Noodling around is a mind sport. We use our bodies to move, but the process of why, how and where we choose to go is mental gymnastics. We can be challenged most when we are in areas that feel uncomfortable. These are usually the connector streets. The somewhat nameless, gray zone between Point A and Point B. But when we keep moving forward, without preconceptions, there is often a reward.
The upper Valencia/mid-Market zone can be such a challenge. This is the area along Valencia north of 16th Street, east on Market and ending at the confluence of Franklin/Page/Rose/12th streets. There are voids that interrupt the natural pedestrian flow, such as storefronts with covered windows, parking lots and auto shops, and an overpass. But it isn’t dangerous. Keep walking and notice the really cool businesses and street art! There are some of the best places in San Francisco to hunt for furniture and home accessories (another post for another day).
Heading north from the NW corner of Valencia and 16th notice Foodhall market. This was a large, unused space for years so a new, vibrant business gives a fresh start to this journey. On the east side of Valencia look for murals and street art especially down Sparrow Alley. There are a variety of places to eat, from pizza to tea leaf salad, so you will not go hungry. Have a snack and use the restroom but keep going.
One corner I enjoy is Valencia and Brosnan with its cluster of historic buildings painted yellow. The largest building is the former Levi Strauss (yes, the jeans) factory that now houses the San Francisco Friends School. Here is a great snapshot of post-1906 earthquake industrial architecture and life. Continue north on the west side of Valencia and stop at San Francisco Community Acupuncture. Part artist studio/gallery and part acupuncture treatment center. It earns the title “only in San Francisco”, and I love it.
Nearing Duboce it looks like your stroll may be over but keep going past the liquor store, self-proclaimed dive bar, and auto center. Almost underneath the overpass is Stuff – a mecca-like co-op for all things mid-mod. Walk under the overpass, past Martuni’s, and right onto Market Street. On the south side are two handsome historic buildings: one houses the delightful café De Lessio – one of my favorite cafes, and the other is the venerable McRoskey mattress company.
East on Market is a tangle of streets (Franklin/Page/Rose/12th) where one shop after the other offers opportunities to explore and spark your curiosity – whether it be interior décor, books, antiques, fashion or wine tasting. Stop, look and support local San Francisco businesses, but most of all, push past your discomfort and exercise your inquisitiveness.
Your brain will thank you for it.
Noodling necessities: Corner markets for beverages and snacks, cafes and restaurant for meals an restroom. Stuff also has a restroom on the second floor just look around at a few things and they don't seem to min