15 Cool Things To Do In The Tenderloin

Perhaps one of the biggest perks our city has to offer is a mosaic-like landscape in which no two neighborhoods mirror each other. One small skip and we’re in an enclave that has its own culture, micro trends, and heck, even its own climate.
And, one we hardly explore as much as we should — and let's be blunt, that has a less-than-flattering rap — is the Tenderloin. Sure, not every block is flooded with fancy-pants eateries and coffee shops, but you’d better believe there is a helluva lot to be unearthed in the district. So, just consider us your tour guide, as we take you through the TL, stopping at some true diamond-in-the-rough destinations — 15 of 'em to be exact. Okay, now let’s play hooky around town.
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In case you aren't familiar, here's an outline of the area — highlighted are all the stops we'll be hitting. Let's do this!
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Hooker's Sweet Treats
If you’re prowling around the TL and suddenly BAM, you get hit with a sweets craving — Hooker’s Sweet Treats is where you need to head for the most delectable, bite-sized salty-choco fix. The adorable coffee and chocolate shop is a snack-filled fort that is guaranteed to come through for you and your most sugary of needs. And, with a warm interior and friendly staff, we imagine we’ll be spending a lot more time holing up here. Trust: This hotspot's caramels will change your entire perspective on life.
Hooker’s Sweet Treats, 442 Hyde Street (between Ellis and O’Farrell streets); No phone.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Jones
Nestled in the Tenderloin on Jones Street (hence the name), this rooftop bar will prompt you to wonder when you left San Francisco and stumbled into a swanky, Los Angeles-esque establishment. Finding an open-air watering hole in the heart of the city is like discovering a unicorn of sorts — a typically unheard of discovery. But, yes, it exists here in S.F. A word to the wise, though: dress warmly. However, don’t fret if the wind tunnel’s force is too much, you can kick it in one of the chic bungalows on the side while stepping away from the city clamor. Jones is a swell spot to grab a drink, a bite, and an all-around glam time in the TL. On 70-degree-plus days, you’ll know where to find us.
Jones, 620 Jones Street (between Colin Place and Geary Street); 415-496-6858.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Emperor Norton’s Boozeland
With a name like Emperor Norton’s Boozeland, how could we not add this to our list? This NKOTB by the team over at Mission-based dive bar du jour Benders has settled into the former Deco Lounge space quite nicely. Its endless offerings that include a spacious back patio, pool table, shuffle board, and, of course — booze, add up to the perfect rock-and-roll, no-frills city bar. We’ll be throwing a few back here, no questions asked.
Emperor Norton’s Boozeland, 510 Larkin Street (between Eddy and Turk streets); No phone.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Tradition
Tradition is kind of a medley of it all — Irish pub, dive bar, speakeasy, and tiki joint. It taps all these elements to bring you a laid-back, vintage-feeling frontier in the thick of the Tenderloin that, yep, you guessed it, whips up craft cocktails like no other. Just pick your poison and we bet Tradition will adhere to it. Just a hop away from neighboring spots Bourbon & Branch and Rye, this spot is a top choice for beyond just the 9-to-5 set.
Tradition, 441 Jones Street (between O’Farrell and Antonio streets); 415-474-2284.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Renoir Hotel
You’re probably wondering….um, why the heck is this on here? Well, in case you weren't aware, this former sketchville hotel is getting a major makeover and we admittedly are chomping at the bit waiting for the Kelly Wearstler-designed revamp to be unveiled. It’s going to be good! The storied hotel is getting a full-on facelift from the Kor Group and we can’t wait to see it in all its finished glory. But, until then we’ll have to pass the sign in anticipation, as it's currently closed until next year. When it is all ready, you better believe this will be the hotel to see and be seen in S.F.
Renoir Hotel, 45 McAllister Street (between Jones and 7th streets); 415-626-5200.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Kayo Books
Flooded with hard-to-find paperbacks of the pulp-fiction variety, Kayo Books has long been a lit staple in this hood. Packed with collector’s items ranging from nostalgic detective novels to exotic mags from the ‘70s, this is every obscure-loving bookworm’s dream come true. But, even if you aren’t one to geek out over the vintage selection, it’s worth a peek inside. You won’t be disappointed by the precise — and subtle — organization of the place. Looking for the sex on the moon section? How about the Catholic guilt? It’s all there for you, just be sure to check the hours before strolling over — it’s only open Thursday through Saturday!
Kayo Books, 814 Post Street (between Leavenworth and Hyde streets); 415-749-0554.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Burmese Kitchen
Don’t get us wrong, Burma Superstar holds a high spot on our most-frequented resto list, but sometimes you just want a no-frills meal without a mega price tag and sans the trek to the Inner Richmond. Feel us? For those looking for a quality Burmese spot in the thick of the city that won’t drain the bank account or keep you waiting for hours on end, you’ve met your match at Burmese Kitchen. We waltzed right in and flipped for the savory dishes and one-of-a-kind plates concocted of everything from tea-leaf salad to pumpkin prawns in brown rice. Tummy rumbling? We thought so!
Burmese Kitchen, 452 Larkin Street (between Golden Gate Avenue and Turk Street); 415-474-5569.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Cavalier
A home-goods oasis smack-dab in the Tenderloin — Cavalier is a wonderland of chic odds and ends you absolutely need for your casa. Trust us on that one. The 4,000-square-foot space is the brainchild of designer Jay Jeffers and boasts a compilation of stylish furniture, photos, rugs, and more in a building with impressively towering ceilings.
Cavalier, 1035 Post Street (between Polk and Larkin streets); 415-440-7300.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Café Royale
Known for its plethora of eccentric events, from drunken spelling bees to opera singing contests, this charming little hideaway is so much more than your average café. With rotating musical performances, a beer and wine selection that could rival the hippest S.F. locals, Café Royale is easily the coziest, most entertaining joint in the TL (sushi pop-ups, hello!). Add all this on top of free Wi-Fi? We’re the happiest campers in all the land.
Café Royale, 800 Post Street (between Hyde and Leavenworth streets); 415-441-4099.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Bourbon & Branch
Don’t let the discreet exterior fool you; this modern-day speakeasy is about as lively as they come. Once you get beyond the password-protected door, you’ll find a darkened, ambient space that feels like a boozey time machine, transplanting you to the secret scene of the prohibition era. The craft cocktails are top-notch, expertly poured, and packed to the brim with star ingredients. We’ll let you in on something — if you can’t get into the main space at Bourbon & Branch, be sure to slip next door to attached spaces, Library or Wilson & Wilson.
Bourbon & Branch, 501 Jones Street (between O’Farrell and Geary streets); 415-346-1735.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Farm:Table
Sure, there isn’t a flourishing variety of restos in this area, but the ones that are in the 'loin don't mess around. Enter, Farm:Table. The quaint, rustic breakfast and brunch venue offers a casual-yet-approachable take on brunching in S.F. (which, let’s be real, can be pull-your-hair-out-stressful sometimes). The peeps at Farm:Table make it pretty seamless with an easy-peasy, serve-yourself ordering system and an intimate seating setup where you can chill and nosh — or you can just grab and go. Whatever floats your breakfast-loving boat!
Farm:Table, 754 Post Street (between Jones and Leavenworth); No phone.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Mikkeller
Right on the cusp of the TL and Union Square, this new urban beer and wine joint offers a Copenhagen twist on gastropubs. The tap list (which includes over 40 to choose from) changes out daily and the sleek interior and comfy bar allow for a perfect place to park it and glup and grub it up. The exposed brick walls, towering pendants, cool art, and cozy tables are perfection. It’s no wonder after only a few weeks open Mikeller is one of the hottest spots on the block.
Mikkeller, 34 Mason Street (between Turk and Market streets); 415-984-0279.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Rye
You’re probably noticing by now that there is no shortage of artisanal cocktail joints in the Tenderloin. The more the merrier, right? A vet on the scene, Rye has been in the neighborhood pushing ten years and continues to concoct strong, delicious libations. The interior is timeless, with a minimal approach to the décor. Overall, if well-made, not overly hyped (read: classic) cocktails are your calling, Rye is the right choice.
Rye, 688 Geary Street (between Jones and Leavenworth streets); 415-786-7803.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Sweet Woodruff
Brought to us by the culinary masterminds behind Sons & Daughters — this casual spinoff boasts bites from the duo at an affordable, everyday price point. With eats on the menu that run the gamut from flouring salads to biscuits and gravy, in an airy, open-kitchen environment, this eatery is a must-hit in the hood.
Sweet Woodruff, 798 Sutter Street (between Jones and Taylor streets); 415-292-9090.
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Photographed by Ashley Batz
Mirtille
We could barely get over the sheer cuteness of this French café. We’re suckers for food in jars, what can we say. But, beyond the adorably packaged treats, is a welcoming, neighborhood café that serves up savory lunches (think extra-fresh salads) and finger-lickin’-good desserts. Nom.
Mirtille, 87 McAllister Street (between 7th and Leavenworth streets); 415-252-7661.
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