CONVERSATIONS ABOUT SAN Francisco’s Mission District aren’t truly complete without the requisite “it’s changed so much.” Depending on the timeline, however, change is relative. Often used as an example in these discussions, Valencia Street was named after either Jose Manuel Valencia or his son Candelario Valencia and is at least 169 years old; the street also possibly predates San Francisco’s formal naming in 1847. From the beginning the thoroughfare housed an ethnically mixed population, as shown by an 1866 court case involving a dispute over a plot of land between the Valencias and John Cabot. In the 20th century, residences and businesses flanked the drag, and by the late 1970s Valencia Street had a reputation as a female-friendly place, with the establishment of the Women’s Building, numerous lesbian bars and Old Wives’ Tales, a feminist bookstore. Outsiders mostly overlooked the area until the 1990s dot-com boom. Tech money placed boutiques, bars and artisanal coffee shops between the already existing taquerias, transforming the neighborhood into one of the Mission’s main commercial zones, known as the Valencia corridor.
1. HAWKER FARE Colorful patterns dominate the space, which features Thai-Isaan and Lao street food. Be sure to check out Holy Mountain, the tiki bar upstairs in the back.
2. CRAFTSMAN AND WOLVES Guests will find egg-filled muffins known as the Rebel Within, bonbons, coffee and many other sweet and savory baked goods at this contemporary pâtisserie.
3. THE CHAPEL Once upon a time a real chapel, this spot now includes live music, a bar and a restored 40-foot arched ceiling. The adjoining restaurant, The Vestry, offers late-night eats and craft cocktails.
4. PAXTON GATE Stumped for a gift? Look no further. Paxton Gate has everything from ethically sourced taxidermy to home goods, plants, gardening supplies and other fun goodies.
5. LITTLE PAPER PLANES Since 2004, the boutique has been spotlighting art and design not only by selling it, but also with its artists’ collaborations and events. Here guests will find prints, books, apparel and jewelry.
6. DOG EARED BOOKS This airy bookshop has been stocking a wide variety of new, used and remaindered books, including small-press titles, since 1992.
7. REFORMATION The eco-friendly, on-trend women’s clothing label opened its fifth store in February, complete with fancy new touch screens in fitting rooms.
8. XANATH ICE CREAM Frozen yogurt, organic ice cream and vegan treats can be found here, in addition to fresh saffron and vanilla.
9. LOLÓ This vibrant family-owned restaurant uses local ingredients and offers non-traditional and inventive Mexican food.
WHERE TO EAT Aside from the restaurants mentioned, other popular eateries nearby include Beretta, Cha-Ya, Curry Up Now, DOSA, Duna, Limon Rotisserie, Locanda, Lolinda, Puerto Alegre, Souvla, Tacolicious, Taqueria La Cumbre, Udupi Palace and West of Pecos, among others.
WHERE TO PARK There are two lots and a garage in the neighborhood in addition to street parking. The Comb Parking lot is at 606 Capp Street; the other lot is at 2351 Mission Street between 19th and 20th streets; and the Mission-Bartlett garage is on 21st Street between Bartlett and Valencia. Street parking can be tricky.