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Neighbourhood Guide: Fillmore District, San Francisco

While San Francisco is a bustling and trendy city famed for the Golden Gate Bridge, Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, its pulse is found in its various neighbourhoods. From the funky Haight-Ashbury (which was the heart of the hippie phenomenon in the ’60s) to the upscale Pacific Heights, each area is different from the next.

One of the more historical neighbourhoods is the Fillmore District, which is lined with beautiful Victorian houses, and was once the national centre for jazz during the 1940s and 1950s. It is also affectionately known as the “Harlem of The West”, having been established as the Historic Fillmore Jazz Preservation District by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency in 1995.

From the best Michelin-starred restaurants to jazz supper clubs, check out this vibrant district steeped in history.

Gastronomic fusion 

Fillmore District
One of State Bird Provisions’ signature dishes since 2012: Crispy pork belly salad with stone fruit and Vietnamese vinaigrette. (Image credit: @statebirdprovisions)

San Francisco, like many major cities in the world, is a melting pot of cultures. With that, comes a fusion of inventive cuisine. The one-Michelin-starred State Bird Provisions is one of Fillmore District’s best restaurants, serving up hearty mains the likes of trout and pork belly. Although it has a star to its name, the restaurant is not a fine dining establishment. Instead, it takes the form of a small casual restaurant featuring an urban-rustic storefront setting.

For Italian grub, check out SPQR helmed by chef Matthew Accarrino. It has unique entrées and inventive tasting menus made with local ingredients, along with an extensive wine list. Request a seat at the counter, which looks into the open kitchen, for a view of the action that goes into making the food.

Fillmore District
Jane caters to the well-heeled crowd. (Image credit: Jane)

And of course, San Francisco is synonymous with coffee culture. With third-wave coffee shops popping up all over the city over the last decade, you’ll probably have a hard time deciding on a café for your morning coffee run. One of the more popular cafes in the Fillmore District is Jane, a café serving hot Stumptown coffee, sweets and salads. Jane is well loved by San Franciscans, which says it all. You can also check out Zo11, a bright art-filled space where you can find traditional Ethiopian coffee brewed on the stove in a clay pot.

A spectrum of nightlife

While charming during the day, the Fillmore District has a different kind of allure at night. You will never run out of drink options, as you can find a hip or swanky bar at every turn. The Social Study is a hip, brick-walled spot serving gourmet coffee and pastries by day — and wine and craft beer by night. Enjoy the bar’s signature winetails, beertails, sangria and soju cocktails, along with local and imported beer whilst listening to a playlist of the best hip-hop, R&B, soul, funk, and classic jams. The best local DJs play on Thursday to Saturday nights.

Fillmore District
Amelie has an impressive wine selection. (Image credit: @llolopie)

For a classier affair, Amelie is the hottest wine bar in San Francisco featuring interiors inspired by French kitchens and wine cellars. Enjoy the live music while indulging in the various wine selections, as well as the delicious cheese and meat plates.

All about that jazz

After the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 that led to the destruction of 80 percent of San Francisco, the rebuilding of the city included theatres, movie houses and The Fillmore — a 1912 dance hall which later turned into a famous concert venue, featuring names such as The Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, and Country Joe and the Fish.

Fillmore District
The Fillmore Jazz Festival is a yearly affair. (Image credit: Lorcan Keating/Flickr)

Fillmore Street then became America’s music mecca in the 1940s, attracting the greatest talents to the jazz clubs. Today, the spirit of jazz lives on, with the street hosting the Fillmore Street Jazz Festival every July. The festival is one of the largest free jazz festivals on the West Coast, spanning 12 city blocks along Fillmore Street and attracting over 100,000 visitors each year. Here, you can enjoy an eclectic mix of art and gourmet food while grooving to live music by jazz fusionists and well-established musicians.

If you’re looking to go to a jazz club, 1300 on Fillmore offers a range of highlights including a gospel music brunch, jazz piano performances and R&B live entertainment, while Yoshi’s is a well-known jazz supper club and Japanese restaurant which has seen headline acts perform since 1972.

Shopping options

Shop alongside Fillmore Street style mavens and enjoy the range of shopping options the district has to offer. From well-known luxury brands such as Marc Jacobs and MAC Cosmetics to independent clothing stores and one-of-a-kind jewellery boutiques, vintage thrift stores and bookstores, Fillmore Street has something for everyone.

Fillmore District
Design Within Reach has beautiful home furnishings for the modern home. (Image credit: @designwithinreach)

Check out upscale home furnishing stores like Design Within Reach and Shabby Chic, where you can find beautiful items for your home, or browse through the shelves of Browser Books, an old-school bookshop where you can find a range of new and used books.

A neighbourhood with soul

The Fillmore District is a unique area with a charm of its own. Take a walk along its streets and spend an evening in one of its many jazz bars, and you will find a heritage-rich neighbourhood brimming with soul. Jazz fans, food lovers, wine connoisseurs and stylish street mavens will certainly find something to love about this underrated part of San Francisco.

(Featured image credit: @cewing13)

Dewi Nurjuwita
Senior Writer
Dewi Nurjuwita is a travel and design writer who can be found exploring the streets of foreign cities with passport in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.