The Grand Avenue neighborhood is home to notable architecture and a mix of longtime and newer businesses.
Grand Avenue, home to downtown South San Francisco (South City for short), is equal parts history and transformation. Stretching 1 1/2 miles end to end, Grand Avenue’s commercial and civic center is bounded by Spruce Avenue to the west and Airport Boulevard to the east. Here, well-preserved historical buildings line the streets, which are dotted with a variety of businesses and eateries reflecting South City’s diverse community. If you haven’t already visited Grand Avenue, make a day out of exploring its walkable streets, where local history, global eats, and community collide.
- City Hall: At the heart of Grand Avenue’s civic center is City Hall, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2020. This striking building was built in the Neo-Colonial Georgian style and modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Visit City Hall at 400 Grand Ave.
- Sidewalk With Names: Walk uphill to Miller Avenue and you’ll come across South City’s Sidewalk With Names. The names etched include individuals key to the city’s formation and development in the early 1900s. Find these names at the intersection of Miller and Walnut in front of All Souls Catholic Church.
- The Plymire-Schwarz House: Located at 519 Grand Ave., Dr. Harry Plymire built this home as his private residence in 1905. It was then converted to the South San Francisco General Hospital, becoming the first hospital between San Francisco and San Mateo at the time. Later on, Ernst Schwarz purchased the structure, which his family bequeathed to the city in 1994. Today the home is maintained by the Historical Society of South San Francisco as a museum, where they host several events a year, including an annual Victorian Tea. Admission to the house museum is free by appointment.
- Grand Walking Tour: Step back in time with a historical walking tour of downtown South City. Start at the first historical marker at City Hall before heading to all 11 historical sites on “The Grand Walk.” These include the Grand Avenue Library and Eikerenkotter House, a Queen Anne-style home designed by Julius Eikerenkotter, owner of the first general merchandise store in South City. Find the walking tour map here.
- For more history about Grand Avenue, visit the South San Francisco Historical Society Museum at 80 Chestnut Ave.
- Sign Hill: Ever wanted to get a closer look at the “South San Francisco The Industrial City” sign viewable from Highway 101? This hillside is accessible from Sign Hill, a park and open space containing 2 miles of hiking trails and 360 degree views of the Peninsula. The Ridge Trail is the longest path to the sign at 0.77 miles, beginning with a steep uphill climb along the crest of Sign Hill. Alternatively, hikers can walk the aptly named Letters Trail at the base of the sign, which comes in at 0.2 miles. The trailhead is located on Ridgeview Court.
- Centennial Way Trail: Stretching between the South San Francisco and San Bruno BART stations, Centennial Way Trail is accessible south of Grand Avenue at Spruce Avenue. The paved trail is suitable for biking and walking, with safety lighting installed for those passing through at night.
Coffee and tea
- Dead Eye Coffee Bar: For a caffeine boost to fuel your day, look no further than Dead Eye Coffee Bar. Order a namesake dead eye, containing three shots of espresso and drip coffee, or for a sweeter option, a Tahitian vanilla latte featuring their housemade syrup. Other offerings include nitro cold brew, matcha and a selection of pastries. Instagram: @deadeyecoffeebar, 415 Grand Ave., Suite 100.
- Antigua Coffee: A fixture on Grand Avenue for nearly a decade, Antigua is a cafe, restaurant, event space and catering service all in one. Diners can come in for coffee and pancakes for breakfast and explore their new dinner menu with dishes like veggie empanadas and chicken flautitas. They craft seasonal drinks and host live music events with local musicians throughout the year. Instagram: @antiguacoffeeshop, 437A Grand Ave.
Eats and libations
- Flavas Jamaican Grill: Experience spicy, sweet, tangy and savory flavors at Flavas Jamaican Grill, the only Jamaican restaurant in South City. The menu includes classics like aromatic jerk chicken and tender braised oxtail, and daily specials like shrimp coconut curry and pineapple barbecue ribs. First-time diners can opt for combo plates to get a taste of two entrees, served alongside rice and beans, plantains, and sauteed veggies. Instagram: @flavasjamaicangrillsf, 314 Linden Ave.
- La Tapatia: Founded as a tortilla factory in 1976, Mexican taqueria and market La Tapatia has been a mainstay on Grand Avenue for decades. Order a super burrito with succulent, crispy carnitas, or stock up on homemade tortilla chips, guacamole, pico de gallo and refried beans to take home. Fun fact: La Tapatia is housed in the former headquarters of the South San Francisco Enterprise Journal, first published in 1895. It is the only building in the art deco-modern style in South City. Instagram: @latapatia.southcity, 411 Grand Ave.
- Sky Cafe: Vegan eatery Sky Cafe provides Grand Avenue with organic and plant-based options for lunch and dinner. Its eclectic menu includes entrees like Filipino sisig made with soy protein, Argentina chimichurri using a portobello mushroom base and Vietnamese banh mi layered with teriyaki tofu. Instagram: @skycafevegan, 223 Grand Ave.
- Dumpling Empire: Located at the corner of Cypress and Grand Avenue, Dumpling Empire offers a vast menu of items great for a full meal or snack to share with friends. Choose from items like fresh marinated cucumber, popcorn chicken or salted pepper tofu to start. Then dive into dumplings stuffed with combinations like pork and napa cabbage, chicken and corn, green chives with egg, and more. 216 Cypress Ave.
- Brothers Cafe: Offering classic American fare, Brothers Cafe (rebranded from Cafe 382) has expanded to San Mateo and Millbrae since opening on Grand Avenue in 2016. Exclusive to the South City location is Detroit-style pizza, offered daily from 3:00 – 8:00 PM. All pizzas are made with fermented sourdough and cheddar cheese-crusted edges, with six signature pies to choose from. Pair their pizzas with one of 25 beers from their taproom, with selections from Laughing Monk Brewery, Altamont Beer Works, Locust Cider and more. See website for taproom hours. Instagram: @brothers_cafes, 382 Grand Ave.
- Hometown Heroes: Since 2015, Hometown Heroes has delivered an authentic sports bar experience to Grand Avenue perfect for enjoying drinks while catching a game or over a game of pool. Hidden Spot, the eatery tucked inside Hometown Heroes, keeps crowds fed with a menu of juicy burgers, creative sandwiches and crowd-pleaser buffalo wings. The bar is open daily until midnight with extended hours until 1:00 a.m. on Saturdays; Hidden Spot is open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily. Instagram: @hometownheroesbar, 303 Grand Ave.
Entertainment and shopping
- Bitters and Bottles: Shop Bitters and Bottles (B&B) for craft spirits and cocktail supplies. Find everything from cocktail kits and mixology spoons and shakers when you’re ready to create your own drinks. Not sure where to start? Stop by for free tastings on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons to brainstorm your next recipe. Customers can also join one of four subscription clubs to receive a curated selection of whisky, gin, rum or old fashioned spirits. For non-drinkers, B&B carries a number of non-alcohol products, including Seedlip drinks and Lyre’s zero proof. Check Instagram for timing of free tastings. Instagram: @bittersandbottles, 240 Grand Ave.
- Planetmoonrocks: “Get stoned” by way of high vibrational crystals intended to align energies and heal spirits at Planetmoonrocks. Founded in 2021 by friends Monica Gutierrez and Ria Tuccio, the pair hand-picks each product and helps customers find the most fitting crystal energy to take home with them. Choose from crystals like an ametrine to foster balance and harmony, a green aventurine sphere for luck and prosperity or a rainbow titanium quartz cluster stone for inner strength. Instagram: @planetmoonrocks, 415 Grand Ave. Suite 103.
- Bronstein Music: While no longer located on Grand Avenue, this longtime music shop founded in 1946 still maintains a presence nearby on 3rd Avenue. Bronstein focuses on supporting school music programs with instrument rentals, lesson recommendations and supplies. They also offer repair services for band and orchestra instruments, guitar, ukulele, percussion and more. Instagram: @bronsteinmusic, 305 3rd Lane.
- Giorgi Bros. Furniture Showroom: The Giorgi family has been a staple in the home furnishing industry since 1933, with their current showroom located one block south of Grand Avenue on Baden. Visit Giorgi Bros. for your home furnishing needs, including indoor and outdoor pieces, interior design and upholstery services, 211 Baden Ave.
Around the corner
- Basque Cultural Center: Experience the heritage, dance, music and food of Basque country at Basque Cultural Center, located a few minutes from Grand Avenue at 599 Railroad Ave. Dine at the restaurant for specials such as salmon Basquaise, veal sweetbreads and rabbit Grand Mère. Or attend an upcoming film or speaker series for a deeper dive into the arts, key figures and history of the Basque community. Instagram: @sfbasqueculturalcenter, 599 Railroad Ave.
- Darby Dan’s: Go-to spot for deli and specialty sandwiches on Dutch Crunch rolls since 1970, located a few blocks north of Grand Avenue. Try the Piccolo or Sleeper sandwiches served hot with extra garlic mayonnaise, or grab a shrimp salad sandwich served on select days. The menu also includes old-fashioned hot dogs, veggie sandwiches and fresh sides of potato salad and coleslaw. 733 Airport Blvd.
- SSF shuttle: Ready to explore Grand Avenue and beyond? The city of South San Francisco offers a free shuttle service open to the general public Monday through Friday year-round. The shuttle makes stops along Grand Avenue and greater South City, including Orange Memorial Park, Kaiser Permanente and BART. Find the route map and schedule here.
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