Anticipating a recent noodle around the neighborhood of West Portal felt like a first date with an old school chum. We’re friends-of-friends. After a number of years, I took the streetcar to West Portal Avenue. The sun was shining, and I was both excited and nervous at the same time. What if it wasn’t like I remembered it? What if it doesn’t look the same? But when I looked down the street I saw the back-lit outline of the Manor Coffee Shop and the marque of the Empire Theatre. I took a deep breath and started my wandering with confidence in my heart and a big smile on my face. We’re good.
So, that’s how it is in West Portal - it’s good.
It’s a good area to hang out for a few hours with friends or solo.
It’s a good place to get out of downtown. Just 20 minutes from Powell Street and you’re in another world.
It’s a good neighborhood with quiet, charming streets to wander and explore.
The allure of West Portal stems from the genuine character that’s based in its history of expanding San Francisco to the western edge. Established as a staging area for the construction of the tunnel through Twin Peaks (1918), West Portal grew up in the 1920s and retains much of the original architecture and landscape features of the period.
West Portal is generally bounded by Taraval on the north, Kensington on the east, Portola Drive on the south and 14th Avenue on the west. It is easily reached by the K, L, M streetcar, but if you drive you can find parking relatively easily, especially if you’re willing to walk a block or two. When you go, be sure to noodle around the residential streets as well as the commercial corridor of West Portal Avenue.
Enjoy the curving rows of pastel colored stucco houses and gentle rolling hills. Veer up Ulloa to the WPA-era, Spanish Revival style public library designed by Frederick Meyer. Meander along Wawona to 14th Street and take in the grand chateau-esque Arden Wood (Henry Gutterson, architect), a spiritual retreat from 1930.
Stroll West Portal Avenue to have lunch or dinner, enjoy a movie, and stop in a shop or two to scan books or albums. Buy a gift for yourself or someone else, and eavesdrop on neighbor-catching-up-with-neighbor while walking the dogs. This is small town living in the center of San Francisco. After 2-3 hours exploring West Portal it’s probably time to say good-bye, but you’ll have a sense of wanting to go back.
Even if it’s not love, you’ve made a friend.
Several cafes and restaurants along
West Portal Ave (check day and time of operations).
No additional public restrooms available except at the library