A flavor neighborhood home to a diverse group of neighbors.
The Mission Highlights
- Dolores Park: The 3-year renovation is still underway, but the long-awaited lower half is now complete, including 6 brand new tennis courts and basketball court! This is A MUST-do on Saturday or Sunday afternoon (around 12-5pm). Best people watching of the city and one of the most uniquely San Franciscan places—I consider the wild living room of the city. Pick up some beer, wine, and snacks at Bi-Rite Grocery (expensive, but loved market for their emphasis on “local”) beforehand to enjoy, and bring a blanket to sit on. One of the most famous ice cream places in the city is also right across the street from the park, Bi-Rite Creamery. Make sure to find the playground at the top of the park—I love to take a swing ride at night and watch the city aglow to remember my inner child! Fun fact: When much of SF burned in the days following the disastrous 1906 earthquake, much of the city’s network of fire hydrants failed. Miraculously the fire hydrant at the top of Dolores Park, nicknamed “little giant,” is said to have been the only functioning hydrant and is credited with saving the Mission District neighborhood from a certain fiery doom. Painted with a fresh coat of gold paint each April 18.
- Biking: The Mission is largely flat, so it’s no surprise most residents get around on bike. Valencia St., Folsom St., and Harrison St. are all bike-friendly with established bike lanes. Make sure to read up on Alley Cat Biking San Francisco for tips and safety.
- Window Shop along Valencia Street: It’s fun to peek in such stores as home store Paxton Gate with it’s unicorn head and impressive succulent terrariums (824 Valencia St) and Dave Egger’s writing center 826 Valencia.
- Valencia Street vs. Mission Street: Although only one block apart from one another, Mission Street and Valencia Street offer very different experiences. It’s definitely worth it to walk between the two, and experience a new and old side of the Mission, both that hold important roles in the neighborhood’s spirit.
- Street Art: Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Mission’s beautiful street art. Here are the big ones to see:
- Clarion Alley: The alleyway’s artwork constantly changes.
- Balmy Alley: Contains less temporary art works. Many of these murals have been maintained for 15+ years. Make sure to visit my favorite coffee shop in the city, Philz coffee, right around the corner.
- Women’s Building: Home to dozens of non-profit offices and $1/minute legal advice on Wednesday evenings, the Women’s Building is head-to-toe beautiful. Across the way down Dearborn Alley you’ll find a gorgeous community garden.
- The Mission Dolores: A.K.A. the Mission San Francisco de Asís, the Mission Dolores is the Mission’s namesake. It’s also the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco and the 7th settlement established as part of the California chain of missions, completed in June 29, 1776. It’s definitely worth a visit–visit for free when attending a mass or pay a donation of $5 as a visitor. Do not miss the special cemetery, full of stories as the city’s oldest cemetery.
Food in the Mission
- Arizmendi’s: This worker-owned cooperative bakery has amazing (savory and sweet) baked goods. Each day a new type of pizza is available by slice or by whole pie. $3/pastries. I love to sit outside in the raised window for a sun bath. If you’re in the Inner Sunset, check out their original location on 9th Ave. (1268 Valencia St.)
- Boogaloos: Pan-American/American brunch diner in the Mission. When the weather’s nice, try to snag a sidewalk table for prime people watching down Valencia Street. From omelets and polenta to biscuits and gravy, Boogaloo is surprisingly also vegan-friendly. $10/plate. Insider tip: free coffee when you wait in line! (3296 22nd St.)
- Cafe Balompie: Amazing papusas and El Salvadorian fare. Good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. $8/plate. (3349 18th St.)
- Precita Park Cafe: Sweet little cafe off a sweet little park on the border between the Mission and Bernal Heights. For breakfast, the breakfast sandwiches are yummy, as is a simple bagel and hummus. Everything made thoughtfully with sustainable ingredients. Also fun for an afternoon beer or a dinner of American fare. (500 Precita Ave.)
- Dolores Park Cafe: A sister restaurant of Precita Park Cafe, Dolores Park Cafe is one of the only restaurants that offers you a first seat view of Dolores Park. Delicious breakfast burritos, scrambles, and juices. Daily evening happy hours and monthly art installations. (501 Dolores St.)
- Mission Beach Cafe: Every single thing on their rotating and seasonal menu is delicious but their classic egg sandwich is also a winner. Prepare to wait a while for the brunch institution—serious weekend brunchers don’t play around! Entrees are about $15. (198 Guerrero St.)
- Pork Store Cafe: The original location has been in the Haight for 100 years, so although the Mission location is barely 10 years old, the food is steeped with history. I recommend going with a hungry stomach. (3122 16th St.)
- Tartine: An SF institution, famous for a reason. Baked goods that are actually worth the long wait in line (if you’re not in a hurry!) Pastries about $5. They do awesome hot pressed sandwiches for lunch, about $15. My dad has been trying to perfect his own sourdough recipe with their cookbooks.
Coffee/Juices in the Mission
- Philz: Hands down my favorite coffee in the city. Serves only pour over—no espresso drinks. Make sure to order your coffee with at least some cream and a little sugar. My favorite order: “Philtered Soul light cream, extra light sugar.” They have locations all over the city, but the two locations in the Mission: 24th Street & Folsom and 18th Street (technically in the Castro, but close enough). Good for computer working even though it gets crowded (they have internet). If you like iced coffee, order the Mint Mojito! Better visit Philz now before they are a household name across America.
- Happy Moose Juice: A juice shop that pops up inside Range Restaurant from 9am-3pm. Amazing juice and even more amazing service, sit at the bar, sip (or take a shot of ginger for a real kick), and leave feeling happy and healthy. $10 for a large juice + $2 for a deposit on the glass bottle if you take it away.
- Sidewalk Juice: Offering a larger variety (including less healthy options) than Happy Moose Juice, Sidewalk Juice has 2 locations in the Mission, one of which is just a walk-up window.
- Sightglass: Their newest location just popped up in the Mission, but their most famous location is in SoMa (beautiful space!) and the Ferry Building. Hipster and trendy. No internet. (3014 20th St.)
- Four Barrel Coffee: Beautiful interior space with a sweet parklett in front. Not good for working if you need the internet (they don’t have it!), but great for hanging, reading, and hipster watching. (375 Valencia St.)
- Ritual Coffee: Newly remodeled with a gorgeous ship inspired parklett. Another hipster hangout in the Mission. They have internet, so you’ll see a lot of solo workers on their computers. (1026 Valencia Street) They have a cute outside location in the heart of Hayes Valley as well as inside Flora Grubb Gardens in the Bayview neighborhood.
- A Mission taqueria: You cannot leave the mission without eating a burrito or taco! I recommend Taqueria Vallarta, Taqueria Cancun, or Pancho Villa for a more traditional experience. For a healthier/more “California” option, try Little Chihuahua and order the plantain black bean burrito or Papolote’s, famous for their salsa. About $8/burrito, $2/taco.
- El Metate: Different than the informal taquerias because it is more of a sit down experience. Still cheap prices at $7/burrito. BYOB!
- Pizzeria Delfina: Delicious Neapolitan pizza. Make sure you go to the pizzeria side, not the restaurant side! Good for lunch or dinner. About $15/pizza. If the wait is long, put your name on the chalkboard and take a walk around the block (just keep an eye on your watch!)
- Yamo: An 8-seat noodle bar run by non-english-speaking Burmese ladies whose mission in life is to produce the tastiest food on 18th street in the Mission. Delicious and inexpensive. If you’re looking for order inspiration, try the cold noodles, samosas, and tea leaf salad. Closed on Sundays. Entrees are about $5 (cash-only!)
- Pizzeria Delfina: (read above)
- A Mission taqueria: (read above)
- El Metate: (read above)
- Mr. Pollo: A hole in the wall that used to serve Venezuelan/Colombian fare focused around an amazing $25 4-course chef’s tasting menu. Times have changed and they now serve new-American fare, but still focused around a $25 4-course delicious chef’s tasting menu. Make sure to order an arepa to share—although their menu is constantly changing, the arepa is always available as a tribute to their past Venezuelan/Colombian days. BYOB!
- Mission Chinese Food: Trendy, hip, NYC-esque spot with kitschy decor. Creative and modern take on Chinese cuisine. Salt Cod Fried Rice and Broccoli Beef Brisket are standouts. Entrees are about $12.
- ICHI Sushi: ICHI is modern-traditional nigiri, sashimi with a large sake list run by a husband-wife team. Chef Tim studied in Japan for years – and cuts the most beautiful otoro tuna you’ve ever seen. Order the Omakase for the full adventure. The bar inside, Ni, is also a great spot to get a drink and watch the Mission street life roll by. Entrees area bout $15.
- Mozzeria: Delicious pizza and extremely unique dining experience beause the entire staff is deaf. Good for dinner. $15/pizza.
- Ken Ken Ramen: yummy ramen. This might sound weird, but make sure to check out the bathroom! Good for dinner. $12/ramen.
- Blue Plate: Amazing comfort food in a charming atmosphere. Their goat mac ‘n goat cheese, meatloaf, and focaccia bread will melt in your mouth. Located between Bernal Heights and the Mission, this area is referred to as “La Lengua” and home to some of my favorite bars: El Rio, Knockout, and Royal Cuckoo. Entrees are about $20.
- Lolinda: An Argentine steakhouse in the Mission with states starting at $17 and a range of Latin American tapas. Really interesring and large space. I highly recommend heading up to El Techo de Lolinda, a rooftop bar with amazing city views, after or before dinner.
- El Techno de Lolinda: a rooftop bar with amazing views of the city. Not a full bar but their margaritas are standard order. Stick near to the heat lamps for the more chilly nights.
- Pakwan: This order-at-the-counter Pakistani restaurant gets rowdy most evenings and is a popular spot for large groups. Famous for their freshly baked naan, tikka masala, and saag paneer. If you’re not feeling like indulging in BYOB, the mango lassi is a good treat, especially while you wait for your food order to be called out. BYOB, cash only, order at the counter. About $8/dish.
- Udupi Palace: Vegetarian Indian restaurant specializing in dosas. When compared to Pakwan, it’s table service, less greasy, not BYOB, and about $1-2 more expensive per dish. Cash only. (1007 Valencia St.)
- Cha-ya: Vegetarian (actually vegan) Japanese food. Amazing soups, gyoza, and noodles. About $10/dish and cash only. (762 Valencia St.)
- Enjoy some ice cream while you explore the Mission: at uber famous Bi-Rite Creamery or Humphry Slocombe. If you want to check out a newcomer to the neighborhood for a build-it-yourself $2.99 ice cream sandwich, check out Cream.
- Beretta: Nice Italian restaurant that stays open to 1am nightly. Order the gelato sundae with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt alongside some after-dinner drinks.
Nightlife in the Mission
Just as diverse by night as by day, the Mission delivers with dive bars, reggaeton beats, hip eats, art walks, and late night burritos.
- Amnesia: live music 7 days/week. Free bluegrass on Mondays and Gypsy Jazz on Wednesdays. Tiny intimate bar.
- The Chapel: cool live music venue that used to be a morturary
- Elbo Room: Downstairs you can play pacman, mingle, and photobooth. Upstairs, live music 7 days a week.
- Latin America Club: Best margarita in the whole city. Dangerous $9 pint glass.
- Little Baobab: A neighborhood gem hosting an array of weekly events from salsa on Wednesdays to African Mix on the weekends. If you’re looking for a place to dance without the usual pretentious dancers, look no further. Double purposes as a Senegalese restaurant until 10pm with a full bar.
- Make-Out Room: Super fun dancing on Saturday nights at the SuperRitmo Latino dance parties—cumbia, reggeaton, salsa. $5 at the door before 11pm $10 after 11pm. Just across the street from the Make-Out Room you’ll find the best margarita in town at the Latin America Club, it’s pint-sized and potent!
- El Rio: Grungy bar on the edge of Bernal Heights. Fun day time and night time. Every night of the week they have different events and drink specials. They’ve got a killer back patio and always have live music in the back room.
- The Knockout: Nightly events and live music every night of the week. My favorite is Oldies night (1st & 3rd Fridays). Some nights are $5 at the door. If you’re in the mood for bar hopping, check out El Rio across the street.
- Zeitgeist: outdoor beer garden. Although their bartenders and doorman aren’t the friendliest bunch, this place is definitely worth a visit!
- Southern Pacific Brewery: A huge gastropub housed in a converted alley-side warehouse with a beautiful outdoor beer garden. Great craft cocktails, flavorful bar bites, and lots of local and in-house beers on tap. Good for daytime, too!
- Elixir: super tiny bar, one of oldest in SF. Yummy old fashioneds. Trivia on Tuesdays.
- Viracocha: a weird retail store by day, and a secret music/comedy venue by night. Here’s their calendar.
- 500 Club: My favorite dive bar. Super nice staff. Cheap beers.