San Francisco’s Mission District virtually invented the term “gentrification.” Before the dot-com bubble, this expansive neighborhood was home mostly to working-class Latin American families. Over recent years, however, younger locals have started flocking to the Mission for its bare basics bars and excellent taquerias.
Today the Mission has become home to the city’s hipster generation, with all the cupcakeries, music shops, and boutique clothing stores that entails. For an experience that’s a little more auténtico, head toward 24th Street, or across Cesar Chavez toward 30th St.
See & Do
More than just a park, Dolores Park is the Mission’s heart. On a sunny day, the young and beautiful come here to tan, hobnob, and take in the unbeatable views of the San Francisco skyline and the bay beyond. Bring a picnic and a bottle of wine (drinking in public is mildly overlooked by San Francisco police). Next door is Mission Dolores, the oldest original intact mission in California and the city’s historic center, which is definitely worth a visit.
In terms of cuisine, the Mission might very well be the richest neighborhood in a city already obsessed with food, but the Mexican cuisine is outstanding. Don’t pass up La Taqueria, a 50-year-old San Francisco institution that practically invented the local taco and burrito styles, along with others like El Farolito. Try the taco dorado, a freshly deep-fried taco shell wrapped in a soft corn tortilla and filled with your choice of meat (we recommend the carnitas – deep-fried pork) and all the fixins.
It’s almost impossible to choose a single bar in a neighborhood so blessed with watering holes, but Zeitgeist should not be missed. Just like the Mission District itself, Zeitgeist has seen a lot of changes in recent years. Formerly a rough-and-tumble biker bar, it’s now a more casual place with an excellent selection of California microbrews on tap. Come here to drink pitchers of beer or stellar house-made Bloody Mary’s in San Francisco’s only true beer garden. Don’t expect friendly service: the tattooed and pierced bartenders will quickly decide whether they like you or not.
The Inn San Francisco gives you a chance to stay in what’s been called “a grand Victorian Lady,” right in the center of the action. The B&B also offers amenities – like a sun deck and hot tub – that are unheard of elsewhere in the Mission. If you really want to stay in this slightly rough part of the city, we recommend you at least sleep in style.
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.