"East is east and West is San Francisco."-O. Henry
It's no wonder people leave their hearts in San Francisco. A trip to SF is filled with scenic beauty, amazing food and fabulous shopping. On a recent trip, we spent a lot of time at the tourist draws like the Ferry Building and biking the Golden Gate Bridge, but one of my favorite parts was exploring some of the cool neighborhoods that give SF its unique vibe. At the top of my list was the hipster neighborhood of the Mission. Named for the Mission Dolores, San Francisco's oldest surviving structure, the area is a mix of hipster gentrification and Latino-owned shops. I wish I could do the whole Mission district justice with a complete list of cool spots, but I'll just focus on the Dolores and Valencia corridor. Be sure to explore all of it and report back. Some noteworthy must see spots in that section include:
The famous spot doesn't even need a sign to spot it. Just look for the line (at any time of day) at 18th and Guerrero. It's almost as delightful to just stare at the pastry cases as it is to taste one of the French-inspired delights or a savory sandwich made with some famous Tartine bread. You can try some of the famed recipes with the bakery's two books Tartine Bread and Tartine.
Beretta will always have a special place in my heart as the the place I fell in love with burrata cheese. There are no words to describe the creamy delight that is mozzarella's chic sister. Try Berreta's amazing margherita pizza (yes, I am recommending a margherita pizza as lame as that sounds) with burrata. Other must-tries: the potato hash with pork sausage and gorgonzola as an antipasti.
This popular hotspot is one of the few Indian restaurants in SF that specializes in South Indian fare. If you are a fan of the dosa or just a fan of food, this is a must.
We actually didn't make it inside, but this cute eatery gets rave reviews and came highly recommended for its atmosphere and comfort food. Also, it's named after my favorite eating utensil.
Foreign Cinema could serve cardboard for dinner and it would be worth it for the unique atmosphere. Foreign films are played nightly. They are projected on the wall of a lovely enclosed patio complete with string lights above and ivy growing on the walls. There is just something dream-like about the ambiance. The food is also amazing.
A quick look at the menu and this eatery seemed to have a vegan version of anything you could think of from a shawarma to Thai dishes like pad thai. It's a definite must for our next trip.
In the heart of the Mission, Dolores Park was packed the Friday afternoon we visited. You'll find people playing tennis, a hippie chick wearing a full Native American headdress selling some funky necklaces and other recreational activities (if you catch my drift..). The top of the hill is awesome for sitting and pondering the meaning of life, smelling the amazing food being sold from the Salvadorian food truck and for catching the gorgeous views of the East Bay and city.
Banksy marks the Mission
If you've heard of Banksy, you'll definitely want to see his famous street art work at the Mission. He marked Valencia Street near 20th with one of his stenciled pieces in April of last year. It's located right above the Curiosity Shop. Besides Banksy's mark, there's tons of must-see murals. You can't help but smile when you see the LOVE sign and another must see is the Women's Building mural on 18th Street between Valencia and Guerrero streets.
Gorgeous Victorian houses
Growing up, my idea of San Francisco was marked with those gorgeous Victorian homes in the opening sequence of Full House. The Mission has many to gawk at and you can almost imagine Uncle Jesse, Joey and the girls running out the door.
The Curiosity Shoppe
After admiring the Banksy above, be sure to check out this well-known store filled with cute objects. I guess the only way to describe it is if Etsy was an actual store you could walk into, this would be it.
The Store at 826 Valencia
Probably the only pirate supply store you'll ever go to. Yes, I said pirate supply store. If it sounds odd, it is and definitely worth a browse. I did a little research and the story actually makes it all the more appealing. The pirate supply store is actually the entrance to a non-profit writing center for children and young adults. The founders of the program could not find a location for their center and found this location on Valencia street which is zoned only for retail and catering. Hence, the pirate supply store was born and the proceeds of course, go to the wonderful program. Encouraging writing to youngsters and pirate stuff..who could ask for more?
An awesome collection of beautiful Mexican paper crafts including paper banners and flags. The paper banners, traditionally used for weddings, are intricately hand cut. Some favorites were the banners with Frida Kahlo's artwork and the gorgeous paper flowers.
Go inside this shop just to get a whiff of the delightful homemade bath salts and soaps that are made in the back. It's also a great source for unique gifts like the fun earrings I picked up made from vintage kimonos.
image source: top collage: SD, Tartine Bread book: amazon.com, Foreign Cinema: opentable.com, Banksy: sfgate.com, 826 Valencia: wikipedia.org, Frida banner: casabonampak.com