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In a neighborhood as diverse and lively as San Francisco’s Mission District, knowing where to start can be difficult. Thankfully, Culture Trip has curated a hotlist so you can explore the vintage boutiques and skilful street art with ease – and track down the best burrito in town.
The Mission District is known for its large Mexican community, so what better way to spend a day than sampling all that their cuisine has to offer. The debate around the best burrito can be heated, so make sure to try a few. La Taqueria, Taqueria Cancún, Taqueria El Farolito, and Papolete are all great, but ask anyone and you’re sure to hear about many more.
As one of the centers of San Francisco nightlife, the Mission is perhaps best explored after dark, in one of the many local watering holes. For upscale cocktails, head to Dalva or ABV on 16th, and don’t miss Trick Dog on 20th. Loló and Beretta are both restaurant bars that mix a mean drink. For dive bars, head away from Valencia towards Mission – Doc’s Clock, The Homestead, and Knockout (which hosts DJ dance parties and The Simpsons trivia) are all safe bets. For beer, The Sycamore or Shotwell’s are best.
In spite of the rise of Amazon, independent neighborhood bookstores remain proudly and staunchly popular in San Francisco. For a wide selection of used books, there’s Dog Eared Books – where you could find yourself spending some time. If sci-fi or fantasy is your thing, the selection at Borderlands Books (20th and Valencia) is unparalleled. After perusing the shelves, pop down for a coffee in the store’s café to flick through your finds.
Just as there are arguments about the best burrito, so too do locals debate ice cream. Lines at Bi-Rite Creamery can snake around the block, but the wait is worth it; firm flavor favorites include salted caramel and balsamic strawberry. For equally interesting scoops, there’s Humphry Slocombe where, beyond the obvious bittersweet chocolate or even peanut butter, the oft-changing recipes have included foie gras and stout. Then there’s Mitchell’s, an ice cream parlor that’s been in business since 1953 and never fails to delight.
Some of the city’s newest and best restaurants can be found in the Mission. Within walking distance, there is Pizzeria Delfina, Frances, Foreign Cinema, and Mission Chinese Food. Besides the notable names though, there are a ton of other places to hit and a world of tastes to explore. You’ll find great Korean food at Namu Gaji, Italian at Beretta, and Caribbean at Cha Cha Cha.
A casual stroll through the Mission’s many vintage and used clothing stores will be enough to dazzle any shopper. For a more curated selection of clothing, Afterlife Boutique and Wallflower carry true vintage pieces, while Mission Thrift offers an enormous selection of inexpensive options.
Beyond the pervasive street art, the Mission is home to two mural projects: the Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) and Precita Eyes Muralists. CAMP is an artist collective that creates murals and facilitates other artists’ work in Clarion Alley, often with a political bent. Precita Eyes is a community-based arts organization that provide tours of neighborhood murals, predominantly within the Mission District. Both are outstanding examples of local arts organizations directly engaged with their surrounding communities.
Be sure to check out the Pirate Supply Store, the only one of its kind in San Francisco. Available for purchase is a whole host of pirate supplies, including doubloons, bottles stuffed with messages, and even Captain Hook’s hook. Plus, all proceeds go to support the non-profit literacy charity 826 Valencia (founded by author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari), so you do a good deed while you shop.