I started visiting Cole Valley when I first started visiting UCSF regularly about three years ago. Cole Valley is a small, quiet neighborhood of about 3 full blocks of businesses, especially restaurants and cafes. Cole Valley is a great rest stop, a quiet oasis, to center myself on my way from downtown and to a long day at UCSF Hospital.
The proximity to UCSF makes Cole Valley very popular with young doctors. Young families and some artists also live in the neighborhood. Although peaceful, Cole Valley has just enough economic activity that you do not have to go far for every day needs.
The center for Cole Valley is Cole and Carl Streets, where the N-Judah makes a stop. The restaurants and cafes here are mostly for San Franciscans, and then mostly for those in the immediate and nearby neighborhoods. The most well-known restaurant is EOS restaurant, but there are many other quality restaurants here. Also, there are many independent cafes, such as Cafe Cole. However, there is very little nightlife, and few tourists, as far as I can tell.
As a result, Cole Valley has very few of the problems that plague the rest of the city, including homeless and public drug use. The streets in Cole Valley are some of the cleanest in the city. As a added bonus, Cole Valley has some of most beautiful views in the city.
There are a few artists that called Cole Valley home, enough to hold the annual Cole Valley Art Fair in September. The Heart of the Cole, an annual street festival by local artists for kids of all ages in October. This is an area that is worth visiting a few times a year, even if you do not live in the area.