Shhhhhhh! This week’s blog post is a secret just between you and us! We’re dishing on our favorite little-known hot spots of the moment. Periodically, we like to share some of the gems we find here in the Square – places that you might not notice, because they’re down an alleyway or simply don’t have a flashy façade, but nonetheless hold everything from coveted designer garbs to beautiful libraries to delectable Southern fare. Go ahead, read up, and duck into one of these hideaways with a trusted friend next time you’re in the Square.
Harputs Union Square - 124 Geary Street (upstairs)
Harputs has been a part of the Bay Area retail landscape for 30 years, but it seems that few know about their current iteration as a Union Square atelier just above Goorin Brothers on Geary Street. What started out as a vintage footwear shop has evolved into a workshop and unique retail space where you can buy pieces from rare designers like Comme Des Garcons, Margiela and Yohji Yamamoto in addition to their in-house brand Harputs Own. They specialize in clothes that can be worn multiple ways (a jacket that is also a sweater and a wrap or a dress that can be a skirt or a top, etc.) and often make clothes to order with custom elements to fit your preferences and tastes. Each garment is made to be versatile and timeless, so it will last you through many seasons. While these pieces can be pricey, their unusual but classic and durable designs are worth the investment.
Wilkes Bashford Penthouse - 375 Sutter Street
Don’t worry, men, you can have an atelier of your own as well. Luxe menswear shop Wilkes Bashford just opened up a penthouse just so you can hang out while you pick out designer suits or customize a suit to your desires. Complete with full bar, fireplace and flat screen TV, the space is meant to make you feel at home while shopping for formalwear. Expect whisky tastings, trunk shows, charity events and more fun stuff down the line.
Hops & Hominy - 1 Tillman Place
Once you’re all dressed up in your new custom duds, you’ll need somewhere to grab a well-made drink and some sophisticated grub. We suggest you duck into Hops & Hominy, tucked away off of Grant Street in a little pedestrian alleyway called Tillman Place. This restaurant does not call out to passersby, but it does pack a menu of modernized Southern fare. With dishes such as maple-glazed pork chops and black eyed pea fritters, all made with organic and local ingredients whenever possible and stellar cocktails like the gin n’ jam (with fresh berry preserves), we think you’ll want to settle in. The best part is you can often get a table without a wait, since it is a bit off the beaten path.
5 Claude Lane Gallery - 5 Claude Lane
This gallery is one of our favorite small, independent art spaces, dedicated to exhibiting local, emerging artists and exploring thoughtful topics in a contemporary and unique manner. Again, it’s located down an alleyway just off the major thoroughfare of Sutter Street (along with Café Claude and Claudine). Their current exhibit is called “Someplace in Space,” and it consists of photography from local artists revolving around the themes of home, identity and belonging. If you’re looking for a place where you can step in at any given time and see provocative art from talented locals, this is your gallery. Check out their website for openings and other events.
Mechanic’s Institute Library and Chess Room - 57 Post Street
Located just outside of the Union Square neighborhood, we had to let you know about the Mechanic’s Institute Library, because it’s just such a unique gem that few know about. The library has been around since 1854 when it was created to serve the growing population of out of work gold miners in need of mechanical training, but it has since then expanded to cover a wide range of topics from literature to business to performing arts. It is also the oldest chess club in the United States and serves as a spot for workshops and cultural events like the upcoming screening of Shakespeare in Love on April 27, the Charles Dickens Day Celebration on May 2 and the discussion of Mrs. Dalloway on May 3. Oh, and did we mention it’s a quiet and picturesque place to plug in a laptop? Membership is open to the public and includes access to the library and chess club as well as free admission to special events.
This really just scratches the surface of all the little-known but fabulous spots we have to offer in Union Square, so keep an eye out next time you’re out here. You never know what you might discover!