San Francisco

The TenderNob area proves to be more than just Union Square's quirky neighbor. By Sydney Pfaff
tenderknob_openerNo longer the middle ground between the gritty, crime-ridden Tenderloin and the slick society of Nob Hill, San Francisco's Lower Nob Hill—sweetly nicknamed the TenderNob—is home to a recent surplus of cool fashion outposts, restaurants, and specialty shops. Having always been a busy quadrant due to the close proximity to bustling Union Square, the area is now starting to declare its own quirky identity.
The district acted as a setting for Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade character's apartment—there is a small street named after the writer reaching between Bush and Pine streets. The Empire Hotel (now known as the York, but soon to be known as Hotel Vertigo) on Sutter Street also played a role in Hitchcock's Vertigo. Popular for young artists (the Academy of Art University has five dorm buildings and three more department buildings covering a 3-block radius in the area), professional 20-and-30-somethings and hipsters alike, the artsy neighborhood plays host to many independently owned shops and eateries, and remains nearly untouched by national corporations—there isn't even a Starbucks—yet.
Shop. See.
Look Boutique & Silverman Gallery, 804 Sutter Street; 415-255-9508
Combining art and fashion under one roof yields the newly opened duo of Silverman Gallery and Look Boutique. Previously located in the Dogpatch, the gallery is now housed with the boutique, originally an online-only store. The shop offers clothing, accessories and books that complement each month's exhibition, all handpicked by owner Jessica Silverman and creative director Carolina Amaris. The apparel lines include exclusive-to-SF collections, such as House of Holland, Jessie Hill, and French label Heimstone, as well as jewelry from Giles and Brother, We Are Powerhaus, and Kimann Foxman. The current exhibition Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough's "Symptom of the Universe," runs through April 20.
Babylon Falling, 1017 Bush Street; 415-345-1017
Owner Sean Stewart opened Babylon Falling with a nod to the spirit of Revolution and conscious consumption. Inspired by his Jamaican heritage, the shop stocks over 3,000 well-chosen titles—everything from photography books of California's coastline to portrait compilations by artist David Choong Lee to monographs on the history of the I.R.A.—along with art documentaries, collectible toys, and vintage posters. Stewart hosts monthly events to premier in-house art exhibitions that enhance the essence of the community bookstore.
The Hundreds, 585 Post Street; 415-440-7700
With a cult-like following like the Hundreds has, there's no doubt that sneaker heads will flock to stock up on limited edition T-shirts (a small load were made in collaboration with Hieroglyphics), selvedge denim from TH's Public Label and heaps of hats emblazoned with the animated bomb logo. The cave-like shop, accented with rock walls covered in faux human skulls, opened just days ago and is their second outpost—the first is located in L.A.'s Fairfax district.
Ransack Studios, 827 Leavenworth Street, 617-217-1400; no website
Originally from Boston, Leah Culleny moved to San Francisco to work on her clothing line Immaculate Exception (think jersey dresses and wrap-tops, hooded sweatshirts, and pencil skirts). She opened this little hole-in-the-wall shop last spring to function as both a store for fellow emerging artists and her own personal sewing studio. With over 20 different artists and designers under one roof, Ransack caters to both men and women, and the shop walls display the works of budding Bay Area artists.
Eat. Drink.
Cantina, 580 Sutter Street; 415-398-0195
This chic Latin abode-meets-gallery-meets-bar is the most creative watering hole in the TenderNob district. Their most popular drink, the Laughing Buddha, combines Hangar One vodka, lemon, wild sage honey, and a mix of crushed ginger and Thai chiles, while the pitchers of margaritas and caipirinhas can be ordered in more than ten different ways—they also have rotating taps of draft beer and a wide selection of global wines—all served up by their master mixologists. The warm-hued space hosts regular gallery premieres and art events featuring modern and contemporary artists, and features live music from a number of S.F.-based DJs.
Sugar Café, 679 Sutter Street; 415-441-5678
Owned by the same team that heads up drink haven and dance club the Cellar (located just next door), Sugar Café is the neighborhood's only café-bar-hybrid. By day, locals enjoy sandwiches, comforting baked goods, and premium coffee. By night (actually, at 5 p.m sharp), the space transforms into a purple-tinted lounge bathed in candlelight, where locals and tourists meet to sample light fare with some signature cocktails.
Brick•; 1085 Sutter Street, 415-441-4232
Aptly named due to the hundred-year-old exposed brick walls that surround the main dining room, Brick specializes in modern American cuisine made with produce from local farms but with an international influence. The round copper-topped bar serves as the focal point, while the back of the restaurant holds The Gallery, where Bay Area artists hang their work, and exhibitions are changed on a quarterly basis.
The TenderNob area proves to be more than just Union Square's quirky neighbor.