My 19 favorite things about 24th Street Mission

The 24th Street Mission micro-hood is a rapidly changing place. I spent four years practically living there, and though its evolution has been a source of plenty of controversy, it's transformed the area into a seriously fantastic part of San Francisco. The area's beauty comes from the mix of the two clashing cultures, the older Latino occupants and newer tech/hipster/gentrified establishments. The length of the street has filled up with restaurants and bookstores and galleries and cultural institutions. Since I'm no longer there to witness the fabulousness, I wanted to celebrate the area as I've known it. Hopefully it's able to keep it's edgy, vibrant, communal character even as the inevitable changes continue to come. My favorite 19 things are:

    1. There are MURALS everywhere. There's an organization of community muralists, called Precita Eyes, who create the art around the neighborhood to help beautify it. And they give tours of places like Balmy Alley, where a lot of the art is concentrated.
    2. That it's a protected LATINO CULTURAL HERITAGE DISTRICT, called Calle 24.
    3. The original PHILZ COFFEE has amazeballs coffee and lots of character. Their speciality is drip coffee, each cup poured by to order. To top it off, they serve Pepples Vegan Donuts, the deliciousness of which I still dream about. As a bonus, Phil himself does his schmoozing here (there are a bunch of them around now.)
    4. LOCAL EVENTS are going on all of the time. Sometimes it's a lowrider gathering, a cultural fest ala Carnaval/Dia de los Muertos/Cesar Chavez Day. When I was still there the now-relocated Sunday Streets, and once year it lies on the route of the SF Street Food Festival. There's always fun going on, and half the time you can't even tell what people are celebrating.
    5. The best MEXICAN FOOD in the city is within a block of 24th Street. There's a bajillion places to try, but I've got my favorites. La Taqueria makes super tacos with double-layered tortillas that are seriously the taste of the Gods. My other pick is El Farolito, with its mountains of beef charring on the grills. I have spent plenty of time there inhaling portions meant to be shared by three.
    6. There's BOOKSTORE ALLEY, named for the local establishments in the area. I was there when Alley Cat opened. The first time I went in, they had their doors wide before shelving half of their collection — books were scattered everywhere, it was beautiful chaos. Pressworks is one of those paper stores filled with expensive notebooks, pens and magazines. But there's also a fantastically weird collection of vintage books. Adobe Books co-op is great too, opened privately since 1989 but converted now to the co-op model.
    7. THE VIEWS of Bernal and Potrero Hills. And all of the trees lining the streets!
    8. Like many a millenial, I love me some BRUNCH. My Sundays went to Wise Sons, the beautifully decorated Delicatessen that always has babka to nosh on, or St. Francis Fountain. It's an old-timey diner serviced solely by hipsters with lots of tattoos, asymmetrical haircuts (or man-buns and beards), and shirts from syndicated cult TV shows. Plus, Dynamo Donut is right across the street, great for the typically long waits at St. Francis.
    9. Where I learned how to hip-hop, contemporary dance, bollywood, and bhangra — DANCE MISSION. There are a couple of great dance schools and theaters in The Mission, but this one has got a more community, grungy feel in comparison to the polished perfection of some of the others. They even have dancing to live drum music!
    10. LOCAL GROCERY SHOPPING is the best! From panaderias chock full of amazin Mexican pastries, to bodegas always stocked with new foods on the shelves demanding to be tasted. Local butchers are great too. There are plenty around to get all of our meat and fish, with way more character (and crazy smells) than a giant grocery chain.
    11. The local publication ASTERISK MAGAZINE now has a gallery on 24th street. They host rotating shows of arts and crafts and various pop-up shops, and always have their free issues stacked in the window to grab once a month.
    12. That you can easily follow along the street to get to Valencia or Noe Valley, and if you just head a hint South, you'll hit up Bernal Heights. It's got PROXIMITY to all sorts of great parts of town, and conveniently hosts lots of bus and train stops to get you around.
    13. All of the signs, neon and otherwise, that LIGHT UP at night!
    14. Walking around and coming unexpectedly upon a TINY PARK full of kids. There's not a ton of a space around, but when there is — it gets used.
    15. Focusing on underserved COMMUNITIES. Despite the concerns over gentrification, the area still focuses on different kinds of communities. Galaria de la Raza highlights the work of Latino artists and the Brava Theater shows focus on women, people of color, youth, and LGBTQ communities, among others.
    16. All of the other RESTAURANTS. Obviously this is a small portion of what's out there:
      • Ones with really specific menus: Pig & Pie, Stuffed, Paprika.
      • Those upscale hipster cuisines: Arizmendi, Rosamunde, Local Mission Eatery
      • So many deserts: Mission Pie, The Creme Brulee Cart, Humphry Slocomb
      • Delicious Latin American restaurants: La Sanateca de Mission (El Salvadorean), El Nuevo Fruitlandia (Cuban).
      • Street food: Danger Dogs (Bacon-wrapped hotdogs sold out of vans on the street), the Tamale Lady, maybe a taco truck.
    17. There are crazy ART INSTALLATIONS all over the place that have been there, often abandoned, for years. On one hand it's sad, but on the other it's completely fascinating.
    18. That there are so many DIVE BARS. Clooney's, Pop's, or the Phone Booth. They're all seriously grungy, but in a comforting sort of way. And if you want to go to something more interesting or upscale, the mission is full of them, just blocks away.
    19. That I practically lived on this street for four years and still didn't get to all of the places I wanted to go. And there will be even more of them when I get to go back!

The SF Chronicle did an amazing documentary piece on thiS part of town: Read "A Changing MissioN"