The Tendernobs Hidden Gems

Text and Photography by Christine Donley


Models wearing Stolen Sunday on a photo shoot in the Tendernob

The San Francisco Tendernob is a neighborhood with more than its share of character, grit, and history.  The traditional categorization for the area has been the Tenderloin and Nob Hill, but at some point it became apparent that there was a new neighborhood forming with its own unique characteristics.  Some have embraced Lower Nob Hill to describe this in-between neighborhood, but I’ve always found the Tendernob much more accurate because we have the urban hustle and energy of the Tenderloin, the posh charm that runs from prim and proper to bohemian that is reminiscent of Nob Hill, and gold-mining, adventurous energies that built both neighborhoods.

Home of Dasheil Hammett and Sam Spade

One distinctive characteristic of the emerging Tendernob is creative entrepreneurship that is manifesting  personal vision and sustainable practices.  These businesses operate with creativity and values; raising the quality of their customers lives through their craft/trade and improving their communities are at the heart of what they do.

The vibe is of the  neighborhood is gritty yet fancy, old world meets new, refined and low-brow, with a touch of NYC.   Walking the streets will reveal historic treasures and unique independent businesses including boutiques, restaurants, and cafes.  Bring your camera for candid street shots, outstanding and unique architecture, and the neighborhood’s many murals.  Let’s visit the Tendernob!

1.  Floréal L’Atelier 

533 Taylor street between Geary and Post

M-Th 9 to 5, Fri  9 to 12 , Sat 11 to 4 , Sun closed

floreal table 1.1

Experience a taste of Paris in the heart of San Francisco.  One part floral shop, one part boutique, owner Dominique Pfahl is an artist who is truly connected to nature. “I started Floréal to fulfill the dream I had when I was a little girl, gathering flowers with my Mom and my sisters.”  Visit her magical shop to experience what if feels like when dreams come true.  In Dominique’s wonderland you’ll find unique and beautiful objects made by nature and by hand, while feeling in touch with the call of the wild.

floreal butterflies

2.  farm:table

754 Post St between Jones and Leavenworth

T-F 7:30-2pm Sat 8-3, Sun 9-3 // Closed Mondays and Major Holidays

farm table cap and sam 2

Tiny and charming with a rustic feel, farm:table will fill your belly with local, in-season delights like tomato ham frittata or pear-apple upside down cake …you can find out today’s menu on Twitter @farmtable. The coffee is some of the best in the city…I recommend the double cappuccino for a rich and creamy  treat. Sit at the communal farm table inside; outside, choose between sidewalk tables or the grassy city parklet to watch the city go by.

3.  Kayo Books

814 Post St. @ Leavenworth Street

Hours: Thu-Sat 11 am – 6 pm

Kayo books

“Is that a paperback book in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” 

Kayo Books specializes in vintage paperbacks from the 1940s to 1970s and many sorts of esoteric books. “Our small store is like a museum of pulp fiction and non-fiction. The stock presents a glimpse into the lurid past of dimestore novels, sleazy 1960s exploitation, and 1970s pop culture.” Yelpers, like the one quoted above, love Kayo for it’s awesome selection, great prices, and friendly, helpful staff.  Pick up a couple books for yourself or a friend and keep a brick and mortar bookstore in business while collecting a piece of history….however sorted that history may be!!

4.  Stewart Gilchrist Interiors

864 Post Street @ Hyde Street

gilchrist desk

Stuart Gilchrist, a native San Franciscan and esteemed  interior designer recently opened a delightful retail storefront on Post Street .  Well stocked with tasteful and playful items (from local and global sources) you’ll find a nice selection of fine Italian papers, delicious scents delivered via glamorous crystals, locally made jewelry, charming sketches by Gilchrist and sexy home decor items.  Even though this place oozes California cool, the staff are friendly and helpful.


5.  Handsome Oxford

646 Hyde St between Post and Geary Streets

Tue-Sat 12 pm – 7 pm

handsome oxford shirts

Handsome Oxford is a small store that sells used, stylish, covetable AMERICAN MADE clothing and accessories. Run by a few friendly, young entrepreneurs, comb through the racks to find hidden treasures, or ask for help in finding the vintage pieces you’ve been dreaming of at great prices.

6.  Cavalier Design Studio

1035 Post Street, between Polk and Larkin Streets 

Tuesday to Saturday 11AM-6PM

Cavalier Design Studio 2

“We believe in warm modernism. That means comfortable pieces with clean lines and tactile materials. Old world skills applied in a fresh way. A sophisticated mix of vintage and contemporary. Cavalier is a destination for those who take their pleasures seriously.”

Established in 2012 in San Francisco by interior designer Jay Jeffers and creative director Michael Purdy, Cavalier is the exclusive source for interior designer Jeffers’ debut collection of California‐made furniture, as well as the sole stockist for a limited‐edition selection of home furnishings and accessories created in partnership with designers from around the world.  Cavalier celebrates all that is singular and luxurious, showcasing inspiring new, vintage and bespoke pieces.

7. The Shooting Gallery

886 Geary Street between Larkin and Hyde 

Tuesday-Saturday 12PM-7PM

Shooting Gallery 1

The Shooting Gallery opened in the Tenderloin in 2003, and they have recently moved to big, airy space at Geary and Larkin Street.  Gallery owner and curator Justin Giarla has been collecting since the age of 23 and started the gallery to give a platform to “low-brow” artists to share their work.  Focused on pop, street, and outsider art, you can also expect to find exhibitions in the styles of pop surrealism, figurative realism, and color abstraction.

Shooting Gallery 2

8.  Bang San Thai

791 O’Farrell Street @ Larkin

11AM to 11PM 7 Days a Week

Bang San Thai

Bang San Thai is a great  place to take a group, large or small,  with diverse needs.  Their menu boasts halal, grass fed meats, as well as purely vegetarian options and the ability to substitute meat in most dishes with meat substitutes for vegans.  Seriously, all your picky eaters can find something delicious here.  Bang San is a nice, quiet, oasis in the Tenderloin.

9.  Little Saigon

Two-block corridor of Larkin Street between Eddy and O’Farrell

Little Saigon

Little Saigon is best known for it’s great selection of Vietnamese restaurants.  From tasty pho and fresh from the tank seafood dishes to crunchy Vietnamese sandwiches, you will find a diverse selection of Vietnamese favorites.  Nothing fancy, with lots of interesting spots buzzing with a diverse mixture of SF clientele.  A walk down Larkin Street and you will figure out which places to get in line for.

Little Saigon golden lotus

10.  Tenderloin National Forest

509 Ellis St (between Cohen Pl & Leavenworth St)

Wed. – Sat. 11:00am- 3:00pm

Tenderloin national forest

Photographers alert!!  Grab your camera for this unique San Francisco spot. The Tenderloin National Forest is an oasis of art and creativity in the center of the urban jungle…bringing peace, quiet and inspiration to weary souls.  The TNF is a project of Luggage Store Co-Artistic Directors/Artists Darryl Smith and Laurie Lazer that started in 1989 to create “a vibrant community commons where people of all ages can gather for public art, performance, experimental art projects, classes and activities.”  These days you’ll find yourself exploring this creative garden under the watchful eyes of the many murals that cover the surrounding walls.  Enjoy intimate spots hidden within overgrown, lush plant life and punctuated with artist-made objects of all kinds make this a great place to kick back and enjoy some art.

TLN forest

11.  Hooker’s Sweet Treats

442 Hyde St between O’Farrell and Ellis

Tuesday to Friday, 8AM-4PM Saturday and Sunday 10AM to 2PM


World famous salted carmels, rich and creamy coffee, out of this world bread pudding , cozy interior.  Enough said.

Especially for After Hours…..

12.  Chutney

511 Jones Street between Ofarrell St & Geary Streets

11AM-12AM 7 Days a Week


Chutney opens at 11AM, and we frequently go there for an lunch or early dinner…that said, dinner time is when the magic happens.  Yes, you’ll find long lines and cramped tables, but the ambiance of Chutney at night is one of a kind.  A large but not terribly overwhelming menu, you’ll find tasty versions of your favorite Indian dishes like Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Biryani, and Tandori Chicken.   Try family style and sample lots of dishes with options for meat eaters and vegetarians.  Tandoori chicken or salmon make great anchor foods for a spicy, unforgettable meal.

13.  Nile Cafe and Hookah Lounge

544 Jones St (between Geary St & Ofarrell S

Mon-Wed 4 pm – 12:30 am

Thu 4 pm – 2 am

Fri-Sat 4 pm – 4 am

Sun 4 pm – 1 am


After Chutney, head over to Nile Cafe and Hookah Bar for what I swear is never ending hookah and a pot of tea, one of their many coffee drinks or a refreshing smoothy.  Lots of great hookah flavors to choose from…rose mint was recommended to me, and I can’t wait to try it next time we visit Nile Cafe.  Sit outside and take in a true Tenderloin experience (and some cold wind), or head in-doors for another cozy, crowded hot spot.

14. Cafe Royale

800 Post St @ Leavenworth

Mon-Wed, Sun 4 pm – 12 am

Thu-Sat 4 pm – 2 am

Cafe Royale

 On any given night you could find a comedy set, DJ,  jazz quartet, or live theatre.  Cafe Royale has also been hosting exhibitions of Bay Area artists for 10 years and continues to support local artists with monthly exhibitions of painting, photography, collage and mixed media.  You’ll find a rotating selection of tasty beers, including some amazing, yet lesser-known California brews.    See what’s on tonight at Cafe Royale here.


I know you will enjoy visiting this intriguing neighborhood!  This list is far from comprehensive…walking around the Tendernob, you will find many more hidden gems than could be contained in one blog post.

If you are interested in learning more of the in-depth history of San Francisco, I suggest looking into San Francisco Walking Tours.    These anecdotal tours are free and offer you with unique stories of the city lead by volunteer guides. On weekends you’ll find 16-20 tours with topics like Rising Steel: Two Centuries Of San Francisco Architecture, Alfred Hitchcock’s San Francisco, Downtown Deco, and Victorian San Francisco.

For a schedule of free tours, go here.


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