San Francisco has several temples of third-wave coffee, but Ritual might be the most iconic. When it’s impossible to find a free table in this laptop farm, taking your cup of single-origin drip for a stroll down Valencia.
Balmy & Clarion Alleys/Precita Eyes
Although massive, building-size murals are nearly everywhere, two narrow lanes stand out. Balmy Alley (off 24th Street, near Harrison) and Clarion Alley (south of 17th Street, between Mission and Valencia) contain dozens of political or graphically advanced murals, some permanent, others routinely painted over. Precita Eyes, the de facto custodian of the Mission’s Latino heritage, maintains many of them and gives guided tours.
Roosevelt Tamale Parlor
It would be a sin to visit the Mission and not stop into a decades-old taquería for lunch. While people harbor intense feelings about who serves the best burrito, the old-school, slightly kitschy Roosevelt Tamale Parlor remains a stealth favorite for fans of authentic molé sauce.
Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream
A disproportionate amount of San Francisco’s premier ice cream parlors are in the Mission, but Humpry Slocombe stands out for its unusual flavors (as well as the two-headed calf mounted on the wall.) Lines can be long, but signature flavors like Balsamic Caramel and Secret Breakfast (bourbon and corn flakes) are bound to be unlike anything you’ve ever tried.
As rents keep rising, many of the thrift and vintage shops that once lined Valencia Street have disappeared, but the surprisingly enormous Harrington Galleries has hung on. This emporium’s stock is eclectic even by Mission standards, and always worth a poke around.
Even as artists get priced out of the Mission, some galleries have true staying power. Creativity Explored, a nonprofit incubator of affordably priced art by people with developmental disabilities, combines entrepreneurial altruism with a winning aesthetic.
While construction will continue until at least 2016, Dolores Park is wonderful even when cut in half. Lax enforcement of open container laws makes for a communal picnic vibe on sunny afternoons, as virtually every tribe of Missionite is represented. With its open view of downtown, the southwest corner is arguably the neighborhood’s best spot for panoramic pics.
A gastropub and 14-hole mini-golf course housed in a former mortuary, Urban Putt distills everything about contemporary San Francisco nightlife into a single uproariously fun experience. Just watch out for the giant octopus at the last hole!
While upscale dining is now ubiquitous in the Mission, Foreign Cinema was there first. A beautiful indoor-outdoor space for brunch or dinner, the classic movies projected onto the back wall create the perfect accompaniment to its California-Mediterranean cuisine. Don’t skip digestifs at László, the cocktail lounge next door.
Bucking the trend of nightlife closures, the Chapel is a relative newcomer, an intimate live music venue in an increasingly club-free neighborhood. After the show, mosey across the foyer to the Vestry for a nightcap or a late-night bar snack.