If you're looking for a place in San Francisco where residents outnumber tourists, where you can get a glimpse of what life in the City by the Bay is all about, try Fillmore Street. It may not generate as much buzz as other parts of town like the Mission District or Potrero Hill, but it's an interesting place to go — and much quieter than some of the better-known neighborhoods.
Fillmore Street has a laid-back, neighborhood feel and plenty of coffee shops and bakeries that are perfect for relaxing and people-watching.
The best time to go is midday for shopping or in the early evening for dinner. After dark, it gets quiet — fast.
The Fillmore has a rich history, going back to the beginning of the twentieth century. Famous people who grew up on Fillmore Street in the early twentieth century include violinists Yehudi Menuhin and Issac Stern, poet Maya Angelou and comedian Mel Blanc, who was the voice of Bugs Bunny. During the 1940s, 50s, and 60s The Fillmore was one of the world's leading jazz centers.
Shopping The Fillmore
If you spend any time in The Fillmore, you're bound to do some shopping. Window shopping is a leisurely activity and safe for your pocketbook in the morning; many stores don't open until 11:00 a.m., some are closed on Mondays and most are closed on holidays. You'll find a few chain stores, but more locally-owned boutiques offering home furnishings, clothing, and gift items.
One of shoppers' long-standing Fillmore favorites is Mrs. Dewson's Hats (2050 Fillmore) providing fashionable toppers to many San Franciscans, including former Mayor Willie Brown.
Several vintage clothing shops and upscale thrift shops on Fillmore Street offer bargain-hunting opportunities.
It's not on Fillmore Street, but San Francisco's Japantown is so close that you can visit it while you're there. Here's what you can do in San Francisco Japantown.
Where to Eat on Fillmore Street
You'll find plenty of places to eat on Fillmore Street.
One of the easiest ways to pick one is to walk around, checking menus and seeing what's popular. You can also consult Yelp or another app that provides restaurant reviews and ratings. That approach will help you find places on nearby side streets like Gardenias at 1963 Sutter.
1300 on Fillmore serves a tasty jazz gospel brunch a couple of times a month that has been rated one of the best gospel brunches in the U.S. by Open Table. SF Eater says they also serve San Francisco's best fried chicken.
The Clay Theatre (2261 Fillmore) shows art and independent films. Nearby in Japantown is the Kabuki Sundance, where you can get a bite to eat and take your bar drinks with you while you watch a movie in the upstairs balcony or at some over-21 screenings.
The Fillmore Auditorium (1805 Geary St.) has been the site of concerts and shows in San Franciscans for almost a century.
Events on Fillmore Street
Every Fourth of July, Fillmore Street is the site of the Fillmore Jazz Festival, one of the city's most vibrant jazz and arts festivals. The Salsas Festival also happens in July. The area also hosts a Holiday Village in late December.
Where Is Fillmore Street?
Fillmore is a long street.
It runs all the way to the bay near the Marina. But the section between Post and Jackson is the one I'm talking about here. It's west of downtown San Francisco.
To get to the Fillmore shopping area by car, take Geary Blvd west across Van Ness and turn right onto Fillmore (just after you pass the Japantown tower). You can also take a city bus to get there.
Parking is scarce in the Fillmore area. Metered streetside parking spaces are seldom available, and you can count on a parking ticket if you let the meter expire. Try the Pacific Medical Center garage on Webster between Clay and Sacramento or the Japantown Center lot at Fillmore and Geary.