Editor’s note: I lived in the beautiful city of San Francisco for about 15 years before we headed just a bit north just last year. SF has so many neighborhoods with their own very strong identities, that it’s impossible for me to do my adopted hometown justice with just one or two articles. I’ve decided to highlight my city via individual neighborhood guides, relying on a local expert to tell us what makes their hood amazing. First up – La Lengua!
(CORRECTION: I mistakenly referred to this hood initially as the “Outer Mission”, but upon discussing the accuracy of the location of this blog post with a born-and-raised San Franciscan, I was informed that the specific part featured in this piece is actually called “La Lengua”, named for the tongue-shaped neighborhood that hugs the border of Bernal and Noe Valley that holds many of the same characteristics of the Mission District. #themoreyouknow)
Meet Erin Archuleta, who – along with her husband, Tim (pictured) – owns neighborhood sushi bar ICHI, located on 29th Street in the Mission/Bernal neighborhood of San Francisco. The Mission District (which, honestly, has several sub-districts within itself) is known best for its ethnic diversity, including a large Hispanic community, and its spirit is evident by the vibrant murals, festivals, and variety of shops and restaurants scattered among artist spaces and community centers. Today we’re focusing on the Outer Mission – an area of SF that is often missed by tourists unless they know someone who lives in or loves the area!
Tell us about your restaurant, ICHI!
EA: We’re a neighborhood sushi bar and Edo-Mae style Japanese restaurant. We’ve been around since 2010 and moved to a larger (current) location in 2013. We’re on one of the most vibrant blocks in the Mission/Bernal neighborhood at the corner of 29th and Mission Streets. We’ve been lucky enough to win some culinary awards and we love serving our community.
What do you love about this neighborhood?
EA: We love that it’s diverse, inclusive, packed with families and artists and musicians. It has something to offer all.
Besides your restaurant (obviously), what are your favorite places in the Mission to grab a bite?
- The Blue Plate — Fifteen years and going strong, this San Francisco house restaurant is a darling featuring modern American cuisine. Don’t miss the small plates, even if you order their famous meatloaf. And save room for the coconut cream pie.
- El Buen Comer — A family-run Mexican restaurant that recently opened with the support of the beloved food incubator, La Cocina, there’s something so special about their Mexico City style cuisine and homemade tortillas.
- The Front Porch — Southern Cuisine at its finest! And, while I can’t get enough of their Dr. Pepper-braised short ribs, their vegan mains shine. Great cocktails and familiar Southern beer.
- Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack — Spaghetti! Meatballs! The best sparkly vinyl booths for your big group and a super-fun rock n’ roll soundtrack. Come hungry, leave happy.
- Old Bus Tavern — A small brewery that has some truly fine craft beers and Southwestern cuisine. It’s got a hip, fun vibe and a well-crafted cocktail list. Great for dates.
- BEL — Belgian food and beers are front and center here. There’s a huge beer list and an opportunity to explore fine and rare sips. Moules Frites are so great with pals over a sports game!
- PizzaHacker — I’m so addicted to the crust at PizzaHacker, it may be the reason I add two extra miles to my running routine each week. Don’t miss the Intermezzo salad, it really shows off California produce. Fun to dine in and available for takeout.
What are your favorite shopping spots?
EA: Home to more than 60 independent and local artists, curator Eden Stein has built a home for Bay Area artists at Secession Art & Design. This gallery consistently wins Best of the Bay and it’s easy to see why — there’s a regular series of events and artist talks. Affordable jewelry, clothing, baby and child-friendly items, and specialty arts make this a souvenir stop.
Vinyl addicts rule at the cooperative record store Thrillhouse Records. It’s like your best friend’s basement above ground. Run by folks who know their stuff, they’re always happy to make a recommendation.
Aimee Friberg curates fine artists at CULT gallery. Look for her weekend shows, she’s had provocative tastemakers from around the globe.
A Ben Davis and Carhartt retailer, all the old skool skaters get their wares at Arik’s Surplus Co.
Eating and shopping aside, what else is their to do in the Mission-Bernal neighborhood?
EA: We’re a haven for cocktail lovers — In our neighborhood there are some stellar cocktail bars:
- The Royal Cuckoo — A quaint little bar with a great back patio, a player organ where famous Blue Note session musicians sit in and play on the weekends. A great cocktail date spot.
- El Rio — One of best gay dance parties in the city happens here — Hard French. It’s a live music venue that books great punk rock and local groups. There’s an enormous back yard which makes it perfect for large gatherings.
- Virgil’s Sea Room — Cocktails and DJs are front and center here. A great place to dance and meet up with friends or make new ones!
- Iron & Gold — Has the coziest fireplace in its back room, there are board games on hand to keep you busy and to make new pals. This is a real neighborhood regulars place.
- Rock Bar — Cocktails are the focus here, with a large library of specialty libations. The owners families have a history in the mining industry and it shows in the decor. If you’re looking for a quirky special place for a great drink — this is it.
- Old Devil Moon — A brand new and much-anticipated addition to our neighborhood, an occult-themed beer bar that welcomes all. Get your fortune told and get a sampler of unique brews.
EA: We also have one of the biggest hills with the best 360 degree views of the city — Bernal Heights Park. To locals, you can just ask to be pointed in the direction of “Bernal Hill.” We’re often sunny when much of the city is covered in fog. I love to bring my pup up top where she can run and play with her other pooch pals. There’s even a resident neighborhood coyote! (He’s not aggressive, but don’t get too close.) This is a Snapchat selfie destination, for sure.
Lastly, do you have any insider tips, secret spots, or final notes about your neighborhood that you’d want to share?
EA: While our neighborhood technically ends at Randall Street, hang a left up Cortland Ave. and cruise the sweet shops that line the two-mile stretch:
Once you crest the hill, you’ll come up on Heartfelt, a special gift boutique and local clothing store across the street.
331 Cortland is where we were born! It’s a food incubator that houses everything from a Jewish Deli to Piroshkis.
Succulence nursery and gardens specializing in drought-resistant wonders houses everything you’d want for a do-it-yourself terrarium. I’ve made a few with their expert assistance to give as gifts.
Epicurean Trader has local and specialty culinary items to stock any chef’s kitchen gloriously.
Good Life Grocery is an organic stop if you’re traveling and want to cook for yourself one night.
And, Bernal Beast is where you can nab a gift for Fido so he’s not so sad you’ve left him behind.
Thanks so much for this fantastic trip through your hood, Erin! Keep up with ICHI sushi on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, and keep up with Erin on her website and Instagram account. Do you have any favorites to recommend in the Mission/Bernal neighborhood of SF? Leave them in the comments below!
Photo credits: Frisco photo (Michael Mees/CC), Erin & Tim Archuleta photo and ICHI interior photos (ichidozo restaurant group), El Buen Comer (restaurant website), Secession (via Facebook), Virgil’s Sea Room (website), Bernal Heights Park (cjmartin/CC),