NFT San Francisco Mission (Outer)

Mission (Outer)

Essentials
One of the city's sunniest neighborhoods is also one of its most diverse and dynamic, as post-college neophytes rub shoulders with recent Latin American immigrants. Gentrification, love it or hate it, has made a neighborhood that has historically been the first stop for newcomers to this country into the ultimate go-to for a night of drinking and dining.

Sundries/Entertainment
Taquerias proliferate here, with 24th Street host to some of the best in the city, including El Farolito (open very late) and La Espiga de Oro. Coffee is huge here, too: try Ritual, Sugarlump, and See more.

>Atlas. Aquarius Records and Dog Eared Books are de rigueur shopping. Humphry Slocombe is ice cream heaven.




         



On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Cristian Cartes
Photo:  Cristian Cartes

Viracocha
Stepping into Viracocha is quite the magical experience, once inside it will seem you've been transported to a storybook wonderland. This welcome community-operated space is used as a retail store by day and it also has other surprises by night. Viracocha boasts a beautiful and unique selection of antique furniture, typewriters, clothing, books, and vintage rarities you probably won't see elsewhere. You can feel the detail and care that have gone into creating the dreamy atmosphere present at here. But more than an antique shop there's a downstairs that operates at nighttime and feels like a speakeasy. There's a tiny stage, chairs, and couches to lounge in while on selected nights you can enjoy poetry readings, live music, and comedy shows. The space is intimate and there's this sense that anything could happen. Amongst the long line of shops and stores on Valencia street this is definitely a special place. Be warned though, once inside you might not want to leave.



Posted By:  Emilie Russell
Photo:  Emilie Russell

Dynamo Donuts
I don't often eat donuts these days. All of the cons (empty calories, too much sugar, too much grease) just don't outweigh the pros (the joy in throwing caution to the wind and consuming empty calories with abandon, the glorious rush of a sugar high, the delightful tickle of donut grease on my tongue). That being said, I am simply incapable of passing on a Dynamo Donut, which is SO not your average donut. Dynamo has a rotating list of about 16 different types, my favorites being apricot cardamom, coconut, spiced chocolate and maple glazed bacon apple. See? Don't you feel the drool pooling in your mouth right now? And that's only a quarter of the list. The range of textures differ, too--from cakey and chewy to the more classic light and airy piece of fried heaven. Every donut offers something a little out of the ordinary. In short: Dynamo Donuts are dang delicious!



Posted By:  Cristian Cartes
Photo:  Cristian Cartes

Sidewalk Juice
As tempting as all the cafes on Valencia Street can be, if you're exploring the Mission and need a pick-me-up I urge you to look them over and step off the main street and wander over to this hidden gem, Sidewalk Juice. At the walk up window you can feast upon a wide array of choices. For all of us "lactards" there are many non dairy options to be had. You can also explore different routes in the smoothie world. The healthy one includes smoothies and juice with kale, wheatgrass, garlic and ginger. Fruity staples are the Berries Valencia, Mango Madness and Cherry Bomb. If you're feeling decadent try Nuts About Nutella, which includes peanut butter and Nutella. There's also Chocolate Chai, Chocolate Strawberry and Mint Cookies and Cream. These are but a few of the many options. The friendly workers are always willing to specialize your drink or make up your own. At $5 a smoothie another plus is all ingredients are organic and locally grown.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Papalote
Even though I'm not a vegetarian, I'm well aware that vegetarians often feel left out at most burrito joints. But at one Mission taqueria, herbivores can finally get a better taste of what they've been missing out on. Papalote goes out of its way to accommodate even the strictest of meat-free eaters by offering vegan soyrizo and marinated tofu alongside chicken and carne asada. And for those vegetarians who've never had the pleasure of sampling mole, the tofu mole is vegan and just as delicious as the chicken version. Self-respecting Mexican food addicts most likely wouldn't be caught dead eating a tofu burrito, but for those who choose not to consume flesh, Papalote does a good job of providing meatless options that are more interesting than rice and beans. I wouldn't mind coming back for soyrizo.



Posted By:  Rae Alexandra
Photo:  Rae Alexandra

Hair Candy Salon
This cosy and quirky salon offers top notch treatment for even the most finicky follicles (we're looking at you dreadlocks, extensions and deeply unnatural color schemes); an ultra-friendly atmosphere; nothing but alt, punk, goth and hipster rock on the stereo; stylists that actually (*gasp*) listen to their clientele; and, rather charmingly, a big ol' pile of candy treats at the front desk. Book early because, due to HC's exceptional work and loyal client base, the waiting lists are loooong.



Posted By:  Rae Alexandra
Photo:  Rae Alexandra

Dirty Thieves
You may remember this dark and, yes, dirty bar as Treat Street. And, despite the name change, it hasn't changed all that much (thankfully). The booze is still pretty cheap, the bartenders are still pretty cool, the interior's still pretty roomy, the clientele is still heavily tattooed and the block still errs on the side of sketchy. Let it also be noted that their Monday night movie night is a blast. Still one of the best bars in the Mission.



Posted By:  Molly Riordan
Photo:  Molly Riordan

Bluesix
Like music? Like art? In the Mission? Look for Bluesix. But look hard as it's not easy to pick out in the lineup of taquerias and laundromats. If you manage to spot the unmarked gallery-cum-venue, however, be assured that whatever lies within is well worth the search. Joe, the owner/organizer and a local jazz bassist, proves his eye for worthy talent is as good as his ear for music. Pass by in the daytime and you might see him jamming solo inside. Performances in the white-and-wooden space are intimate and acoustically powerful, with temporary art installations, two ancient pianos, and an array of distressed instruments serving as visual stimulation and musical inspiration. Open just over a year, Bluesix is an inconspicuous incubator for the Next Big Thing tiny enough to make you feel part of it.




Posted By:  Andrew Vennari
Photo:  Andrew Vennari

Philz Coffee
One day I was scrounging around my apartment looking for spare change--flipping couch cushions and sifting through some pennies in a jar--because all I could think about was Philz. That's when I knew I had it bad: the thirst. Gladly, I would have torn the place apart to just taste that first sip. When you drink coffee this good, you pay a price. When I'd scrapped together the $3.00 for s small, I immediately found my way to the nearest Philz. Inside the aroma was therapy; the surroundings soft and warm. A jazz trio belted out a nice mellow beat in the corner. I ordered a Turkish with cream and honey. She buzzed up the correct measure of beans and then put the fresh grounds into a virgin filter at the one-cup set-up. She poured slowly, stirred gently. Finally she set the coffee on the counter, plucked a single leaf from a sprig of mint, and placed it in the coffee. How dainty. The sip was perfect. The right temperature, not too sweet, and lightly spiced with cardamon, cinnamon and undisclosed spices which may contain crack. Thank you for giving my coffee the love and attention it deserves.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

La Taqueria
Ordering a burrito shouldn't be complicated. But nowadays it often is: too many choices--red or green mole chicken, pollo asado, carne asada, fish, prawns, or carnitas for the meat, black or pinto beans, tomato or cilantro rice, and a choice of a spinach, tomato, whole wheat or regular tortilla. How did ordering something as simple as a burrito become so overwhelming? At La Taqueria, though, the tacos, burritos and quesadillas are as nondescript as the name of the establishment. There are no tough decisions to make aside from your choice of meat and any extras you wish to add to your order. But there is a reason the wall is covered in awards proclaiming it the best place in the city to get your burrito and taco fix. You won't find a salsa bar with strawberry or avocado varietals, and there's no excessive spiciness concealing the flavors. After a couple of bites, you'll know what Mexican food should taste like.



Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

Lolo
When was the last time you had Turkish-Mexican fusion? Yeah, I thought so. It had been a while (read: a lifetime) for me, too, so I was eager to check out this three-month-old restaurant baby in the Mission. Comfy outdoor booths beckon. The ambiance of the main room provides quirky, eye-pleasing amusement. The bathroom offers a soundtrack of ocean waves lapping upon the shore and a candle that smelled so good I raced back to the table to scribble the brand down (and my sniffer didn’t disappoint—“Voluspa” has its own website). It had also been a lifetime since a restaurant’s bathroom had left such a positive impression. The waitress was extremely attentive. And then there was the food: bread slathered with tomato goat cheese spread. Thin jicama rounds folded like taco shells and stuffed with impossibly delicious and crunchy shrimp. Zucchini cakes, topped with dill aioli, snuggled next to fresh greens splattered with pomegranate dressing. I’ll be back for the huitlacoche, or corn fungus, dumplings. Oddly, it’s only been a few months since I’ve had those disturbingly delicious little numbers in Mexico.



Posted By:  Ryn
Photo:  Oliver Winston

The only people who've referenced it to me in conversation included a painter hawking her goods at the U-Store-It, a rebel's daughter, and a hacker. Ca$h only. The outside wall has advertised the “Grand Opening” for at least two years, and this month there is actually a new staff and menu. They've added pupusas for $1.50. First, the kitchen didn't have any frijoles and the queso did not melt. For the sauce they handed me a ziplock of Italian herbed tomato puree. Yeah, no customers, ziplock bags... It's questionable whether any of the restaurants that have occupied this space have worked to attract business besides pouring out agua frescas by the barrel on Dia de Los Muertos in the adjacent Garfield Park. It's a local business that never seems to have any business, which always makes me wonder if it's really a business at all. Empty sanz the occasional drop in of two relatives who have a usual table with the prime view of the telenovela tube. For voyeurs, it's equiv to strolling into a stranger's kitchen/hideout.



Posted By:  Elise Burger
Photo:  Elise Burger

St. Francis Fountain
Diners—I’m talking breakfast all day, free coffee refills, toasted cheese-having diners—those old school diners are hard to come by in San Francisco. (Don’t believe those that try to pass off “American Graffiti” legend Moe’s Diner as the real thing, because if it was once, it isn’t now.) For a late night dining excursion replete with an original soda fountain and wooden booths, head straight to Saint Francis Fountain. Squeezed in between the usual Mission fare, this joint offers thick shakes and other classic grub (read: the menu features patty melts. Yes, patty melts. With fries and a pickle, just like it should be.). While vegetarian offerings a few brews give Saint Francis its West Coast flavor, the candy counter is what really earned the place its sainthood. Revisit childhood on the way out the door by snagging some wax lips, pixie sticks, and a slew of trading cards. Where else can you find Garbage Pail Kids these days?



Posted By:  Elise Burger
Photo:  Elise Burger

“The Cheese Man,” was my chosen moniker for the butcher whose shop sat directly across from my apartment in Florence, where I studied abroad. His case of meats and cheeses yielded the simple panini that sustained me during an entire semester of skipped classes: pesto, Taleggio, and salami on foccacia (with an Orangina to wash it down, natch). Years have passed, and yet no State side sandwich has quite compared to the Cheese Man’s—until I discovered Lucca Ravioli. Located miles away from Little Italy in the Mission District, Lucca has imported the best of the boot for nearly a century; the shop also enjoys notoriety for its house-made ravioli, five varieties of pasta, and four sauces. Looking for that one variety of almond cookie that Trader Joe’s hasn’t yet gotten its paws on? Search no longer. Limoncello? Like, real Limoncello—not the fluorescent yellow stuff. A reasonably priced assortment of wine, Grappa, and Campari? Check! Lucca’s staff reigns supreme here, as does their deli counter: I have Florentine flashbacks each time I peel away the white paper wrapper from my perfectly crafted panini. These Cheese Men obviously apprenticed with the master.



Posted By:  Elise Burger
Photo:  Elise Burger

“The Cheese Man,” was my chosen moniker for the butcher whose shop sat directly across from my apartment in Florence, where I studied abroad. His case of meats and cheeses yielded the simple panini that sustained me during an entire semester of skipped classes: pesto, Taleggio, and salami on foccacia (with an Orangina to wash it down, natch). Years have passed, and yet no State side sandwich has quite compared to the Cheese Man’s—until I discovered Lucca Ravioli. Located miles away from Little Italy in the Mission District, Lucca has imported the best of the boot for nearly a century; the shop also enjoys notoriety for its house-made ravioli, five varieties of pasta, and four sauces. Looking for that one variety of almond cookie that Trader Joe’s hasn’t yet gotten its paws on? Search no longer. Limoncello? Like, real Limoncello—not the fluorescent yellow stuff. A reasonably priced assortment of wine, Grappa, and Campari? Check! Lucca’s staff reigns supreme here, as does their deli counter: I have Florentine flashbacks each time I peel away the white paper wrapper from my perfectly crafted panini. These Cheese Men obviously apprenticed with the master.



Posted By:  Andrew Vennari
Photo:  Andrew Vennari

Mission Bar is next to Sun Fat Sea Food Company, the best fish market in the neighborhood. The sign above Mission Street simply says: BAR. During the day, get all your seafood needs taken care off, and at night check out this long, dark, red-neon-beer-sign lit room—a good watering hole frequented by locals for it’s good prices and stiff drinks. In the reflection of the sleek mirror that runs the entire length of the bar, you can see a collection of regulars knocking back the usual. During the week the place lulls to the steady beat of the jukebox. On a busy weekend night the black and red checkered floor fills up with hip kids and seasoned vets alike. Mission Bar never gets too busy to get a quick drink, and people not making a night of it seem to use the place as a jumping off point to get wasted at some more crowded, hyped up place where you have to wait ten minutes for a taste. Keep a look out for John Wayne on the ceiling.



Posted By:  Ryn
Photo:  Ryn

This place is run by some Israeli boys who've got style. These boys wear suits and have a constant flow of visitors as they serve up zesty Mid-East fare. It's a mood lit hideaway tucked behind an ornate wooden door that makes it look closed when it's actually open. The stuffed falafel are 100% vegan with a crispy exterior and a gooey inner part that has an almost (un-vegan like) fishy flavor. They're incredibly filling and delicately spiced. Take-out falafel sandwich orders can take upwards of ten minutes, since they insist upon serving every customer fresh falafel. And that’s a good thing. They also make many baklavas here, including the surprise creme stuffed variety. Old J is usually open ‘til about ten on weekdays and eleven o'clock on weekends, but leave time to be seated since it's a hot spot for group dinners. Dining in bonus: Eavesdropping is above par and multi-lingual.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

I’m no vegan. I’m not even a vegetarian. And the idea of “live” food weirds me out a bit. But I have to admit that vegan meals can be quite tasty, and the offerings of Café Gratitude definitely surprised me. Everything on the menu is completely wholesome, yet delicious. And the fact that it’s all raw barely crosses your mind. After all, this is how food is supposed to taste, in its natural state. I never thought that raw food could be so creative or fun. Who would ever have thought of cooking up live pizzas made from crusts of buckwheat and sunflower seed sourdough flatbread, topped with fresh sliced tomatoes, cashew ricotta, micro greens, and brazil nut parmesan? Choosing a dessert can prove to be a difficult task as well—how do you narrow down a selection that includes a pecan pie with a macadamia nut crust, a cashew cream cheesecake with an almond-date crust, and a creamy key lime pie with coconut meringue in a macadamia crust? Even if you know you’ll never abandon your carnivorous ways, it’s hard not to appreciate Café Gratitude.



Posted By:  Andrew Vennari
Photo:  Andrew Vennari

St. Francis Fountain
Never bet a kid they can’t finish their sundae. You can loose a pretty penny on a crazy wager like that; to most children sugar is like air. I was no exception. I’d been a faithful customer at this spot since I was in single digits. For me, St. Francis was like an unchangeable 89 year-old institution; a malt shop I could go to as a grown person and still get homemade ice cream and candy from a family owned business. I can accept that the new owners put the kibosh on homemade candy and the people working there sure aren’t the fan banged Latinas of yesteryear. Until recently I had never had a bad experience there. Except the last time I went. The hipster chick behind the counter served me some cold coffee and a cold shoulder—but at least it came with a nice cold sundae on the side.



Posted By:  Jennifer Anthony
Photo:  Jennifer Anthony

On a recent windswept day, I gave some out-of-town friends a whirlwind tour of the City. By 5 pm we were already slightly hungover and ready for dinner at the blue-hair hour. We retreated to the top floor of Medjool—a Mediterranean rooftop bar/lounge with a breathtaking view of the City. Tables line the perimeter of the terrace, but we opted for seats beneath the canvas tent that snapped and cracked with each gust of wind, just like a night in the Sahara. As we waited for the heat lamps to crank up, we met our waitress—friendly, attentive, and seemingly undaunted by the wind. We began with a tasty sampler plate of pita bread and hummus, baba ghanoush, and tabouli. My main course was three torpedo-shaped dolmas stuffed with halibut. An intriguing combination, to be sure, but a wee bit pricey at $14. When we left, we joked about our windburn as if we had braved the desert itself. But after $25 for an alcohol-free meal, I was curiously not full. I vowed to stick to my preferred Medjool routine—top-deck beverages during San Francisco’s Indian summer and non-gentrified Mission district dinner elsewhere.



Posted By:  Andrew Vennari
Photo:  Andrew Vennari

Roosevelt Tamale Parlor
Roosevelt Tamale Parlor was once the greatest Mexican restaurant in all of San Francisco. Since 1922, plentiful tamales and faithful clientele were not in short supply. The tamales were about the size of softballs and smothered in a rich, dark sauce. Recently it underwent a change of ownership which was followed by a remodel. Supposedly the former cook is now a partner, and other owners started pushing a more traditional tamale. The chile verde is still good, but no longer spicy enough to make you break a sweat. So Roosevelt’s completed its metamorphosis into the tamale parlor of today. A glossed over version of its previous self; it fits nicely in the midst of the new Mission. The dingy walls painted bright, the interior cleared of neon beer signs and old-timey paintings, a space now open, warm and clean. The old sign out front may still be in tact but the original spice is a thing of the past.




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