The Mission District of San Francisco is arguably one of the most vibrant in the entire city. Between the colorful and poignant artwork covering whole buildings, aroma of bacon-wrapped hot dogs cooking on street corners, and the cacophony of languages from locals and tourists alike, your senses are sure to be piqued in this popping neighborhood.
Many who have the opportunity to explore San Francisco say that each neighborhood can quickly immerse you in its own personality and culture. The Mission District is no exception. Upon reaching 14th Street and Mission Street, one gets the sense that the city is transforming into a street scene out of a Latin American country. Brightly painted produce markets with boxes of fruit and vegetables dot every corner with musicians and families brushing elbows as they pass one another on the street; a sense of intimacy between pedestrians arises from this crowded but content atmosphere.
Restaurants local to the Mission vary from Central American, African, South American, Mexican, American, and Japanese influences. Taquerías are frequented by all walks of life and include the Mission District favorites: Taquería Cancun and Taquería El Farolito. Both offer tasty burritos, tacos, and other traditional dishes as well as satisfying vegetarian options for animal lovers, all made from fresh and tender ingredients. While El Farolito is widely revered as having a tastier burrito, Taquería Cancun compensates with its warmer ambience, offering picnic-bench style seating with brightly painted walls and decorations that inform the "mi casa es su casa" vibe offered by Cancun's friendly cooks and cashiers.
The Mission District is no place for flavor-haters! Spices and sauces are the name of the game in Mission restaurants as local cooks tend to punch up their dishes with a savory sensation that somehow mimics the neighborhood itself. For those who don't mind a brisk walk to arrive at a steal of a meal, Limón Rotisserie on 19th Street & South Van Ness is a positive delight in Peruvian cuisine. For only $20 diners can order an entire rotisserie chicken as well as two side dishes and wash it all down with the popular Peruvian soda: Inca Kola. Bissap Baobab also tantalizes the taste buds, taking you away with spicy Senegalese splendor. If you can fork over a few extra dollars, let Minako restaurant fork over what are possibly the best Japanese dishes that San Francisco has to offer. Minako requires no reservations, but is notorious for breaking eager patrons' hearts over its limited hours. Make sure to call ahead!
The Mission is a community-oriented neighborhood with creativity running through its veins. Writers and artists abound and not only mingle with the well-established Latino residents, but they are often true vecinos (aka neighbors) and engage with one another as well. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the nationally renowned neighborhood learning center founded by Dave Eggers: 826 Valencia. The center pairs together local writers and artists with local students from elementary to high school age for tutoring and writing workshops. 826 Valencia thrives on imagination and gets kids excited about writing, learning, and collaborative productions as clearly established by its pirate-themed storefront that displays many students' finished products.
Also, popular is the mural-engulfed Women's Building on 18th street, between Guerrero and Valencia. Because the Women's Building houses several local non-profits, it is a great place to go and gauge where cultural values lie in the Mission District. With a focus on arts, education, advocacy, and action, the Women's Building is always hustling and bustling to improve conditions in the community with a focus on women and girls' empowerment.
If nightlife is your game, the Mission will hands-down deliver. You can shake what your mama gave you to some transnational beats at Little Baobab Lounge or grab some drinks while sitting beneath a vintage hair dryer at the kitschy, novelty Beauty Bar on Mission Street. Moving closer to Duboce Street and Mission Street, you can find yourself at the crossroads of all modes of bike riders at the notorious Zeitgeist bar, which interestingly attracts hipster bicyclists and rugged motorcyclists alike with its ample space for bike storage and "On the Road" decor while still enticing a huge crowd of more typical bipedal twenty-to-thirty-somethings nearly every night of the week.
For the post-party unwind, one can easily spend a Sunday perusing the cafes, art houses, clothing stores, and all things hip that congregate along Mission, Valencia, and Guerrero. On Valencia find what you need to jazz up your home at Paxton Gate or see what's abuzz at Good Vibrations, the widely known adult toy store with much ado about pleasure. On Guerrero Street, get your vintage fix while sifting through granny glasses and other 1960s artifacts at the Painted Bird before heading to the mecca of midday lounging: Dolores Park.
Dolores Park is a site where city dwellers gather for events that range from outdoor movie nights, impromptu soccer games, common interest gatherings, and mere weekend lounging in the sunshine. Taking up an entire city block, it hosts grassy hills, children's playgrounds, tennis courts, and basketball courts for a start. It is especially popular for dog lovers and twenty and thirty-somethings but provides a welcome environment for anybody who wants to kick back from the work week. Dolores Park is easily accessible by the J line of the city's MUNI light rail system or a quick walk from nearby BART stations.
Trekking isn't necessary for getting to the Mission! One can arrive quickly via public transit by taking either BART to the 16th St. & Mission stop or 24th St. & Mission St. stop or by taking MUNI lines 49 or 14.
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