SFO, quick!
November 29, 2007 8:41 PM   Subscribe

I have a 6-hour layover in San Francisco on Saturday night (7PM - 1AM). I want to get out of the airport and do some Christmas shopping and grab something to eat for a few hours, say 8-10PM. Where should I go?

I know Union Square has high-end chains that are open until at least 9PM, but I can visit those anywhere. I was hoping for something different where I could pick up some interesting gifts. I've been Googling the kinds of stores I might want to visit (quirky gift shops, yarn shops) but many of them seem to close at 6 or 7PM.

I have been to SF before, and I've done the touristy sightseeing stuff. I'm fine with a targeted approach, I just don't know where I should be headed.

Oh, and if you have a quick food recommendation (taqueria?) I'll take it.
posted by cabingirl to Shopping (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should probably factor the fact that SFO is a decent bit away from the actual city into your calculations, for one thing. I don't do much shopping up there, so I can't do much about your real question, but definitely check the BART schedule before you get too far into planning anything.
posted by crinklebat at 8:53 PM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: I'd say take BART from the airport to 16th/Mission and explore the shops along Valencia St, but unfortunately most of them will probably be closed by 8pm. For food, Papalote and La Taqueria are both solid options near the 24th/Mission BART station.
posted by amb at 9:28 PM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Yes, you need to factor in the BART travel time from the airport, which is about a half hour or more to SF, depending on how far downtown you want to go.

There's a great taqueria near the 24th St BART station, El Taco Loco, about half a block down 24th. They're probably open late on a Saturday night, but call first to check. If you're not a vegetarian get the burrito al pastor - trust me on this.

There are some artsy galleries and bookstores in gentrifying parts of the Mission District around the 16th St BART station that stay open fairly late, but they are scattered randomly. You could just walk around but this part of town can be somewhat borderline at night so keep that in mind. There's a great tandoori place on 16th between Mission and Valencia called Pakwan - excellent, cheap, and crowded.

This might sound lame, but the airport has a few neat things as well. In the United terminal there's a long corridor with interesting exhibits that change frequently, and the international terminal had a nice art gallery (I recall this gallery was sort of stuck away in a corner someplace, not so easy to find). Also in the United terminal there's a really good bookstore which stays open fairly late in the evenings. Even if you don't make it out of SFO you might not entirely perish from boredom.
posted by Quietgal at 9:29 PM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: Your best bet is to take the BART to 16th/Mission, get out of the station and walk one block WEST (do not go east and for gods sakes dont go south) then just wander around. Saturday night at 8-10pm, that whole area is lively - tons of places to eat (try Valencia between 16th and 17th) although unfortunately most of the shopping closes at 7pm or 8pm.

Wander slowly down Valencia st. until you get to 24th, walk one block east and hop back on the BART.
posted by vacapinta at 9:41 PM on November 29, 2007

seconding Pakwan in the mission. If it's the place I'm thinking it is (and I'm pretty sure it is), it's BYOB and there's a convenience store across the street. Silly the things that make places seem special, but I tell you, it really works. And it helps that the food totally kicks ass!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:58 PM on November 29, 2007

If you're willing/able to pony up for a cab from the airport, you can be at 16th & Valencia in about 20 minutes, barring traffic weirdness. Pakwan is fantastic. If you're in the mood for Vietnamese, visit Sunflower at 16th and Valencia; one block west, at 16th & Guerrero, is Andalu, which is a good small-plates place.

Another option is Hayes St., west of the Civic Center. It's got boutiques and good restaurants, too. It's less BART-accessible, though.
posted by rtha at 10:34 PM on November 29, 2007

The displays in the United section were interesting prototypes of consumer electronics and other tools/items and animation cells. Kind of interesting if you get stuck in the airport.

Therapy is a gift shop on Valencia near 16th street, they have some interesting things from time to time. Artists Exchange is an art gallery right across from Pakwan on 16th near Guerrero.

A cab should cost you a little more than $30 plus tip each way if you get pressed for time. It should take around 20 minutes door to door from 16th and mission to the airport.

I'm not sure how late the stores inside stay open, but the Ferry Building may be open and is right at the embarcadero bart station.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:50 PM on November 29, 2007

Hayes is easy to get to from the Van Ness BART station, about a 5 minute walk. There's not as much to do there as the Mission.

Bombay Ice Creamery will be open until 10pm if you get off at 16th + Mission. Even if there's not much shopping the Mission is still worth walking around (get off at 16th, walk down Mission to 24th, then back up Valencia).
posted by kcm at 11:28 PM on November 29, 2007

(It's about 30 minutes once the train leaves to take BART to the Embarcadero, a few less to either 16th/24th/Van Ness. You may have to wait 10-20+ for it to arrive and then leave, though, on either end.)
posted by kcm at 11:29 PM on November 29, 2007

kcm - I think you mean the Civic Center BART stop? Muni stops at Van Ness, but not BART. It's a few more blocks to Hayes Valley, from Civic Center BART.

I agree with the Mission recommendations. It's an easy BART ride (take any train from SFO). Get off at 24th and walk up Valencia to 16th or vice versa. Lots of stores, including good bookstores (open to 9 or 10), Good Vibes (open til 9), Aquarius Records (open to 10) and Paxton Gate. 826 Valencia closes at 6, sadly.

And here's the BART schedule.

posted by gingerbeer at 12:51 AM on November 30, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks all! I will definitely try to get to the Mission if it all works out right. (There's snow coming, I might not even get to SFO) If I'm stuck at the airport at least it sounds like there might be some stuff to see there.
posted by cabingirl at 6:52 AM on November 30, 2007

I take Bart from Millbrae into the city on a regular basis. You want the Dublin/Pleasanton train. Keep in mind that the later it is at night, the fewer trains run. Fortunately, the last trains leaving the City run later than the ones going the other way though.

Here's a MAJOR tip, though. At that time of night, there are some trains that leave from the same track as the SFO trains that only go to Daly City and that's the end of the line for them. Try not to accidentally get on one of those, but if you do it's not the end of the world. It's on the way to SFO but you'll have to catch another train to go the rest of the way. When you get off the train at Daly City, you have to walk to another track to wait for the SFO train though. Just ask someone where you need to go, it's not far.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:44 AM on November 30, 2007

If you do get stuck at the airport, the area behind United Domestic does have a cool rotating exhibit. Also the bookstore there (books inc?) is actually a good bookstore (meaning they carry literature not just Dan Brown books)

There's a smaller exhibit in the International terminal soon after you come out of the BART station there. When I was there recently they had a Looney Tunes exhibit with videos and original animation cells. Also the cafes in the international terminal are more spacious places to hang out in than the more crowded domestic terminals - the terminal is both newer and bigger.

This last tip applies to going back through security. In the domestic terminals there's main security line which everyone crowds and smaller lines. One of the smaller lines is on the walkway between the domestic and International terminals. There's another on the far right of the terminal as you enter but they wouldnt let me (United not allowed, American is) through even though it connects to the same space - a bit confounding.
posted by vacapinta at 9:57 AM on November 30, 2007

I will add to the mention of the United terminal's displays. History of recording technology when I was there in February this year. I had four hours to kill in the airport and this was a welcome diversion.
posted by galaksit at 10:52 AM on November 30, 2007

Oops - Pakwan is actually between Valencia and Guerrero. 3182 16th St, to be exact.
posted by Quietgal at 12:41 PM on November 30, 2007

Response by poster: Just an update...my flights all worked out this weekend and I did the 16th to 24th on Valencia walk. Not much was open for shopping, as predicted, but I had an excellent cappuccino at Ritual Coffee and then tacos al pastor at El Taco Loco (amazing). I would have gone to Pakwan but was afraid of offending my seatmates with the scent of curry on the flight home. Thanks again all!
posted by cabingirl at 7:56 AM on December 3, 2007

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