At times gritty, wealthy, industrial and now thriving, SoMa is a neighborhood that has generally resisted categorization. Originally a haven for the wealthy, SoMa’s proximity to the docks led to its reconstruction as an industrial neighborhood after the 1906 earthquake. But now, thanks to city redevelopment efforts and money flowing in from well-funded startups like Airbnb, SoMa is reinventing itself once again.
Amidst the many Starbucks, Subways, and big name retailers, some of the best small businesses the city has to offer humbly offer up a slice of the city’s character in this quirky neighborhood.. Here are a few of our favorite spots to relax with a drink, buy souvenirs for a friend or try something new while supporting the community of small business owners that define the neighborhood.City Beer Store
1168 Folsom St.
Craig and Beth Wathen created City Beer Store after realizing that San Franciscans had a plethora of upscale wineries (more than 600 in the bay area!), but a severe lack of spots for buying and tasting great beer. So, they opened up shop in 2006, boasting an extensive selection of bottled beers — which can be enjoyed in store or at home — and a bar with 15 beers on tap. Head to the shop to sip brews while you pick out a perfect combination for your mix and match six pack.Socola Chocolates
535 Folsom St.
Run by a pair of sisters from Vietnam, Socola Chocolates features handmade truffles with unique flavors best described as “whimsical.” Spice up your life with the Sriracha Flying Rooster truffle, get a little tipsy from the Stout Beer truffle or taste all the best flavors of your childhood in one bite with the PB&J truffle. The duo started out selling chocolates outside of their parents’ nail salon, eventually graduating to farmer’s markets, and now boasting a brick and mortar where, in addition to their chocolates, they also sell Four Barrell Coffee and pastries.Samovar Tea Lounge
730 Howard St.
Founder Jesse Jacobs conceptualized this modern tea lounge after years of unfulfilling work in the corporate world. Frustrated with society’s focus on work and the never ending rat race, he created a space that encourages community, conversation and personal connection. Head to Samovar to take a break from the insanity of everyday life and share a cup of tea with a new friend at one the lounge’s communal tables.Bluxome Street Winery
53 Bluxome St.
A group of San Francisco friends started Bluxome as an ode to the origins of California winemaking. Though Napa and Sonoma are hailed as the capitals of the California wine scene, many overlook the fact that, before the 1906 earthquake, SoMa was home to dozens of wineries and commercial cellars. This modern urban winery pays homage to the winemakers of the late 1800s, serving reasonably priced tasting flights in an industrial space.The Chai Cart
Owner Paawan Kothari started the Chai Cart in 2009 as a bicycle trailer, a part time hobby she did on the weekends. She served superbly spiced cups of chai tea from the trailer, and talked with customers about the memories chai conjured up for them — everything from traveling to holidays to family. Paawan quit her job to serve chai full time, and the bicycle trailer evolved into a sidewalk cart that you can find in various locations downtown.