Cole Valley is bordered on the west by Stanyan Street and Sutro Forest. On the south the distinctive community, by Tank Hill and the east by Clayton Street. Cole Valley has a lot of character and the residents are mostly families and young professional people. It has a down to earth nature and most businesses are small independents verses, chain stores and franchises.
Cole Valley has a rich history that is still visible today. The Kezar Bar and Restaurant displays historic photos dating from the early 1900s, where the region was home to dairy farms. Above the Crepes on Cole awning, along Carl Street side, remains the old sign for the Other Café, a comedy spot where Robin Williams and Dana Carvey performed before they made it big.
Cole Valley specialities include delicious food and coffee establishments. The strip along Cole Street and part of Carl Street, is home to more than a dozen restaurants and cafés. EOS, for instance, is considered one of the city's top dining spots, while Zazie is a magnet for locals on weekends for brunch.
While most sightseers never make it beyond restaurants and stores, Cole Valley does provide spectacular city views. A favorite lookout is atop 600-foot-high Tank Hill, named for an old water tank stationed there in the late 1800s. Eucalyptus trees there were planted after the attack on Pearl Harbor to hide the water tank from bombers.
Sights & Culture
The Heart of Cole Festival, and street fair is an annual celebration that is free to the public and is held in October. The festivities feature arts and crafts of local artists, food from local eateries, along with activities for kids and live music. Visit the Cole Valley Home Page for more information.
At the Corner of Shrader and Rivoli Streets sits a house designed by renowned architect Ira Kurlander. The first floor of the house was built in 1908 and was the home of Bernice Lane Brown, mother of former California Gov. and current Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and Kathleen Brown. Philanthropist Pat Montandon, commissioned a carving in front of 1591 Shrader St. titled, “Angel of Hope”in the trunk of an old Monterey cypress. A tree had to be taken down as another one on the other side of the driveway toppled during a windstorm in the mid-'90s, damaging nearby houses.
Belvedere Street between Parnassus and 17th streets is a Halloween tradition of fun where the street is blocked off as neighborhood kids gather to show off their costumes and celebrate with candy and fellowship. Easter Sunday is an event in itself as the park along Carl Street between Clayton and Cole streets, turn out in full Easter bonnets and costumes.
Wild Parrots: For more than a decade Cole Valley has been a destination of choice for a flock of birds known as the "Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." Anywhere from late June to late August, usually just between 7 am and 8 am, up to twenty wild parrots, make their way from their nighttime nesting place around Jackson and Davis streets to one section of Cole Valley, around Willard, Belmont, Woodland and Edgewood streets. These parrots, most of which are cherry-headed conures native to South America, sport green bodies and red heads and tend to make a lot of noise, so they're hard to miss. First, they head for the pine trees, and then the hawthorne, apple and plum trees.
Bambino's Ristorante: The highlight of this family-style restaurant is the consistent Italian fare. Pastas like spicy linguini with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms, or grilled salmon with leeks, mushrooms, capers and dill, are easy on the wallet, especially considering the large portions. 945 Cole St., (415) 731-1343.
Boulange de Cole Valley: In Parisian café style, Boulange is Cole Valley's people-watching, socializing center. The bakery and patisserie, owned by the same folks who run Boulangerie Bay Bread on Pine Street, specializes in pastries like croissants, éclairs, tarts and brioche, as well as sandwiches, soups and salads. 1000 Cole St., (415) 242-2442.
Burger Meister: What was once a crepery as well as a taqueria is now home to Burger Meister, decorated with whimsical painted burgers, hot dogs and fries on the walls. The Meister serves Niman Ranch beef, meaning there are no nasty hormones or antibiotics used, as well as garden burgers and a grilled-chicken salad. All come with basic fries, though it's worth trying the lemon-garlic fries. 86 Carl St., (415) 566-1274.
Café Cole: Café Cole offers healthier treats than just coffee and pastries. The café serves shots of wheatgrass juice and fresh fruit juices and smoothies like the Hurricane, with banana, cinnamon, mango and apple juice, or the Flamenco, with tomato, carrot and red-pepper juice. Vegans can find cookies, sandwiches and calzones prepared especially for them, though the menu has meat options too. 609 Cole St., (415) 668-7771.
Cole Valley Café: One of the newest additions on the block, Cole Valley Café took over where Jammin' Java used to sit. This café has a more substantial menu than its predecessor, with basic deli sandwiches like corned beef or turkey, or more catered fare like lox sandwiches with avocado, onions, arugula and capers or veggie falafel wraps. There are some custom drinks like the Arctic Tundra (blended white chocolate with raspberry syrup) and the Java Blast (espresso, milk, vanilla syrup and whipped cream). 701 Cole St., (415) 668-5282.
Crepes on Cole: Portions spill off the sides of the plate, whether you've ordered a mammoth green salad or a savory crepe with house potatoes. Crepe flavors are complex: a tofu crepe with vegetables in peanut sauce, or the cannelloni, with cheddar, cream cheese, cottage cheese, onions, mushrooms and marinara sauce. Dessert blintzes and crepes are filled with fruits, jellies, Nutella, the works. 100 Carl St. (at Cole Street), (415) 664-1800.
Grandeho's Kamekyo: The friendly service and high-quality sushi rank Grandeho's as a favorite among connoisseurs. House specials are varied, including the shrimp clay pot, the sesame chicken and the Dynamite Roll; tuna unagi and asparagus, deep fried. Sushi selections such as the Spider Roll; fried soft-shell crab can be ordered at the bar, and sometimes the sushi chef will concoct a special creation on request. The restaurant is small, so be prepared for a wait. 943 Cole St., (415) 759-8428.
Hama-Ko Sushi Restaurant: Hama-Ko has built a loyal following since opening in 1983. The small sushi restaurant, considered by many to serve the best sushi in San Francisco, specializes in traditional sushi and sashimi; no tempura or teriyaki, as proprietor Ted Kashiyama points out. Sea-urchin roe, Dungeness crab, toro (tuna belly), yellowtail and monkfish liver are all offered, and Hama-Ko also presents the traditional kaiseki, an artfully arranged array of sushi choices. 108B Carl St., (415) 753-6808.
Kezar Bar and Restaurant: Appetizers like baked portabella mushroom and main dishes like broiled ahi-tuna steak are reasonably priced. Behind the bar there is a selection of microbrews, as well as Italian, Californian and French wines by the glass or bottle. Photos of Cole Valley from the early 1900s, when dairies stood where houses and shops are today, hang on the walls in each of the two dining rooms. Kezar has a full bar open past dinnertime. 900 Cole St., (415) 681-7678.
Reverie Cafe: This place is famed for its Rosetta latte, a marbled mix of coffee and cream. The morning menu consist of muffins, scones, croissants, bagels and carrot cake. Nooks and outdoor seating in the garden allow for a peaceful, somewhat private setting. 848 Cole St., (415) 242-0200.
Say Cheese: This is one of the premier specialty cheese shops in the Bay Area, amd the list of cheeses available reads like an international who's who in the dairy world. 856 Cole St., (415) 665-5020.
Tully's Coffee: Tully's serves espresso coffees, smoothies and fresh-squeezed orange juice, along with breakfast bagels or pastries. With just about five stools inside, a bit of room on the windowsills and a few tables and chairs set up outside, this is not the kind of café where patrons linger. 919 Cole St., (415) 753-2287. (Web site)
Zazie: Zazie has a longstanding tradition as a brunch venue, with gingerbread or buttermilk pancakes a favorite. The rest of the menu is extensive, ostrich burger, vegetarian Mediterranean plate and fresh goat-cheese ravioli basquaise with red, green and yellow peppers, garlic and herbs. 941 Cole St., (415) 564-5332.
Cole Hardware: It's rare that going to a hardware store can be considered an enjoyable outing, but Cole Hardware sets the standard for all others to follow. The store has become an institution in the area, with an overwhelming number of choices on every item, from light bulbs to drain openers. 956 Cole St., (415) 753-2653.
Egg + Urban Mercantile: Sells an eclectic array of housewares and gift items, like a wine rack made from industrial tubes for about $70 and a designer oil-and-vinegar set. Though some of the items are made by local artists, Egg also carries a variety of goods unique to other countries. . 85 Carl St., (415) 564-2248.
Cole Valley Antiques: This small shop packs a punch, with antique and vintage furniture, jewelry, decor, glass, crystal, cuff links, hats, books, lighting, the unique and the unusual. 90 Parnassus Ave., (415) 504-7884. Closed Tues.
Occasions Gifts Bath & Body Boutique: Most of the specialty soaps, bulk hand lotions and shampoos in Occasions are organic products. Natural honey soaps from Switzerland, perfume oils and floral essences and vegetarian lip colors are just some of the choices in this boutique. 858 Cole St., (415) 731-0153.
The Shop: Owner Lori Elder, who fashions custom jewelry for the entertainment industry, including the likes of Prince and Snoop Doggy Dogg, features gallery-style pieces in the Shop. Many of the artists represented actually live in Cole Valley, and it's possible to watch them create behind the counter, where Elder has set up a work table. The Shop showcases unique metal-art furniture, paintings, handmade jewelry, and other upbeat, unusual pieces. 113 Carl St., (415) 661-7467.
The Sword and Rose: The Sword and Rose carries all the essentials: books on tarot and occultism, plus incenses and bath oils, all made on the premises, and handmade jewelry and candles. An altar to Isis takes up part of one wall, while colored drip candles fill another. Two of the staff members offer tarot and astrology readings on a sliding-scale basis. Closed Mondays. 85 Carl St., (415) 681-5434.
Val de Cole: In this inexpensive wine shop, it's possible to find a bottle of Monterey chardonnay for under $10, a vintage merlot from Italy for $6, basic cigars imported from Chile and Honduras and beer and spirits as well. Champagne is a big seller at the shop. 906 Cole St., (415) 566-1808.
Finnegan's Wake: This neighborhood bar attracts sports fans who gather to watch big games on a large-screen television, as well as regulars to listen to Elvis or Iggy Pop on the jukebox, sidle up to the bar for a brew or play ping-pong on the outside patio. Finnegan's tends to get crowded after concerts in nearby Golden Gate Park, as well as on Thursday nights. It's also a good place to hang while waiting for a table at Grandeho's. 937 Cole St., (415) 731-6119.