The retro guide to San Francisco

San Francisco has always been at the spearhead of time, right up to today's 21st-century millennial, hipster, and tech scene. At the same time, the city fabulously hangs on to its beloved relics from past eras. Anyone who ventures into the city will find themselves swept up in the magic of the 60's, the Summer of Love, Alfred Hitchcock, and Rock 'N Roll. Locals and tourists alike - do yourselves a favor and check out some of these psychedelic hotspots on your next SF adventure ride.


El Faro

Local legend says El Faro - a Mission classic - rolled out its first burritos to a fine-looking group of firefighters in 1961.
Then there was a fight about who really rolled out San Francisco's first Mission burrito: El Faro or La Cumbre Taqueria. Anyway, the Mission burrito quickly spread throughout the city, and you can still get an original at 2399 Folsom at 20th St.

House of Prime Rib

House of Prime Rib has been thriving since the 1970's, serving up the juiciest cuts of prime rib; Yorkshire pudding; creamed spinach or corn; and potatoes - mashed or baked. Get 'em baked if you like your potatoes with a 50% ratio of sour cream.

Red's Java House

Red's Java House, an old-school burger joint on the waterfront, is filled with historic photos, red vinyl stools, and classic burgers served on sourdough buns. After all these years, Red's still won't give you a single leaf of lettuce or slice of tomato, so bring your own. A tried and true disaster survivor, the 1981 earthquake, massive fire of 1984, and 21st century San Francisco development have not succeeded in taking this old joint down.

#redsjavahouse #sanfrancisco #retrosf #embarcadero #wandering

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John's Grill

The setting of the famous literary piece, Maltese Falcon, John's Grill serves up perfectly grilled steaks, strong drinks - the bartenders laugh at today's wimpy cocktails - and excellent chowder.

St. Francis Fountain

St. Francis Fountain, SF's oldest ice cream parlor, has sustained little change from 1947, save a fresh coat of pink paint to the walls and ceilings in 2002. You'll see the same soda fountain, candy counter, and trading cards as your parents did 50 years ago.

Anchor Oyster Bar

Anchor Oyster Bar looks pretty much like it did in 1977. They never expanded their really tight seating or lost the nautical themed-everything atop shiny white tile, making sure to let only the freshest oysters pass through this here part of town.

Капитан Борода пришёл есть устрицы. Отдала сердце городам у моря и городам на холмах - вот тебе, Таша, пожалуйста, город на горах у океана. Чайки, устрицы, солнце, но постоянный ветер не даёт расслабиться и превратиться в овощ, а бородатые капитаны в долине по соседству меняют мир. // Captain Beard came to have some oysters for lunch. SF is a perfect city - ocean, mountains, seagulls, sunshine. But constant wind doesn't let you relax and get lazy, so bearded captains in the Valley nearby are creating things that change the world. #meetthekosmos #redheadinusa

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Pier 23

Pier 23 has all the makings of a classic SF waterfront. Stationed at Embarcadero, the small Pier 23 shack is one of the few 1930's dive bars that didn't fall off the face of the earth. Its got a funky beer garden facing Treasure Island out back; live jazz, R&B, or reggae 6X a week; and fresh seafood with big cocktails.

That smoked trout salad I was talking about earlier? Here's where to get it. ... photo via

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Yank Sing

The third-ever dim sum house to open in SF, Yank Sing has been rolling out classic Shu Mai and Shanghai dumplings on metal carts since 1958. Using the same drool-worthy recipes as 1958.

Caffe Trieste

Caffe Trieste is a North Beach fav that's been around a long time, attracting 60's fav's like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, even Hells Angels' Bill Fritsch, with some of the city's first AND best espresso. One of the last surviving Beatnik hangouts in San Francisco, Caffe Trieste has held on to most of its original decor, including the table where Frank Ford Coppola worked on the script of Godfather.

#caffetrieste #lastnight #cappuccino #northbeachsf #thegodfather #sflandmark #francisfordcoppola

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Don't be surprised if strolling down Haight sends waves of 1960's nostalgia down your gut. Live guitar music and tie-dyed paraphernalia still frequent street corners, as does the permanent smell of pot and peace signs slapped on buildings and the ground. You could say the hippie movement was born here, marked by peace protests and psychedelic experiments. Sadly, the hippie movement pretty much faded by the end of 1967, and the once-vibrant Haight-Ashbury, littered with drugs and homeless people, faded with it. Some of the coolest sites in the area still remain standing:

The Painted Lady Victorians...already on your bucket list. Got it.

The Red Victorian Hotel has changed up shoes and names a few times, but will still let you stay in her eclectic Peacock, Summer of Love, or Flower Child rooms.

The Grateful Dead House is where the legendary Grateful Dead really lived - from 1966 till 1968. This is also where the infamous 1967 Summer of Love drug bust went down. Note: people live here still.

Where everyone went for the BEST parties, Airplane House is where Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane kicked up their feet and laid down their heads. Jefferson Airplane and crew had the mansion's exterior painted all black at its gnarliest time, but 'tis black no longer.

Janis Joplin's Apartment...parties, drinks, drugs, a swinging door bedroom for frequent and many varied love interests - this is where world-famous Janis Joplin and her beloved dog once resided.

A gem of a store @_kellyp :) #sf #sfc #streetart #historicsf

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Longtime skyscrapers still standing in San Francisco include: the Hilton San Francisco and Towers built long, long ago in 1971; the iconic TransAmerica Pyramid completed, as one of the five tallest buildings in the world at the time, in 1972; and the 38-story tower at 425 Market St., completed in 1973.

#sf #thecityoflove #hiltonsf #prettyevening #specialmoment

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City Lights Books

Founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin, this spot was America's most daring publisher of independent lit. They b
ecame world-known for it too, after publishing Allen Ginsburg's influential "Howl and Other Poems" collection. Lawrence Ferlinghetti ended up getting busted for that and put on trial for obscenity (he won the case). And since City Lights never learned how to slow down, the shop propelled the Beat generation into an international spotlight with writers like Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. Before you knew it, BUS LOADS of tourists from ALL OVER the world were showing up to the North Beach bookstore to pump fists with famous beatniks.

Now, the bookstore's 30-capacity poetry room hosts most of its weekly events, publishes more than a dozen books per year, and shows no sign of slowing down. Everyone and anyone is welcome to sit in the basement or poetry room and read entire books if they want. The bookstore continues to flourish with its old charm, a haven for any writer who's out to change the world.

Next stop, City Lights Books, lights glowing invitingly, so many treasures within...

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Green Apple Books

Founded in 1967 by 25-year old Richard Savoy, the store expanded over 10 times its original 750 square foot space (the size of a SPACIOUS SF 1-bedroom) over the next 47 years. They got somebody to put in a mezzanine and a second floor; give the walls a new paint job, awning, and storefront mural, but didn't let 'em touch the gas light fixtures and old creaky steps from the 1960's.

Argonaut Bookshop

Argonaut Bookshop is Argosy Bookstore in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. The original shop opened in 1941 on Kearny St., then the owner's son opened the current shop on Sutter St. in 1969 when rent on Kearny shot up from $350 to $1350.
Fans say, "Hitchcock had it right. This is exactly how a bookshop should


In Hitchcock's 1958 thriller Vertigo, San Francisco police detective Scottie trails strangely behaving Madeleine, under orders from her concerned husband, Gavin Ester, to the entrance of the Legion of Honor. This is also the famous spot where Scottie finds Madeleine's green Jaguar parked (sorry, you can't film yourself driving up to the entrance since the museum doesn't permit visitors to do that anymore).


In the 50 years after the Summer of Love, Hippie Hill still hasn't given up on giant hippie love gatherings, rhythmic hand drumming, smoke signal swirls, and big time smoke-outs.

Christina Wong is a Bay Area native who loves to travel the world, but always finds her way back to California.