The Richmond


The Inner Richmond is a practical and comfortable neighborhood with a citywide reputation for fantastic restaurants. It's often called "New Chinatown" because it's almost as full of Chinese groceries and restaurants and Cantonese chatter as Grant Avenue, but most tourists overlook it, as did early S.F. residents, who wrote off the entire Richmond as a "Great Sand Waste" between the City and the sea.

The Richmond did almost became a miniature Colma, housing the municipal and Chinese cemeteries. But after World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution, Irish and White Russian immigrants and Middle Eastern Jews bought homes in the area. Two waves of immigration after World War II brought Japanese residents and added to the sizable Chinese population.

Since then, the Inner Richmond has become a bustling multicultural soup with cute stucco houses, grand mansions, easy access to the Presidio, a plethora of inexpensive eateries and a good variety of shops. The Richmond lacks the hype of the Mission, and the fog does roll in a little earlier in the afternoon, but on its main dining and shopping drag, Clement Street, you'll find great Burmese, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean restaurants, Chinese bakeries that sell siu mai (steamed meat dumplings), BBQ pork buns and other dim sum for under a dollar and produce markets that offer bitter melon, several kinds of choy (greens) or 10 lemons for a dollar. Browse the stacks at one of the city's best bookstores, suck down some Hong Kong-style pearl tea (complete with marble-size tapioca balls) or sit down for a French bistro meal, and you'll come to appreciate the modest neighborhood that has sprouted from the sand dunes. -- SF GATE


Before 1900, most of the San Franciscans in the Richmond District were the deceased inhabitants of the municipal and Chinese cemeteries. It's taken over a hundred years for the Outer Richmond to blossom from a giant vacant lot into prime (albeit foggy) real estate. At the turn of the 20th century, it was little but sand dunes and potato fields and was dubbed "The Outer Lands" and "The Great Sand Waste" until streetcars opened it up to the public. Early in its history, those eager to sell homes and property in other parts of the Richmond tried to rechristen it "Park Presidio," but the original moniker stuck fast, though the origins of "Richmond" are uncertain. The most common explanation is that an early settler saw in its stark, gently hilly landscape echoes of his old home in Richmond, New South Wales, Australia.

 While the Inner Richmond is a restaurant haven and one of the city's more difficult parking areas, the Outer Richmond retains a neighborhood feel along its main shopping streets. The many waves of immigrants who have settled have put their stamp on it; whole blocks along Geary Boulevard hum with Russian and Cantonese speakers, and you can find Mexican, Russian, French and Italian restaurants with ease, not to mention a plethora of establishments serving food from every corner of Asia.

​​​​​​​Like the Outer Richmond itself, Geary calms down considerably after 25th Avenue as it meanders off into the fog and ultimately ends at the Pacific Ocean. -- SF GATE

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