This article is referring to one of the oldest neighborhoods of San Francisco's Mission District, the "Inner Mission" - a center of countercultures. Also it includes some aspects of the "Mission Dolores", "Dolores Heights" and "Noe Valley".
The Inner Mission is often called "The Mission", "The Heart of the Mission" or (also: La Misión or El Corazón de la Misión in Spanish). Also this neighborhood is sometimes called by visitors as the "Mission District" but don't confuse it.
The actual Mission District used to comprise of the following neighborhoods: Bernal heights, Castro Village, Cayuga, College Hill, Crescent, Crocker Amazon, Diamond Heights, Dolores Heights/ Eureka Valley, The Excelsior, Fairmont, Glen Park, Holly Park, Inner Mission, and Mission Tarrace. Today the Mission District is part of San Francisco's Districts 5, 9 and 10. Thus the Inner Mission is part of District 9.
The Mission District surrounds the oldest building in San Francisco, Mission Dolores. The area was the site of the Spanish mission that was the kernel of the city San Francisco is today. The mission itself was secularized in the 1820s, and the lands were given to the Native Americans who lived there. Many sold or lost the land in later years.
During the 19th century, the Mission District was physically separated from San Francisco proper, which mostly clustered around the seaport on the San Francisco Bay. The district's area was a pleasant country day trip for San Franciscans, and soon grew into a small village. By the end of the 1800s, the area had been assimilated into the rest of the City.
By the early 20th century, after the 1906 earthquake that destroyed several blue-collar neighborhoods, Irish and Italians relocated to the quickly expanding Mission District.
From the 1940's the district, gradually became more populated with Mexican/Latin-American immigrants creating a strong counterculture in the arts and politics, most noticeable in the Inner Mission or commonly "The Mission" during the civil rights movement. Following this era, the Inner Mission remaining strongly a Chicano and Latin-American neighborhood, but also with a great contingency of African-American, Asian-American and European-American driven by the relatively cheap rents in the neighborhood in the 1980s and early 1990s, it attracted an influx of new artists, musicians, and other counterculture types.
By the turn of the 21st century, the District in particular to the Inner Mission experienced an increased gentrification, expensive restaurants and the construction of "live-work" spaces were moving in to the area, displacing hundreds of residents. However as the Post-Internet-boom, the wave of affluence is partly receding, the Inner Mission is continuing to be a place for multicultural encounters, where long term residents, immigrants, hipsters and yuppies are living side-by-side.
From other parts of San Francisco and the Bay Area, the BART stations at 24th Street and 16th Street are the easiest entry points.
The 14 Mission bus runs right down Mission Street from the north and south, the 49 Van Ness comes down to Mission Street from Van Ness near Fisherman's Wharf, the 26 Valencia eases down Valencia Avenue from downtown, the 22 Fillmore comes in from the north and runs east-west across 16th Street, and the 48 runs east west along 24th Street.
The J Church streetcar runs from downtown through the nearby Castro, Dolores Park, and Noe Valley neighborhoods, and passes block or two from the Mission Dolores that gives the neighborhood its name, and puts you within walking distance or easy transfer to the 22 or 48 bus lines.
For cars, the Cesar Chavez Street exit from highway 101 comes right into the Mission, and the San Jose Avenue exit from Highway 280 North brings you past Bernal Heights and onto Guerrero Avenue.
The Inner Mission "The Mission" is only about 20 blocks by 10 blocks, and should be easily navigable on foot. The Mission is generally safe for walking (even though 16th and Mission remains a major drug dealing corner). It's not dangerous, but one should expect a certain amount of urban grittiness at night up and down Mission street near 16th. Valencia Street, just one block over, is much more gentrified and is filled with bars and eateries.
By car you will find that people really do park down the center lane of Valencia, but many natives won't (SFPD regularly has them all towed). A popular dinner destination neighborhood, street parking is difficult to find in the early evenings. There are two cheap parking garages, one at 21st Street and Bartlett between Valencia and Mission and another on 16th and Hoff St also between Valencia and Mission.
By bicycle you'll see many people using the dedicated bike lanes on Valencia Street, but the entire neighborhood with the exception of the Dolores Park area is flat and easy to navigate.
- Mission Dolores at 16th Street and Dolores Avenue.
- Women's Building MaestraPeace Mural, 18th btwn Valencia/Guerrero ]celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2004; the 25th Anniversary of the Women's Building. 
- Precita Eyes Murals  all around the Mission neighborhood.
- Balmy Alley is an alley full of murals between 24th and 25th street.
- Roxie Cinema, 3125 16th Street,  An independent art-film theatre, with some of the best programming in the United States. If it's showing here, it's usually worth seeing.
- The Marsh Theatre, 1062 Valencia Street @ 22d Street, Phone: (415) 826-5750.  a Breeding Ground for New Performance, Playwriting workshops, performances, a youth program, and classes. Some excellent one-person shows have been hatched out in the Marsh.
- Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia Street, between 15th and 16th Streets, Office Phone: 415-626-2787, Box Office Phone: 415-626-3311.  San Francisco's oldest alternative art space, This tiny space has premiered works by noted authors such as Dave Eggers and world class playwrites such as Denis Johnson. The resident theater group, Campo Santo, is very very good. The space also has an upstairs art gallery.
- Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia Street (near 21st) Phone: (415) 824-3890.  Artists' Television Access (ATA). A non-profit equipment, education, and a screening venue for independent film and video. This wonderful venue often shows genuinely strange art films and videos, particularly during their frequent open screenings (you bring it, they'll show it). Don't miss the intriguing window displays.
- Valencia Interiors, Valencia Street bwtn 20th and 21st Street. This store sells new furniture from all over the world. The friendly staff will help you choose a new bedroom set, kitchen table, bookshelves or whatever your domicile needs.
- Aquarius Records, 1055 Valencia Street between 21st and 22nd Street. (415) 647-2272. An eclectic music store specializing in the best of many obscure genres, including drone, prog, psychedelic, indie rock, experimental, electronic, noise, black metal as well as many other international/cultural styles. While it has been a San Francisco icon since 1970 and has been located in different neighborhoods in the past, it is truly a Mission mainstay, and the staff is very knowledgeable and passionate about what they stock.
- Taqueria Cancun 2288 Mission at 19th Street, Phone: (415) 550-1414. M-Th 10a-11:30p, F-Sat 10a-1a Best Vegetarian Burrito in SF.
- Taqueria El Farolito 2779 Mission St., Phone: (415) 824-7877. Gigantor super burritos. Grilled chicken and steak both are really great. Super steak quesadilla is the highlight of the menu. Open till 3a on Friday and Saturday, 1a the rest of the week.
- Taqueria El Castillito Mission & 17th St tel. Phone: (415) 621-3428. While everyone has their favorite Mission taqueria, this one may legitimately have a claim to the 'best salsa verde' throne, which is filled with serious avocado chunks. Also, they grill (rather than steam) their tortillas, a key burrito preparation issue.
- Mariachis [Valencia at 16th] A taco bar with good food, excellent prices, and an interesting atmosphere. The menu has a slight upscale slant (a specific item may come off as healthy, yuppie, or hippie) compared to El Castillito or Cancun, but they're still delicious.
- Herbivore All-Vegan Restaurant, 983 Valencia Street bwtn 20th/21st, Phone: (415) 826-5657. Sun-Th 9a-10p, F-Sat 9a-11p. Mediocre entries, but delicious sandwiches, soups & salads. If it sounds too complicated, don't order it. Only all vegan brunch in the area.
- Serrano's Pizza 3274 21st Street btwn Valencia/Mission, Phone: (415) 695-1615. Sun-Th 11a-Midnight, F-Sat 11a-1a. By "slice" for under $3 or add toppings for a few cents more, they mean a fresh-to-your order triangular slice-shaped pizza that overlaps a dinner plate at three points. Free delivery. Cash or credit, no checks.
- Arinell's Pizza Valencia St south of 16th street. Pizza by the slice. Loved and worshipped by East Coast transplants for being some of the closest to real NY pizza available in the Bay Area. Unfortunately unlike NYC, they close at midnight.
- Jay's Cheesesteak 3285 21st Street btwn Valencia/Mission. Phone: (415) 285-5200. Daily 11a-10p. Niman Ranch beef, or seitan veggie/vegan sandwich options. Garlic fries!!
- Boogaloo's, Valencia at 22d. Hipster-ed up diner, only open for lunch & breakfast. Long lines on the weekends, but surprisingly it moves quickly. Much better vegan breakfast option than Herbivore. Try the plaintain cake & the mimosas.
- We Be Sushi 1071 Valencia Street between 21st/22d. The best of a handful of locations of this restaurant, truly "sushi like mom used to make". Try the early bird special.
- Baku de Thai, 400 Valencia St @ 15th Street, Phone: (415) 437-4788.  11:00a-1:00a daily. Very nice atmosphere, excellent Thai-French fusion cuisine. Also has Thai tapas, with many dishes not usually on the menu of American Thai restaurants.
- Picaro 3120 16th Street @ Valencia, Phone: (415) 431-4089. If you like authentic tapas, the way they were before "small plates" were all the rage, then you'll definitely love the reasonably priced, authentic and generously preportioned Spanish dishes here. Don't forget to try their Sangria.
- Ti Couz 3108 16th Street @ Valencia, Phone: (415) 252-7373. M-W 11-11, Th-F 11a-Midnight, Sat 10a-Midnight, Sun 10a-11p. Best Breton creperie west of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Luna Park 694 Valencia Street (at 18th), Phone: (415) 553-8584, Upscale American comfort food menu. Small, slightly swanky. Always packed, with the accompanying noise level. Decent grub. And their signature drink is the mojito.
- Foreign Cinema, 2534 Mission Street @ 21st, Phone: (415) 648-7600.  Dinner and a movie. The Laszlo Bar. A little splurgey and quite fine. Reservations recommended.
- Tartine, 18th and Guerrero. One of the Bay Area's best bakeries; rich, decadent, and pricey.
- Valencia Pizza & Pasta, Valencia @ 19th: There is better pizza to be had in the 'hood, but for Midwestern sized portions & prices of pasta & no frills American food (try the excellent pork chops), it can't be beat. Extremely cheap beer & wine (2.00 Peroni!). Service can be sloppy, but it adds to the charm. Fantastic, inexpensive, All-American breakfast. One of the neighborhood's best kept secrets.
- Puerto Alegre, Valencia @ 16th: Local favorite, Puerto Alegre churns out inexpensive, delisious Mexican food & margaritas in a fun, festive environment. Divey atmosphere, but that's what you come to the Mission for. Very long wait on the weekends, but absolutely worth it. Host rules the restaurant with an iron fist, so don't try to sneak in!
- Lucca Ravioli Company, Valencia at 22d. An old-world style Italian deli/dry goods grocery who, bless them, sell ingredients. Check out the Ferlenghetti poem over the door while getting your sheet-pan pizza, sliced turkey, good wine and tiramisu.
- Valencia Whole Foods, Valencia at 21st Street, Daily 8:30a-9p. Organic produce and groceries, good bulk foods, and a deli with organic salads, middle eastern foods, and sandwiches to order. A neighborhood essential.
- Bi-Rite Grocery [18th Street bwtn Guarrero and Dolores Park]. How do they get that much good produce and that incredible deli counter into that storefront? Essential neighborhood and picnic-in-the-park resource. Dolores Park is handily enough a block away, and you're likely to find festivals, rallies, or the SF Mime Troupe at the start and close of their summer touring season, there along with kids, dogs and tennis players.
- The Attic can be good for hipster watching unless a crew of drunken out-of-town frat boys appear for weird robot dancing.
- 26 Mix.
- Dalva It's very dimly lit but cool decor. Excellent jukebox, though after 9:00pm they tend to turn it up just a touch too loud. Check out the VIP room in the back. Excellent happy hour!
- Elixir Pub quiz, charity events, great drink specials and a warm vibe.
- Skylark A bit of a meatmarket 'club' scene.
- Blondies Yuppie martini bar. Where the Marina set goes when they wanna go slumming in the Mission. Truly good martinis though. Gotta give 'em that. The crowd also does tend to turn into a "B & T" crowd on the weekends.
- The 500 Club Great neighborhood alterna-hipster bar, but in a good way. Formerly an old man dive bar that's been taken over by the thick black rimmed glasses youngster.
- Delirium Formerly Albion Cocktails ("Service for the Sick") The Albion was truly a vaguely scary dive bar. Delirium was another great neighborhood bar, but it's shockingly turned into a bit of a bridge and tunnel 20-something meatmarket these days. They have a place to dance in the back, with good 60's rock and soul on Wednesdays.
- Este Noche Latino drag queens and papis who love them Fun dancefloor and eclectic crowd
- Zeitgeist Cool motorcycle/bike courier punk rock-ish alterna-crowd. The bartenders can (and almost always do) often drip with attitude. They, and the regulars, can be fiercely protective of their little hideaway. Awesome and huge backyard (dare I say 'beer garden'. There, just said it. Rowdy on weekend nights and they bbq too.
- Kilowatt Fun very neighborhoody bar. Great music on the jukebox and a decent place to play pool.
- Amnesia Small bar with eclectic live music every weeknight. Wine & beer only.
- Pink Formerly Liquid. Fun little club with a packed, sweaty dancefloor. Just beware of the bartenders. At least in the past, they'll try to shortchange you if they think you're too tipsy to notice.
- Phoenix Generic Irish pub with surprisingly good food.
- The Liberties, 22d and Guerrero, San Francisco. Irish Pub. Excellent late weekend brunch no one knows about.
- Shotwell 59, 20th and Shotwell. The definition of a neighborhood bar. Still smoky despite the smoking ban.
- Uptown, 17th and Capp. Small neighborhood bar with artsy aging punk rockers and a relaxed attitude. Dogs and bicycles welcome.
- The Lexington Club Fun inviting rowdy lesbian crowd. Some of the bartenders are gorgeous.
- Elements Hostel, above Medjool restaurant.  has dormitory and private accommodations.
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