Whenever I need an escape from my home in the dreary fog-land that is the Sunset District (what should be called the city’s greatest misnomer), I head straight to the Mission. And although I will always hold a special place in my heart for our very own Karl the Fog, my pasty-white self requires a little Vitamin-D every once in a while. Believe me when I tell you, it’s almost always sunny. From Church to Mission street lies a warm path of crystal clear skies and UV rays.
But aside from the bodily nutrients and ideal climate that this district provides, the Mission has become a hub for San Francisco’s hippest and trendiest businesses. In the past decade, the area has undergone a drastic makeover –– going beyond agua frescas, tacos and historic churches, and expanding into a millennial’s paradise of thrift stores, artisanal coffee, brunch, and pop-up-shops. Though the same beloved traditions and old cultures of the district remain, the possible to-do’s are now much more diversified.
I’ve spent many a day in the Mission and yet I still feel like I haven’t began to scratch the surface of what it has to offer. It would take me a lifetime-and-a-half to list all of my favorite places in the area, so I went with the next best option –– comprising a personal itinerary of a few things I would do given a limitless summer afternoon in my favorite district, so that you can experience the magic for yourself –– shameless hipsterness and all. And seeing as how this is still a fashion-centric column, I would never dare leave you without a lookbook of potential outfits to wear during said outing. So without further ado…
When traipsing around the Mission, comfortable clothing is vital –– second only to hipness. Due to the heat and amount of walking, you’ll most likely be doing in the area, leave the five-inch stilettos at home and opt for smarter footwear –– like the practical yet stylish H&M sandals I chose. The Mission is also the one place where I can confidently ditch the typical San Francisco set of heavy layers and break out my neglected summer wardrobe. On this day, I sported an effortless ensemble comprised of a boxy gingham crop top and textured skater skirt –– which I also picked up at H&M. With the accessories, I attempted to channel the vibrancy and overall coolness I associate with the district through a hologram bag and chunky rings –– surprise, also from H&M (sponsorship anyone?) –– topped off with a pair of clear sunnies from Ebay. So when you visit the Mission, remember that a relaxed and current approach to fashion is key to fully soaking in the sun and fun foods.
Dine: Dinosaurs (2275 Market St)
Okay, so I may have cheated with this one. Though this neighborhood sandwich spot is “technically” located in the outer Castro and not the Mission, the Vietnamese Banh Mis and thirst-quenching drinks served up at Dinosaurs are way too irresistible to be passed up (and are undeniably worth the short walk from Dolores Park). Trust me when I tell you that I’ve eaten many a sandwich here and have yet to be disappointed. Though the food at Dinosaurs hardly strays from the typical Vietnamese sandwich formula –– comprised of a french roll packed with pickled vegetables, mayo, cilantro and grilled meats –– the low prices and high quality takes lunch food to a whole other level. The bread is consistently soft and chewy, the meat tender and the veggies perfectly crisp. Sammies aside, Dinosaurs also boasts stellar cold spring rolls, salads and housemade drinks that include avocado shakes, mango mint green tea and honey dew slushes. And if you have trouble navigating the mouth-watering menu, feel free to take suggestions from my go-to order of a grilled pork sandwich (with added crispy tofu) and a watermelon slush with lychee jelly (pictured below).
Do: Dolores Park (19th & Dolores St)
There are countless outdoor spaces in the city, but none host a cast of characters quite like Dolores Park (or “DP” for short if you want to sound like a cool local). DP regulars include the Truffle Guy, impromptu Latin musicians, a man who sells fresh coconuts, tightrope walkers, and a slow-moving population of weed-enthusiasts. Besides the fruitful people-watching opportunities, the park serves up a breathtaking view of the skyline, a plethora of sunshine, and a comfy setting for a picnic with friends. Despite its lack of sanitary bathrooms and trash cleanup, DP is a diamond in the rough. And though half of the park is currently undergoing construction, the weather and good vibes alone are enough to make you want to lay in its plush grasses for hours on any given lazy weekend.
Snack: Craftsman and Wolves (746 Valencia St.)
At this contemporary patisserie, sweets meet visual art. If you’re like me and take strong pleasure in eating pretty –– yet still tasty –– food, Craftsman and Wolves will be akin to heaven. From the artisan desserts, to the heath ceramics, Strauss dairy and Highwire Coffee, every single aspect of the bakery stems from only the finest materials and ingredients. At Craftsman and Wolves, everything is elevated. For example, the all-American hotdog becomes a “haute dog” on a mustard seed croissant with salt & vinegar beet chips, while hot chocolate is transformed into “valrhona sipping chocolate” with a violet marshmallow. Most aesthetically stunning are the patisserie’s tarts and cube cakes which utilize similar colors, textures, and clean shapes used in modern art to make the desserts’ appearances mirror their complex flavors. Though menu items like “muscovado morning bun,” “faux cobbler,” and “hazelnut financier” may seem overwhelming at first glance, the welcoming atmosphere and delectable treats make for a surprisingly accessible eatery. Personally, I went for the raspberry and coconut gianduja tart –– a cylindrical pastry filled with berry deliciousness –– while my friend (who so generously let me borrow his camera for this post) was treated to a buttery dark chocolate croissant stack.
Shop: No Shop (389 Valencia St)
Amongst the hodgepodge of cluttered thrift stores like Goodwill and Community Thrift that reside in the Mission lies No Shop –– a breath of fresh air within the multitude of secondhand shops. Unlike most independent clothing stores in the area, the tiny boutique possesses a carefully curated and affordable collection of vintage and previously owned garments. No Shop features an unisex assortment of floral dresses, high waisted shorts, Hawaiian shirts, oversized leather jackets, flannels, neon graphic tees, and much more –– perfect for any thrift connoisseur trying to keep the dream of the 80s and 90s alive. The collection at this small secondhand store is so carefully selected, it’s almost as if the people behind No Shop know what you’re looking for before you’ve even had time to find it. With the outstanding selection of clothes, along with the quaint atmosphere the boutique gives off –– complete with crocheted chandeliers and an abundance of hanging plants –– you’ll want to spend hours exploring its magical racks only to bring home a double armful of rad new duds.
Words and photos by Campbell Gee