One of the things I like about living in San Francisco is the number of good small businesses that operate in town, and so many of them are easily accessible by the Mighty N-Judah line. Don’t get me wrong – I shop at the Safeway as much as the next person, thanks to the bargains on pricier items offered by their Club Card, but sometimes it’s nice to to hike all the way from the Sunset to the Safeway for a handful of items.
Up until recently, if you wanted to shop at any sort of an organic or non-mainstream market in this area, your options were rather limited. Either you had to go to the nice (but pricey) Andronico’s on Irving and Funston, or you had to go all the way out to the end of the N Judah line at Ocean Beachfor anything not pesticided to death. Now, I’m no purist when it comes to organic foods and all, but not everyone shares my view, and not everyone has time to go all the way to Ocean Beach during a busy workweek.
Now a new store has opened this summer, Essential Foods, at Irving and 4th Avenue, right on the N-Judah line. It’s funny how I missed this place since the storefront has been vacant for years, but one day when I was walking instead of riding the train, I saw it and walked in.
Not only were their prices better than Andronico’s, they had more than just “organic” food – they also had a decent selection of imported foods and noodles and whatnots. Best of all was the friendly, non-haughty atmosphere of the place, which is the result of the personable and friendly attitude of the owners.
In an era when sometimes in SF I feel like an “alternative” store should be asking me “would you like a dose of ‘tude with your order” Essential Foods had none of that. They’re just nice people who want to run a nice store that serves the neighborhood well. Best of all, it is one of the few stores open until 10pm – a nice change from the “roll up the sidewalks at 9pm” vibe many stores have.
If you’re looking for a good bottle of wine, a 40, or more mainstream grocery items when you’re in the middle of cooking and realize you’re short one ingredient, the 828 Irving Market at Irving and 9th is your best bet.
Not only do they have a selection of good wine at decent prices, they also have a selection of the finest beers, ranging from good old Olde English 800 to all the really good microbrews. They also have a really good selection of grocery items. It is a family owned store, and you will often see several generations of family helping out around the place. They have a good selection of standard grocery items, ranging from specialty ingredients (i.e. anchovies) to regular household items you might have forgotten to buy, and don’t feel like paying a) Andronico’s inflated prices and b) hiking all the way to Safeway.
Now, I should say one thing – I don’t mean to cap on Andronico’s too much – if I’m buying meat, for example, I would rather go there than other places because their meat department is really good. But for some items it really is not the best option, and I’d just as soon go to one of the above spots, if possible, than go there. Each business has its strength, and each one serves a need here in the Inner Sunset. Best of all, there are more such great businesses which I will spotlight in the future.
Special Note: While coming up with the idea for this entry, a friend alerted me to a review of a restaurant in the Outer Sunset that appeared in the apparently “hipper than thou” Bay Guardian. While I have not been to the restaurant in question myself just yet, I had heard it was good.
Thus it was rather irritating to read yet another Bay Guardian swipe at our neighborhood because apparently we’re not cool enough for the hipsters at the supposedly “local” paper.
I’m not sure why some people have to play the “hipster choose-up-sider” game when it comes to neighborhoods in our City. I wouldn’t think of going to the Mission and immediately complaining about things that may not to be my liking, but that’s just me. All I can say is that I am glad one of my birthday presents includes these hipster denizens being out of town thanks to “Burning Man.” Maybe then we might get a Guardian article that is a bit more objective about the west side. Umm, yeah.
Great post (and great blog) Greg.
I will definitely check out Essential Foods soon.
I had a similar experience to you walking home from UCSF to Funston/Judah (where I live). Was just walking on Irving when I noticed that new Malaysian restaurant in the basement of some building. I forget the name already. It’s between 5th and 6th maybe? But it’s amazing what you notice when you hop of the Muni and start walking sometimes.
As for Andronico’s I have a love-hate relationship with it. But on the whole, I find that shopping at Park’s on 10th and Irving for produce, Andronico’s for meat and Amazon Grocery for processed/bulk items is my current plan of action (oh and I *love* the 22nd and Irving produce market – they always have great fruit at great prices).
The Lime Tree is apparently really good, even though it’s in a bit of a strange spot in the downstairs of that building. The Essential Foods folks recommended it.
Park’s does have good produce, good catch!
Thanks for the tip on the new store. I’ll have to make a trip out there to check it out.
Well I swung by Essential Foods this morning. It’s a cute little shop. For its size, the selection is decent. As for a price comparison, they’re cheaper than Andronico’s from what I could see.
I bought a package of Fig Newmans for 3.79 (usually 4.50+ at Andronico’s) and a $3 bag of pita chips (usually $4 at Andronico’s). So on the whole, I’m happy with this new addition.
Also noticed that the travel agency further along the block is completely gone from the storefront on Irving and 6th. Here’s hoping that something more interesting than a travel agency replaces it.
And re: the Lime Tree (thanks for reminding me of the name). It is good. I tried it a couple of weeks back. It’s not fancy, but good for a quick bite or take-out.
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