San Francisco, CA
MissionStroll along the Mission's wide avenues and you'll be struck by the profusion of taquerias, pupuserias, produce markets, Salvadoran bakeries, salon de bellezas (beauty salons), auto-repair shops and check-cashing centers that post rates for wiring money to Guatemala and Nicaragua -- all evidence of the Central American and Mexican families that have been settling the Mission en masse since the 1950s.
You'll also notice plenty of cafés, thrift shops and used-book stores that cater to the college grads, artists, activists and other alterna-types that have historically been drawn to the Mission.
The Internet boom brought on heavy gentrification -- trendy restaurants and boutiques blazed in, rents shot up and many Latinos and artists were displaced by the influx of highly paid young professionals. Today, there's an interesting mix of places that survived the changes and new arrivals that are trying to make the Mission home.
Whether you're looking to take in the newer, locally-owned stores and cafes or get a taste of the neighborhood's history and Latin culture, the area is crawling with things to see and do. We've broken it down into four areas. While the flavor of the neighborhood changes subtly from block to block, bear in mind that these areas are contiguous and you can easily walk from one to the other. Generally speaking, the 24th Street area is the culturally rich heart of the Mission, the stretch from Dolores Street through to Valencia Street is young and upscale, the area around 16th and Valencia streets hops with nightlife and the industrial area near Bryant Street has some hip, trendy restaurants
Just a couple of blocks away, and parallel to Valencia, is Dolores Street. Hilly, quiet and beautiful, it's shaded by palm trees and lined by grand old Victorians. Dolores Park remains a favorite for those who wish to retreat from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the Mission.
Dolores Park: Local residents mentally divide Dolores Park into two distinct worlds. In the bottom half you can play tennis or soccer or walk your dog. In the upper half you can relax and get a stunning view of the city and the East Bay. On warm days, sunbathers and Latino families barbecuing corn and chicken share this portion of Dolores Park.
Mission Dolores: At the corner of 16th and Dolores streets, overshadowed by an ornate basilica, sits a modest adobe chapel, one of the two original missions in San Francisco and the oldest standing building in the city. The inside of the chapel (note the ceiling patterned after Costonoan basket weaving -- Costonoans were the native inhabitants of the area) and the mission's cemetery and gardens will give you a feel for old times. (Web site)
Women's Building Mural: Don't miss the incredible mural on the Women's building on 18th Street, between Valencia and Guerrero streets.
826 Valencia Writing Project: Author and publisher Dave Eggers set up this space to provide an educational work space for kids ages 8 to 18 who want to improve their writing skills through free tutoring, or learn new ones in workshops that range from cartooning to computers. The whimsical space also features fake trees, a tented reading space with a barber chair, tiers of curved platforms that climb the wall and a pirate supply store. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 826 Valencia St., (415) 642-5905. (Web site)
ClothesAds Hats: Women's hats on the left, men's on the right. Ads Hats has walls covered with berets, pork pie and diamond crown fedoras, cloches, bucket hats, page boys, trilbies, and more, including newer styles from Kangol. Approximately one-third of Ads Hats' stock is from local designers. 758 Valencia St., between 18th and 19th streets. (415) 255-2787. (Web site).
Dema: This women's-clothing boutique stocks slim-cut, '60s-influenced designs in vivid colors and patterns. Peek into the back of the shop to see next season's line taking shape on the cutting table and the dressmaker's form. 1038 Valencia St., between 21st and 22nd streets, (415) 206-0500. (Web site)
Fabric8: This tiny, fun, colorful, hip-kitsch art gallery/T-shirt shop is an extension of the 10-year-old locally-run Fabric8.com Web site. A fake grass floor and plastic blue-sky lead you back to a small gallery space with wood-stained floors, ceilings and entry way by local artists Sirron Norris, Brian Barneclo, Ursula Young, Nomzee, and Ferris Plock. The goods include locally designed silk-screened and embroidered T-shirts, hoodies, baby T-shirts, affordable art by local painters, Japanese and Italian wind-up toys, graphic print laptop bags, art books and CD electronic beat compilations by local DJs. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 3318 22nd St., (415) 487-9702. (Web site)
House of Hengst/HRM: This Valencia boutique carries two designer lines: Hengst for women, HRM for men. Store carries high-end dresses, pants, tops, skirts, jewelry, hats, and handbags. Men's line includes shirts, pants and jackets. Susan Hengst's line is designed in store, and made locally. 924 Valencia St., between 20th and 21st streets. (415) 642-0841. (Web site)
Laku: You may have noticed a cloth bench while you were waiting for a table at the sushi joint next door, or noticed lace booties in the window, but inside you'll find Yaeko Yamashita, the designer behind it all. Yamashita imports antique fabrics from Japan and sews them into shoes, bags, baby clothes, scarves and more. 1069 Valencia St., between 21st and 22nd streets. (415) 695-1462. (Web site)
Minnie Wilde: Hayes Valley-based designers have opened a larger shop in the Mission, with the same red and white color scheme and much more room. The clothes are unique feminine fun, without being too cutesy - colorful, detailed pieces at decent prices. Tees around $30, fancier blouses and skirts go for $80, and even fancier pants and jackets range from $130-200. 3266 21st St., between Valencia and Mission streets. (415) 642-WILD (9453). (Web site)
Saffron Rare Threads: The first boutique from the San Francisco duo of Priya Saraswati and Yugala Priti, who are building a brand known for versatile career basics, like belted jackets, city shorts, zippered pencil skirts, fitted pant suits, drapey jersey tops and lightweight graphic-print coats. (-SF Chronicle) 3579 17th St. (Web site)
Schauplatz: Hipsters and costume-partygoers will score at this tiny vintage store. Mostly '50s-'70s garb, but Schauplatz does step it back a notch with the occasional dress from the 1920s. Fairly priced and friendly service. 791 Valencia St., between 18th and 19th streets. (415) 864-5665.
Shoe Biz: Upper Haight veteran footwear dynasty Shoe Biz branched out of its home neighborhood in 2004, opening stores in Noe Valley and the Mission. Shoe Biz-Valencia is mostly about the sneakers, colorful varieties by the hippest brands, and their windows speak to that fact creatively. 877 Valencia St., between 19th and 20th streets. (415) 550-8655. (Web site)
Thrift Town: There are tons of thrift stores to choose from in this area. Thrift Town happens to be the biggest, with a huge selection of clothes and a decent assortment of furniture. 2101 Mission St., at 17th Street, (415) 861-1132. (Web site)
HomeThe Apartment: Creaky floors and rusty piping set the mood at this furniture resale shop. The Apartment is a split-level, um, apartment, with a large showroom in front, and several smaller bedrooms on the upper level. They specialize in rustic and distressed wood pieces no newer than the 1970s. 3469 18th Street, between Valencia and Mission streets. (415) 255-1100.
The Touch: With armoirs from France and England, antique Smith-Carona, Royal, and Remington typewriters, and end tables in the $50 range, the Touch proves that it's possible to create a warm, inviting, well-priced antique furniture gallery that doesn't smell like a thrift store. 956 Valencia St., between 20th and 21st streets. (415) 550-2640.
Books, Records & VideoAquarius Records: This small but mighty record shop stocks an eclectic selection of cutting-edge music without cultivating an intimidating atmosphere. 1055 Valencia St., between 21st and 22nd streets, (415) 647-2272.
Borderlands Books: Specializing in science fiction, fantasy and horror, this is the place to send your "Lord of the Rings"-obsessed types. The staff knows all -- even what is carved on the walls in Moria. 866 Valencia St., (415) 824-8203 or (888) 893-4008.
Dog Eared Books: Dog Eared feels more like a cramped library than a polished bookstore, with high, closely-spaced shelves packed tight with thousands of mostly used titles. They've also got a magazine rack stocked with mostly alternative rags. Be sure to check out the hand-drawn homages to noteworthy recently-departed people on the front window. 900 Valencia St. at 20th. (415) 282-1901.
Fayes Video: A tiny video that packs a punch. Fayes offers a wide selection of DVDs, and, if you're in the mood, great coffee and espresso drinks. Not always the friendliest service, but definitely knowledgeable and helpful. 3614 18th Street, between Guerrero and Dolores streets. (415) 522-0434.
Force of Habit Records: Force of Habit is doing more than just filling the Mission used record store void left by Mission Record's closing and Record Collector's move to Deco Ghetto. The store specializes in obscure, hard-to-find vinyl for record geeks, but also sells CDs and VHS. It's a lotta punk, and a little of everything else. DJs and those doing home recording can find needles, cleaners, and even battery-operated portable turntables. "Kitsch corner" is a full glass display of Simpsons, Star Wars, and other pop toys. And thousands of records are priced at $2. 3565 20th St. at Lexington. (415) 255-7865.
Little Otsu: Since their move from 16th Street, Little Otsu (formerly Otsu) has dropped its selection of vegan shoes and belts to concentrate on independent publishing. Look for handmade cards, day planners and wallets, plus the exclusive otsu artist t-shirt series and other gift items.
Lost Weekend Video: A little bit of attitude goes a long way at Lost Weekend. Their enormous selection of DVDs and their endless knowledge of film make them good competition for internet rentals. 1034 Valencia St., between 21st and 22nd streets. (415) 643-3373.
Modern Times Bookstores: A good place to buy The Noam Chomsky Reader or the latest essays by Angela Y. Davis in English or Spanish. 888 Valencia St., between 19th and 20th streets, (415) 282-9246.
FoodBi-Rite Market: Drop by this small, decades-old grocery for its limited but sterling selection of crusty breads, good produce, wine, pasta, prepared foods and fish and poultry. 3639 18th St., between Guerrero and Dolores streets, (415) 241-9773.
Lucca Ravioli: This old-time Italian deli sells delicious homemade pasta, great cheeses and salamis. 1100 Valencia St., at 22nd Street, (415) 647-5581.
Mercado Brasil: Mercado Brasil is what its name implies: a Brazilian market. If the simple Havaianas flip-flips, cold guarana or Amazonian acái antioxidant drink aren't enough for you, there's a travel agent in the front of the store to book you a flight to Rio. They also have delicious fruit juices, including peach, mango, passion fruit, acerola and guava. 1252 Valencia St., between 23rd and 24th streets. (415) 285-3463.
Etc.Beadissimo: Proof that there really is something for everyone in the Mission. Beadissimo carries beads from all over world, including glass from Czech Republic and Thai and Indian silver. They also hold classes on stringing, metalworking, bead-making, and chain-making in the back of the store. 1051 Valencia St., between 21st and 22nd streets. (415) 282-2323.
Botanica Yoruba: Specializes in santeria supplies. Don't openly snicker at the curse-your-enemy candles in the store -- pious people shop here. 998 Valencia St., (415) 826-4967.
Chamalyn: Chamalyn proves that Japanese people are so much better at cute than Americans. This off-Valencia store has candy, stationery, drinks, stickers, erasers, Pocky, Pretz and other kitschy goodies, ninety-nine percent of which are from Japan. 3491 19th Street, between Valencia and Mission streets. (415) 819-0497.
Currents: A body products store that's as much philosophy as it is merchandise. Their homemade (in the back of the store) soaps, oils, and bath salts are made without the use of chemicals. Known especially for the bath salts, which come in such fragrances as charcoal mud, citrus joy, green tea and hibiscus peppermint. 911 Valencia St., between 20th and 21st streets. (415) 648-2015.
Bruno's: Temporarily closed.
Burger Joint: You can find burgers all over the city, but this Mission District spot serves them with Niman Ranch beef, which is free of growth-supporting antibiotics or hormones. The menu has only five items, but the burgers are juicy, the veggie burger better than most and the hand-cut fries are crisp and thick. To fit into its hip Valencia Street location, the colorful decor is a postmodern take on '50s diner style. (-SF Chronicle) 807 Valencia St., between 19th and 20th streets, (415) 824-3494.
Cafe Ethiopia: An accessible introduction to Ethiopian food, good doro wot and kitfo and a sizable selection of vegetarian dishes. The kitchen is a bit conservative with its seasonings, but dishes that are billed as "hot" do have a smoldering intensity. The dining room is spare almost to the point of utilitarian. (--SF Chronicle, read full 878 Valencia St. (near 20th Street), (415) 285-2728.
Cafe Petra: This little cafe in Build Gallery's old space carries over an arty sensibility, with its ceiling lined with bamboo and tchotchkes from the cafe's namesake city in Jordan. A slightly bohemian, self-employed set is often found sipping dark roast coffee and surfing the net with Petra's free wireless service. 463 Guerrero St., between 16th and 17th streets. (415) 626-9626.
Cafe Que Tal: One of the few holdouts from the past era of this hip intersection, Que Tal ("what's up" in Spanish) sticks to its guns, serving medium-roasted, strongly brewed coffee, standard lunch items, and a wide variety of medicinal and herbal teas. Sidewalk seating for four gets plenty of afternoon sun. Never too crowded and always offers friendly service. 1005 Guerrero St., between 22nd and 23rd streets. (415) 282-8855
Cha Cha Cha: The cavernous, industrial second location of the ever-popular Haight Street restaurant never fails to pack 'em in. Caribbean small plate favorites include the black beans and plantains, the fried new potatoes and, of course, the sangria. This location gets particularly loud when it's busy, and service can go by the wayside, but it can also accommodate large groups. 2839 Mission St. (at 24th), (415) 282-0283. (of Haight St. location)
Chava's: This locally popular Mexican restaurant features good soups, as well as standard fare, homemade tortillas and a satisfying weekend brunch, all at cheap prices. 2839 Mission St. (at 24th), (415) 282-0283.
Cha-Ya: Vegan diners no longer have to head across the bay for Japanese food -- the chef of Cha-Ya in North Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto has recreated the menu for this casual spot. A variety of ingredients and flavors are combined in fresh, feels-and-tastes-good-for-you vegan dishes like soba noodles and soy vinaigrette garnished with seasonal vegetables; slightly sweet steamed tofu custard with medley of mushrooms, kabocha, soybeans, ginko nuts and other vegetables; and tempura-style eggplant stuffed with potato, corn, seaweed and soybeans. Desserts include a vegan chocolate mousse cake. (-SF Chronicle) 762 Valencia (near 18th Street), (415) 252-7825.
Delfina and Pizza Delfina: Popular Italian-Mediterranean restaurant Delfina pleases critics and neighborhood diners alike. The food has its roots in traditional Italian cooking (Tuscan white beans accompany many a dish), but the mood is distinctly contemporary. Next door, the retro-chic, 24-seat Pizza Delfina offers a menu of six Neapolitan- and New York-inspired pizzas with other daily specials and antipasti. They specialize in takeout. (SF Chronicle/SF Gate) Delfina: 3621 18th St., (between Dolores and Guerrero), (415) 552-4055. (Pizzeria Delfina: 3611 18th St., (415) 437-6800.
Dolores Park Cafe: This clean and airy café overlooks the foot of Dolores Park and offers a clutch of sidewalk tables. Choose from a menu of creative light fare and blended fruit drinks, in addition to coffee drinks and desserts. 501 Dolores St., at 18th Street, (415) 621-2936.
Dosa: One of the few places in San Francisco that focuses on food from South India. Various types of dosas -- savory paper-thin crepes -- come stuffed with spiced potatoes, panir, eggs or spiced lamb. The modern decor rises well above and beyond that of typical hole-in-the-wall Bay Area Indian restaurants. While waiting -- which you probably will, as reservations are only accepted for six or more -- join the ranks by sipping a cilantro-mint mojito or a chai white Russian. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) Dosa, 995 Valencia St. (at 21st Street), (415) 642-3672.
El Majahual: Offers good Colombian food, especially arepas (corn-based pancakes stuffed with cheese). 1152 Valencia St., near 22nd Street, (415) 821-7514.
Firecracker: Outstanding and reasonably priced Chinese food in an elegant, glowing red setting. 1007 Valencia St., at 21st Street, (415) 642-3470.)
Foreign Cinema: Foreign Cinema has something for everybody: those who like to be entertained, those who like to see and be seen, and those who enjoy great food. The name is derived from the foreign films that play nightly, projected on the wall of the enclosed patio. The dining room features large windows looking out over the action and a chic industrial interior, with high ceilings and a slate-faced fireplace. Partners Gayle Pirie and John Clark worked at Zuni many years, and their food is straightforward and delicious. (-SF Chronicle) 2534 Mission St., (415) 648-7600.
Garcon: French bistro cuisine from the team that opened Cafe Bastille and also have their hands in B44, Plouf and Chouchou. The style is sleek and warm, with a friendly feel, a full bar and a good wine list. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 1101 Valencia St. (at 22nd Street), (415) 401-8959.
Herbivore: Vegans and non-vegans alike come to this place for healthy, inventive fare, all at bargain prices. The lasagna, stuffed with tofu ricotta and covered in a hearty tomato sauce, is served with garlic bread for a satisfying main course. You can find vegetarian versions of everything from pad Thai to kung pao to shawarma, and of course, the veggie burgers are also great here. (-SF Chronicle) 983 Valencia St., between 20th and 21st streets, (415) 826-5657.
Jay's Cheese Steak: Jay's has cheese steak made with Niman Schell natural beef, and it comes in a variety of flavors, like pizza, teriyaki and barbecue (there's even a seitan version for vegetarians). They also serve great Niman burgers, garlic fries, onion rings and buffalo wings. Colorful local art adorns the walls, making Jay's a fun place to eat. 3286 21st Street, between Valencia and Mission streets. (415) 285-5200.
Kiji: Enthusiastic servers, fresh fish and tranquil surroundings, with an extensive menu of sushi and cooked options. Wash down the fish with a three-glass sake sampler. Chef-owner Eddie Hong has previous experience at cult favorite Sushi Groove. (-SF Chronicle) 1009 Guerrero St. (near 22nd Street), (415) 282-0400.
La Provence: What's good about La Provence is that it doesn't try to be anything it's not. It knows it's Mediterranean French, so there are no foie gras tourchons, steak frites or other high-end or bistro dishes. Instead, there's a focus on seafood flavored with citrus, fresh herbs and healthy amounts of garlic. The restaurant, decorated with retro travel posters and cicadas, manages to be warm and cheery, yet tasteful and uncluttered. Service is casual and leisurely. (-SF Chronicle) 1001 Guerrero St. (at 22nd Street), (415) 643-4333.
La Rondalla: A sprawling Mexican restaurant festooned year-round in a hodgepodge of Christmas lights, La Rondalla makes strong margaritas and large plates of greasy food -- bring your iron stomach. Things can get a little wild later on, when the mariachi bands and the singing start. Open until 3 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday. 901 Valencia St., at 20th Street, (415) 647-7474.
La Taqueria: Crowded, loud and bursting with vitality, this famed taqueria draws hordes eager to eat fresh, carefully prepared tacos and burritos. The carnitas are to die for. Seating is on picnic-style benches or on small tables overlooking Mission Street. Cash only. (-SF Chronicle) 2889 Mission St. (at 25th Street); (415) 285-7117.
Last Supper Club: The name is the same and the interior still has the stained glass windows and kitschy religious paintings, but new owner Ruggero Gadaldi (also owner of and has focused the menu mostly on Southern Italy. Servers encourage diners to share dishes family style. For dessert, don't pass on the baba, a soaked cake served with fresh berries and vanilla cream. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 1199 Valencia St. (at 23rd Street), (415) 695-1199.
Luna Park: You may need a reservation even early in the week, but once you've reached your table, look forward to a reasonably priced menu of comfort food with a twist. Try reliving the campfires of childhood with a s'mores fondue of chocolate and marshmallow. 694 Valencia St., between 17th and 18th streets, (415) 553-8584.
Maxfield's House of Caffeine: Morning sun bathes the sidewalk seating in front of this spacious neighborhood cafe. Inside is comfortable, with a few cushioned chairs and a sofa populated by the "freaks and geeks" set. Maxfield's offers free wireless and hosts open-mic jazz every Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. 398 Dolores St. at 17th. (415) 255-6859.
Medjool: Three sections include a ground floor cafe serving light fare with a Middle Eastern emphasis; A restaurant and bar-lounge offers Mediterranean small plates; At a mezzanine overlooking the first floor there is more dining and a DJ. The next two floors are a youth hostel, and on the fourth floor the building's developer is planning a roof garden for alfresco brunches. An elevator opens right onto the roof. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 2516 Mission St. (near 21st St.), (415) 550-9055.
Osha Thai Noodle: Skimpy on service and style, this is the younger, hipper sister version of the Tenderloin late-night favorite. The noodles really star -- try the lath nah with Chinese broccoli and mushroom gravy, the spicy pan-fried noodles or one of the huge bowls of steamy soup. Spicy string beans with strips of pork are also good. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 819 Valencia St. (near 20th Street); (415) 826-7738. Also at 696 Geary St.
Papa Toby's Revolution Cafe: Sidewalk tables at Papa Toby's get great afternoon sun, and if it's cold, the patio heaters will keep you warm. The place is typically filled with hipsters, and the coffee's nothing to write home about, but the Sangria and late hours (till midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends) are enough to make this coffehouse accessible to anyone who appreciates Eurpean-style cafe-sitting. 3248 22nd St. at Bartlett. (415) 642-0474.
Platanos: The food concentrates mostly on the flavors of Central America; the decor mostly on the color orange. The vibe is relaxed and casual, but it's definitely a hotspot. 598 Guerrero St. (at 18th), (415) 252-9281.
Ritual Cafe: A couple of transplants, one from Seattle, one from Portland, have teamed up to do coffee right in this "mid-Valencia" cafe. The coffee comes from Stumptown roasters in Portland for now; Ritual is planning to get on-site roasting in the near future. Exquisite detail (red and black color scheme), nice touches (hand-stamped logos on to-go cups), spaciousness, ample seating, free wireless Internet, and just plain old good coffee make Ritual a must-stop on any Mission adventure. 1026 Valencia St., between 21st and 22nd street. (415) 641-1024.
San Miguel: Squeeze yourself into a table in this family-style restaurant and transport yourself to tropical Guatemala. Everything about the room is intimate, from the straw-and reed-woven walls whose every inch is covered with memorabilia to a ceiling hung with gourds, hats, plants and colored birds. Try the tostaditas and the cak-ick turkey soup (weekends only) that comes with an entire drumstick spanning the bowl. The plato San Miguel offers steak, pork sausage, fried plantains, cheese and black beans. (-SF Chronicle) 3520 20th St. (near Mission Street); (415) 826-0173.
Senses: Contemporary with French influences. Small plates include seared shrimp served with sweet orange marmalade and an orange carrot broth shot, and muffin-style mushroom "souffles" garnished with a sweet mascarpone sorbet. Sweetness and air-whipped sauces are also present in entrees such as lobster stew and polenta foie gras with currants, which accompanies duck breast served with a foie gras emulsion. Desserts include lavender blancmange with blackberry coulis and honey-roasted peaches in a rosemary tuile. The room has bar seating for six and a communal table for up to 20. (-SF Chronicle) 1152 Valencia St. (415) 648-6000.
Taqueria Cancun: The subject of great debate over whether their burritos are awesome or overrated. Supporters favor the veggie burrito. Can be a little sketchy later at night. 2288 Mission St., near 19th Street, (415) 252-9560.
Tartine: Tartine's baked goods demand return visit after return visit. The pastry cases are filled with French-inspired wares, including lemon and banana cream tarts, lemon meringue cake and all manner of perfect cookies. And the croissants, well, even the snobbiest Francophile will have to admit perfection. There are plenty of savory offerings and sandwiches as well, built from baker Chad Robertson's breads. Quiche, hot pressed sandwiches and a swell cheese plate are among the items from which to build a lunch. (-SF Chronicle/SF Gate) 600 Guerrero St. at 18th, (415) 487-2600.
Zagora: This new addition to the mini restaurant row on Guerrero Street concentrates on contemporary Moroccan cuisine in a warm yet understated atmosphere. Desserts and Moroccan breads are house-made. (-SF Chronicle) 1007 Guerrero St. (near 22nd Street), (415) 282-6444.
Beauty Bar: Cuticles looking a little ragged? Thirsty for a retro-coiffed (but not retro-priced) cocktail? This is your consummate destination. Beauty Bar is a fun, if not quite as authentic, take on bouffant glam. And on Wednesday nights, the venue offers roaming manicurists, making this a pink-vinyl haven in the heart of the Mission corridor. (-Jan Richman) 2299 Mission St., at 19th Street, (415) 285-0323.
Elbo Room: This popular spot has a long bar, pool tables and a photo booth downstairs, and live music upstairs on most nights (acid jazz, hip-hop, funk and dub, to name a few genres). 647 Valencia St., between 17th and 18th streets, (415) 552-7788.
La Rondalla is an old favorite always bathed in the glow of thousands of Christmas lights. La Rondalla makes deceptively sweet giant margaritas and greasy Mexican food. 901 Valencia St., at 20th Street, (415) 647-7474.
Latin American Club: Go to the Latin for a Make-Out Room feeling on a smaller scale. A pool table takes up most of the floor, while big, booth-side windows give patrons a view of their fellow nightcrawlers. Margaritas come in a pint glass. 3286 22nd St., between Valencia and Mission streets, (415) 647-2732.
Lexington Club: San Francisco's best-known lesbian bar has a pool table, a good jukebox and a hip and friendly vibe. 3464 19th St., (415) 863-2052.
Lone Palm: This hushed and elegant bar puts candles and white cloths on its tables, casting a "Casablanca" spell on its stylish clientele. It gets crowded on weekends. 3394 22nd St., at Guerrero Street, (415) 648-0109.
Make-Out Room: This cavernous bar, which occasionally hosts local and touring bands, features a decorating scheme of animal heads and dangling lingerie. Go on a weeknight if you want to put the moves on your date in peace; on weekends the place is jammed by 10 pm. 3225 22nd St., between Valencia and Mission streets, (415) 647-2888. (
The Marsh is a dive where respected and/or obscure solo performance artists, comedians and poets strut their stuff. 1062 Valencia St., at 22nd Street, (415) 641-0235.