March 7th, 2022 BY CHRIS COLE
West Portal is the last major Muni station before the K, L, and M lines branch off in different directions. This small commercial district, encircled by residential neighborhoods and extending only to St. Francis Circle, is in fact an urban village full of hidden gems. It remains one of my favorite hubs in the city. While a few chain stores have encroached, you’ll find a plethora of restaurants and boutiques, some of which have been around for generations.
Anyone who loves to read knows that, like independent movie theaters, our local bookstores are in danger. swing by Bookshop West Portal for a wide variety of books, as well as posters, literary-themed tote bags, and other knickknacks. On top of being a quality bookstore, it hosts events, has a weekly book club.
The music store is a used record store and is a goldmine for those seeking cheap CDs, records, cassette tapes, or posters, and every so often the owner invites a local musician to play.
Ambassador Toys is wonderland for children and emotionally arrested adults alike! Come here to buy unique toys for the youngsters in your life, cram your mouth with gumballs from the quarter machine, or just take in the atmosphere of an independent toy store — more of a rarity these days than one might think. Ambassador Toys was named the “Best Toy Store You Wish Had Been Around When You Were a Kid” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and it’s been a neighborhood staple for almost 20 years, so you can expect quality.
After all this shopping, you’ll probably need something to eat. Luckily, the restaurants on West Portal are just as great as the shops.
No neighborhood is complete without a good pizzeria, and on West Portal you’ll find two. Mozzarella di Bufala is a long-standing institution, which opened in 1992 and continues to thrive in the community. A warm, inviting sit-down restaurant, you won’t leave disappointed and its excellent New York–style pizza and Twin Peaks Pizza.
Calibur is a great place for all grass-fed beef delicious burgers, fries and shakes. There is also Squat and Gobble and Bullshead.
Trattoria da Vittorio for Calabrian-inspired pizzas & handmade pastas star at this cozy eatery with brick & stone accents.
Franco’s Latin Table is a popular, casual restaurant offering inventive takes on Peruvian classics like ceviche.
West Portal Produce and Eezy Freezy
Want to save some money and make your own dinner? West Portal Produce has a thorough selection of fruits and vegetables, cheaper than anything in a chain supermarket, and you can get everything else at Eezy Freezy. Its many offerings include a large spice rack, an aisle of gourmet chocolate, and various snacks from all over the world.
With four streetcar lines serving the neighborhood, it’s easy to seek out excitement elsewhere, but I always feel comforted passing through this tucked-away community. It’s a place where the familiarity and coziness of a small town blends perfectly with San Francisco’s vibrant urban life, a place that feels like home.