The Mission Guide

Welcome to the frequently sunny,
always interesting Mission District!
We’re glad you’ve arrived and we
offer a couple of tips
The nominal Mission of the Mission was San Francisco de Asis and founded by Spanish Franciscans in 1776, but Yelamu Indians inhabited the area around Mission Creek for thousands of years before that.

Since the Spanish, there’s been waves of immigrants and newcomers: Irish, Germans, Latin Americans, freaks, geeks, and more. It’s a complex history full of unexpected anecdotes. To get the historical lowdown we suggest the following syllabi:

Take a mural tour with Precita Eyes, a nonprofit thatʼs been the neighborhoodʼs chief street art advocate for decades.

Check out our Mission History page.

For a good walking tour, take a peek at our map of Mission history and art history.

Found SF also has a nifty online archive of Mission history.

How to eat a burrito
Don’t unwrap the foil all the way. Peel as you eat to keep structural integrity intact, otherwise you’ll end up with carnitas juice all over your hand like a total noob.
How to decide where to go for dinner

There’s more to the Mission than burritos, and the choices can be overwhelming.
Pupusas, donuts, arepas, falafel, spring rolls, fried chicken, and, of course, bacon-wrapped hotdogs. If you want to eat good food and feel virtuous at the same time try Mission Chinese Food for casual, Linea Caffe for a lunch outside on a sunny summer day, Commonwealth for a fancier dinner. And Mission Pie anytime. All of these either donate a portion of each meal to charity or they offer job training to Mission kids. If you don’t care about virtue, we’ve asked everyone on our staff to list their favorite place, for now. Here’s our suggestions:

Lydia: the bread at Tartine Bakery and the chicken or pork tacos at La Taqueria, but there are so many many really excellent places, you almost can’t go wrong (Lydia’s got high standards, check out her food column Perfect or Not).

Andrea: Arizmendi. It’s a great bakery so I always try to be careful of what I purchase or it can be dangerous… My favorite part is dipping the crust in what’s left of my coffee (Check out our video profile of this worker-owned bakery).

Mark: Blue Plate. More than comfort food, it has the best fried chicken in the Mission plus frequent surprises. Good reason to venture south of César Chávez. On this side, Papalote burritos and their must-eat salsa.

Laura: The friendliest people are at Atlas Cafe. It’s been a mainstay for coffee drinks, excellent sandwiches and even a few beers on tap for some 19 years. Veggie sandwiches if youʼre into that sort of thing, bacon on everything else if youʼre not. Canʼt argue with that.

Dan: I will always love the falafel wrap at R-Image corner store. It’s right near my apartment and the guys in there know me better than some members of my own family.

Claire: Comfort food doesn’t get any better than the pupusas from Balompie Cafe on 18th and Capp. It’s a cute spot with amazing and really affordable food, and their specialty pupusas like the Italiana (with prosciutto and basil) are next-level.

Cristiano: Baby Blues BBQ is where they know how to cook a piece of meat that’s a party in your mouth and still fair on your wallet. If your quest is about beer on a budget and a cozy atmosphere, Stuffed is an underrated gem, and they have Pierogi too (I don’t have to explain Pierogi, right, foodies?).

How to enjoy the nightlife
When the sun goes down, the Mission goes out. For nocturnal inspiration check out our Events Calendar. But, let us recommend some always good neighborhood institutions to keep on your party radar: For shaking your tail feathers there’s Public Works for their frequent electro DJs and great live music, Elbo Roomʼs got frequent Soul and Reggaeton nights, and there’s no finer place to boogie to Afro-funk than Bissap Baobabʼs weekly Paris to Dakar dance party.

The Mission has got a couple of really excellent and intimate venues for seeing live music such as The Red Poppy Art House and the Revolution Cafe. Recently opened, The Chapel occupies a former mortuary built in 1914 and features a well curated calendar of acts. The old stalwart, Amnesia – closed for renovation until 12/10 – has live music most nights of the week, featuring lots of folk and bluegrass. Brick and Mortar Music Hall also has a full calendar of great live acts.

El Rio often has a fairly mixed and persistently inclusive crowd and its monthly queer dance party Hard French is one of the most exceptional Saturday afternoon soul parties around.
The Day? Dolores Park, though undergoing renovations until 2016, has a place for everyone.

How to celebrate
This neighborhood loves a party, especially one that stops traffic (hydraulic lowriders not included) and invites dancing in the streets. Here’s a few big annual events to put on your calendar now:

MAPP – the Mission Arts and Performance Project, a kind of performance art crawl, happens every other month on the first Saturday of the Month.
• The end of May means it’s Carnaval time. The two day festival features a parade of samba dancers and colorful floats.
• Cinco de Mayo in May has a big street fair and performances.
• For a neighborhood with a long proud tradition of activism, César Chávez Day in March gets its fair due. A weekend street fair on 24th Street with food and music celebrates the famous labor organizer.
• Pride takes over the whole city in June. In the Mission celebrating LGBTQ Pride means hosting Dyke March and Trans March at Dolores Park. Here’s a sneak peek.
Litquake’s Litcrawl in October has numerous readings in bars and shops along Valencia Street. It’s kind of like a pub crawl for literary nerds.
• The Central American tradition Dia de los Muertos has become one of the neighborhood’s largest, most celebrated events. By October, residents are talking about the “muertos season”. In November, calaveras take over with a parade through the streets and a collection of altars set up at Garfield Square. In recent years, it’s also become a moment in which the neighborhood reflects on its changing character.
How to dress
It’s always slightly warmer here than elsewhere in the city, so dress for foggy days but prepare to shed layers when the sun is out.

Stylewise: Thrift is king. There are amazing second hand stores in the Mission — Mission Thrift, Community Thrift, Painted Bird, Schauplatz are just a few — for looking fly without wearing out your wallet. But for some unique Mission looks, we also recommend:

Ok Corral to look like a vaquero.
Seigelʼs for all your Zoot Suit needs.
Retro Fit to look like Don Draper.
Artillery for locally made designs and hip Latin street style.
Self Edge for high-end, super premium denim.
Betabrand to look like a 22-year-old startup CEO.
How to Get Around
Sure, there’s the 14, 49, and 14R that careen down Mission Street and countless ride “sharing” apps, but because we’re in the flattest neighborhood around with street art everywhere, you have no excuse not to walk or bike (unless, of course, you do have a good excuse, and we’re sorry for the tasteless assumption.)
How to Stay Safe
As any Mission longtimer will tell you, crime isn’t what it used to be in this part of town. Violent crime has generally decreased in recent years, but the occasional incident still happens… especially if you’re oblivious to your surroundings testing a new Selfie Stick in public on a shiny iPhone. Some tips:
• Don’t pull your cell phone out at the BART Plazas or on Mission Street. It’s risky anywhere in the city, but just plain foolish in these locations.

• Try to avoid being a total, sloppy drunken mess stumbling out of the bar on Saturday night on Mission Street. You’re not only asking for trouble, you’ll run the risk of being totally annoying.
• Cyclists: triple lock your bike when street parking, follow all cyclist traffic laws and if you wear a helmet, we’ll still think you’re cool.

• For Pete’s sake, don’t wear Google Glass anywhere, ever.

For frequent updates on the latest on crime, check out our aptly titled Trouble page.
How to understand some helpful Mission vocab
BMR: This acronym stands for “below market rate.” As part of San Francisco inclusionary housing law, housing developers need to include some plan for affordable housing units in new projects.

Mission School: An art term used to describe a movement from the 1990s that started in the Mission, but seems to leave out the amazing Muralismo of the 70s and 80s, but that’s another story or maybe just another art term.

SRO: Stands for Single Residency Occupancy, an SRO is a type of residency hotel that offers rooms with shared bathrooms and kitchens — some are run by nonprofits to provide affordable housing, others are for profit ventures. The Mission has many SROs.

Ellis Act: Passed in 1985 by the California State Legislature, this measure was intended to help landlords go out of business but many believe it’s been used as a tool for landlords to evict longtime tenants and sell buildings to speculators.

Google Bus: A catch-all term for all private shuttles run by Silicon Valley tech companies, objects of much derision and unrest.

Formula Retail: A fancy way to say chain store, also objects of much derision and unrest.

Super or Regular: When asked this puzzling question at a neighborhood Taqueria, just get Super. The extra buck is worth it for avocado, cream, and cheese.
Mission at a Glance
Zipcode: 94103/94110
Approximate Area: 1.4 square miles
Population: Approximately 75,700
62% White, 34% Hispanic/Latino, 12% Asian, 3% Black
California Senate District: 11
California Congressional District: 17
San Francisco Districts: 9, 8, 6
Copy: Daniel Hirsch and the Mission Local staff. Illustrations by Ivan Lopez and Steven Gong, Mission friends and artists who met playing soccer in Garfield Park. Layout by Claudia Escobar, a videographer, artist and baker. Web Adaptation by Cristiano Valli, journalist, handyman.


  1. Michael Andrade

    Carnaval happens the last weekend in May, not June.

  2. Native

    Dia de los Muerto is not a parade or a holiday or Mardi Gras, or Burning man or Mexican Halloween, or Circus and its not a party. Its not Central American its from Mexico and its a procession. Please respect the local culture and traditions and its people. If not it will bite back.

    Your stats don’t add up. as of 2010 census 48 percent Latinos

  3. MissionLoca

    You forgot another Mission gay bar: Truck, located at the corner of 15th and Folsom, is a fabulous dive bar that hosts drag shows. It can sometimes be a bit sketchy around there on the street, so if you’re walking over at night, it might be advisable to go with a friend, rather than alone!

  4. Jamie

    What is the main font that you are using?

  5. John Katz

    The fonts and leading make this difficult to read.

  6. As a 40 year Mission resident who moved away 8 years ago. I just love your update…well-written, humorous and even artisitic. Thank you.
    Toby Levine

  7. native415

    Hi there: I have a couple of quick updates for this guide. The Lexington Club is (sadly) closed, and the 14L is now the 14R.

Something to add?