It just hit 80 degrees this week, which means it's officially the start of Dolores Park Season (that's a thing, right?). And since everyone has varying degrees of Dolores Parksperience, we decided to level the playing field with this Dolores Park Fun Times Guide (working title).
First things first:
Yes, the Northern-half of the park (affectionately known as Hipster Hill) is closed until the Fall, so we're going to focus on the parts of the park that aren't currently a giant mountain (or crater) of dirt.
Where to sit:
Option No. 1: The main stretch of the park (below the playground) is where a majority of people are going to be setting up. Here are three general tips if you do sit there:
1. Bring a large blanket. Even if it's just you at first, you are bound to run into at least 15 people you know who'll need a place to sit.
2. Don't play your music so loud that the group of white rappers nearby can't hear themselves.
3. Totally ignore Tip No. 2.
Option No. 2: Closer to the trees, you'll find not only shade, but the more performer-y people in the park, including a pair that sets up a tightrope between trees, Cirque du Soleil acrobats, and... whatever this guy is doing (pon farr?).
Option No. 3: Affectionately named "Fruit Shelf" or "Gay Beach", this part of the park lies above the playground in a shelf (!) that rings around the Southernmost (and track-adjacent) part of the park. It boast the best view in the park, and even has benches at the very top. There will likely be a lot of guys in their maybe-very-revealing undies here, though, so steer clear if you don't wanna see that.
Option No. 4: This is the playground. If you are here and aren't/don't have a child, you are lost.
Ice cream carts: Sometimes they sell actual ice cream, and sometimes they surreptitiously sell beer. In the words of the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, "Choose wisely".
Trevor the Truffle Guy: He has delicious chocolate truffles with some, uh, special properties.
Coconut Guy: He (appropriately?) looks like a pirate, and for about $15, will hack open a coconut with a friggin' machete, then pour a lot of spiced rum in it.
PUPPIES!! While they're not "technically" an amenity, people do bring theirs, so be friendly. And if you have yours with you, make sure they're friendly, too (but not humping-strangers friendly, just regularly friendly).
Bathrooms: While the park is under construction, this is the permanent bathroom, which most of the time will have a much longer line than this. There are also Port-A-Potties near the bottom of the park on Dolores, but if those lines are also too long...
... we would absolutely never recommend you use the side of this hill near the tracks at the top of the park as a bathroom. We have no clue where you'd even get such an idea.
Grabbing supplies nearby:
Bi-Rite Market (click here for address and info)
Everyone's favorite, super-yuppy grocery store is right off the park, so make sure to swing by for beer, gourmet snacks, more beer, and a great sandwich to-go before heading over.
Cerveceria (click here for address and info)
Hit up the Cerveceria on the corner of Church and 16th. It's a great place to both sit down and have a pre-park beer, and to grab bottles... which we definitely do not recommend bringing to the park, especially if it's in...
... a paper bag, or...
... a classy plastic cup you brought from home! Yup... definitely don't do that.
What to eat and drink nearby:
Dolores Park Cafe (click here for address and info)
Right on the corner of Dolores and 16th, this spot has outdoor seating (so you don't have to lose sight of the park), some pretty good sandos and smoothies, plus the essentials (so, coffee and beer).
Bi-Rite Creamery (click here for address and info)
Across the street from Bi-Rite Market, you'll definitely be able to recognize this place based on its line out front (and possibly down the block) alone. The ice cream's legitimately good though, which's probably why... there's the line.
Namu Gaji (click here for address and info)
They have KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) on Wednesdays, which is the perfect way to wind down after a long, grueling day relaxing at Dolores.
Pizzeria Delfina (click here for address and info)
If you're looking for great pizza within spitting distance of Dolores, you'll find it here... provided you can spit a block away...
Delfina (click here for address and info)
Like the pizzeria above, but a liiiittle classier, this is the original, gourmet Italian joint. So hit this spot up if you thought ahead and brought other shorts to sub in for your grass-stained Chubbies.
Tartine Bakery & Cafe (click here for address and info)
As far as we're willing to go from Dolores, this spot has some truly amazing baked goods and brunch... which everyone else is apparently aware of, too, as evidenced by the two-hour wait time on the weekend. Hmmm, if only there were some sort of park nearby you could wait at...
Joe Starkey is Thrillist's San Francisco Editor and totally considers the tank top tan he got from photographing this piece worth it. Check his Twitter to see if he tries to even it out wearing just a dickie and sleeves.
1. Cerveceria de Mateveza3801 18th St, San Francisco
2. Dolores Park Cafe501 Dolores St, San Francisco
3. Bi-Rite Market Divisadero3639 18th St, San Francisco
4. Namu Gaji499 Dolores St, San Francisco
5. Pizzeria Delfina3611 18th St, San Francisco
6. Bi-Rite Creamery3692 18th St, San Francisco
7. Tartine Bakery600 Guerrero St, San Francisco
8. Delfina3621 18th St, San Francisco
Cerveceria de MateVeza offers a rotating selection of guest beers on tap, plus nearly 100 more of the bottled variety. And should you feel the need for some comida con su cerveza, they also serve a number of delicious empanadas.
Across the street from Dolores, this place has smoothies, Sightglass coffee, good sandwiches, and a bathroom you can use if you buy something.
Tired of standing in line for face-meltingly good ice cream in the Mission? Cool, because now you can also do it in Western Addition (!!) at Bi-Rite Market Divisadero, the second, lightly larger location of the esteemed Mission-born creamery + market + sandwich shop + butchershop.
This New Korean American restaurant is a family affair, owned by three brothers who utilize ingredients harvested from their own farm. Korean-inflected spins on favorites, like a pickled daikon-topped double cheeseburger and Korean tacos (nori replaces a tortilla shell, and is filled with marinated and grilled bulgogi beef, kimchi salsa, and spicy aïoli, are well-worth your time during the week, but the real star is the KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) brunch dish.
A classy Mission Italian joint that specializes in dishing out a good slice, from their "Cherry Pie" with marinated cherry tomatoes, basil, and ricotta salata to their Clam Pie with cherrystones, tomato, oregano, pecorino, and hot peppers.
It's universally acknowledged among San Franciscans that Bi-Rite's ice cream is worth waiting for, which is why there is almost always -- at least on sunny weekend afternoons and summer evenings -- a line out the door. Owned and operated by two Bay Area natives, this popular Mission haunt makes small-batch ice cream in true artisanal flavors like honey lavender, orange cardamom, and the house specialty: salted caramel. The scoops are small, so your best bet is to order a double or a triple of whatever's on the seasonal menu.
Country Bread from this well-known bakery and cafe is the original Cronut-like craze. Each day, 240 loaves are made, and within an hour, they are GONE. The bread pudding is also a mainstay at this justifiably-packed carbohydrate haven, and if you're planning on grabbing some sweets to-go, try the chocolate-rye tart with snowy meringue and a chocolately lattice.
Open since 1998, Delfina is credited for putting the Mission on the map as San Francisco's epicenter for innovative, critically-acclaimed dining. The Italian menu is wonderfully simple and undeniably satisfying. Case in point is the signature dish: spaghetti with plum tomatoes, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and pepperoncini. The unassuming small space is packed to the brim every night with neighborhood regulars and culinary-minded tourists.