Hayes Valley shops keep charm amid rapid growth

As seen in the San Francisco Chronicle July 10, 2011

Illustration courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle

Nerissa Pacio Itchon, Special to The Chronicle

With the burst of activity happening in Hayes Valley lately, it’s hard to believe this bustling San Francisco neighborhood has nary a Starbucks in sight. From the groundbreaking of the $50 million SF Jazz Center and the opening of high-end spin-offs to several existing boutiques, to the new restaurant flurry and more to come, one might expect to find shoppers – Venti Mocha Frappuccinos in hand – walking their well-groomed labradoodles.

But ask anyone who knows this charmingly compact, decidedly big-chain-averse neighborhood and they’ll assure you that although the Valley is growing rapidly, its personality is definitively intact.
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Best of Date Night: Nojo and Chambers Eat + Drink

Outside Nojo ("farm" in Japanese) on Franklin and Hayes streets in San Francisco. All photos by Edric Itchon.

Friday was date night and I headed out with my husband Edric to hit up Nojo, a Japanese-izakaya-inspired restaurant in Hayes Valley that’s been getting glowing reviews. Luckily all the hype was spot on, and we enjoyed one of the best meals we’ve had in SF in a while. While this isn’t a food blog, I felt compelled to post photos of chef Greg Dunmore’s sleek and contemporary yet cozy joint that does Japanese pub food—and just about everything else—right. From the juicy grilled chicken skewers and farm-to-table pickled veggies, to the cooks sporting cheeky “Support Your Local Nojo” statement tees in the open kitchen, Nojo is definitely a place I’d come back again and again. For more details, check out Michael Bauer’s review from the Chronicle here.

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