A local's guide to nightlife in the Mission, San Francisco

As the sun goes down, the Mission warms up. Annie Kamin, chief of staff at small-batch bean-to-bar craft chocolate maker Dandelion Chocolate, offers an inside look at the restaurants and bars that make the area the unrivalled go-to for a dinner and drink.

By Annie Kamin
Published 5 Nov 2020, 08:12 GMT
Bon, Nene

Bon, Nene, pictured, serves Japanese cuisine with a French twist in the Mission.

Photograph by Andria Lo

1. Bon, Nene

My favourite neighbourhood restaurant, Bon, Nene, is a small, cosy spot with an open kitchen that serves Japanese cuisine with French accents. There’s an intimate feel, interesting food and it’s a bit off the beaten path. Don’t miss the chicken karaage (Japanese deep-fried chicken with spicy mayo). Be warned, there’s generally a longer wait on weekend evenings (it doesn’t take reservations) but the warm service and comforting and creative food more than makes it totally worth it.

2. 20 Spot

With its great selection of Californian and European wines and delicious food, this wine bar is a real favourite. The servers at 20 Spot are extremely knowledgeable and friendly and make excellent recommendations on food pairings — you can start off with a glass of wine and end up there for hours. There’s a very relaxed vibe, too, with customers turning up in anything from a vintage Yves Saint Laurent dress to the unofficial neighbourhood uniform of a hoodie and jeans. 

3. Elixir

Elixir is the second-oldest continuously operating saloon in San Francisco, dating back to 1858. The atmosphere is inviting, funky and not at all pretentious, which is amazing given the fact these bartenders make some of the best cocktails in the city. Order the five spice old fashioned — sesame-infused Japanese whisky, honey syrup, homemade five-spice bitters and an orange twist. It’s a great spot on Tuesday nights, when it hosts a classic San Francisco trivia game.

4. Doc’s Clock

Doc's Clock is a classic Mission dive bar with an interesting history: it opened in 1951 as The Clock Tavern; a dentist bought it a decade later and added ‘Doc’ to the name. You won’t miss the bar as there’s a huge, iconic sign that reads ‘Cocktail Time’ above the entrance. As for what to order, go for a shot of mezcal and Tecate, or any other ‘shot and beer’ combo. Alternatively, try Fernet, an aromatic spirit. If you’re really cool, go for an Underberg, a digestif bitter, before you leave. Don’t miss the shuffleboard table, either — it’s fun to play, or you can watch locals’ competitive streaks come out in ‘friendly’ competitions.

Dandelion Chocolate offers factory tours, truffle-making classes, evening events and more

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Published in the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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