Where to go in San Francisco to Feel Like You’re in Another Country

by Ekua on March 9, 2010 in California,eats and drinks,local discoveries

It’s been awhile since I’ve done some serious traveling. When I am not distracted by things I have to do, stir craziness begins to creep up on me. I am hoping to find an affordable last minute Spring Break getaway, but in lieu of any concrete travel plans, I’ve been thinking a lot about where I can go in San Francisco and feel like I am in another place, even if it’s only for a few hours…

» Bissap Baobab & Little Baobab

The first time I walked into the Senagalese restaurant, Bissap Baobab, I knew immediately that I’d left San Francisco and entered West Africa. And true to West Africa, it’s full of friendliness, randomness, and hearty flavorful food. Little Baobab is Bissap’s sibling and is located just around the corner. They offer the same menu as Bissap Baobab up to a certain point and then push aside the tables and dim lights so you can dance the night away to the beats of West Africa and the African diaspora.

» Nonstop Bhangra

Bhangra is a type folk music and dance that comes from the Punjabi region of India. San Francisco’s monthly event, Nonstop Bhangra, fuses this style of music with hip hop, reggae and other genres. The event is fittingly held at a venue called the Rickshaw Stop, and at the party you can enjoy a dance lesson, music and dance performances, and plenty of time to shake and groove on your own. When it gets packed, it tends to get pretty hot and sweaty, but to me, that just adds another element of India to the event.

» 24th Street and the Mission

As the hipsters extend their adhesive jeans with saggy butt legs from the 16th Street part of the Mission to the 24th Street side, gentrification is on everyone’s mind. But there are still times walking down 24th Street when you can feel like you are in Central America as people live their lives on the sidewalks, Spanish is the dominant language, and the smells of pupusas, tacos, and baked goods waft out of the restaurants and panaderias. And of course, the Mission hosts some of San Francisco’s most interesting annual festivals like Carnaval and Day of the Dead.

» Clement Street

I was first introduce to Clement Street in the Richmond by a friend of mine who is a chef. It was pretty easy to see why she liked it– it feels like a culinary tour of Asia. Some of the restaurants on the street are delicious and well known, but I think the most interesting cultural experience is at the Richmond New May Wah Supermarket. It is stocked with Asian produce and products that are hard to find in the US. Chicken feet and other such things not commonly eaten in the US are vividly displayed with no hesitation about what would make the average American squeamish.

» BR55

My obsession with Brazil runs deep. After returning from volunteering there, I needed a regular fix of the genres of Brazilian music I find to be corny but incredibly endearing. I found what I was looking for at the monthly event, BR55, held at Shattuck Down Low in Berkeley. There are a few other Brazilian events in the San Francisco Bay Area that I really enjoy, but they tend to strive for a more cosmopolitan Rio vibe. BR55 serves straight up forró to two-step to and axé in all of it’s cheesy glory.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Fly Girl March 10, 2010 at 3:51 pm

How fun! I love visiting events and places that have an authentic foreign vibe. Bissap and baobob juice are my favorites so I know I’d enjoy them.

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Ekua March 11, 2010 at 9:50 pm

They have hibiscus juice there, but I don’t think they have baobab juice. But that is now on my list of things to try! You should totally check it out if you come to SF, it would be interesting to compare it to your local Senegalese spot.

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Simone March 11, 2010 at 9:29 am

Found your blog through a web of fellow Matador writer blogs — This is an absolutely wonderful list! I grew up across the Golden Gate Bridge, and you did not go for the easy ones. I am especially excited to try the Senagalese restaurant next time I visit.

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Ekua March 11, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Thanks, Simone 🙂

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Nancy March 29, 2010 at 6:37 am

These places sound amazing. Wanna meet up at one when we’re in town in two weeks?? 🙂

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