San Francisco's Mission District: Myriad Of Experiences

Tripoto
9th Jul 2014
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Coffee Culture at Ritual
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Taste Tartine
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Dolores Park
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Graffiti Art
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Mission Dolores
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If you’re visiting San Francisco, a great way to truly experience the charm of the city is by getting lost in one of the neighbourhoods. One neighbourhood worth checking out and exploring to get a good feel of local culture is the soul of San Francisco, the Mission District (but, fit in with the locals by just calling it “The Mission”).

The Mission overflows with things to see, places to eat, and eccentric shopping. Named after Mission Dolores founded in 1776, San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood has some of its hipster cool new restaurants and galleries. For much of the 1990s, the Mission maintained a balance between its colorful Latino roots and a gritty bohemian subculture. Then came the overfed dot-com years. Though the district is slowly gentrifying, many urban artisans and immigrants still make their home here, and the restaurant and nightlife scene in the neighborhood is among the best in the city and perhaps the most locally-oriented one.

With so much to do, how do you decide? I’ve narrowed it down to 13 spots that can be done in a day, in no particular order.

San Francisco’s coffee culture is legendary and on par with cities like Rome, Buenos Aires, Paris, and Seattle. Cafes form the vital social backbone of most neighborhoods and many are just as much cultural centers, performance venues and even living rooms for the city’s creative class as they are local businesses. And, in the Mission it is no different. Each cup of coffee is hand brewed at Ritual Coffee Roasters (1026 Valencia St.) at the Mission District’s hippest cafe and is sourced from a small and sustainable grower in one of the world’s top coffee growing regions. Besides the high grade cup of joe, Ritual is also the social center of bustling Valencia st, a hip and artistic area that is home to the city’s alternative set.

Photo of Ritual Coffee Roasters, Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA, United States by Valerie Fidan

Sink your teeth into a flaky croissant or orange-scented morning bun at Tartine (600 Guerrero St.; 415-487-2600) a decadent bakery specializing in breakfast pastries and indulgent desserts. Although, there is always (and I mean always) a long line out the door since seating is laughably scarce; don’t let this scare you. It’s worth the wait — your tastebuds and tummy will be thanking you.

Photo of Tartine Bakery & Cafe, Guerrero Street, San Francisco, CA, United States by Valerie Fidan

One of San Francisco’s most popular parks, and for good reason. Take in an impressive view of the San Francisco skyline from atop Dolores Park (Dolores and 18th St.), a distinctly urban green space shaded by palm trees and frequented by families and colorful characters alike. Grab a few items at near by at Bi-Rite (550 Divisadero St.) and picnic in the park while people watching and admiring the city views.

Photo of Dolores Park, San Francisco, CA, United States by Valerie Fidan

There is something so beautiful and pure about mural art. San Francisco is filled with these public art displays but the best is in this ally off of Valencia in the Mission district. Stroll along Balmy and Clarion Alleys for some amazing works of art. These masterpiece murals painted by Mexican-American artists and other residents of this predominantly Latin-American neighborhood.

Photo of Mission District, San Francisco, CA, United States by Valerie Fidan

Visit Mission Dolores (Dolores and 16th St.; 415-621-8203), the city’s oldest building and first mission. Founded by Spanish settlers in 1776, the mission and neighboring church feature historic adobe architecture. Scenes from Hitchcock’s Veritigo were filmed in the church cemetery.

Photo of Mission Dolores, San Francisco, CA, United States by Valerie Fidan

Finding a good Mexican restaurant or taqueria in the mission is hard. Not because there is a shortage but because there are so many good authentic places, authentic as being in Mexico. Grab a bite at the city’s quintessential taco joint, Tacos Vallarta (3033 24th St.). Try the delicious carnitas (stewed pork) tacos washed down with a fruity agua fesca. What’s not to love about $1.50 tacos? And, they are open late night. Perfect before calling it a night from a night of drinking.

Photo of Tacos Vallarta, San Francisco, CA, United States by Valerie Fidan

Mission Street itself isn’t going to offer much for shoppers other than thrift stores, Mexican pro wrestling masks, and a surprising number of shops selling cheap luggage. Just a block away, however, Valencia Street is starting to look a lot like its posh neighbor to the west, Noe Valley, though its boutiques and vintage clothing stores are decidedly younger and hipper. It’s also home to local favorite Ritual Coffee, perfect for a mid-shopping spree break.

Photo of Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA, United States by Valerie Fidan

Yes. You read that correctly. Chocolate tasting. I think anyone who has a serious/strong craving for chocolate should (if they can) make the trip out to Dandelion Chocolates (740 Valencia St.) for some of artisan goods. There are plenty of samples throughout the store. They probably love it more than you do and it is a beautiful thing to witness in person (and in your mouth) a business who has a real passion for what they do such as Dandelion.

Do lunch at Pizzeria Delfina (3611 18th St.; 437-6800), a stellar eatery serving truly exceptional thin-crust pies, rustic side dishes, and wines inspired by the flavors of Naples. A must try is their fresh Burrata. Though, the space is tight, and seating is limited, do expect a wait…but it’s well worth it. It is worth a trip for a memorable treat.

While exploring the Mission District it would be a mistake to miss out on the 826 Valencia pirate shop. It’s smart design and playful pirate props is bound to bring out your inner child, which is an important part of the shops design. The space doubles as a writing and tutoring center for local kids. It creates the perfect place for kids to release their creativity while learning. The store features the students’ published works and best of all purchases from the pirate store go to supporting the education programs!

Photo of Valencia pirate shop, San Francisco, CA, United States by Valerie Fidan

Monk’s Kettle (3141 16th St.) is a San Francisco Bay Area destination. Beer Experts pair and select from 200 brews and match up their unique pub food providing the ultimate Gastropub experience. There is always a Beer Specialist on hand to pair the perfect Beer with the perfect dish. This neighborhood bar with and unbelievable beer list is worth the stop. Did I mention that they also serve amazing food? Thing gourmet Mac n’ Cheese, seasonal fare, and juicy burgers with quality indigents. The food here is outstanding and pairs well with beers listed.

Photo of The Monk's Kettle, 16th Street, San Francisco, CA, United States by Valerie Fidan

It may sound gimmicky, but the dinner-and-a-movie at Foreign Cinema (2534 Mission Street; 415-648-7600; www.foreigncinema.com) is an elegant, white tablecloth affair. If the weather’s nice, snag an outdoor table in the austere, vaguely Soviet cement courtyard. Start with oysters ($2 to $2.50 apiece), before carving into the likes of delicate tombo tartare with ginger-lime vinaigrette and the bavette steak. When the sun sets, a foreign film is projected silently on the far wall with subtitles. Heat lamps keep you toasty and, if you want to follow the dialogue, the waiter will even bring vintage drive-in speakers.

Photo of Foreign Cinema, Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, United States by Valerie Fidan

Even if you suck at bowling, a few games at Mission Bowling Club (3176 17th St.) is a lot of fun. Great space with almost a lounge-like atmosphere. This truly a special treat in SF. The only other bowling alley that I’m aware of in the city is all the way in the Presidio and Lucky Strike in SOMA.

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