The SF Mission District is a neighborhood that blends a historic Hispanic community with emerging chic, upscale neighbors. This is a great neighborhood to walk and enjoy the history as well as the sites, smells and tastes of the many small shops and restaurants.
San Francisco's First Neighborhood
This often sunny, always exciting neighborhood started with the founding of the mission in 1776 by Father Francisco Palou, a Spanish padre who was part of an expedition from Mexico. The settlers found the sunny valley to be good for farming. It was two miles from the center of the new town, so mission area settlers remained close to home and enjoyed the races and bullfights held close to the mission.
By the 1860s the land around the Mission Dolores was subdivided into housing plots which became the starting point for many German, Irish and Italian immigrants. An influx of Latin Americans between the 1930s and 1950s provided the added Hispanic character that the SF Mission district celebrates today.
The Mission, as this district is called, has always been a relatively affordable place to live, so it has attracted the young, the artists and the painters. These people, in turn, have added their collective talents and interests to the area with murals and theaters and they have opened great places to eat and drink, wonderful places to shop for unusual clothes and home decor and a variety of bookstores to challenge your mind.
SF Mission District Neighborhoods
The Mission is made up of a variety of different neighborhoods, each with a unique personality.
This is the cultural heart of the Mission. The stretch between Mission Street and Potrero Street is an excellent place to find unique stores and delightful little restaurants and bakeries as well as the greatest concentration of murals in the city:
- La Corneta - 2731 Mission Street, a block north of 24th Street, for the prawn burritos.
- Taqueria San Jose - 2830 Mission Street, one-half block south of 24th Street, for the pork burritos.
- Casa Sanchez - 2778 24th Street, for their excellent salsa bar.
- La Victoria Panaderia - 2937 24th Street, for the niño envuelto, a yellow cake filled with jam and rolled in coconut.
- St. Francis Fountain - 2801 24th Street, an excellent place to get a good old-fashioned banana split.
Three times a year this is the best area to view the carnival-style parades which start at 24th and Bryant Street, moving up 24th Street and Mission Street.
Parking in this area is very difficult, but there is a BART station at 24th and Mission.
- Mission Dolores - one of the two original missions in San Francisco and is the oldest standing building in San Francisco. The Mission is about four blocks from the 16th Street BART station.
- Dolores Park - the family room of the Mission. Locals play tennis and soccer in the southern part of the park with sunbathers and barbeque-based family gatherings in the northern part.
- Tartine Bakery - 600 Guerrero, about a block east from the north end of Delores Park, for their incredible brownies made with Berkeley-made Scharffen Berger chocolate.
Around 16th and Valencia Streets
Valencia Street is THE place to shop for unique gifts, housewares and clothing and to eat excellent ethnic food. Be sure to check out:
- Bombay Ice Creamery - 552 Valencia Street, between 16th and 17th, for Indian rose ice cream.
- Rayon Vert - 3187 16th Street, a flower shop that also sells vintage maps and wonderful tooth fairy pillows.
- Andalu - 3198 16th Street, a fun restaurant to drink sangria while you share small plates of polenta fries and ahi tuna tacos.
- El Toro - 598 Valencia Street, at 17th Street, has great refried beans without lard.
- Paxton Gate - 824 Valencia Street, between 19th and 20th Streets, is a funky gardening store.
- Currents - 911 Valencia Street, between 20th and 21st Streets, is one of the best places in the area to find scented candles and oils.
- Firecracker - 1007 Valencia Street, between 21st and 22nd Streets, is an excellent Northern Chinese restaurant. Don't miss the Yin Yang Prawns!
- Dema - 1038 Valencia Street, between 21st and 22nd Streets, sells 1960s-inspired clothing.
- El Majahual - 1142 Valencia Street, between 22nd and 23rd Streets, is a little restaurant that serves Colombian-style grilled meats, beans and arepus (cornmeal pancakes) as well as Salvadoran food such as the quesadilla-like pupusa.
This is also a great area for nightlife. Be sure you stop into:
- Blondie's Bar and No Grill - 540 Valencia, between 16th and 17th Streets, for an excellent chocolate martini.
- 2202 Oxygen Bar - 795 Valencia Street, between 18th and 19th Streets, to sit in a reclining chair and enjoy an oxygen cocktail of sage, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang.
Don't Miss the Fun
If you are not lucky enough to live in the Mission, you can jump onto BART and enjoy the fun, shopping, eating and drinking that have made this historic neighborhood one of San Francisco's finest.