Long a struggling community on the cusp of Civic Center and just west of Union Square, San Francisco's Mid-Market district has been making great efforts to reinvent itself in recent years. While this transformation is still a work-in-progress, there are still plenty of reasons to spend a bit of time in SF's central, up-and-coming neighborhood.
Easily recognizable by its Market Street marquee, the Warfield is one of San Francisco's most legendary music venues: a spectacularly ornate space that's hosted a bevy of iconic acts over the past near century. The Warfield originally opened as a vaudeville theatre in 1922, and since then everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Guns N' Roses has walked through its doors. Depending on the evening, you might catch a performance by Judas Priest or the Gypsy Kings, each enhanced by the theater's superb acoustics and enlivened by its intimate feel. Seeing a show at the Warfield is a San Francisco must-do.
Catch a Theater Performance
Although SF's designated “Theatre District” encompasses a good 10-block spread between Union Square, the Tenderloin, and Civic Center, its main hub is along or just off Mid-Market's central stretch of Market Street. In just a few-block area, you have SF's pick of the theatrical litter. Crowds often gather outside the landmark SHN Orpheum Theatre for Broadway shows like "Hamilton" and "Wicked," while the nearby, newly refurbished Golden Gate Theatre—a former vaudeville house turned cinema turned theater—has seen the likes of Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra over the years (though these days you're more likely to catch musicals like "Rent" and "Anastasia"). In 2015 San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) reopened Market Street's long-blighted Strand Theater, a one-time Grauman-owned movie house from 1917, as a venue for plays such as "Top Girls" and "Rocky Horror."
The story behind San Francisco's vintage Market Street trolleys is an interesting one: these colorful street cars from cities around the world—including Melbourne, Milan, and Blackpool, England—are basically “rolling museums” introduced around the same time that San Francisco's iconic cable car system was receiving a complete overhaul. With cable cars off the streets for 18 months, the city wanted another reason for tourists to visit—so in 1983 it hosted the first-ever San Francisco Historic Trolley Festival. Local residents fell in love with the eye-catching trams, and today they're as much a part of the city as the Cliff House and Boudin Bakery. These street cars connect the Castro District with both the Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf, as well as the Powell Street Cable Car Line, running directly through Mid-Market as they go.
Peruse Mid-Market's Antique and Vintage Stores
Hiding in Mid-Market are a collection of amazing stores selling unique items. Among them are a trio of shops boasting everything from Art Deco furnishings to goose down powder puffs. Interior decorators and stylists can't get enough of the unique antique offerings at Antiquario, while Another Time specializes in vintage Danish and Mid-Century Modern décor pieces. At specialty shop Bell'Occhio (the name means “beautiful eye” in Italian), you'll find hand-painted ribbon stock, scissors made to look like the Eiffel Tower, and lockets fashioned from French walnuts.
Get a Little Proper
Whether it's spending a night in one of Proper Hotel's exquisite bunk rooms with a friend or sipping afternoon tea at Villon, there's a little something for everyone at San Francisco's newest destination lodging. Savor a cappuccino and scrambled egg tartine at the hotel's La Bande cafe and market, or indulge in plates of California kale and a Berkshire pork chop over dinner. This stunning art-filled space—opened in 2017—is also brimming with eye-candy, from its stylish furnishings that span a range of European design eras to its ever-changing patterns and textures. An additional perk: the hotel's Market Street perch gives it front-row access to some of San Francisco's biggest happenings, including June's annual Pride Parade.
Did we mention the Proper Hotel is also home to one of San Francisco's best rooftop bars? BVHospitality (the guys who started the incredibly creative cocktail bar, Trick Dog) are the minds behind Charmaine's original drink menu, making imbibing here especially fun. There's also a menu of elevated bar bites, ample flora to give the space an outdoor garden feel, and fire pits for when Karl the Fog makes his inevitable appearance. On clear days, the views down Market Street and toward Sutro Tower are fantastic.
Dine at Twitter Headquarters
Twitter is one of the many tech companies—including Uber and Dolby—that have their home in Mid-Market. With Twitter HQ comes The Market: a high-quality, industrial-style food hall with its own seafood counter, juice bar, cheese and charcuterie offerings, butcher's shop, and stalls serving up everything from raw poke salads to slices of Sicilian-style pizza by award-winning pizza maker Tony Gemignani. Opt for a quick-service meal at one of the market's communal tables or settle in for a leisurely full-service dining experience. This massive 50,000-square-foot space is a world unto itself.
Eat Your Way Around the Neighborhood
While there are plenty of fine dining and drinking options to be had in nearby neighborhoods like Hayes Valley and SOMA, SF's Mid-Market is holding its own with a few inventive entities and a longtime local favorite. Zuni Cafe is a Mid-Market landmark, not to mention one of the best restaurants in town. Returning customers flock to this narrow two-story spot for signature items like a ricotta gnocchi and the roasted chicken for two, as well as an extremely well-curated wine list. Swing by the Fermentation Lab for a changing selection California craft brews and upscale bar eats like duck tacos and plant-based burger patties, or try City Beer Store, just south of Market, for beer tastings, falafel burgers and hot mochiko chicken sandwiches, and a fab selection of hard-to-find bottled beers to-go.