Welcome to Mid-Market, San Francisco
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I have to admit that I’ve used Mid-Market in conversation as an example before – and not a good one – when people prejudge Oakland. The rant’s gone something like this, depending on the degree of the offense: “Why does everyone think Oakland is grungy? Have they ever been to downtown San Francisco? Just look at Mid-Market…” It’s easy to make comparisons and set San Francisco and the East Bay at odds because, well, we’re silly humans, and, there’s a lot of misinformation about Oakland out there. Clinging to preconceived notions when they are popularly repeated isn’t as hard as you might think, and before you know it you’re getting caught up in some kind of feigned territorialism. It’s a waste of time, especially when you realize some parts of San Francisco suffer the same inaccurate estimations.
That’s why I have to apologize for my generalizations about Mid-Market, a neighborhood that hasn’t “walked the straight and narrow,” if that’s what well-behaved neighborhoods did. I have stopped rushing past this area: I have stopped using it as San Francisco’s scapegoat, and in return I have been floored by the additions that are changing Mid-Market for the better. It’s a place to seek out, not to avoid. Here’s how it looked back in the day.
There’s renewed excitement. In the last two months, I’ve seen the mayor there twice (OK, once I knew he was there to cut a ribbon for a cafe opening). A tech start-up and a consulting firm are moving in. Maybe I’ll run into you at one of these places:
-Tenderloin National Forest (nope, not a typo) – There are several “locations” of the forest, but the primary space is down the alley between Leavenworth and Ellis, where the concrete was replaced with soil and trees, a community space with straw-bale house and bench, a roving pizza oven, and murals of all variety. Regular events take place, and you can find a park map at the Luggage Store.
-Mending Library: Once a month Michael Swaine sets up shop in the Tenderloin National Forest to mend neighbors’ clothes for free. He’ll help your hems next on November 15 from 12-5.
-Luggage Store Gallery: An anchor of Mid-Market, this gallery and organization are responsible for a lot of the positive motion in the area, including their annex store and the Tenderloin National Forest, which they’ve been working to create since 1989: 1007 Market St., W-Sat 12-5
-Luggage Store Annex: Sewing machines and denim and studs and espresso, the annex is a place to check out local artists’ new fashions (made from second hand clothes) and perhaps take home a succulent for your own micro National Forest. 509 Ellis Street, hours vary
-Mr. Smith’s: I not in love with going out super late at night to bars very often, but Mr. Smith’s has surefire appeal. Every time I’ve been, I’ve gone home with a taste memory of a genuine well-mixed drink, and sore calves from dancing: 34 7th Street, Tue-Thu 4:30-12, Fri 4:30-2, Sat 8-2
-Show Dogs: These tasty hot dogs popped up on MidMarket a couple years ago, and they still have a dozen variations with from-scratch toppings served du jour. This restaurant, which uses as many local and sustainable ingredients as possible, is owned by Gayle Pirie and John Clark, the couple behind Foreign Cinema, a restaurant known not only for delicious and imaginative dinners, but for trail blazing the Mission neighborhood before it got dot-commed. They had to be a part of Mid-Market’s renaissance: 1020 Market Street, M-F 8-9, Sat 10-9, Sun 10-6
-Machine Coffee and Deli: Fancy Four Barrel Coffee and sandwiches named for machine parts. The Drill Press – dark rye with Thousand Island, homemade sauerkraut and pastrami – had me at hello. This is the second restaurant opened by the Foreign Cinema team in Mid-Market, and they snagged their amazing cinnamon bun recipe off their brunch menu for this cafe: 1024 Market Street, daily 8-5
-SF Camerawork: A veritable launch pad for forward-thinking photographers. Galley shows, resources, continuing education, a renown publication, a shop… it’s a cornucopia for visual story tellers and their fans: 1011 Market Street, Tues-Sat 11-6, F 12-7 and by appointment
-SF FoodLab: This culinary space is housed in part of the street level of the Renoir Hotel as a part of the developer’s A Temporary Offering idea to get more businesses off the ground in the area. With a mission to create more pathways to success for hopeful food entrepreneurs, the lab regularly hosts pop-up events to showcase their cast of street food gurus. At the opening night, I had plenty of onigiri from Onigilly, some of the tastiest granola, and shared more than one grilled cheese. Come as an eater (check their calendar for upcoming pop-ups) or come to cook your way to your own food business: 1106 Market Street, hours vary
-Huckleberry Bikes: A full-service shop managed by two guys with a reputation that they can fix anything. You can find gear for whatever your biking alter ego designates, plus shirts, and a handy assortment of bike bags. On weekday mornings during rush hour (7:30-9:30am), Huckleberry hosts a Free Repair Kiosk at Market and 7th for those who’ve lost a chain on the ride downtown, for instance: 1073 Market St., Open M-F 11-7, S-S 12-5