The 25 Coolest New Businesses In San Francisco

san francisco penthouse club and steakhouse

Photo: The San Francisco Penthouse Club and Steakhouse

San Francisco is known for its creative energy, and some of the city’s entrepreneurs took big chances in the past few months. We spoke to friends and colleagues, and polled readers to bring you the coolest and most innovative new businesses in the City by the Bay.

The winners, which have all opened since January 2011, range from a bacon-only food truck to a punk-goth-inspired Japanese fashion designer.

Thanks to our readers who took the time to send us nominations. Julie Zeveloff, Kim Bhasin, Aimee Groth and Gus Lubin contributed to this list.

AQ Restaurant

1085 Mission St.

What it is: James Beard-nominated Mediterranean restaurant in the Mission

Why it's cool: The James Beard nominee for best new restaurant changes its decor and menu to reflect the season.

The fall menu boasted everything from pumpkin custard to duck, as well as wine from global vineyards. But if wine isn't your thing, bartender Victoria George has created a vermouth infused with botanicals and cocoa rye.

Bacon Bacon

205 Frederick St.

What it is: Bacon-centric food truck

Why it's cool: Bacon Bacon comes in the form of a food truck and a brick-and-mortar restaurant. And both serve, yep--you guessed it--all things bacon.

The Bacon Bacon Truck rolls around town distributing six bacon-friendly sandwiches, including a pork meatball banh mi and grilled cheese, as well as french fries and root beer.

Bacon Bacon also sells a bacon bouquet and chocolate-covered bacon.

Baia Pasta

3639 18th St.

What it is: Specialty pasta shop

Why it's cool: Italian-native Renato Sardo knows his pasta. Sardo uses only organic domestic flours and has collaborated with California farmers to grow unique durum and spelt wheat varieties.

Sardo also uses a specialty extruder with brass plates, which gives the pasta deep ridges to help it better hold sauce.

Big Dipper Baby Food

331 Cortland St.

What it is: Artisanal baby food

Why it's cool: Big Dipper Baby Food specialises in fresh, organic, infant purees as well as kids' meal boxes for older children.

Founder Claire Hoyt launched her company to give all babies access to healthier, more seasonal, better, and more local food.


Online only

What it is: Groupon for sustainable products

Why it's cool: Blissmo connects eco-friendly businesses and eco-friendly consumers.

The Blissmo team offers consumers time-sensitive deals, up to 70 per cent off, on organic, sustainable products.

Plus, Blissmo users can have a curated box of products delivered right to their door every month.

Chile Pies (Sweet & Savory)

314 Church St.

What it is: Pie shop known for its unusual creations

Why it's cool: The newest addition to Green Chile Kitchen serves a wide selection of both sweet and savory dishes.

Offerings include green apple chile pie and Mexican Green Chile stew. But our personal favourite is the pie shake, a milkshake that includes a slice of pie -- crust and all.

Freemans Sporting Club and F.S.C Barber

696 Valencia St.

What it is: Barber shop/clothing store combo

Why it's cool: The first F.S.C. store outside of New York devotes 70 per cent of its space to an old-fashioned barber shop.

The space also houses a Freemans Sporting Club shop, which sells menswear and bespoke suit services.

The store pays homage 'to the days when the highest level of care and customer service was de rigueur,' according to the company's website.

Fusion Academy

535 Pacific Ave., Third Floor

What it is: Ultra-attentive private school

Why it's cool: Fusion guarantees students will enjoy a most impressive student-to-teacher ratio, one student per one teacher.

The school teaches students in sixth through twelfth grades and all classes are self paced. Students have the option of attending Fusion in a full-time, after-school, or summer program.

While Fusion has multiple campuses around California, the first Bay Area campus opened in July 2011.

Gangs of San Francisco

66 Gough St.

What it is: Designer honouring San Francisco's history

Why it's cool: The one-man operation, run by Laureano Faedi, relies on San Francisco's vibrant past for design inspiration.

Faedi's shirts and sweatshirts feature scenes highlighting everything from Playland at the Beach to the area's minor league baseball scene.

The shop, Faedi's first, was created from recycled wood and old whiskey and wine cases.

Good Vibrations Antique Vibrator Museum

1620 Polk St.

What it is: Antique vibrator museum

Why it's cool: The museum, lead by Staff Sexologist Dr. Carol Queen, showcases vibrators from as far back as the 1880s.

As one can imagine, the museum delves into the history of today's most popular sex toy. At their inception, vibrators were used to treat women with hysteria. But today, they're marketed as massagers, according to the museum.


1746 Post. St.

What it is: Japanese clothing store

Why it's cool: Naoto Hirooka is a popular Japanese avant-garde fashion designer. His clothing is inspired by Punk and Goth styles.

The store on Post Street is Hirooka's first retail store in the United States.

Huckleberry Bicycles

1073 Market St.

What it is: Full-service bike shop

Why it's cool: Huckleberry Bicycles is the first full-service bike shop to open on San Francisco's famed Market Street.

Owners Brian Smith, Jonas Jackel, and Zack Stender offer free repair service on weekday mornings at a kiosk in front of the shop.

As an added bonus, Huckleberry Bicycles, which promotes bicycle advocacy, was awarded the title of best new bike shop by SF Station.

The Ice Cream Bar

815 Cole St.

What it is: An old-fashioned ice cream shop

Why it's cool: The 1930s-inspired ice cream shop truly is a throwback to an earlier time.

'Between the wood paneling, backlit retro signs and vintage mirrors, it feels a little bit like walking into a jukebox going full throttle,' SFGate said of the new shop.

Once it receives a liquor licence, the shop will serve adult beverages such as raspberry lambic floats and caramel ice cream floats with lager.

But don't fear if you're under 21. The Ice Cream Bar will also serve an old-fashioned drink made with cream, ice, flavoring, and a whole raw egg.

Industrie Denim

300 Grant St.

What it is: Specialty denim shop

Why it's cool: The collaboration between American Rag founder Mark Werts and Levi Strauss, which began in Arizona, boasts an inventory of about 80 denim labels, carrying everything from J Brand to Rag & Bone.

But the truly amazing thing about this mega-jean shop, which aims to be 'the best denim store in the world,' is the way it transforms denim buying.

The 'Booty Cam,' found in a number of dressing rooms, offers views of shoppers' butts as they try on their jeans, meaning everyone gets the perfect fit every time without all that painful neck craning.

Inn at the Presidio

42 Moraga Ave.

What it is: The Presidio's first hotel

Why it's cool: The first hotel in the Presidio's 236-year history sits in the famous Pershing Hall. The building previously housed bachelor officers of the U.S. Army.

The building, a Georgian Revival-style structure, features 22 rooms, including 17 suites.

K9 Scrub Club

1734 Church St.

What it is: Dogs-only spa

Why it's cool: The locally-owned upscale dog spa sells everything your dog needs to feel like a princess or prince.

Along with the roomy dog-washing tubs, K9 Scrub Club provides a blueberry or plum face scrub, free of charge, to help your pooch relax while he is being groomed.

The shop also sells a wide array of beds, bath products, healthy treats, and all the toys a dog could want.

The Local Butcher Shop

1600 Shattuck Ave.

What it is: Customer-oriented butcher shop

Why it's cool: The husband-and-wife duo behind The Local Butcher Shop cut only a small amount of meat at a time because they want to interact with customers.

The pair values talking with customers, guiding their meat-buying decisions, and keeping them informed.

Every butcher in the shop has been trained as a chef, and all of the meat comes from within 150 miles of Berkeley and is 100 per cent pasture raised.

The San Francisco Penthouse Club and Steakhouse

412 Broadway Ave.

What it is: Steakhouse with strippers

Why it's cool: The first of its kind for San Francisco, the Penthouse Club and Steakhouse offers 'adult entertainment and a first class, four star meal at the same time.'

In addition to an all-day happy hour, Chef Michael Ellis plans to use local producers and farms to create his menu.


Online only

What it is: Mint for healthcare bills

Why it's cool: Simplee aims to help people save money on healthcare expenses by categorising every fee you pay.

Users give Simplee access to their medical insurance accounts and then Simplee tells them how much they have out of pocket, their deductible, and how many doctor visits they and family members have had.

The start up 'does a good job of breaking it all down,' according to TechCrunch.


203 Octavia Blvd.

What it is: Carnival-themed restaurant

Why it's cool: Straw specialises in carnival-inspired comfort food, including a bearded lady sandwich and the Oklahoma 10 dessert (fried candy bars).

The San Francisco Bay Guardian named the restaurant, which houses a Tilt-o-Whirl booth, one of the Best of the Bay 2011. The restaurant earned the honour for its peanut butter pie.

The pie has a chocolate crust, mousse filling, and pieces of candied bacon.

Tayyibaat Meat & Grill

366 Golden Gate Ave.

What it is: Afghan-American fast food

Why it's cool: The quick-eats joint has received rave reviews from local media. The eatery serves everything from tikka kabobs and chilli kabobs to burgers and fries.

SFoodie called the restaurant's tangy cilantro-yogurt sauce 'essential.'


365 Valencia St.

What it is: Retail collaboration

Why it's cool: Voyager is a retail partnership between San Francisco-based retailers Revolver, Spartan, Needles/Pens, and the Michael Rosenthal Art Gallery.

The 2,000-square-foot space, which won the best new combo retail experience award from SF Station, boasts separate sections for the retailers. A mini-bookstore, art, and other great finds also call Voyager home.

Wilson & Wilson

505 Jones St.

What it is: Private speakeasy in the library of Bourbon and Branch

Why it's cool: Wilson & Wilson takes exclusive to a whole new level.

Would-be patrons have to reserve a spot online and are escorted into the speakeasy through a series password-protected hallways. Only 28 patrons can visit at a time.

Drinks are served as a $40 tasting menu that includes the aperitif, the main drink, and the digestif.

Wooly Pig Café

205 Hugo St.

What it is: Asian-fusion sub shop

Why it's cool: It mixes Asian food and sandwiches

The real standout is the The Vegi sandwich, which is chock full of organic roasted beets, French beans, spring lettuces, and goat cheese.

Patrons have also praised the Asian tuna, The Wooly Pig sandwich, and the BBQ Kahlua Pork.

Wo Hing General Store

584 Valencia St.

What it is: A Chinese restaurant with a twist

Why it's cool: The restaurant serves Chinese street food such as spicy pork and shrimp wontons.

However, the cocktails are decidedly un-Asian, with offerings such as pina coladas and dry sherry punch.

Now check out the coolest businesses in New York City

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