Prior to this year, I had never been to the Mission District in San Francisco. Not once. And when I was forced to visit the area, I truly didn’t know what to expect. When I was interviewing for jobs, I was exploring a lot of opportunities in the financial district, which is to be expected in San Francisco. However, one office (my now job) happened to be a bit deeper in the city in the Mission. Admittedly, I was hit with a little culture shock when I stepped off the train. The area was dirty, smelly, and it was nothing like the sleek, professional buildings in the FiDi. I remember texting my mom saying I wasn’t sure I’d accept the job offer because I didn’t love the location of the office. That was dumb.
I’ve grown to really enjoy the diversity and flavor of the Mission District.
That said, the stigma around the Mission hasn’t changed. There are people selling bootlegged clothes, electronics, and DVDs on nearly every street corner, and I’ve seen more syringes and homeless people go to the bathroom on the sidewalk than I’d like to admit. But there’s also a lot of underrated gems here, too. The Mission district is unofficially pegged as the food mecca of San Francisco, and home to some of the cutest restaurants, bars, and boutiques that I’ve ever seen (so long as you don’t wander down the wrong side street).
When I started the job in June, I started a running list in the notes on my phone of spots I wanted to try based on recommendations, Instagram discoveries, and Yelp reviews. I wanted to take advantage of my time in the area.
Here are some of my favorite places to date (in no particular order).
Gracias Madre — If you follow anyone noteworthy from Los Angeles on Instagram, you’ve likely seen them tag Gracias Madre. It’s hot and happening, apparently. There’s a second location conveniently located three blocks from my office. It’s a totally plant-based menu, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s worth a visit— swear. The margaritas pack a punch, and you won’t even notice that the nachos are missing carne asada. It doesn’t hurt that the restaurant itself is super cute, too. I’m obsessed.
Stable — Stable is a cute little cafe with the most incredible back patio covered in succulents. I go there for oat milk lattes, salads, or veggie sandwiches and it definitely wins at trendy San Francisco cafe.
Mixt — Mixt has a few locations, so it’s not a hard find if you’re in Northern California. It’s home to a really kick-ass made-to-order salad bar. Sure, the salads are easily $20 (it is San Francisco, after all), but they’re massive and have the best, freshest ingredients. I’m a regular.
El Tepa — This place isn’t hip or trendy, but holy guacamole, it’s damn good. I feel like you can’t really mess up a vegetarian burrito or bowl, but El Tepa does them so well. For a taqueria style restaurant, they have surprisingly fresh veggies, which they mix with black beans, rice, lettuce, and the fixings of your choice. And don’t even get me started on their salsa, it’s my favorite (ever). I was eating here at least once a week, but forced myself to cut back.
Souvla — One of my girlfriends recently moved out of San Francisco and she loved Souvla so much that it was her last stop on her way out of town. So, I obviously had to try it. Her Souvla was in the popular Marina District, but there’s another location near my office on Valencia Street. It’s a Mediterranean place, and isn’t super ideal for vegetarians, but their salads (and fries) are bomb.com— seriously.
Tacolicious — Tacolicious is nothing new to San Francisco Bay Area folks, but it’s noteworthy. If you couldn’t tell by the name, they’re known for their tacos. The restaurant aesthetic is top-notch and the drinks (margaritas) are amazing. They have multiple locations throughout the bay, so it’s worth a stop if you’re in the area.
Tartine Manufactory — I had heard my coworkers rave about Tartine for months (four months, to be exact). It’s a famous bakery in the Mission District that has both a small pastry shop and a full restaurant in two separate locations. I haven’t actually been to the restaurant, but you guys— the bakery. Their bread is the. best. bread. ever. I already plan to order a few loaves for the holidays because it’s that good.
Media Noche — I actually went here my first week on the job with a blogger girlfriend. I had found it on the ‘gram and wow, it’s so incredibly Insta-worthy. The whole restaurant is covered in greenery, with the cutest tile, and turquoise accents. Their food has a Cuban-twist, which I had never had before, but I was actually a fan. If you go, get their plantain chips. Drool.
Flour + Water Pizzeria — I walked by here with some coworkers after a lengthy happy hour and my colleague said, “we can’t go there, that’s somewhere you go on a date.” It was dark, but it looked so dang cute. So, of course, I added it to my list. Ironically, I ended up going here a couple of weeks later for a marketing team lunch and fell in love. Their pizza is heavenly, the kale salad is to-die-for, and the burrata and pear appetizer situation is out of this world. It’s also the cutest spot, if that’s what you’re going for for a date night (which I very much am).
Spot 20 Mission — I had walked by this cute little wine bar everyday on my way to my Pilates studio and always thought, “I need to get someone to go here with me.” Well, one day I just decided, “f*ck it, I’m going by myself.” Spot 20 Mission is set up like an old record shop, the vibes are cool and vintage, and I love. I just stopped in for a glass of wine (okay, two), but they serve food and small plates as well. I’ll definitely be back.
El Techo — El Techo came highly recommended from my boss. She told me that there would likely be a line, but it’s worth the wait. I’m a sucker for a good rooftop bar, and El Techo is no exception. Go after work for an incredible view of the city during sunset. The backdrop is amazing, and the bar is so lively and fun.