Green Apple Books—The Best Used (and New) Bookstore in San Francisco

My apartment is filled with books. What books don’t fit on shelves are stacked next to my bed, my current read (usually on some aspect of San Francisco or California history) within easy reach so I can fill my head with stories and facts before falling asleep. There are also books occupying floor space, and there are a couple of bins in the storeroom filled with books I read and perhaps will one day get rid of but probably not.
There is a Japanese word for acquiring more books than you might get around to reading:Tsundoku. Some dismiss this as little more than book hoarding. They are wrong. Being surrounded by books is different than navigating piles of string too short to throw away and a mountain of broken toaster ovens found on the street.
Most of the books in my tsundoku shrine came from Green Apple books
Green Apple Books--Best Used bookstore in San Francisco
If you like bookstores, and the most best travelers do, Green Apple should be a destination on your visit to San Francisco.
There are three floors of books, connected by a small warren of staircases.
It smells like a bookstore. A bit musty, an olfactory quality from the various ages and conditions of the millions of pages between thousands of covers.
One of the many staircases in Green Apple Books
“Used bookstore smell” should be included in the vocabulary of sommeliers. It would describe a wine I’d buy a case of. But I digress.
More books! Green Apple always has more books to discover.
Speaking of wine, this is a dangerous place for me to visit after a couple of glasses. I always find a book I need, or just want, or just feels right in my hand no matter when I go to Green Apple. But under the influence of a good Malbec or Zin, I discover more books than usual to feed my tsundoku habit.
Green Apple Books is located on Clement St in the Richmond District. This is an overlooked street that should not be overlooked. After wandering the aisles, you can go to The Blue Danube for coffee and read your new acquisitions.  Or go to one of the bars. Few things in life are better than a glass of wine and a good book. Enjoy yourself like a local.
Green Apple Books 506 Clement St. (at 6th Ave) 415-387-2272 Open daily 10am-9pm

Chocolate Covered—The Best, Biggest Little Chocolate Store in the World (probably)

Maybe not the world, but definitely San Francisco and if I had a mortgage I would bet it on the assumption there aren’t any shops small with such a variety of chocolate. The selection is so vast you could get lost in it except you can’t because shop isn’t any wider and longer than a stretch limo.

Chocolate Covered San Francisco.

The store is narrow, but tall.  Entering you experience a sense of delight and wonder because you’ve never seen anything like it before. Chocolate from around the globe cram shelves 7 feet high. There are chocolate bars, of course, but also novelty shapes (such as cars and baseballs), and small single wrapped bites.

Chocolate bars in Chocolate Covered San Francisco.--What you can see on a private tour of the city.

Chocolate makers from around the world contact the shop to let them know of their latest artisan products and inventive flavors. The shop has been around since 1994, and the owner, Jack Epstein claims “1,248 different chocolate bars in here, from over 28 countries, from more than 125 different companies.”

Tins and chocolate cover the walls of Chocolate Covered in San Francisco.

What wall space isn’t covered in chocolate is covered with tins you fill with chocolate. Photos of what looks like every street sign in San Francisco are available, which reminded me of those rack of souvenir license plates that have names. Except mine. The racks never had “Reed,” so I never got a little license plate at a roadside gift shop. There is a “Reed” street in San Francisco.

Reed Kirk Rahlmann, owner of Small Car Big Time Tours, holding a tin with his name on it.

Chocolate Covered is off the usual tourist path, but worth the detour if you love chocolate. Even if you’re just indifferent to chocolate it’s worth the trip.

4069 24th Street (Noe Valley)
San Francisco, CA 94114
Ph: (415) 641-8123

New May Wah–A Grocery Store with Everything You Never Knew You Wanted

Not everything about visiting a city is the major sites, tourist attractions, and eating at restaurants from the Food Network. Those should not be overlooked, because a site like the Golden Gate Bridge is famous for a reason, Fisherman’s Wharf does have a history hidden behind the overabundance of tee-shirt shops. Even the Food Network can get it right once in a while, although when a restaurant gets on television getting a reservation is less likely than finding a magic unicorn who spits winning lottery tickets.

To experience a city like a local, you’ve got to do what locals do. In San Francisco, stroll around a neighborhood with no destination in mind. Go to a restaurant at least a mile from Fisherman’s Wharf. Go to a grocery store, especially the New May Wah in the overlooked Richmond District.

New May Wah Supermarket on Clement StreetI’m betting you don’t have a store like the New May Wah in your town and if you do, consider yourself lucky and blessed and the envy of those who don’t.

The New May Wah is neighborhood market on Clement St, which used to be known as Little Chinatown. It carries a lot of ingredients for Chinese dishes, and more. Oh, so much more. And you want it. You don’t know you want it, but once you see it, you’ll ask where has this been all my life?

There are shelves of potato chips with flavors far beyond anything you’ll find at a suburban supermarket.  The selection changes regularly and every time I go in I find something new.  Squid. Spicy Squid. Cucumber. Tzatziki. I got “Duck Neck” flavor once. As I’ve never eaten a duck neck I’m going to take their word that’s what it tastes like when infused in a chip . Authenticity aside, it was tasty.

There is an entire aisle devoted to sauces and condiments not only from China, but Japan, Mexico, Korea, Indonesia, England and those are only the countries I can remember. Buy something from this section to spice up meals back home.

Potato chips at the New May Wah

Sauces and condiments at the New May Wah.

There is also a vast array of candy from every corner of the globe. Some of these are worth buying just because of the whimsically surreal packaging. This is the kind of souvenir everyone back home will love. Also a fun place to bring the kids. Much more entertaining than the M&M store in Times Square.

At the New May Wah you’ll spend time with the locals and experience San Francisco like we get to. This is the type of store you will talk to your friends about when you get back home. They will enjoy the exotic treats you bring them, and be impressed you saw something more than the usual stuff, which, as I said, are worth seeing.

New May Wah 707 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118 8:30am-7pm everyday

Misdirections: one of the last brick and mortar magic shops

There used to be dozens of professional magic shops in the Bay Area. Now there is only one, but it’s a good one. Misdirections bills itself as “A Real Magic Shop for Real Magicians.” It is fully stocked with dvds, books, tricks, and supplies for the professional, but amateurs can easily find something they can perform with minimal skills. Located at 1236 9th the Sunset District close to the Academy of Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden, Misdirections is definitely worth a visit. Not only because it’s fun, but a real magic shop is a rare experience these days.