When I first came to San Francisco for college, my roommate insisted on bringing me to a little cafe in the Richmond District called Simple Pleasures. "You have to try their raspberry rings!" she said. I had never been to this part of town. As we drove past the ocean and turned up Balboa Street, I was enchanted by the neighborhood, with its colorful houses and apartment buildings blocks away from the crashing surf. We were enveloped in fog, and fog horns sang in the distance.
We passed by a little bait and tackle shop surrounded by colorful apartment buildings. Gus' has been here for over 60 years and it's filled with - you guessed it - bait and tackle, but also an ever-changing and oddly enchanting assortment of other items. Once I walked into a collection of china fit for an English tea party.
And then we passed a strip of local shops, including Crown Hardware and the neighborhood watering hole, the Hockey Haven, a great place to play pool and watch whatever game is on.
Once we reached the cafe itself, were greeted by murals on the walls, overstuffed couches, and people of all ages crowded around the large tables in front working on puzzles, reading the newspaper, playing chess. The air inside was warm and smelled like pastries and lasagna. I didn't want to leave, and I still haven't left - it's been my hangout for close to 20 years.
A few years after I graduated. I moved to the Richmond District and haven't looked back. It's like a small town here, with a little grocery store, amazing bakeries, and of course the Balboa Theater, which has great deals on matinees and the best popcorn in the city (IMO).
I discovered Geary Blvd on my walks from my apartment. It was like another world, if that other world were, say, Russia. Russian bakeries, Russian markets, Russian shops, and Russian Orthodox churches, all nestled between hardware stores, mattress outlets and pharmacies.
Some people don't like the outer avenues, complaining that it's too foggy, too far from downtown. Some people even call it "the suburbs". But for me it's perfect. On one side I have shops and restaurants; on the other, I have a forest of trees by the ocean.
I can't imagine living anywhere else.