Elevated San Francisco: Far out and flight ready
We drove out toward the airport. Across the Bay Bridge, straight through SOMA, and continued on past Potrero Hill and the Mission, then on to Bernal Heights, Portola and Excelsior. By the time we exited the 101 for Bayshore Blvd. all I could think was “where the hell are we?”
The Cow Palace sign emerged in the distance, towering over neighboring warehouses. Now I had a landmark, a point of reference, but, really, where the hell were we?
We were in Visitacion Valley, a predominantly Chinese working-class neighborhood that borders San Francisco and Daly City. Just North of SFO and minutes from Candlestick Park, the area has long been known for its low-income housing. You can’t get here by BART and if you live in the East Bay, as we do, it’s not exactly a quick trip by Muni or car. It’s not much of a walking neighborhood and there really aren’t many tourist attractions here to speak of. If you’re coming to Visitacion Valley, you’re coming here for a reason and Elevated is as good a reason as any.
Elevated San Francisco, a relative newcomer to the neighborhood and the city’s most remote recreational dispensary, almost never came to be. The very little press there is about this place focuses on an attempt by a small group of residents to shut it down before it ever opened. It’s a story that’s played out across the city and throughout dense residential neighborhoods statewide.
As was the case here, the argument typically hinges on a proposed shop’s proximity to schools or community centers that primarily serve children. Cannabis may be legal but it’s still taboo, and community organizing has proven a formidable foe for would-be dispensary owners. Ultimately, the owners of Elevated had a long history of community outreach and charitable donation on their side.
The campaign failed and, in December 2017, Elevated became Visitacion Valley’s first (and only) marijuana dispensary, one month before recreational use became legal in California. Considering the trouble its owners went through to open the place, you likely won’t see an explosion in dispensaries here anytime soon. For now, it’s the only game in town and that’s ok.
Elevated has a captive audience. As remote as it is, the shop could have phoned it in. Instead, it’s created a comfortable, if sparse, space, with decent selection, friendly, knowledgeable staff, and the distinction of being the closest weed store to the airport. If you’re flying in or out of SFO, you’d be well served adding Elevated to your itinerary.
If we had one real complaint to level against Elevated it would be the decor, or lack thereof. The waiting room consists of a couch, a couple of paintings, and one of those magic claw machines filled with vouchers for store credit, a strange bit of whimsy in an otherwise scantily outfitted space. Like most dispensaries, Elevated offers counter service, but keeps much of its product visible in glass display cases and a pair of branded fridges for edibles. If you’re going to do counter service, this is the way to do it. Even the flower is displayed in glass jars so you can easily peruse the merchandise.
If you’re flying in or out of SFO, you’d be well served adding Elevated to your itinerary.
Speaking of merchandise, a dispensary is only as good as its products, and Elevated is doing just fine in that department. It’s one of the few shops in San Francisco to get exclusive new strain drops from Cookies, the California gold-standard for quality bud. Cookies doesn’t come cheap but Elevated has a range of flower options priced between $25 and $60 for an eighth; we were particularly excited to see our go-to Fig Farms on the menu. The edibles game here is strong with candy, drinks, and baked goods from Kiva, Somatik, Korova, Kikoko, Lagunitas, Big Pete’s, and more. In terms of selection, Elevated holds its own with other, more buzzed about dispensaries.
We just so happened to be in line on a Friday before the post-work rush when Cookies dropped a new strain. As busy as it was, our budtender took the time to give us the spiel on Cheetah Piss, and the relative rarity of Cookie’s releases in SF. We re-upped our stash of Kiva espresso beans, and asked about the Montel Williams vapes in the display case.
“I’ve never sold one,” she scoffed.
It’s that kind of knowing candidness that sets a place like Elevated apart. A good budtender knows their products, a great budtender knows their audience. When it comes to selection and service, Elevated may be among the best in the city. We can’t say we’d make the trek all the way out to Visitacion Valley for the next Cookie’s drop, but we’re happy to know that it’s here. If we ever have time to kill before a flight, you can catch us at the claw machine trying to catch a deal.