Best of 2001: Best Alternative To A Strip Mall On One Block

Fir Street Between India and Columbia, Little Italy

These brightly painted homes, circa 1900 to 1930, now enjoy a new identity, housing shops as diverse and colorful as the paint adorning them. On the corner, the Gargoyle Gallery and Café (1845 India Street, 619-234-1344) is the anchor and the palette's inspiration as the neighboring shops' exteriors mirror the café's interior. Stop in for breakfast, lunch, outstanding French-press coffee, or dessert and peruse the ever-changing artwork or the gift shop filled with Moroccan-flavored wares. Next door is Villino Galleria (621 West Fir Street, 619-696-5059), a consignment shop with furniture ranging from '40s to '70s. Just up the sloping street is the sister-owned women's boutique, Sorella (619 West Fir, 619-232-9322). Next door you'll find a skin and body boutique, Felicia (619 West Fir Street 619-239-0631). The neighboring shop is La Bella Vita (615 West Fir Street, 619-237-6033), a hair salon. Under the same ownership of Hillcrest's popular candle shop, Cathedral, is Cathedral Home Store (611 West Fir Street) featuring a collection of linens, towels, dishes, glassware, and other home furnishings. At the end of the block is the Carol Gardyne Studio (1840 Columbia Street, 619-233-8066) featuring hand-painted silks.

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