It is impossible to think of what makes San Francisco San Francisco without calling to mind our vibrant Mexican culture. La Mission, after all, is the city's most colorful neighborhood—an eclectic hodgepodge of the Mexican families that have lived there forever, and the hipster set that has brought trendy restaurants, artisanal coffee, and concerns about gentrification.
But while Mexicans make up nearly 70 percent of the Bay Area's Latino population, there is a smaller but nevertheless culturally rich number of communities here that make for a diverse Latino experience. Here, we offer a quick primer on where to get the flavor of some of the Latin American cultures with the highest prevalence in the Bay Area.
Eat: SF's newly opened Media Noche (3465 19th St. (Mission) serves an Americanized spin on Cuban classics such as lechon asado (grilled pork) and the signature media noche, a cousin of the Cubano sandwich made with roasted mojo pork shoulder, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, house pickles, and mustard on sweet brioche bread. For more authentic flavor, don't miss Radio Habana Social Club (1109 Valencia St., Mission) for the traditional ropa vieja (pork with rice, black beans, and an organic mixed salad).
Shop: Nothing says Cuban luxury like a fine cigar. In the Fairmont Hotel, men's clothier Vendetta sells pre-embargo cigars, aged 30 to 60 years. Take the Flor de Farach Palmeras, for example. Crafted in 1956, these puppies have a mildly spicy flavor and come in a box of 25 ($3,500). // Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St. (Nob Hill), vendettablu.com
Party: The SF Bay Area Cuban Festival comes around each October to venues including Balançoire and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Over the course of three days, expect dance workshops, concerts, parties and more. // 2017 dates TBA, sfbayareacubanfestival.com
Fun Fact: San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón was born in Havana.