This privileged, elegant neighborhood embodies Hollywood's vision of San Francisco, and its blocks of Victorian mansions and its Cinemascope views of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge make the area a perennial favorite with visitors to the city. San Francisco locals tend to be a bit more cynical about the exclusive air of Pacific Heights, but that doesn't mean you won't catch residents of other neighborhoods making a special trip for the eclectic, upscale shopping opportunities that Fillmore Street offers.
The neighborhood is loosely bordered by Van Ness and Presidio avenues and Pine and Vallejo streets and was first colonized by the nouveau riche of the late 1800s when the construction of a new cable-car line made the area accessible. The extravagant dwellings that characterize the district today stand as testimony to the desire of those early residents to impress their Nob Hill neighbors.
That legacy of luxury has persisted, and the neighborhood remains generally quiet and residential, with the majority of its activity clustered around Fillmore Street. For the most part, the activity of choice is shopping, with an emphasis on costly women's clothing and high-stakes luxury items. The strip is also peppered with nice gift boutiques, bath-and-body shops and consignment stores. But if you don't feel like spending money, it can be fun to settle in at a sidewalk café and watch everyone else parade by. The area draws a variety of American and international tourists and is always well populated by impossibly groomed and outfitted locals who seem capable of strolling through a windstorm without having a hair get out of place.
With its shopping options, scenic views and pretty side streets, Pacific Heights was made for sunny weekend afternoon strolling and coffee sipping. Though the area quiets down considerably in the evening, a crop of excellent restaurants have opened in recent years, giving night crawlers a reason to stick around after dark.
Steps at Broadway and Lyon: For a quintessential Pacific Heights moment, descend these steps set between sumptuous houses and the Presidio. From the hedge garden you can glimpse of the Palace of the Fine Arts and the Bay below.
Alta Plaza Park: This small hilltop park to the west of Fillmore Street has tennis courts, a playground and panoramic city views.
Lafayette Park: On warm days, the green grass of this two-square-block park is full of sunbathers and dog walkers. The tennis courts have a bit more wind protection than those at Alta Plaza.
Haas-Lilienthal House: Go back in time with a visit to this fully furnished and preserved 1886 Queen Anne Victorian, replete with turrets and gables. The house, which serves as headquarters for San Francisco Architectural Heritage, is open for tours -- see the Web site for times and price info. 2007 Franklin St., (415) 441-3004. (Web site)
Spreckels Mansion: Romance novelist Danielle Steele and family reside in this ornate pre-WWI home fronting Lafayette Park. 2080 Washington St.
Elite Cafe: The updated Elite still focuses on New Orleans flavors. Fans of the sweet, flaky biscuits from Joanna Karlinsky's closed Meetinghouse Restaurant can celebrate now that she's brought them here. Designer Charles a'Court updated the interior, with glossy mahogany boothsm a refinished bar, chocolate-plum walls and elegant chandeliers. (-SF Chronicle) 2049 Fillmore St., (415) 346-8400. (Chronicle Review)
Ella's: Though roundly esteemed for its contemporary American cuisine, Ella's is best known for its brunch, which has included such past favorites as brandied French toast. Once you've done your time waiting in the inevitable line, reward yourself with a house-baked sticky bun and a glass of fresh-squeezed juice. 500 Presidio Ave., (415) 441-5669.(Chronicle Review)
Frankie's Bohemian Café: This Czech-American restaurant and bar is one of the livelier places to grab a quick bite or a swallow of Pilsner Urquell on this stretch of Divisadero. Choose from standard burger fare or Bohemian specialties such as brambory, a potato-zucchini pancake served with a variety of toppings. 1862 Divisadero St., (415) 921-4725.
Fresca: Ceviche comes in eight flavors in this modern Peruvian restaurant. There is shrimp ceviche with roasted jalapenos and tomato gazpacho, as well as Ceviche Chino, featuring red Ahi tuna with avocado mash and crispy wontons. Many main dishes are also from the sea -- crab cakes, calamari, seafood stew and arroz con mariscos, but rotisserie chicken is still a favorite. Fresca serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. 2114 Fillmore St., (415) 447-2668. (Web site)
Garibalidis on Presidio: One of the more lively spots in the area, Girabaldis serves California cuisine with a Mediterranean twist. House favorites are Chicken Breast Milanese, Mediterranean Lamb Tenderloin, and asparagus appetizer with pancetta, garlic, chili oil, and oyster sauce. Save room for the divine Chocolate Budino for dessert, featuring espresso ice cream, praline, and caramel sauce. There is also an extensive wine list including uncommon, "misunderstood" varietals. 347 Presidio Ave., (415) 563-8841. (Chronicle Review)
The Grove Fillmore: This neighborhood gathering spot is abuzz with laptops, cell phones and cool music, with customers fuelled by breakfast fare such as country baked eggs and huevos rancheros. The Grove's array of sandwiches run the gamut from the deli-style Reuben to a Sloppy Joe, while entrees vary from macaroni and cheese to lasagna. Also popular is the restaurant's line of exotic herbal teas. 2016 Fillmore St., (415) 474-1419.
Jackson Fillmore: Moderately priced Italian food includes zucchini carpaccio, sea bass fra diavolo, tiramisu and hot zabaglione. (SF Chronicle) 2506 Fillmore St., (415) 346-5288. (Chronicle Review)
La Boulange: Similar to the other French bakeries in the Bay Bread family and half a block away from the original (Boulangerie Bay Bread), this one offers fresh-baked pastries and breads, salads and coffee drinks. 2043 Fillmore St. (near Pine), (415) 928-1300. (Web site)
La Mediterranee: Savory food, reasonable prices and consistently friendly service make this narrow strip of a restaurant a neighborhood favorite. Don't miss the hummus, baba ghanoush and tabuleh appetizer combo. 2210 Fillmore St., (415) 921-2956.
Rigolo: This Laurel Village spot is baker-restaurateur Pascal Rigo's latest addition to the Bay Bread family. The restaurant, which means "a little funny" in French, combines a boulangerie and cafe and offers breakfast, brunch and lunch, all ordered at the counter. The menu also includes homemade pastas, pulled pork sandwiches and seasonal fruit tarts for dessert. (SF Chronicle) 3465 California St. (near Laurel Street), (415) 876-7777. (Chronicle review)
Royal Ground Coffee: Small and unassuming cafe is a WiFi hotspot and laundromat, making it a one-stop shop for many. 2060 Fillmore St., (415) 567-8822.
Solstice: Young hipsters flock to Solstice for its social dining and live DJs. The menus consists mainly of a variety of small plates, such as halibut ceviche, gorgonzola macaroni and cheese and chicken pot pie, as well as shared plates in the line of wild mushroom pizza, baked brie fondue and pan roasted coconut curry mussels. The bar scene gets packed with singles on weekends. DJs spin Thursday through Saturday, while there is live music, usually acoustic sets, on Sundays. 2801 California St., (415) 359-1222. (Chronicle review/Web site)
Ten-Ichi: Don't stop with the sushi at this comfortable Japanese restaurant. Try the tasty tempura and teriyaki, or sample the innovative specials. 2235 Fillmore St., (415) 346-3477.
Clay Theater: Built in 1910, the single-screen Clay is one of the oldest theaters in San Francisco. Count on it for the current popular foreign release, a worthy art-house film or a midnight showing (it hosted SF's first in 1972 with the premiere of John Water's "Pink Flamingos"). Now managed by Landmark, it has digital sound, new seats and refurbished art deco and classic Greek decor. 2261 Fillmore St., (415) 352-0810. (Web site)
Harry's: One of the few nightspots along Fillmore Street, Harry's provides entertainment for neighborhood professionals looking to unwind. 2020 Fillmore St., (415) 921-1000.