Surf City, San Francisco: A Guide to The Outer Sunset
Feeling stifled in the City? Is cosmopolitanism rendering you claustrophobic? Do you want a break from the City without actually leaving the City?
Can’t find parking?
If you need a respite from urban cluster, hop aboard the outbound N-Judah for a getaway in San Francisco’s Surf City — the Outer Sunset.
First, some technicalities: the Sunset District has strict dividing lines, distinguishing the Inner, Central, and Outer neighborhoods. The Outer Sunset is west of Sunset Boulevard, bordered by Lincoln Way at its northern front, and Ortega Street at its southern bottom. Its westernmost border is Ocean Beach. As such, this ‘hood is skirted by the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Park, making the Outer Sunset lush with sunset and sunrise views. Just not when the fog rolls in.
Related: A Day in the Life: The Inner Sunset
The Outer Sunset is a laid back surfer village in the heart of a city. Think New York City’s Astoria meets Santa Cruz. Except the buildings are slightly shorter, and there’s no boardwalk. Beachside roads, namely the Great Highway, are sometimes covered in sand blown in from Ocean Beach on windy days. This is why some roadways are closed on tempestuous days.
Given that the ocean is super cold and has powerful currents, swimming is not always a popular (or safe) option in San Francisco. Instead, experienced surfers gather here for early mornings and after work surf sessions, while beachgoers flock here to work on their tans on the weekend.
The residential area marks this land as one of the last diverse, family-friendly neighborhoods left in the City. A San Francisco rarity, families live here. This thus recalls the ‘hood’s history:
Related: A City Within a City: San Francisco’s Doelger City
To accommodate the post-war Baby Boom, developers paved over sand dunes to build miles of single and multi-family homes. Prior, there were bouts of development dating back to the 1870s. Before the construction of the Twin Peaks Tunnel, this area was a desolate land of sand dunes and coastal scrubs known as “the Outside Lands.” Yes, before there were candy-colored Edwardians, there was sand. And, yes, this is where the music festival gets its name.
Blocks from the residential neighborhoods are commercial thoroughfares in the Inner Sunset. However, you’ll find hip cafés, buzzed-about restaurants, and trendy boutiques sprinkled along the streets intersecting the Avenues in the Outer Sunset. The most popular commercial streets are Judah and Noriega. Step into one of the neighborhood’s Korean War-era diners and you’ll be wondering if you’re wearing rose-colored glasses. You’re not. The Outer Sunset is that pleasant.
A historically sleepy corner of the City, this welcoming neighborhood has seen a recent renaissance. Yes, despite its rustic-nouveau renaissance, the Outer Sunset keeps a steady identity: you can buy $4 toast instead of $18 toast. The saved $14 will likely fund your Lyft though, unless you drive your own car. If you forgo Muni and Lyft, parking is relatively accessible and sometimes free, which is the ultimate departure from urban anxieties. Just make sure it’s not a street cleaning day.
Where to Eat in the Outer Sunset
$$$ | 4101 Judah Street, San Francisco, CA
Recognized as the first Vietnamese Restaurant in San Francisco, this family operated restaurant first opened its doors to the Outer Sunset in 1971. With signature dishes like their roasted crab and Tiger Prawn over garlic noodles, the An family has been attracting crowds including the likes of Harrison Ford and Danny Glover for the past 46 years. Over the years the Thanh Long family has expanded to include Crustacean in San Francisco & Beverly Hills, AnQi in Orange County, Tiato in Santa Monica, their food truck “An The Go“, and catering service, “An Catering“. Visit any one of their fantastic locations for a dining experience you won’t forget.
Order: Shaken Beef, Roasted Crab, Colossal Royal Tiger Prawns
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday: 5PM–9PM, Friday-Saturday: 5PM–9:30PM, Sunday: 5PM–9PM
$$ | 4001 Judah Street, San Francisco, CA
Without a doubt the hottest restaurant in the Outer Sunset, Outerlands is known for long lines in addition to its simple, yet exquisite menu. Located steps away from Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park, Outerlands is the perfect place for weekend brunch or a leisurely weekday meal. As aforementioned, Outerlands does not take reservations and the line does tend to get long, so be sure to arrive early to secure a table!
Order: Cast-Iron Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Dutch Pancake Baked in a Cast Iron Pan, Eggs-in-Jail
Hours: Daily: 9AM–3PM, 5PM–10PM
$$ | 3814 Noriega Street, San Francisco, CA
If you’ve ever craved some spicy chicken wings or kimchi fried rice in the middle of the night, this is about to blow your mind. Located just blocks away from Ocean Beach, nestled in a cozy residential garage is Toyose, the answer to your prayers. Open ’til 2AM every day, this late night Korean spot has everything you’d want for your late night snack. From traditional Korean dishes to fruity flavored soju, Toyose has you covered.
Order: Spicy Chicken Wings, Kimchi Fried Rice, Kiwi Soju
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 6PM–2AM
Celia’s by the Beach
$$ | 4019 Judah Street, San Francisco, CA
When Celia’s was first opened in 1960 by Jalisco natives Celia and Perfecto, the restaurant only served American fare, but as the years went by, Celia decided it was time to change it up by introducing her infamous enchiladas. Fast forward to 2017, Celia’s is now one of the Outer Sunsets premier establishments for Mexican cuisines. Though you can still order a juicy burger at Celia’s, you’ll find that their menu has expanded to include burritos, traditional plates, sizzling fajitas and many more. Their fantastic Taco Tuesdays and margaritas are enough reason to make a trip to the Outer Sunset.
Order: Celia’s Super Special, Carne Asada House Special, Expresso Burrito
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday: 4:30PM–9PM, Thursday-Saturday: 4:30PM–10PM
$$ | 3906 Judah Street, San Francisco, CA
Using only the freshest locally sourced ingredients, Judalicious has been nourishing the Outer Sunset with their innovative, made from scratch, vegan cuisines since 2004. With a strong offering of fresh juices, açaí bowls, and vegan fare, Judalicious is the perfect place to go to after morning jogs in Golden Gate Park or just a casual lunch.
Order: Nekked Burrito, Jungle Style Açaí Bowl, Sem Sandwich
Hours: Monday-Friday: 8AM–7PM, Saturday-Sunday: 9AM–7PM
The Pizza Place
$$ | 3901 Noriega Street, San Francisco, CA
Opened by Chefs David Ashin and Kevin Baryza, The Pizza Place on Noriega is a slice of Boston in Fog City. One of the most uniquely decorated pizzerias in the City, it’s here where you’ll find half a car with pizza wheels mounted on the wall in the dining area. Equipped with flat screens, bar seating, and ample seating space, The Pizza Place is great for large groups and catching the game. With vegan & gluten-free options, anyone can enjoy their pizza by the slice or whole. Visit The Pizza Place for great food and service if you’re ever in the Outer Sunset or decide to spend a sunny day at Ocean Beach!
Order: The Dimitri, Timmy’s Pie (Vegan), Buffalo Wings & Sweet Potato Steak Fries
Hours: Sunday – Monday: 12PM – 10PM, Tuesday – Thursday: 5PM – 10PM, Friday – Saturday: 12PM – 10:30PM
Where to Drink in the Outer Sunset
$ | 3639 Taraval Street, San Francisco, CA
Your friendly neighborhood bar with awesome funky décor and a fireplace conveniently located steps away from ocean beach. The Riptide hosts karaoke nights and occasional live band performances for your entertainment as well.
Order: Beer / Shots
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 4PM–2AM, Sunday: 2PM–2AM
$ | 4207 Judah Street, San Francisco, CA
Located in Outer Sunset, Pittsburgh’s Pub is where you’ll find great bartenders, heavy pours, pool tables and other bar games for your enjoyment.
Order: Beer / Shots
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 8AM–2AM
$ | 3805 Noriega Street, San Francisco, CA
Cheap drinks with a punch make for good times and great memories. Since 1978, Flanahan’s has been serving the Outer Sunset shots of Jameson and cold pints. If you’re ever on the prowl for a friendly neighborhood bar with a plethora of TVs, barrel tables, and dart boards, Flanahan’s is the perfect answer. Their “Bacon Night” on Tuesdays are good enough a reason to drop by for a visit!
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 8AM–2AM
Lawton Tap Room
$ | 3645 Lawton Street, San Francisco, CA
Through the collaboration between Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery and Hard Frescos, the Lawton Tap Room maintains a solid rotation of craft beers from Seven Stills and alcoholic aguafrescas from Hard Frescos.
Order: Pineapple Guava Saison
Hours: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: 3–10PM, Saturday: 10AM–11PM, Sunday: 10AM–9PM
Where to Caffeinate in the Outer Sunset
Devil’s Teeth Bakery
$ | 3876 Noriega Street, San Francisco, CA
Devil’s Teeth Bakery is the perfect place to satisfy your sweet tooth with their list sweets & desserts including cookies, cakes, pies, cinnamon rolls and more. Stop by for breakfast and grab a cup of coffee or espresso from Bicycle Coffee along with one of their mouth watering Special Breakfast Sandwiches featuring scrambled eggs, pepper jack cheese, avocado, applewood smoked bacon, and their famous lemon-garlic aioli placed between two homemade buttermilk biscuits ?.
Order: Special Breakfast Sandwich, Beignets, Donut Muffin, Cinnamon Rolls
Hours: Daily: 7AM – 4PM
Trouble Coffee Co.
$ | 4033 Judah Street, San Francisco, CA
The little coffee shop that could. With its original location based out of a tiny shop in the far reaches of the Outer Sunset, Trouble Coffee sparked San Francisco’s artisanal toast craze with $4.00 cinnamon-sugar toast on thick bread. (Hey, the name just started to make sense to us — because you’ll be in trouble with their bread — calorie-wise, and possibly financially, too.) Founded by Giulietta Carrelli, Trouble has expanded its little coffeehouse’s (and coconut club) reach with two new locations in Bayview and Oakland — along with its toast offerings.
Order: Cinnamon Toast, Elbow Grease Coffee
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 7AM–8PM
Website: Trouble Coffee
Andytown Coffee Roasters
$ | 3655 Lawton Street, San Francisco, CA
On quiet Lawton Street in the Outer Sunset lies Andytown Coffee Roasters, known for their Snowy Plover iced expresso drink. It’s a concoction of iced espresso, sparkling water and brown sugar syrup, topped off with delicious house-made whipped cream that gives Cool Whip a run for their money. This drink is just one of the reasons for the long lines that often file out the door. (That, and the fact that Andytown packs in a coffee shop, roastery and bakery all within its 600 square foot shop!) Don’t skip on the Northern Irish soda bread and scones. Added bonus: it’s just a few blocks from Ocean Beach.
Order: Snowy Plover, Lattes, Scones
Hours: Monday-Friday: 7AM–5PM, Saturday & Sunday: 8AM–5PM
Java Beach Café
$ | 1396 La Playa Street, San Francisco, CA
Java Beach Cafe first opened their doors in 1993 for the sole purpose of providing their community with superb coffee. Today the neighboring community and visitors line up outside to enjoy organic coffee, tea, bagels, pastries, sandwiches, and salads.
Order: Tsunami Sandwich, BBQ Chicken Sandwich, Oatmeal, Judah Tunnel Espresso Blend
Hours: Monday-Friday: 5:30AM–11PM, Saturday-Sunday: 6AM–11PM
Where to Shop in the Outer Sunset
3 Fish Studios
$$ | 4541 Irving Street, San Francisco, CA
As you venture down Irving towards Ocean Beach, you’ll find yourself drawn towards a vibrant studio with an array of colorful artwork in the window display. Overcome by curiousity, you enter this mysterious studio and find Eric, who warmly invites you to wander around the studio riddled with awesome prints including some which depict Godzilla terrorizing the City. Just as you think you’ve seen it all, Eric tells you to check out the backyard, a truly serene and inspirational space that you just have to see for yourself. 3 Fish Studios was founded in 2007 by husband and wife, Eric Rewitzer and Annie Galvin as a creative space where ideas are shared and masterpieces are crafted. View their wonderful collection of California-inspired prints, totes, linocuts, and more. If you’ve ever been interested in the craft of printmaking, they also have an array of classes and corporate event offerings!
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday: 10AM–6PM
$$ | 3811 Noriega Street, San Francisco, CA
Establish strives to create a progressive culture to the Outer Sunset community by offering a place where local artists are able to gather, display their work, collaborate on new projects, and customers are able to shop for unique goods and services. It’s here you’ll find accessories, home decor items, and localized apparel. Establish also offers unique services like graphic design, botanical design, home decorating, and styling services.
Hours: Daily: 11AM–7PM
$$ | 2109 Taraval Street, San Francisco, CA
San Franpsycho is as bonkers as its’ name indictates. There aren’t too many places you can go to pick up a nice cup of coffee or ice cream and shop for localized SF apparel. San Franpsycho is the perfect place to find unique streetwear that you can proudly don to rep your city, or the best souvenir gift you’ve ever given.
Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10AM–9PM, Sunday: 10AM–7PM
Aqua Surf Shop
$$ | 3847 Judah Street, San Francisco, CA
Originally located on Sloat as “Aquaholics”, Aqua Surf Shop has been outfitting the city’s surf community with the freshest apparel and gear since the start of the millennium. As 2016’s Best Surf Shop awarded by San Francisco Magazine, you’ll find yourself shopping through a well curated inventory in a heckle free environment, with a friendly and knowledgable staff team.
Hours: Sunday-Tuesday: 10AM–5:30PM, Wednesday-Saturday: 10AM–7PM
The General Store
$$$ | 4035 Judah Street, San Francisco, CA 94122
A visually appealing and wonderfully curated selection of home goods, cards, design magazines, accessories, and apparel is what you’ll find at The General Store. Step out into the back garden area and take a gander of their greenhouse filled with an array of plants during your visit as well.
Hours: Monday-Friday: 11AM–7PM, Saturday & Sunday: 10AM–7PM
$$ | 3811 Noriega Street, San Francisco, CA
Mollusk isn’t just one of the coolest stores in the city, it’s also a hub where friends and neighbors can hang out and share ideas. Their shelves and displays are lined with unique locally sourced products, and they also have an inventory of awesome new and used surf boards. If you’re ever on the market for some great surf gear, awesome art, and excellent service, Mollusk is where you need to go!
Hours: Daily: 11AM–7PM
Where to Get Outdoors in the Outer Sunset
Ocean Beach, San Francisco, CA
Ocean Beach runs along the west coast of San Francisco and continues towards the end of the city limits. It is adjacent to Golden Gate Park, the Richmond District and the Sunset District. The Great Highway runs alongside the beach. The beach is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is administered by the National Park Service. The water at Ocean Beach is noteworthy for its strong currents and waves, which makes it popular among serious surfers. The rapid rip currents and cold water make the ocean dangerous for casual swimmers.
Hours: Daily: 24 Hours
West Sunset Playground
3223 Ortega Street, San Francisco, CA
Located behind the Ortega Library, the Ortega Playground fulfills all your outdoor recreational needs. Equipped with soccer fields, a playground, baseball field, basketball court, and tennis courts with stadium lighting this playground is the perfect place to spend sunny days in Sunset.
Hours: Daily: 6AM – 11PM
South Sunset Playground
40th Ave & Vicente Street, San Francisco, CA
Boasting a newly renovated playground, South Sunset Playground is a popular destination for after school activities. The playground includes 2 baseball diamonds, 2 basketball courts, 3 soccer fields, and multi functional sport and picnic areas.
Hours: Daily: 6AM – 10PM