The label "Outer Sunset" is too broad a nickname to capture a San Francisco neighborhood that has two distinct personalities. In the past, people ventured to this area on the western edge of the city just to visit the ocean, but over the last few years, an increase in restaurants and cafes has been luring San Francisco locals who come for a stroll or bike ride, and stay for the food.
Once you cross Sunset Boulevard, past the panoply of noodle houses, dim sum shops, Chinese bakeries, and cheap grocery stores that characterize the first part of the Outer Sunset, you'll discover a land that's sometimes dubbed "Little Santa Cruz." Here, potbellied men wearing board shorts and no shirts caress peaches in search of bruises at the Other Avenues food cooperative. Hulks in wetsuits with trailing blond hair clutch their surfboards en route to Mollusk Surf Shop or Sunset Shapers. Ocean Beach is just a few blocks away, though often hidden by a veil of fog, and motorcycles park next to Prius sedans outfitted with car seats.
Around 44th Avenue, there's a smattering of locavoric restaurants and cafes staffed by hipsters in snug jeans and wingtips. The beachy vibe seeps into the décor—paintings depict the sea, surfboards hang from the ceiling, and in the case of Outerlands, reclaimed driftwood twists into a spiral that marks the entrance to the upstairs loft/office. Trees and wood benches form parklets (mini urban parks) in front of several shops for locals who use any sliver of sunshine as an excuse to sit outside.
While you won't find tons of eateries here, you will find special spots like Devil's Teeth, which fries beignets to-order every Sunday for $1 apiece, and Toyose, a garage converted into a Korean drinking cave. And even though sunny days aren't the norm (it's one of the foggiest areas in the city), they're stunning when they do occur, so pack your camera and trek out for a shoe-free stroll through the dunes. When you get hungry, you have some great options waiting to feed you.
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About the author: From San Francisco to New York and back to San Francisco, Alissa Merksamer is a food adventurer who'll try almost anything once. She's a frequent snacker and seeker of free samples. Check out her blog Glamorous Snacker and follow her on twitter @glamsnack.