Alamo Square – San Francisco, CA

Located in central San Francisco, Alamo Square sits in the Western Addition, near the Fillmore District, Duboce Triangle and Haight-Ashbury. It’s known primarily for the large park that gives the neighborhood its name, and the architecturally distinct mansions at its perimeter. Locals cite the neighborhood’s central location and gentrification as major reasons to move to this area. The area has retained much of its Victorian charm, and still manages to ensure that residents are safe, and have access to all the advantages of San Francisco life.

Schools in Alamo Square

School data provided by GreatSchools

Restaurants & Nightlife

Most of Alamo Square's restaurants are clustered along Divisadero Street, at the neighborhood's western boundary. Since the area caters to an upscale crowd of singles and professional families, most kinds of cuisine can be found. From American fare and pizza to burgers, Indian and Moroccan cuisine, this area has something to suit every one's tastes. NOPA is a popular local favorite, serving up urban rustic food and wood-fired cuisine. Maple glazed duck wings, cayenne pepper and radish sets the stage for smoked trout with toasted quinoa maitake mushrooms, almonds and grapes, or you can stick with a number of smaller plates and bar snacks like spiced chickpeas. Local wines finish off a great night out. Saffron Grill brings the spice, with kabobs, curries and veggie dishes galore. Locals know to order the freshly baked na'an bread, and save room for the gulab jamun, or fried, milky doughnuts dipped in cardamom flavored syrup. Locals also flock to Eddie's Cafe, an old fashioned diner with traditional breakfast items such as omelets, pancakes and bacon as well as burgers and sandwiches. Though the selection is a little meager, residents love the homey atmosphere and the fluffy pancakes, especially. Nightlife in Alamo Square is eclectic, and mostly centered around bars at the edges of the neighborhood, on Divisadero and Fell Streets. The Independent offers live music from hip-hop to rock, as well as free movie nights from time to time, while Madrone Art Bar combines film, paintings, video, film, design, fashion, music, spoken word and just about anything else you could think of in a mish-mash of exhibitions by local artists and performance. If you're in the mood to dance, this may be your place. Bars like Fly Bar, Bar 821 and McAllister Street Bar keep the area lively after dark most nights.

History & Culture

Alamo Square was established in 1857. Its name was derived from the word alamo, Spanish for poplar tree. In the 1850s, it was the only watering hole along the trail from the Presidio to Mission Dolores. Alamo Square became an area for large Victorian homes, which were quickly reproduced as “Postcard Square,” a row of Queen Anne houses called “Painted Ladies.” In the 1950s, however, the area fell into disrepair. Victorians were sold off, and subdivided by landlords into rooming houses. Since the 1990s, Alamo Square has become more gentrified. Renown violinist Yehudi Mehunin and author Alice Walker have lived here in the past, giving the area a bit of cache. The San Francisco African American Historical & Cultural Society is located here, as are smaller galleries like Lake Gallery and Big Umbrella Studios. Another Hole in the Head features documentaries, indie films and anime on regular basis, and the Annual San Francisco Improv Festival happens each September.

Transportation

As with many other areas of San Francisco, driving and parking aren’t really fun or supported. If you choose to drive, the parking you find will be expensive. Alamo Square isn’t very freeway accessible, but driving south will take you to Market Street, which turns into the 80 heading east. Driving east will also take you to Van Ness, which turns into the 101 Freeway driving south. Instead, locals prefer to walk, since this is an eminently walkable neighborhood, or take public transportation. BART trains runs along Market Street to the south, and there are several routes for Muni buses and trains in the area. Hailing a cab is very easy here, as is arranging an Uber pickup. Alamo Square, and especially the park itself, has many bike lanes, and the neighborhood is considered safe for cyclists.

Cost

As with many other neighborhoods in San Francisco, Alamo Square can be pricey. A typical one-bedroom apartment rents for around $3,200 per month. Since the price of housing is relatively high, this brings the price of food and entertainment up as well. The cost of living in Alamo Square is higher than the city average. Since Alamo Square is central, it costs about $2.25 to get to Civic Center. A beer at a local pub is around $6-7, and the price of gas is about 15 percent higher than the country’s average.

Shopping

Alamo Square is a small neighborhood, so it doesn't support much in the way of high-end or luxury shopping. Many larger stores can be found in neighboring Union Square, but Rare Device provides this area with home decor, cards and stationery, and The Perish Trust carries antiques from vintage typewriters to light fixtures, and other things you never realized you needed. Alamo Square has several grocery stores to choose from, including Bi-Rite Market, Save-More Market and Green Earth Natural Foods. The Divisadero Farmers' Market, held on Sundays, brings fresh fruit and vegetables to the area, as well as vendors, music and fun activities for kids.

Parks

The area’s main park is Alamo Square Park, a large four-block structure placed roughly in the center of the neighborhood. With a shoe garden, tennis court, benches, doggie areas and even a Movie Night from April to October, this is the place to be for locals. It’s kid and dog friendly, free to the public, and surrounded by Painted Ladies. A lesser-known but still lovely park is Golden Gate Steiner Mini Park, located in the northeast part of Alamo Square. Though the park is smaller overall, locals are slowly transforming it into a community garden of sorts, and making it a perfect place to chill out on benches, or do a little quiet meditation during a busy workweek.
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