The foliage-immersed patio at El Rio. (Courtesy of El Rio)

Underappreciated 'Hood: Mission La Lengua, Quiet Home to Stellar Food + Bars

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Just below Cesar Chavez Street, where Mission Street and Valencia Street meet, lies one of San Francisco's most vibrant micro-hoods.

This tiny triangle sits at the very base of Bernal Heights, right under Noe Valley. Looking at it on a map, you'll notice something a bit peculiar—it looks like the Mission is sticking its tongue at you; hence its name. (Mission La Lengua translates to tongue of the Mission). There has been much debate over whether this little nook lies in Mission, Bernal or Noe, but for long-time residents, it's decidedly and affectionately Mission la Lengua. Dig in a little deeper and you'll see that the area is bustling with affordable bars, diverse cuisines, and culture. Here are some of the best spots:

Mission La Lengua sits under the Mission and in-between Bernal and Noe.

El Rio

A staple of San Francisco's queer culture, El Rio is a quintessential dive bar located just past Cesar Chavez Street. A true staple in the neighborhood, this welcoming bar features a large outdoor patio, indoor event space, and your classic bar + pool table / shuffleboard combo. Depending on the day, you can find salsa dancing, ping pong tables outside, shoulder-to-shoulder dance parties (notably by Swagger Like Us), or even movie nights. Sure, El Rio is a popular spot, but it deserves any recognition it gets. // 1pm to 2am, 3158 Mission St., elriosf.com

BIG(b)ANG DJ's at El Rio(Courtesy of The Groovement)

Virgil's Sea Room

Sharing a wall with El Rio, Virgil's is an intimate, tamer venue perfect for grabbing a pitcher of margaritas or cocktail. Its dark atmosphere presents a nice juxtaposition against its vibrant back patio filled with picnic tables and heaters. Virgil's feels like El Rio's older, calmer brother and has helped turn this corner of Mission Street into a vibrant night scene. Virgil's is also host to a slew of events, often for good causes within the city. // 4pm to 2am, 3152 Mission St., virgilssf.com

Relax with a margarita at Virgil's (Courtesy of Virgil's Sea Room)

CoffeeShop

The best coffee you will ever have in San Francisco isn't at a big chain or a fancy spot. Instead, it's at an unassuming hole-in-the-wall called CoffeeShop. Run by a husband and wife duo, this tiny nook holds around ten people at a time and doesn't take itself seriously (the workers take pride in their musical choices and know you by name). However, they are deliberate in making you a killer cup of coffee. // 6:30am to 5pm, 3139 Mission St.

Here's one of the owners, Wilson.(Courtesy of CoffeeShop)

Coco's Ramen / Crazy Sushi

Can't decide between sushi or ramen? You don't have to. This eatery is actually two restaurants. On one side, Crazy Sushi impresses with fresh, creative rolls. On the other, Coco's Ramen serves some of San Francisco's richest tonkatsu and curry ramen. Open for lunch and dinner, Coco's is probably the standout attraction of the two. When you go, get the deep fried egg with your bowl of noodles and be prepared to leave chockablock with food baby. // 11:30am to 2:30pm, 5:30pm to 9:30pm (closed Tuesdays), 3319 Mission St., cocoramen.com

Spicy decadence at Coco's Ramen(Courtesy of Mike Lin via Zagat)

Secession Art and Design

This little gallery, tucked in between taquerias and dive bars, should not be missed. Secession Art and Design encapsulates San Franciscan culture with everything from sweatshirts to knick-knacks, large paintings to photographs. Nearly everything inside is locally produced. As a bonus, it's also an event space. If you see something going on inside, don't be afraid to step in and browse. // 12pm to 7pm (closed Mondays), 3235 Mission St., secessionsf.com

There's always lots on display. (Courtesy of Secession)

Pizza Hacker

If thin crust pizza prepared fresh daily is your thing, then you're going to love Pizza Hacker. Founded by a gastrome who sold pies from his truck at Dolores Park, the pizzeria has matured into a family-friendly neighborhood staple. With a rotating selection of seasonal pizzas and communal dining at picnic tables, this establishment bustles every night for good reason. // 5pm to 10pm (closed Mondays), 3299 Mission St., thepizzahacker.com

A rotating selection of seasonal pizzas. (Courtesy of StoreyPhotography)

Mitchell's Ice Cream

Mitchell's has been around since 1953 and they haven't changed a thing since opening day. The little shop has not only the creamiest frozen delights around, but also a wide selection of exotic, fruity flavors. There's no way to go wrong at Mitchell's and you'll be more than tempted to grab a gallon to take home. // 11am to 11pm, 688 San Jose Ave., mitchellsicecream.com

Tropical selections at Mitchell's (Courtesy of Mitchell's Ice Cream)

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