No doubt, the Mission is changing. The transition from a gritty Latino neighborhood to a hipster paradise has long been the debate of the town, but one thing everyone still agrees on – this is a great place to explore. Dive head first into the mix of stylish establishments, run-down beauty and sexy nightlife – and come out enlightened.
This legendary bakery-meets-coffee-shop is no hidden secret, but it is, nevertheless, a must visit. Made from organic flour and eggs, Tartine's pastries are simply divine, especially the éclairs and the croissants. A savory breakfast type of person? Order a hearty Panini sandwich (sheep cheese and quince jam is a winner) but be careful not to overdo it in front of the chic, always-in-a-hurry-but-works-from-home crowd. Oh, and the coffee is better then some.
Murals around the Mission
The Mission is known for its colorful murals and graffiti, perfect for wandering between 18th and 24th streets, checking out Balmy Alley, Poplar st. and other explosions of color and creativity. Some murals are signed by the artist; others are anonymous, evolving around issues of gentrification and heritage. All of them are fascinating.
Mission Dolores Park
Dolores Park attracts visitors from all around the city and even the extended Bay Area– being seen here, working out or simply chilling, is nothing short of a status symbol. Gaze at the historic Mission Dolores, catch a free Zumba session or simply kick back and look pretty (with a sophisticated book, of course) – this is a prime spot in its best.
At first sight, Yamo is a hole in the wall, sitting only 12 people around the wooden bar. But what's behind that bar makes all the difference – enter a bunch of Burmese grandmas yelling, serving and cooking – all with the same fierceness. This place is known for the super-spicy tea-leaf salad and the affordable, yummy noodle dishes, made according to the grandmas' secret recipes. Mildly greasy, full-on delicious.
The brand-new branch of the successful store on Clements st., Park Life is a hip addition to the already hip collage of Mission shops. Jamie Alexander and Derek Song don't want to decide whether they own a gallery or an art store, and the customers benefit from the mix – books, crazy kitchen items, paper products, limited edition prints and other surprises work well with the artwork and the changing installations.
Some say it's the best fashion boutique in the neighborhood, and they're not completely wrong. This well-established store has a classy, clean feel – an interesting contrast to the Mission's rough exterior. Inside, dreamy creations await – Mara Hoffman dresses, Hansel From Basel tights, Gat Rimon t-shirts and other expensive yet beautifully made clothes and accessories, well worthy of the sartorial fashionista.
The Mission is brimming with art galleries, and this one is one of the best, especially after the re-opening and face lift of 2009. Declared as a non-profit, the gallery emphasis is on working with young, up-and-coming artists, rotating exhibitions and hosting cool yet un-snobbish events. Come for the art, stay for the workshops – the space is this inspiring.
Let's be honest – this swanky spot is less about the food and more (so much more!) about the atmosphere. A mysterious hallway leads to the coveted space, all dim lighting and bare walls, where beautiful people and dating couples pour pleasantries over excellent cocktails. Sit on the patio to watch a movie screening (it changes every couple of weeks) or book a table inside. The food here is as pretty as the crowd, and you can't go wrong with the seared tuna or the indulgent scallops.
Make Out Room
A bar and a concert venue, the Make Out Room lives up to its name – moderately sleazy, fun and energetic, this is a great spot to finish (or start) the day, where a dive bar meets a hot pick-up destination. Skip the salsa night, but check out the Monday night concerts and definitely enjoy the cheap (by San Francisco standard) drink