Around town with Allison: Exploring the Mission District

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Listen up, Golden Bears: This is the series you’ve been waiting for. When most people say that they went to San Francisco, they’re usually talking about downtown San Francisco. Although downtown is great, there’s so much more of San Francisco to explore! This series will be focused on exploring the many neighborhoods of San Francisco. The first addition to this series is centered on the Mission District, better known as the Mission. Rich in Latino culture and hipster vibes, the Mission is a popular place to visit on the weekends. Just a BART ride away, this San Francisco neighborhood is filled with amazing food, beautiful art and awesome people. The next time you find yourself in the city, be sure to check out some of my favorite spots in the Mission!

Coffee, tea and treats

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A necessity in any situation, coffee/tea is a must. Four Barrel Coffee, Ritual Coffee Roasters and your favorite, Philz Coffee, are all San Francisco-based coffee companies and have been killing the coffee scene. Fun fact: The original Philz Coffee is actually located in the Mission, so be sure to swing by for some awesome coffee and a peek at the original signs! If tea is more of your thing, be sure to check out Samovar Tea & Chai Bar and Boba Guys. Don’t think we forgot about you, our chocolate lovers. Dandelion Chocolate serves yummy candy bars, brownies and hot chocolate. If your heart so desires, you can even sign up for a tour of the chocolate factory or a chocolate-making class! 

Food

The food scene in the Mission is killer to say the least. With local restaurants featuring many different cuisines, you’re sure to find something that’ll satisfy your taste buds. As the Mission is known for its Latino culture, there’s a lot of amazing Mexican food here! I can hear all the SoCal folks rolling their eyes at the sound of that. Although the Mexican food in SoCal is phenomenal, these spots in the Mission are pretty close!

La Taqueria

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A San Francisco classic, La Taqueria has been serving traditional rice-free burritos for years. There’s always a long line filled with hungry folks, but it’s well worth the wait! Ask for your burrito “Dorado Style” and it will be browned on the grill. And don’t even get me started on the green and red sauce — now that’s what dreams are truly made of.

Gracias Madre

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Calling all vegan folks and friends alike — this place is no joke! Gracias Madre serves delicious vegan Mexican food. Although these dishes lack dairy and meat, one thing they don’t lack is flavor. Even if you aren’t vegan, this place is definitely worth checking out.

Tartine Bakery

For yummy pastries, Tartine Bakery is where the party’s at. This not-so-secret gem in the Mission has a huge following, so you can definitely expect lines outside this shop at any time of the day. But remember, good things come to those who wait. In this case, that would be delicious pastries, cakes, cookies and bread!

Bi-Rite Creamery and Bi-Rite Market

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Another Mission favorite, Bi-Rite Creamery serves amazing organic ice cream with fun and exciting flavors. Located right across the street from Dolores Park, this is the perfect spot to stop by for a sweet treat before hanging out in the park. On the opposite side of the street is Bi-Rite Market, a local grocery store that also has some yummy snack and lunch options!

Things to do

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The Mission is filled with cute shops that are perfect for a little (or a lot) of shopping. For cutesy gifts and knickknacks, be sure to check out Therapy, Needles and Pens, Little Paper Planes Shop and the Voyager. Dog Eared Books is also a popular spot for new and used books! But if you are going to visit any shop in the Mission, it should be Paxton Gate, a fun shop that sells everything from animal taxidermy to plants!

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For all of you art-loving and picture-taking folk, Clarion Alley is a must. This alleyway is a collection of beautiful and intricate murals, many of which are politically and socially driven.

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There are awesome murals outside of The Women’s Building, a beautiful building that houses a female-run nonprofit organization that’s focused on gender equality and social justice.

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Another iconic spot in the Mission is Mission Dolores Park. With rolling hills of green grass and an awesome view, it’s no wonder that Dolores Park is always filled with people. On a sunny day, this spot is filled with people on picnic blankets, food, music and games. Dolores Park is the ultimate hangout spot in this hip neighborhood. 

It’s important to note that like many other areas in the Bay, the Mission is facing a lot of gentrification with the influx of new shops and eateries. Although these additions to the neighborhood are new and exciting, it’s important to recognize how they came to be. As you explore the Mission District with friends, be mindful of the dynamic and diverse history of the Mission.

Allison Fong writes the weekly blog column on places and activities to try in and around Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].