Clarion Alley / Photographs by Brian Stechschulte
San Francisco’s Mission District is easily one of the best neighborhoods in the Bay Area to find great craft beer and food. A diverse range of bars, cafes and restaurants reside within a walkable mile, appealing to all personalities and palates. Some locales offer overflowing beer menus with sophisticated food, or you can grab a simple slice of pizza with a pint. There are plenty of options and this eclectic guide is designed to help the uninitiated or be the playbook for your next big bar crawl.
It features seven of the most unique venues this cultural nexus has to offer. Locations were chosen for their focus on craft beer and food pairing options, atmosphere and proximity to one another. You could hit them all on a single day or visit just a handful of stops while browsing book stores and vintage furniture shops along the way.
We suggest exploring the neighborhood on foot via the 16th or 24th Street BART stations and most importantly, be adventurous.
806 South Van Ness Avenue (map), Mon-Sat 5:30pm-10:30pm, (415) 824-1800
Sometimes an evening calls for a classic grungy bar with a good tap list and head thrashing live music. You can find this at Bender’s Bar & Grill along with a biker friendly crowd and a few other quirks, like the “adult” gumball machine serving surprises best used in the privacy of their photo booth. Bottom line, this place is filled with personality, a couple pool tables, a nice range of beer, and if you’re hungry, wrap your hands around the Bender’s burger with bacon and whiskey folded into the patty. Oh, and you can store your bike right inside the bar.
736 Valencia Street (map), 11am-8pm daily, (415) 553-8667
Sorry wine lovers, beer is far superior pairing with cheese. Don’t believe me? Then go to Mission Cheese and nibble on some Bohemian Blue while sipping Brother Thelonious from North Coast Brewing. Yes, they only offer six beers to choose from, but the varied selection will allow you to explore a range of flavor harmonies. You can pair your beer with a flight of cheese, have it served on a sandwich, or try their decadent mac and cheese. Want to create your own pairings at home? No problem, all the cheese is available for retail sales.
3141 16th Street (map), 12pm-2am daily, (415) 865-9523
It’s safe to say that Monk’s Kettle is at the top of the heap when it comes to beer selection and delicious food. Twenty-five taps round out the draught selection and you can choose from a new and vintage bottle menu that’s several pages long. Once you’ve chosen a beer consider pairing it with a Bone Marrow Canoe, Braised Beef Cheeks or the Pan Roasted Halibut. If you feel a little bit lost, don’t hesitate to ask the well educated staff or in-house cicerone for advice. This place is very popular, so plan on waiting for a dinner table and your wallet will be much lighter when you leave, but it’s totally worth it.
1432 Valencia St (map), 3:14pm-12am daily, (415) 970-9670
At 3:14pm every day the doors open at this family friendly pizza joint offering twelve beers on tap and an extensive list of mostly Belgian bottles. Pizza is available by the slice with any number of toppings or you can order a large pie to enjoy with friends. Forgo the traditional red sauce on your pizza and order the White Pi covered with Mozzarella, Ricotta and Reggiano Parmesan cheese.
2832 Mission Street (map), 11:30am-10pm daily, (415) 970-9015
Beer and sausage is a classic pairing and Rosamunde serves traditional and exotic options with over twenty-five different draught beers. Long wooden tables and benches occupy the indoor and patio spaces where you can sit in large groups and enjoy a game on the big screen. Consider trying the Merguez (spicy lamb & beef), the Mission Street (beef wrapped in bacon) or Chicken Habanero sausage.
3349 20th Street (map), Mon-Sat 4:30pm-2pm; Sun 4pm-1pm, (415) 648-4104
History oozes out of the dark paneling, chandeliers and antique bar that makes Shotwell’s so inviting. A watering hole has existed at this location in various forms for over one hundred years. The current owners wrestled it back to life in 2006 and offer a menu that’s focused on local and Belgian beer. The atmosphere more then makes up for the lack of food (yes, we broke the guide criteria), but if you do get hungry, ask the bartender for the menu from Schmidt’s. The German restaurant around the corner is happy to deliver their fare.
2140 Mission Street (map), 12pm-12am daily, (415) 252-7704
If you’re looking for a solid craft beer selection and simple comfort food, then consider heading to The Sycamore. This rustic and cozy spot serves up sandwiches and sliders alongside seven taps and a small but diverse bottle list. On Saturday and Sunday the place is hopping during brunch and if it’s sunny and warm, grab a beer and head to the graffitied oasis in the backyard. When it comes to food, order the secret menu burger stuffed between two slabs of grilled cheese. It’s so dangerous it doesn’t have a name. Big groups are encouraged to linger, chat and play one of the available board games, so don’t feel rushed.