St (at Golden Gate Ave), [29]. Built in 1920 and influenced by the "Art Deco" and "Gothic Revival" styles, this theater has over 2,800 seats. It was designed by architect Gustave Albert Lansburgh.  edit
  • The Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market St (at McAllister St), [30]. Over 80 years old, this official historical landmark theater received a another facelift in 1998; it now has over 2,400 seats. The theater has hosted everything from silent films to Broadway theater, and special shows such as "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." It is modeled in the style of a 12th century Spanish Cathedral, being heavily influenced by both "Spanish Moorish" and "Spanish Baroque" architecture. It has ornate architectural detailing inside and was designed by architect Benjamin Marcus Priteca.  edit
  • Warfield Theater, 982 Market St (between Mason St and Taylor St), +1 415 567-2060. Hours vary but shows usually start at 8PM. This historic theater on Market St has a balcony and approximately 2,700 seats. Built in the 1920s, it was renovated in 1969 and today it is as popular as ever hosting some major acts like Velvet Revolver and Bill Maher. Prices vary depending on act.  edit

Events and festivals[edit]

  • Black and White Ball, Civic Center Plaza, +1 415 864-6000, [31]. Takes place once every two years in May. If you have the budget, why not "hob-nob" at San Francisco's classiest party? Taking up four entire blocks of the Civic Center, this ball attracts a well-heeled crowd, as well as those who who are just splurging. The ball began in 1956 and features several high profile bands (the Grateful Dead played here in 1969), and includes a performance by the San Francisco Symphony orchestra. $200 gets you in the door, feeds you, and lets you enjoy the music, dancing, and entertainment. If you want to formally dine at the Patrons Dinner, you'll have to shell out a lot more. $200-$3,000.  edit

  • Fringe Festival, 156 Eddy St (between Taylor St and Mason St), (), [32]. 12 Days, beginning the Wednesday after Labor Day. See website for exact performance hours. This bohemian 10 day festival is all about theatrical experimentation and having fun... even if you don't know what you're doing exactly. Chaos rules here; even the list of performers are selected randomly at the last minute and participants are effectively given "carte blanche" to be as artistically free as possible. This leads to a lot of wackiness and of course a healthy dose of good old nudity! It takes place in several theaters but it is run by the EXIT Theater in the Tenderloin. $7-$8 per performance, Frequent Fringer Pass (all 10 Days): $55.  edit
  • San Francisco Pride Festival, (All streets between Van Ness Ave, Market St, Golden Gate Ave, and Hayes St), +1 415 864-3733 (, fax: +1 415 864-5889), [33]. Final full weekend in June: Sa noon-6PM, Su noon-7PM. Known as "San Francisco Pride" for short, it's one of the largest gay pride festivals in North America, a huge, happy, chaotic celebration of diversity, politics, sexuality, and San Francisco wackiness. The two day festival grew up around the parade (below) which takes place on Sunday. Some seven city blocks between City Hall and Market St are closed to vehicles, and about a dozen stages and spaces offer everything from square dancing to hip-hop, from a family garden to Leather Alley. Hundreds of businesses, community groups, non-profits, and political groups attempt to connect with hundreds of thousands of celebrants. It's a movement, it's a market, and it’s a party. Car and bus traffic is interrupted during the celebration, and parking is even worse than usual; take BART or Muni trains (which run underground, and put on extra cars to carry the load) instead. Both parade and celebration are for everyone — straight as well as gay are welcome. Free (donations encouraged).  edit
  • San Francisco Pride Parade, (Along Market St from Beale St to 8th St), +1 415 864-3733 (, fax: +1 415 864-5889), [34]. Final full weekend in June: Su only 10AM-2PM (approx). San Francisco's annual "Gay Pride Parade" long ago grew into a two-day "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Celebration" (see above). The parade itself, which takes place on the Sunday, features over a hundred contingents, and takes over four hours from start to finish. Hundreds of thousands of people line the parade route to watch. If you want a good spot, arrive two hours before the 10AM start, and set up closer to Beale St than the Civic Center. Be careful about climbing on bus shelters, scaffolding, or light poles to get a better view: people do fall and injure themselves. The only thing better than watching the parade is marching in it. If you can make contact in advance, you likely can find some contingent with affinity which will welcome you. Free.  edit

  • Tet Festival, Larkin St and Ellis St, +1 415 351-1038 (, fax: +1 415 351-1039), [35]. Mid-January to mid-February 9:30AM–6PM. Celebrate New Year's Vietnamese style at this festival. It attracts almost 30,000 each year to the area. It's mostly Vietnamese-Americans in attendance, but everyone is welcome and it's a great opportunity to sample some of the delicious Vietnamese dishes that they have in the Tenderloin, and of course to throw around some "lucky-money." Free.  edit
  • LovEvolution, Civic Center Plaza, [36]. San Francisco LovEvolution (formerly San Francisco LoveFest) is a technoparade and festival that occurs annually in San Francisco in late September and early October. The parade includes 28 floats and starts at San Francisco's 2nd and Market Streets. The parade continues all the way to San Francisco Civic Center Plaza for a giant outdoor dance club with famous DJs. The 2008 parade drew over 120,000 people. San Francisco's LovEvolution is also followed by an official after-party known as LovEvolution After Party. $10.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

There are very few chain stores here and limited shopping opportunities. This has probably got more to do with socio-economic reasons than anything else. If you are looking for your more recognizable stores try its glamorous neighbor Union Square, and on the other side of Market St in the SoMa neighborhood, you'll find plenty of large shopping malls. What this area does have however, is a varied collection of smaller esoteric stores.

  • Karma Culture, 682 Geary St (between Jones St and Leavenworth St), +1 415 674-9600. A small family owned Thai store that focuses on women’s apparel, gifts and varied knickknacks. Reasonable prices and accommodating staff — sometimes you get to pick a free gift on the way out, like a small purse, incense or candles.  edit
  • Kayo Books, 814 Post St (at Leavenworth St), +1 415 749-0554 (), [37]. Th-Sa 11AM-6PM. "Specializing in vintage collectible paperbacks from the 1940s to 1970s and esoteric books of all persuasions... " They have a large stock of rare and out of print books, many of which are of the lurid and sleazy persuasion.  edit
  • Napa Valley Winery Exchange, 415 Taylor St (between Geary St and O'Farrell St), +1 415 771-2887 (, fax: +1 415 441-9463), [38]. M-Sa 10AM-7PM, Su 10AM-5PM. Well known wine store featuring hard to get and small production wines.  edit
  • San Francisco Art Exchange, 458 Geary St (between Taylor and Mason St), +1 415 441-8840 (, fax: +1 415 673-3697), [39]. Su-W 10AM-6PM, Th-Sa 10AM-8PM. This is a gallery for those interested in rock paintings and photographs, and they also sport a large Beatles collection and paintings by Ronnie Wood and Alberto Vargas. A must for music enthusiasts, if you have the budget. Prices are high, with most pieces over $1,000 dollars.  edit
  • Shooting Gallery, 839 Larkin St (between Geary St and Myrtle St), +1 415 931-8035, [40]. Tu-Sa noon-7PM. An accessible and real art gallery. On it white-washed walls it features its latest raw art — "Low Brow" (school/gutter-punk art) and also erotic art.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget $10 or less
Mid-range $10 - 20
Splurge $20 or more

Given the grittiness of the area, much of the food is very affordable. Vietnamese, Thai, and Indian restaurants are well represented in the Tenderloin. One of the best options for a cheap lunch is picking up a "Vietnamese sandwich" from any of a number of corner delis in the area (they're packed especially thick along Larkin St). For about $2.50 you can expect to get a generous helping of your choice of meat and shredded vegetables sandwiched into a quarter of a baguette and dressed with a thin, tangy sweet and sour sauce. Be sure to bring cash, as these places don't take any credit cards. There is actually a decent selection of restaurants in the area, but if you are not satisfied, there are many other excellent eateries just west of the Civic Center, around Hayes St, and northeast of the Tenderloin around Chinatown and North Beach. Generally speaking, for mid-range to high-end restaurants in the area seating is easier around 8PM, when opera and symphony patrons depart.


Vietnamese "Beef stew" — Delish!
  • Ananda Fuara, 1298 Market St (at Larkin St), +1 415 621-1994 (fax: +1 415 934-1923), [41]. M-Tu, Th-Sa 8AM-8PM, W 8AM-3PM. This vegetarian restaurant is a little different as it's run by an Indian religious order called 'Sri Chinmoy'. Ananda Fuara means the "Fountain of Delight" and their food is intended to harmonize you both inside and out. $6-$11.  edit
  • Bang San, 791 O'Farrell St, (415) 928-2772 (, fax: +1 415 440-2610), [42]. M-W and Su 11AM-11PM, Th-Sa 11AM-2AM. This tiny hole-in-the-wall serves up some of the best darn Thai food this side of the Mekong River. They have 12 categories of dishes from which to choose. Sit down, order, and watch as delicious food is cooked before your eyes. $5-$8.  edit
  • Chutney, 511 Jones St (at O'Farrell St), +1 415 931-5541, [43]. noon-midnight daily. Affordable and excellent selection of authentic Indian food. Speedy service and filling portions, and free Chai tea for all customers. A recent addition and a neighborhood favorite. $5-$8.  edit
  • Golden Era Vegetarian Restaurant, 572 O'Farrell St (between Jones St and Leavenworth St), +1 415 673-3136 (fax: +1 415 351-1682), [44]. W-M 11AM-9PM. This pleasant, quiet restaurant specializes in the sort of seitan-based, faux-meat concoctions that will make a hardcore carnivore happy, and may make a lifelong vegetarian feel a bit squeamish. Nonetheless, the vegetarian "lamb" clay pot is something to try. Everything can be served vegan upon request. $5.50-$9.25.  edit
  • Moulin Rouge Breakfast Cafe, 887 Geary St (Larkin St), +1 415 928-0158. M-Sa 7AM-2PM, Su 7:30AM-2PM. If you can't stomach the line (or the hipster clientele) at Dottie's, the Moulin Rouge Breakfast Cafe around the corner on Geary offers solid grub at much cheaper prices. The elderly couple who run the place are always friendly and never hurry you, and the shabby faux-French decor is weirdly charming despite liberal amounts of duct tape holding the place together. $3-$7.  edit
  • Olympic Flame Cafe, 555 Geary St (between Taylor St and Jones St), +1 415 885-0984. 6AM-4PM daily. Spacious, affordable and home-cooked breakfast joint. Excellent omelettes. This is a viable alternative of Dottie's True Blue Cafe which almost always seems to have a line. $4.50-$8.50.  edit
  • Pakwan, 501 O'Farrell St (at Jones St), +1 415 255-2440, [45]. 11AM-11PM daily. Pakistani food featuring curries, tandoori fish, and piping hot naan. Unlike some of the local eateries in the "tandoor-loin," the seating is clean, comfortable, and fairly new (possibly the results of some other restaurant's going-out-of-business sale). The restaurant tends to be comparatively quiet, as well as offering an excellent view of police actions on Jones St. $6-$10.  edit
  • Shalimar, 532 Jones St (between O'Farrell St and Geary St), +1 415 928-0333 (), [46]. noon-midnight daily. Northern Indian/Pakistani food, they have a tandoor (clay oven) which means excellent naan (flat breads) and murgh boti (barbecue chicken). The curries and rice pilaf are also worth checking out for their unique combination of spices. $3-$10.  edit
  • Tommy's Joynt, 1101 Geary St (at Van Ness Ave), +1 415 775-4216 (, fax: +1 415 775-3322), [47]. Restaurant: 11AM-1:45AM, Bar: 10AM-1:45AM. Open since 1947, Tommy's is a classic San Francisco eatery and bar. You can't miss this place — on both the inside and out it's colorful and quirkily decorated. They serve wholesome, filling food like "hand-carved" sandwiches, stews, and mash potatoes. $4-$10.  edit
  • Turtle Tower Restaurant, 645 Larkin St (645 Larkin St), +1 415 409-3333, [48]. M-Su 8AM-5PM. Named after the small tower that serves as the focal point of Hanoi, Vietnam, this restaurant is a rare Vietnamese place that serves Northern/Hanoi cuisine. Amazing authentic pho with clear color broth but deep savory taste. Chicken and beef phos use distinct broths. $6-$9.  edit


  • Bodega Bistro, 607 Larkin St (at Eddy St), +1 415 921-1218 (fax: +1 415 921-1216), [49]. Lunch: 11AM-3PM daily, Dinner: Su-W 5PM-9:30PM daily, Th-Sa 5PM-10PM daily. In Vietnamese Bo-de-ga in Vietnamese means beef-lamb-chicken — all popular Vietnamese dishes. The menu also draws equal inspiration from French cuisine making this an unusual dining experience. $8-$23.  edit
  • Kim Thanh, 607 Geary St (at Jones St), +1 415 928-6627 (fax: +1 415 928-7821). M-F 11AM-11PM, Sa-Su 5PM-11PM. Check out the aquariums in the window if you want to know what's for dinner. If you've never seen a geoduck, you will not soon forget it. $7-$12.  edit
  • Kyoto Sushi, 1233 Van Ness Ave (at Post St), +1 415 351-1234, [50]. M-Th 11AM-10:30PM, F 11AM-11PM, Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 4:30PM-10:30PM. With the multitude of sushi places it is hard to say which is best, but this one rates at the top for taste, freshness, and authenticity. $11-$23.  edit


  • First Crush Restaurant Wine Bar and Lounge, 101 Cyril Magnin St (at Ellis St), +1 415 982-7874 (, fax: +1 415 982-7800), [51]. Su-W 5PM-10:45PM, Th-Sa 5PM-11:30PM. If you like romantic restaurants and have also fallen in love with California, this is the place for you. Popular with couples, this restaurant serves up modern Californian and American cuisine and they've got a HUGE selection of Cal wines to wash it down with. $20-$30.  edit
  • Jardinière, 300 Grove St (at Grove St and Franklin St), +1 415 861-5555 (, fax: +1 415 861-5580), [52]. Dinner: Su-W 5PM-10:30PM, Th-Sa 5PM-11:30PM, hours are extended to accommodate neighborhood performances. French food in American style, quite pricey, great decor, appetizers, deserts, mixed reviews on entrees. They have both an "a la carte" and a "prix-fixe" menu. $50-$150.  edit
  • Market Street Grill, 1231 Market St (between 8th St and 9th St), +1 415 487-4414 (, fax: +1 415 861-1460), [53]. Breakfast: 6:30AM-11AM daily, Lunch: 11AM-2PM daily, Dinner: 5PM-10PM daily. Serves up Asian and Italian inspired dishes using fresh American ingredients in an ornately decorated dining room. They also have live piano playing most nights of the week. $18-$40.  edit
  • Max's Opera Cafe, 601 Van Ness Ave (Golden Gate Ave - in Opera Plaza), +1 415 771-7300 (, fax: +1 415 474-9780), [54]. Su-Tu 11:30AM-10PM, W-Th 11:30AM-11PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11:30PM. The California version of a New York deli. Dinner $15-$25.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Tenderloin nightlife

These days the Tenderloin is on the "up-and-up," and with this urban gentrification has come a surprisingly eclectic and artistic nightlife scene. It now has a decent selection of trendy lounges and hip clubs, as well the musical venues (many of which are listed under Performing arts above), strip-clubs, and "dive bars" that were the more traditional staples of the area. In fact, many of the modern "faux-dive" and "dive bars" used to be illegal speakeasies during the prohibition era of the 1920s. Given the areas long and storied association with the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community (the "Polk Gulch" was the city's first openly Gay neighborhood, before the emergence of the Castro in the 1970s), many of the bars, clubs, and entertainment are geared toward this crowd, although typically everyone is welcome.


  • Blur, 1121 Polk St (at Hemlock St), +1 415 567-1918 (), [55]. 4PM-2PM daily. Upscale, lush, candlelit bar in the Polk Gulch. It's dark and romantic and they have a good selection of cocktails... try the strawberry margarita. They also have free pizza on Monday nights.  edit
  • Bourbon and Branch, 501 Jones St (O'Farrell St), +1 415 673-1921, [56]. M-Sa 6PM-2AM. This hard to find cocktail/spirit themed bar is a throwback to the prohibition days of the 1920s — this address used to be an thriving illegal "speakeasy" known as the "JJ Russell's Cigar Shop." Inside it's ornately decorated with dark woods giving the place a real cozy feel. It being a prohibition themed bar, they also have some strange house rules posted on the walls like "no photography" and "Please speak easy" They have an exhaustive selection of spirits and cocktails.  edit
  • Edinburgh Castle, 950 Geary St (at Larkin St), +1 415 885-4074, [57]. 5PM-2AM daily. Expatriates from the British Isles are often to be found at this Scottish pub, which on Thursdays through Saturdays becomes a hipster mecca. The interior is warm and shadowy, a comfortable place of dark wood and golden lantern light, and the beer selection is good; you can get pints of Belhaven or Newcastle as well as the ubiquitous Guinness, and it's all available by the pitcher. The Edinburgh Castle also has a relationship with a local fish and chips fryer, so you can order from their menu and have it delivered to you at the pub. The jukebox is well stocked with punk rock, Irish folk/rock, and American roots music, and live bands also play regularly (which can unfortunately make it impossible to carry on a conversation). A trivia contest is held on Tuesday nights. And on Burns Night (January 25th), the Edinburgh Castle is the place to be, with ribald poetry readings, music, and a public haggis.  edit
  • The Gangway, 841 Larkin St (at Geary Boulevard), +1 415 776-6828. 6AM-2PM daily. This nautically-themed dive bar is home to a group of chatty regulars, mostly gay middle-aged men, who are friendly to newcomers of any age, gender, or sexual orientation. Many of them have lived in San Francisco for decades, and they have great stories. $2.50 domestic beer, $3.50 well drinks.  edit
  • Hanaro, 939 Geary St (at Larkin St), +1 415 928-4066. noon-2AM daily. Just across from the Edinburgh Castle is a shadowy hole-in-the-wall festooned with Korean lettering: Hanaro. Though the bar is wallpapered with "No Smoking" signs (as California law demands), you need only loiter outside the bar for a few minutes with a cigarette before you are beckoned inside and offered an ashtray. In fact, Hanaro's great charm is it that it's accommodating in every respect; stay for a bit and you will be offered various bar snacks, and there is usually a hostess on hand whose only job is to chat with the patrons. This is done, however, with taste and tact; if you wish to drink in silence, you won't be disturbed. The jukebox is stocked with Asian pop singles.  edit
  • Ha-Ra Club, 875 Geary St (at Larkin St), +1 415 673-3148 (fax: +1 415 564-0149). 9:30AM-2AM daily. Standard but friendly dive-bar in the Tenderloin that serves cheap drinks. It was co-founded by pro-wrestler Hank Hanastead and boxer Ralph Figari. Great place if you're into the 'Loin's no nonsense dive bars.  edit
  • Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk St (at Sutter St), +1 415 923-0923 (), [58]. 4PM-2AM daily. Situated in the area known as the "Polk Gulch," this ever entertaining little rocker bar has a music room in the back where rock-and-roll bands play. It's nicely decorated wooden interior makes it feel cozy and inviting and they also have a heated smoking lounge. Bar: Free, Music Room: Cover charge varies.  edit
  • The Nite Cap, 699 O'Farrell St (between Ada Ct and Hyde St), +1 415 931-9508. M-F 10:30AM-2:00AM, Sa-Su 6AM-2AM. If you are looking for an authentic Tenderloin dive bar experience with cheap drinks, questionable drinking partners, scarey looking bar snacks, in a "no-frills" environment — bingo, the Nite Cap is your thing!  edit
  • The Owl Tree, 601 Post St (between Taylor St and Trader Vic Aly), +1 415 776-9344, [59]. 5PM-2AM daily. A small, quiet upscale bar that's great for conversation and relaxation after a long day of wandering around San Francisco. What used to be a dive bar with walls adorned with tacky owl memorabilia, is now another upscale watering hole in the 'Loin, where cocktails have replaced draft beers as the drink of preference. There's still a mosaic owl on the outside though.  edit
  • R Bar, 1176 Sutter St (at Polk St), +1 415 567-7441. M-F 6PM-2AM, Sa 11AM-2AM, Su 10AM-2AM. A rumbly, simple dive-esque bar in the upper Tenderloin neighborhood. Popular with the bar crawl crowds that make their way around the corner from Polk Street.  edit
  • Tradition, 441 Jones Street, [60]. A dive bar (originally the 441) which was bought and renovated by the same people who own Bourbon & Branch. Featuring house made alcohols and unique mixes, while not cheap, it's a unique experience in a classy wood paneled environment.  edit
  • Vertigo Bar, 1160 Polk St (at Sutter St), +1 415 674-1278. Tu-F 5PM-2AM, Sa 7PM-2AM. Fun and trendy bar in the Polk Gulch. It's exotically decorated and attracts mostly partying twenty-somethings looking to get inebriated on strange cocktails. They have DJs, dancing, a smoking patio, and are known for their lengthy happy hour which runs until 9PM.  edit

Entertainment and clubs[edit]

  • Aunt Charlie's Lounge, 133 Turk St (between Jones St and Taylor St), +1 415 441-2922 (), [61]. M-F noon-2AM, Sa 10AM-2AM, Su and Holidays 10AM-midnight. If you haven't already guessed from the name, "Aunt Charlie’s" is a transvestite dive bar. It hosts a wide variety of entertainment shows and drag shows that are popular with gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and indeed straight patrons. Cheap, stiff drinks accompanied by endearing, harmless, and vocal co-drinkers, provides for fantastic people-watching.  edit
  • Divas, 1081 Post St (at Polk St), +1 415 474-3482 (), [62]. 6AM-2AM daily. This colorful transexual nightclub/bar has three floors of bars, drag shows, and erotic dancing. It attracts a lot of transgender people and that is what the shows predominantly showcase, but everyone is welcome. It advertises itself as "the premiere transgender nightclub on the West Coast."  edit
  • Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theater, 895 O'Farrell St (at Polk St), +1 415 776-6686, [63]. M-Sa 11:30AM-1:30AM, Su 5:30PM-1:30AM. Tourists have flocked here for live, nude girls and dirty movies since 1971, when porn star Marilyn Chambers followed her performance in a Mitchell Brothers' film by becoming an Ivory Snow model. The venue is large, clean, and the biggest rip-off in adult entertainment this side of Paris. If possible, avoid this over-priced, over-hyped tourist trap for the Crazy Horse on Market (next to the Warfield) or any of the clubs on Broadway in North Beach. $20 before 6PM, $40 after 6PM, girls demand large tips for anything more.  edit
  • Ruby Skye, 420 Mason St (between Geary St and Post St), +1 415 693-0777 (fax: +1 415 693-0373), [64]. Th-Sa 7PM-4AM. Ruby Skye is one of the premiere clubs in the area and has become a "place to be seen." Some of the top DJs in the world have played here including Paul van Dyk, Pete Tong, and Sasha. It's 15,000 square feet of Hip-Hop, House, and Techno over multiple floors; one of the floors at the top has a private smoking lounge and cigar bar. Free - $25.  edit


Due to the lower rents and what was a general lack of options, there has been a recent revival of the coffee shops in the Tenderloin. The new, charming cafes provide relaxing shelter from the general hustle and bustle of the neighborhood.

  • farm:table, 754 Post St, [65]. M-F 7:30AM-4PM, Sa 8AM-4PM, Su 9AM-2PM. Very tiny spot with one large "farm table" (thus the name) and limited outdoor seating/standing bars. They serve coffee from nearby Santa Cruz roaster, Verve and have their own delicious sweets and other foods that they make daily. Very popular with the locals.  edit
  • Hooker's Sweet Treats, 442 Hyde St, [66]. M-F 8AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-2PM. Great spot to pick up handmade chocolate caramels, bread pudding, and coffee from local roaster, Sightglass. Very cute interior decorated in an antique style and owned by a Louisiana native.  edit
  • Jebena, 990 Polk St, +1 415 409-1200, [67]. Nicely decorated modern spot along the Polk corridor with good coffee and tea selections.  edit
  • Soluna Cafe and Lounge, 272 McAllister St (at Larkin St), +1 415 621 2200, [68]. M-F 11:30AM-10PM, Sa 5PM-10PM. Just a stones throw from the performing arts buildings, it's a great place to grab a cappuccino just before the overture.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget under $100
Mid-range $100 - 200
Splurge $200 and over

Many "hotels" in the Tenderloin do their major business as single-room occupancy (S.R.O.) lodgings for permanent residents, many of whom live from welfare check to welfare check. These hotels also rent rooms to frightened-looking tourists lured by bargain rates "just off Union Square." Both the rates and the location are true: the management merely neglected to mention the urine-stained mattresses or the drunk lurching in the lobby. Use caution: if a rate seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are more normal hotels in the area as well, ranging from large chains (Hilton) to tiny boutique hotels with fashionable decor and chi-chi prices. If you plan to park a car, scrutinize the hotel listing for parking information. Free parking is not a given, and at peak times, even paid garages overflow onto the sidewalks. There are also several backpacker's hostels in this area, particularly on Taylor St that attract both backpackers and those traveling on a budget.


  • Adelaide Hostel, 5 Isadora Duncan Lane (between Geary St and Post St), +1 415 359-1915 (, fax: +1 415 614-1940), [69]. checkin: 1PM; checkout: 11AM. This is a popular backpacker hostel just two blocks from Union Square. Dorms: $23 and up, Private rooms: $60 and up.  edit
  • Hostelling International-City Center, 685 Ellis St (at Larkin St), +1 415 474-5721 (fax: +1 415 776-0775), [70]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Clean, cheap, safe, fun. The hostel has 75 rooms in total, some are 4 or 5 bed dorms and others private rooms. All rooms have their own private bathroom. They offer a free breakfast and free wi-fi. Dorms: $25-$30, Private Rooms: $79-$109.  edit
  • The Opal San Francisco, 1050 Van Ness Ave (between O'Farrell St and Geary St), +1 415 673-4711 (, fax: +1 415 673-9362), [71]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. An elegant 5 story hotel that was built after the 1906 earthquake, it has 164 guest rooms. They have a gym, laundry facilities, and all access to free wi-fi. $60-$110.  edit
  • Rodeway Inn Civic Center, 860 Eddy St (between Franklin St and Van Ness Ave), +1 415 474-4374 (, fax: +1 415 775-9329), [72]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. This is a pretty standard but comfortable inn near Van Ness. They offer some free limited parking and a complimentary breakfast. $60-$110.  edit
  • Taylor Hotel, 615 Taylor St (at Post St), 1 877-734-6835 or +1 415-775-0780 (), [73]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 10AM. This is an older building and the rooms are in need of paint, but it's relatively clean. There is a nice Indian couple who runs the place, they have wireless internet and a community computer in the lobby and a continental breakfast each morning. It's in a great location, just 2 blocks from Union Square. $66-$90.  edit
  • USA Hostels San Francisco, 711 Post St (between Jones St and Leavenworth St), +1 415 440-5600 (, fax: +1 415 651-8802), [74]. checkin: Dormitory rooms: 10AM Private rooms: 2PM; checkout: 10AM. Great hostel operating in two buildings just off Union Square. All rooms have their own bathrooms. Dorms: $25-$30, Private rooms: $64-$81.  edit
  • Civic Center Hotel, 20 12th St (between Franklin St and Van Ness Ave, just one block west of the Van Ness MUNI station), +1 415 861-2373. Furnished rooms with a sink in each room (no televisions). Only metered street parking is available at the hotel. Single occupancy with a shared bath: $150/week. Add 14% tax for the first 4 weeks and a one time $15 key deposit.  edit


  • Cova Hotel, 655 Ellis St (between Hyde St and Larkin St), (, fax: +1 415 723-7877), [75]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. This hotel has 96 well decorated rooms in the heart of downtown. All rooms have 300 thread count sheets, high definition TVs, complimentary breakfast, and free wi-fi. $85-$300.  edit
  • Hotel Metropolis, 25 Mason St (between Eddy St and Turk St), +1 415 775-4600 (), [76]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. It's on the eastern outskirts of the Tenderloin, but there can be people sleeping in stairways and panhandling right next to the hotel, so it's authentic enough. Inside it is perfectly clean. $99-$299.  edit
  • Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market St (between 8th St and 9th St), +1 415 626-8000 (, fax: +1 415 861-1460), [77]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. This is a 460 room historic boutique hotel. An elegant, opulent building, it was first used as a temporary city hall after the 1906 earthquake. Italian marble, Austrian chandeliers, and a short walk to the Symphony/Opera and the Asian Art Museum. It also has a piano bar/wine bar. $89-$109.  edit
  • Inn At The Opera, 333 Fulton St (between Gough St and Franklin St), +1 415 863-8400 (, fax: +1 415 861-0821), [78]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. This hotel has 29 well appointed guestrooms and 18 suites which are individually decorated. It is situated in an excellent location, just a stones throw away from the War Memorial Opera House. $153 year round.  edit
  • The Phoenix Hotel, 601 Eddy St (at Larkin St), +1 415 776-1380 (, fax: +1 415 885-3109), [79]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. A boutique hotel, favored by musicians of all stripes, with free parking and breakfast. $119-$169.  edit
  • Hotel Carlton, 1075 Sutter St, 415-673-0242 (), [80]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. Pet and eco-friendly boutique hotel offering complimentary wine hour, newspaper, and luggage storage. $119-$169.  edit
  • Vagabond Inn San Francisco Civic Center, 385 9th St, San Francisco, CA 94103, 415-431-5131, [81]. checkin: 2:00pm; checkout: 11:00am. Vagabond Inn San Francisco Civic Center offers complimentary continental breakfast, jacuzzi rooms, in-room coffee maker, cable TV, free WiFi, and other services.  edit


  • The Clift Hotel, 495 Geary St (at Taylor St), +1 415 775-4700 (, fax: +1 415 441-4621), [82]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. Hotel features Jeffrey Chodorow's Asia de Cuba restaurant, the Redwood Room, the Living Room, private apartments, penthouse suites and meeting facilities. $275-$325.  edit
  • Hilton San Francisco, 333 O'Farrell St (between Taylor St and Mason St), +1 415 771-1400 (, fax: +1 415 771-6807), [83]. checkin: 2PM; checkout: noon. At 46 stories tall, this hotel is the tallest hotel in the downtown area and has excellent views over the city. It also has a heated outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi, as well as high-speed internet in all rooms. $149-$369.  edit
  • Hotel Adagio, 550 Geary St (between Taylor St and Jones St), +1 415 775-5000 (, fax: +1 415 775-9388), [84]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. A luxury boutique hotel featuring a fresh design that bridges its Spanish Colonial Revival architectural roots to a clean and contemporary design aesthetic. This elegant downtown San Francisco hotel is 2½ blocks away from the Powell St Cable Car line, 6 blocks from the Moscone Convention Center and is close to the Financial District, Chinatown, North Beach, Nob Hill, and SoMa. $189-$289.  edit
  • Hotel Diva, 440 Geary St (between Taylor St and Mason St), +1 415 885-0200 (), [85]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. Sleek, modern boutique hotel just off Union Square. This place is pretty hip! It's also a non-smoking hotel. $149-$226.  edit
  • Serrano Hotel, 405 Taylor St (at Taylor St and O'Farrell St), +1 415 885.2500 (fax: +1 415 474-4879), [86]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: noon. This is a deluxe boutique hotel in a 17-story Spanish Revival building. They have free high speed internet and a wine appreciation hour every evening. $239-$329.  edit


Stay safe[edit]

The Tenderloin is one of San Francisco's lowest income neighborhoods and has all the socio-economic problems that stem from this including crime, homelessness, and drug addiction. In particular there is a lot of violent street crime like assault and theft. Parts of the Tenderloin are considered the most dangerous areas in San Francisco, with the exception of Hunter's Point and possibly a few areas in the Mission (such as Mission between 16th and 17th Sts). Turk St and Taylor St might be considered the heart of the "true" Tenderloin; the sidewalks teem at all hours with the homeless, people openly selling crack or heroin, derelicts, hustlers, and the mentally ill. This area spills directly into Mission St on the other side of Market St; Mission St between 8th and 5th St may be considered part of this truly seedy "core Tenderloin" area. Travelers should be aware of their environment and take an appropriate amount of care. The more popular parts of the area are lively and relatively safe until about 2AM (when the bars close); after that, it does get sketchy. The area is best avoided by travelers walking alone after dark.

Get out[edit]

Hayes Valley — If you are an art lover and liked the formal galleries in this area, then why not continue into neighboring Hayes Valley where you will find many smaller urban chic galleries.

Union Square — There are also many other smaller and more exclusive art galleries in Union Square that focus on selling the artwork of high profile artists like Renoir and Chagall. Union Square also has a good selection of galleries that exhibit the work of local and up-and-coming artists.

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