We took to some of SF’s most explosive, art-filled, musical streets to uncover seven worthwhile locations to visit in the city. Here is the inside scoop on all things culture, food, shopping and more! v
Paxton Gate — 824 Valencia ST.
Upon stepping inside this spacious store, we were awed by the unusual and curious sights before us.
Decorated with taxidermied animal heads mounted on the tall walls and glass jars hosting waterlogged creatures suspended in murky water, Paxton Gate entices the most curious and iron-stomached visitors of the Mission District.
Troughs and bookshelves packed with oddities of the natural world like dried sea stars, geodes, vibrantly colored butterflies in glass frames, turtle shells and much more fill the large main room of the unique shop. Founded in 1992, Paxton Gate is the brainchild of owner Sean Quigley. One of the main goals of the establishment is to provide ethically sourced taxidermy and other animal items sold in the store.
As stated on their website, one of the company’s philosophies is to “source items that have either died of natural causes or were otherwise trapped and euthanized in humane ways.” For a unique gift, room decoration, keychain item or just for an unforgettable browsing experience, do not miss Paxton Gate.
Mission Pie — 2901 Mission ST.
Jutting out from a street corner across from a vibrant wall covered in art lies Mission Pie, a cafe committed to offering locally sourced produce and seasonal food. We were surprised to find an ample selection of healthy snacks and beverages at what we assumed was a pie-specific shop, with items ranging from organic yogurt parfaits to hard-boiled eggs. The crown jewels of the store, however, were displayed in a glass case upon a three-tiered shelf: over nine types of pies, varying in sizes, crusts and fillings.
At $4.85 a slice, the double crusted apple and chocolate cream were our flavors of choice. While the apple pie was disappointingly not served warm, the crust had a unique texture with melted sugar crystals along the edges. The chocolate, with its smooth and rich filling, managed to be sweet but not overwhelming. On our behind-the-counter tour of the kitchen, we were offered two more types of pie to try: banana cream (their best seller) and pear raspberry.
According to front-of-house personnel manager Kitty Griffin, over the past 12 years, Mission Pie transformed from a one-window sliver of a room to the entire bottom floor of the building. From providing a fresh and healthy menu to hosting an internship program for local teens to sourcing produce from local farms, Mission Pie has a strong focus on giving back to their community in more ways than just yummy treats.
“We always try to focus on maintaining the loyalty with the customers who have been here for years,” Griffin says. “So we do our best to keep our prices down, to make food affordable and accessible to everyone.”
“We always try to focus on maintaining the loyalty with the customers who have been here for years. So we do our best to keep our prices down, to make food affordable and accessible to everyone.” — Kitty Griffin
Urban Putt — 1096 South Van Ness AVE.
A cashier drops gold tokens into our hands and points us in the direction of a neon golf ball dispenser. Placing the coins inside the turnstile, we watch mesmerized as a fluorescent sphere travels around the winding pipes of its container. Rather than just being handed a putter and golf ball, the process of getting our supplies, like everything at Urban Putt, is interactive.
Located in a historic Victorian building, Urban Putt prides itself on being the first and only indoor mini-golf course in San Francisco. With sound effects, blacklights, smoke machines and detailed decorations at each hole, this golfing adventure engages all five of the senses, even taste and smell, thanks to [email protected] Putt, the full-service restaurant located upstairs.
Each hole is themed differently, from “Under the Sea” to historic events such as the San Francisco earthquake of 1905. Most of the holes have moving parts and offer hands-on activities for putters to participate in, making them not only enjoyable for kids but entertaining for adults as well.
The 14-step course took about an hour to finish, but we could have easily spent another 30 minutes redoing the holes we liked the most — it was that captivating.
Pirate Supply Store — 826 Valencia ST.
The strangely specific Pirate Supply Store located at 826 Valencia Street really is there for all your swashbuckling needs. The store’s theme was immediately apparent, with waves painted on the windows and a friendly octopus hugging a street sign. The space is somewhat cramped with all the treasures for sale, but the shop still gives off a welcoming, beachy vibe.
Drawers are filled with countless pirate necessities, from maps to spare peg legs. Some highlights include shark hats hanging from the ceiling and a mirror with a long beard glued to it for photo shoots.
The Pirate Supply Store is in fact a part of 862 Valencia, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping under-resourced students tap into their writing skills. With two writing center locations and three satellite classrooms in the surrounding SF area, the organization supports both students and teachers with their writing curricula. All sale proceeds go toward 826 Valencia’s various writing and teaching programs.
If you ever find yourself planning a pirate-themed birthday party or if you would just like to sit in a petite theater to watch fish swim around their tank, we highly recommend this unique location. Plus, you will be supporting a good cause in the process.
1-2-3-4 Go! Records — 1038 Valencia ST.
A simple store layout allows customers to focus on what is most important in this shop — the vinyl records. Organized by genre and alphabetized by title, what seems like over a hundred crates of records line the walls and tables organized in the center of 1-2-3-4 Go! Records.
As the nostalgia-evoking soundtrack from “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” plays over loudspeakers, quiet patrons thumb through thousands of records for sale. From full albums boasting nearly 20 tracks to small records hosting one song per side, the versatility of music for sale is endless.
Not to mention, records exist for modern music of various genres in addition to old classics, according to clerk Krystl Johnson.
“There are top 40 artists that are pressing on vinyl as well,” Johnson says.
Jam packed with acoustic gems for all music lovers, 1-2-3-4 Go! Records is an essential part of any day trip in the Mission District.
Grand Coffee — 2663 Mission ST.
Walking down Mission Street, there is no shortage of stimuli for the senses. From speakers projecting Bible verses read in Spanish, vibrant oranges stacked in neat heaps outside of markets or psychedelic murals with intricate designs, residents and visitors are treated to a beautiful day in the city.
Nestled between Sun Fat Seafood and a painted rendition of Nelson Mandela, Grand Coffee is a sliver of a cafe. With most of the single room occupied by glass-protected pastries, coffee-making equipment, tall tables hugging a decorated wall and a plethora of bright and eye-catching artwork, the space is one of a kind and, well, cozy.
Not only does this cafe offer no shortage of novelties to marvel at on walls and the ceiling, the main attraction are the edible components for sale. Their iced vanilla latte is delicious, and our barista was extremely friendly, greeting us as we walked through the door and chatted with us about our day as he made our coffee.
Grand Coffee’s well decorated space and well made drinks were unique and won’t be forgotten easily by any who stop by for a bite to eat or a place to hang out.
“Grand Coffee’s well decorated space and well made drinks were unique and won’t be forgotten easily by any who stop by for a bite to eat or a place to hang out.”
Afterlife Boutique — 988 Valencia ST.
Entering Afterlife is like entering the heaven of vintage boutiques after a lifelong purgatory of boring clothes and fast fashion. Packed with so many absolute gems in the form of tops, pants, jackets, bags, accessories, shoes and more, there is admittedly little space to move around. But once you’ve gone in the lack of navigable space feels more like a cozy and slightly cluttered home that you never want to step foot out of again.
Surrounded by quirky pieces that require one to look at each and every item for sale at least twice, the stimulating and inspiring space is packed full of both kind employees dressed to the nines and other starry-eyed shoppers. Upon entry, the bustling Mission district screeches to a halt, and time ceases to exist as you lose yourself in slightly pricey but wholly worthwhile clothes.
We highly enjoyed the boutique’s odd collection of old-timey sunglasses, fur coats hanging from the walls, and plentiful selection of colorful patches and pins at the register. After digging through piles of vintage graphic tees and mismatched shoes, we left with a small green waterproof backpack and a light blue crop top with a rainbow “Hawaii” print in hand, for a total of $22.