OF ALL THE neighborhoods in San Francisco, the Marina evokes perhaps the most mixed feelings — you adore it or abhor it. That wasn’t always the case. In the 19th century the area consisted of sand dunes and marshland, and the few buildings located there were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. During reconstruction, the Marina became the site of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which included the Palace of Fine Arts. Rubble from the earthquake, mud, and sand dredged from the bottom of the bay were used in the rebuilding, which led to later problems. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused a fire and severe liquefaction of this “fill” on which the district sits. The neighborhood was quickly rebuilt, however. These days, along with a few gripes about young professionals, it draws plenty of praise. Residents and visitors love the easy access to Crissy Field, the Marina Green and the waterfront, and the dozens of shops, restaurants and bars, all mostly concentrated on one drag — Chestnut Street.
1. LE MARAIS BAKERY & BISTRO Flaky croissants, classic French nibbles and Stumptown Coffee are among the treats you’ll find in this charming cafe. lemaraisbakery.com
2. BLUE BARN GOURMET Crowds pack this compact barn-like space for seasonal salads, decadent sandwiches including grilled cheese, and soups. Local ingredients are heavily featured. bluebarngourmet.com
3. CALIFORNIA WINE MERCHANT Owner Greg O’Flynn has been in business since 1974. Doubling as a wine store and bar — one that’s open late seven nights a week — it features an array of small California producers. californiawinemerchant.com
4. MARINA THEATRE This neighborhood theater is small but cozy. Excellent sound quality, a friendly staff and a robust concession stand make it a winning option for a casual night out. lntsf.com/marina-theatre
5. BLACKWOOD A modern yet comfortable setting featuring Thai food fused with American flavors makes this restaurant a popular destination for brunch, happy hour and dates. blackwoodsf.com
6. TOSS Founded by Ross resident Jennifer Hogan, Toss carries totes, travel bags in preppy colors and prints, gift items and monogrammed women’s clothing. tossdesigns.com
7. TIPSY PIG This popular watering hole with a huge back patio serves American comfort food and distinct drinks like Strawberry Fields (vodka, fresh strawberries, soda water and fresh lime). thetipsypig.com
8. SEED + SALT In keeping with the times and often challenging dietary restrictions, Seed + Salt offers gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian fare in a modern cafe setting. seedandsalt.com
9. MAYBECK’S Named after the architect of the aforementioned Palace of Fine Arts, this tavern is known for its California twist on classic Italian staples. A stamped-tin ceiling, fine cocktails and lounge-y bar area make settling in here easy. maybecks.com
WHERE TO EAT Aside from the restaurants mentioned, other popular area eateries include A16, Castagna Bistro, Causwells, Chestnut Diner, Delarosa, Dragon Well, Glaze Teriyaki, Mezes, Naked Fish, Pacific Catch, Ristobar, Super Duper, Tacolicious and The Dorian.
WHERE TO PARK Garages and parking lots just off Chestnut Street, in addition to street parking, include the Pierce-Lombard Garage at 3236 Pierce Street, the Lombard Street Garage at 2055 Lombard Street, and a lot at 2055 Chestnut Street between Fillmore and Steiner. Street parking can be tricky.