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When most young San Franciscans think of the Mission, they think of Dolores Park and the Valencia Street corridor, that ever-bustling bastion of gentrification where it seems impossible to squeeze in even one more hipster bar or restaurant.
But San Franciscans who've been around remember toting their New York Times (yes, the actual print edition) to curb it outside Universal Cafe on Sunday mornings, where they would wait for the city's best brunch in an otherwise kind-of-desolate part of the neighborhood, then a stone's throw away from what was once the beloved Slow Club—but not much else.
Today that pocket of the Mission, which is still home to Universal (which is still truly great), is having a bit of a heyday, thanks to the slow and over-time opening of various arts venues and independent shops as well as the more recent arrival of legit cult brands. Now the swath of San Francisco from 18th and Harrison to 21st and Bryant streets seems deserving of a neighborhood moniker all its own. Take a day to check out its award-winning bars, destination eateries, and cutting edge arts.
Where to Eat + Drink in Mission-Potrero
(Courtesy of True Laurel)
Whatever you want to call this little sub-pocket in the Mission, Universal Cafe started it. When it first opened over 25 years ago, much of San Francisco would have considered it a destination restaurant: Popular for brunch, the little eatery in then-underdeveloped no-man's-land—save for nearby Slow Club (RIP) and KQED's HQ—still merits the wait outside on Saturday and Sunday mornings (though they also serve weekday brunch as well as dinner). Chef Leslie Carr-Avalos' sustainable, Northern California–style menu is simple yet decadent, with favorite dishes including the brioche French toast; soft scrambled eggs; and a grass-fed beef and pork meatball sandwich. Over the years, a colorful outdoor mural has been added to brighten the industrial feel of the surrounds. // 2814 19th St., universalcafe.net
Flour + Water
Having rounded the corner on its first decade back in 2019, chef Thomas McNaughton's Flour + Water is officially OG for the neighborhood. A skillful pasta maker, cook, and restaurateur, McNaughton's home restaurant was conceived as an escape to Italy but with a modern, Californian twist. You must order a pasta—think fine herb paccheri with black cod and heirloom tomato or garganelli with braised rabbit and roasted corn—or go all in for the tasting menu of five plates paired with Italian wines. A vegetarian menu is also available. // 2401 Harrison St., flourandwater.com
At Penny Roma, the brand new restaurant by the team behind Flour + Water, the menu pulls from all corners of the Italian peninsula and combines it with handmade pasta and local, seasonal ingredients to create dishes like fregola sarda with fennel soffrito, mussels, saffron and sea urchin butter; and tagliatelle alla Bolognese made with veal ragu. A rotating cast of crudos, wood-fired main dishes, and vegetable-forward sides round out the experience. // 3000 20th St, pennyroma.com
The arrival of the Tartine brand here was an official make moment for the neighborhood. With its cult reputation for delicious bready things in tow, Tartine Manufactory feels like the culmination of Liz Prueitt and Chad Robertson's artisanal approach to making food, but with drinks. The disruptive bakery-cafe-restaurant-bar serves everything you need from breakfast to after-dinner—from croissants to crudo to cocktails—in a lofty, casual space that blends Scandinavian and Japanese design influences. There's even a comprehensive wine program with bottles from around the world. As is the case at every Tartine location from 18th Street to Los Angeles to Seoul, expect to wait for good things to come. // 595 Alabama St., tartinemanufactory.com
In an industrial-warehouse-meets-French-apothecary-style space, the ever-crowded Trick Dog has become ubiquitous in San Francisco nightlife—as such a regular stop on the craft cocktail circuit, this bar from the Bon Vivants feels like it's been here forever. But thanks to ever-changing and uniquely creative cocktails menus, Trick Dog remains fresh (and keeps winning awards). During the pandemic, the bar got a quirky cousin: Housed at the same address, Quik Dog serves up tasty burgers, dogs, and fries for takeout and delivery. // 3010 20th St., trickdogbar.com
Flowering vines decorate the entrance to this unpretentious restaurant geared toward communal and counter dining (though there are regular tables if you're seeking intimacy). An honoree of Michelin's Bib Gourmand title since 2016, chef Kasem Saengsawang taps his Bangkok roots to produce a menu inspired by Thailand's street food. Traditional dishes include pad Thai and fried rice with cage-free egg, but there are also more contemporary offerings—think king prawns with curry made with spicy-fresh turmeric, kaffir lime, and young coconut meat, served with garden vegetables and the chef's signature blue flower rice. Friendly and laid-back, this spot is perfect for birthday celebrations (they'll even sing you a song). Also look for locations in Oakland and Portland. // 710 Florida St., farmhousethai.com
Set sail for happy hour at the nautically inspired Lost Resort. Inside you'll find a cheery, mid-century-maritime bar space. Outside, the wooden booths evoke the hull of a ship, minus the waves, and the grownup tropical cocktails and extensive selection of mezcal, rum, tequila, and whiskey will have you singing sea shanties by night's end. If you need a re-charge, crab cakes, sourdough clam beignets, and veggie tacos are made to order. // 2736 20th St, lostresortsf.com
A cozy Japanese restaurant with just a few tables and an open kitchen, Bon Nene is the project of co-owners and first-time restaurateurs Stephanie Chan and Mia Fukuta, who serve mostly small plates inspired by Japan. Tuesday through Saturdays, go for the $15 lunch plate which comes with your choice of protein (ginger pork, chicken kaarage, maguro sashimi, and more) plus rice, salad, pickles, and miso soup. Minimal in design with rotating art, the restaurant's ambiance has just the slightest French bohemian touch. // 2850 21st St., bonnene.com
Opened in 2017 from Michelin-starred chef David Barzelay (Lazy Bear) and award-winning bartender Nicolas Torres, True Laurel is a destination for cocktails geeks and those who like to eat past 11pm. Dressed in a sophisticated, mid-century modern look, the cozy-yet-vibrant bar serves up manicured cocktails with excellent names. In the Pines, Under the Palms, for instance, is made with toasted coconut rye, Terroir gin, and redwood tips; Paloma Prieta has mezcal, guava, and Pampleau grapefruit aperitif. The food menu, designed by Barzelay, includes bites like oysters aguachile, hot cheddar cracklins, and the TL patty melt. // 753 Alabama St., truelaurel.com
The pint-sized Dolores Waterfall cevicheria has some of the freshest, most flavorful crudo, fish tacos, and aguachile in town. From the seafood tower—a stack of scallop, octopus, shrimp, fruit and red pepper—to the coconut ceviche (a combination of shrimp, scallops, octopus and pineapple spilling over a halved coconut shell), there's just no way to go wrong here. Don't miss their michelada, which can be ordered with a layer of ceviche balanced on top. //1000 Potrero Ave, doloreswaterfall.com
Cool Shops in Mission-Potrero
Kamperett's Mission home is an airy gallery for floaty dresses.
(Courtesy of Kamperett)
Founded in 1948 in Sausalito by Edith and Brian Heath, the beloved ceramics company now has a destination in the Mission, sharing the 60,000-square-foot building with Tartine Manufactory. This Heath space functions as a design hub with a tile factory and gallery-slash-store. The shelves are stocked with the brand's signature earthenware, as well as wares from local makers, a newsstand, clay studio, and sewing studio. // 2900 18th St., heathceramics.com
At this letterpress shop, a young craftsman by the name of James Tucker is lending his modern touch to an ancient profession through custom and one-of-a-kind works in letterpress and foil printing. The store also has a stationery corner where you can purchase cards, posters, notebooks, pens, and pencils on the run. Tucker also offers limited-edition art prints, some inspired by the California coast, online. // 555 Alabama St., theaestheticunion.com
After a few years of moving around, womenswear designers Anna Chiu and Valerie Santillo found a home in this hybrid showroom and fashion lab where you can shop Kamperett's signature floating dresses, jumpsuits, pants, and blouses. // 3686 20th St., kamperett.com
Followers of this online fashion subscription service already know these bright and glamorous headquarters, open just for loyal clients who come for onsite consultation, special events, and users testing sessions. // 3130 20th St., letote.com
Arts + Culture Spaces in Mission-Potrero
A former can factory serves as a modern space for an array of performances at Z Space.
(Courtesy of Z Space)
A nonprofit committed to supporting visual artists, Southern Exposure has hosted programs highlighting both local and national talent since 1974 (yep, another neighborhood OG). Through November 20th, catch their annual juried show, titled Interconnected, featuring works by 16 Bay Area-based artists with disabilities. // 3030 20th St., soex.org
Joe Goode Annex
This rehearsal space for the Joe Goode Performance Group, led by the notable choreographer of the same name, also serves as a performance venue where the company shows its own smaller-scale works. Look for the live premiere of Pulso Dance Project's Hidden Spaces (Nov. 20-21) and Megan Lowe Dances' Tangram (Dec. 9-12), which explores tropes associated with Chinese heritage. // 401 Alabama St., joegoode.org
Housed in an old can factory, this popular performance venue stages theater, dance, and cabaret produced by and starring local, national, and international artists. This November 13-20, catch Try, "a queer fantasy of improvised collaboration where body and land meet ancestry and futurity," and then look out for the 2022 premiere of The Red Shades: A Trans Superhero Rock Opera. // 450 Florida St., zspace.org
The contemporary art nonprofit has headquarters in Paris, but the San Francisco division is a full-fledged venue for shows, public events, residencies, and educational experiences with a focus on national and international artists. This winter, see The Missing Circle (through Jan. 2022), and exhibition of Latin-American artists exploring our shared experience of death and its permeation of Latin-America culture. // 3295 20th St., kadist.org
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