Balboa Village: Best neighborhood in THE CITY?!

Updated: Jun 04, 2023 14:31
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By Vanessa Hutchinson-Szekely

Episode 7 of Explore SF: Balboa Village: Best neighborhood in THE CITY?!

This column is in the spirit of a “Dear Abby”, with a focus on solutions in the form of micro SF neighborhood deep dives and curated holistic health-centered itineraries

Audio: intro/outro music by Jef Shadoan


My book pitch was accepted and I’m relocating to San Francisco as part of my self-imposed artist in residency experience. With the deadline 18 months away, I need advice on where to live during this creative sojourn. Looking for that blissful geographical balance to support solo journeying while simultaneously also manifesting connections. 

The smell of sea salt makes me swoon, dressing in a gazillion layers calms my nervous system like a weighted blanket and easy access to a steamy dumpling or anything effervescent is what I’m after. 

Since the 7×7 is peppered with diamonds, I’m at a loss. 

Help me find the perfect spot to nurture my soul. No pressure. 


Searching All Maps


Dear SAM,

Have I ever been asked an easier question? Thank you. 

Your dreams for inspiration and community exist perfectly in the Balboa Village, one of my favorite places in the entire world. And, lo and behold this Saturday June 3rd is Art Walk in the village from 12-5pm. Three stages with bands, tons of booths and activities for all ages. 

This blissful part of THE CITY will hold you with open arms while you embark on your writer’s adventure. The people, the energy, the food options, the vibe, they all come together to shape this hood into a real jewel. 

All of Balboa is splendid, from the early Avenues to the beach but hunt for a studio on the short stretch between two Lyft bike stations, somewhere smushed in the middle of 34th and 38th Aves for the extra special punch.


In this mystical neighborhood where you feel pretty far from the highrises and city electricity, the fog is thick, the sound of seagulls is loud, small lights are strung between buildings and the smell of the ocean is omnipresent. 

Welcome to beach land! 

Remember that the Edwardian homes or mixed-use buildings in this part of town are all resting on sand dunes, and anything left outside will eventually rust. 

Rust is perhaps the only drawback to this extraordinary hood as the benefits far outweigh the downsides. Unless you’re a sun lizard. Then we’d have to reconsider, but with your weighted blanket plea I’m leaning into coziness and community recs instead of sunshine and festivities.

To be clear, the village will meet all of your needs and then more.

For your artistic cup refills, you’ve got the magic trifecta of Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, Sutro Heights and Lands End at your fingertips. 

Walks hitting one or a combo of these must be a part of your daily vitamin routine. Branches, sand, scenic views, and animals (Hello buffalo! Hello egrets! Hello horses!) all counterbalance the concrete city living. 

Living in this magical kingdom of eucalyptus, dunes and sea salt spray feeds that part of you that needs intentional attention given your task. 

 Creativity is cultivated. Prioritizing nature is essential, as are periods of exercise and rest in order to optimize your creative juices. The combination of physical exertion and mental repose is necessary harmony while working to meet a project deadline. 

Not only does the Balboa Village provide you with an abundance of nature to explore, to get your heart rate up, your blood flowing and your limbs moving but these spots are also all fantastic for mellow moments in which to nap or meditate. Just find some flowers or windswept trees, grab your favorite wool blanket to lie on and call it a day.

While you’re at it, if you’re looking for something to match your mood apart from the sound of the gulls then listen to Hermanos Gutierrez

Their deep sexy chill sound with strong bass and layered instrumentals will have you staying in the dunes longer than planned.  That’s right, we’re talking about body healing inspirational moments through music. You’re welcome. 

In addition to nature bathing and soul tunes, for an exceptional rest and reset experience then book yourself a 90 min massage at Healing Shiatsu

Once you go 90, you can never go under. They offer a variety of services like cupping, hot stones, and essential oils so treat yourself to this full body transcendental escapade as part of your creative process. Though it’s not a bougie spa vibe, the gals here are amazing and you will leave feeling transformed. Literally. 

Shifting from nature explorations and healing, it’s now time to lean into connections and community. And nothing says that more than food and beverages. There are so many neighborhood treasures on these blocks that I’m not mentioning, but in the spirit of less is more let’s focus on just a few. 

For starters, grab a dozen soup dumplings at Dumpling Dynasty (formerly New Dumpling King). 

Whether you’re in the mood for juicy soup flavor bursting from a chewy Shanghai dumpling or more of a delicious spicy taco like in a pork baobao, this spot will satisfy your chinese food cravings. 

The go to’s are also their braised string beans, and their beef chow fun. Somehow, living in fogland makes you constantly crave dumplings and noodles, and DD delivers. 

Next up in the search for soul satisfying experiences is Simple Pleasures, the charming neighborhood cafe & pub. 

People congregate here alone or with friends to work and to mingle. There are board games, a piano, sofas, and books at your disposal as well as a great parklet. Enjoy their impressive collection of bubbly Italian sodas, a draft beer or hard booch and there’s always a red and white wine selection in addition to all of the coffee possibilities. 

The owner, Ahmed Riad, hangs out and chats away with customers, plus the baristas are cool and they organize events like Trivia Night, acoustic shows and open mic night. This can be where you crank out some pages, or your second living room where you unwind after a long day. 

From here, jet across the street to the art gallery and boutique Eye and Hand Society by Eric Lindsey, to boost your synapses and connect with some other cool neighborhood cats. 

Come for the art, stay for the vibes. Note to self, note to everyone: this weekend is OPEN STUDIOS…on Saturday June 3rd. 

You can tell that something special is happening here. This spot offers work spaces for several artists, they host neighborhood events with beat sets, and sell curated vintage goods and their own merch with awesome designs.  

Love how you can just feel that something festive is cooking so pop on over for inspiration, and fun. 

Heart exploding with these communal vibes, it’s time to head to the mecca of good times and by this I mean, The Laundromat. Thank goddess for the two couples who started this exceptional hubbub. Adam and Jaimi, also managing a few of SF’s renowned independent movie theaters (the 4 Star, Balboa and the Vogue) teamed up with Jenna and Kevin (from Santa Cruz’s massively popular bagels) to provide the Village with one of SF’s greatest food havens. 

I’m holding myself back from writing a full fledged thesis on my love for this joint, but know that that’s where my heart is. They’ve curated an incredible staff, and together they have crafted such a fun and inviting food zone with rip n dip bagels overtaking the mornings and full on dinner sitch at night. 

They’ve scored so big because they’ve managed to simultaneously nail the food AND the atmosphere, which is what separates this from so many other establishments. 

The people running the front and back of the house make it feel incredibly vibrant and festive.  Love how this venue keeps the locals coming back again and again, as well as the foodies from across town. The wait is so worth it. 

Frames and art populate the walls, vinyls turn on the record player, old movies play on a couple of screens and their classic menu delivers exquisite Sicilian pizza (currently obsessed with the mushroom white sauce one, with added pepperoni and a side of tomato sauce in addition to the truffle honey and homemade ranch dipping sauces) and salads (can’t stop, won’t stop with their cesar). 

Not only are they killing it with their pizzas but every Wednesday they do “smashburger” night! To boot, they offer a great wine list including so many naturals, oranges, and pet nats and a fabulous wine club. 

In a nutshell, heaven exists and it’s called The Laundromat. 

To round out your village explorations or inspirations, check out the Balboa Theater. 

Not only is this a gorgeous architectural achievement built by the same brothers who made the Cliff House and The Fairmount but it’s also a great place to see second-run flicks and sometimes live music. Adam, one of the Laundromat owners, is managing the Balboa, and it seems like whatever he gets his hands into, sparkles. 

The June calendar is full, and includes live shows the weekend of the 23rd and 24th. Enjoy your popcorn 🙂

Hoping to see you at The Village this Saturday!

Foggiest regards for your brilliant book adventure.

Take BIG care,

Big Belly Breathing, as THE CITY Counselor


PS: Thank you to Laurel Pie, for introducing me to the wonders of the Outer Richmond when we were freshwomen in High School 🙂


Balboa Village Recap:


** This article is only part Satire, i.e. ALL the characters and quotes are fictional BUT the recs are pure gold.**

** If you have any places to recommend for THE CITY Counselor, throw me a DM.



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Vanessa Hutchinson-Szekely

Vanessa Hutchinson-Szekely

She is born and raised in THE CITY and has her hands in many pots.

Using her background knowledge of local landscapes, the constant search to maximize the fun factor and her holistic health and wellness expertise, she will listen to your problems and propose excursions to help you reset, recalibrate and explode back onto your scene in BAS' regular column "THE CITY Counselor".

Other than that, she's teaching yoga and hosting a podcast for kids with guided meditations in English & Français.

Check out to subscribe!

Or, just hit her up for some knee to knee chitty chat café sessions or follow her on IG&TT.