Artisans flourish in San Francisco’s Mission Creek
In a neighborhood that’s been home to manufacturing, a new wave of bakers, printers and foodies settle happily in.
The New York Times
Northwest travel guides
The newly coined Mission Creek neighborhood in San Francisco’s northeast Mission District has long been home to light industrial manufacturing. But lately Mission Creek has become a creative hub for local goods, and unlike in many fast-changing areas of the city, the new arrivals here have so far stayed true to the area’s roots: It’s a place where people make things.
Which is to say that this is a neighborhood where men are comfortable in aprons — whether they’re running a letterpress, tending bar or operating a circular saw on the sidewalk. Alongside older businesses with names like Western Plywood, you’ll find a gorgeous factory and retail shop for Heath Ceramics (2900 18th St.; 415-361-5552; heathceramics.com), which opened in June 2012. Luminous afternoon light slants in through the high windows in the cavernous, concrete-floored building, which once housed a former linen supply and laundry; you can watch tiles being made daily, browse housewares in the soaring showroom, and hang out in the Blue Bottle Coffee cafe or reading nook. A gallery space recently showcased an exhibit of sleek, one-of-a-kind ceramic wall clocks, designed in collaboration with artists including Jeff Canham and Roger Herman.
Heath also leases space to James Tucker and Risa Culbertson, who opened the Aesthetic Union (555 Alabama St.; 732-822-4693; theaestheticunion.com), a letterpress studio and stationery shop selling cards, posters, notebooks and vintage print items, in December. Tucker operates two massive Heidelberg presses behind the wood counter, while Culbertson makes block-printed stationery under the name PapaLlama.
“This area has historically been manufacturing warehouses and artist live-work spaces,” Tucker said. “It feels like a family in this building.”
In a city full of shiny new condos, the fact that this area still has buildings zoned for industrial and manufacturing use also makes it easier for artisans to set up shop. Last year, the longtime San Francisco chocolatier Chuck Siegel took over the old Potrero Brewing Co. space and opened the 7,600-square-foot factory and cafe of Charles Chocolates (535 Florida St.; 415-659-8770; charleschocolates.com). Like Heath, there’s a retail showroom with open observation windows into production areas; the sweets factory also offers tours and guided tastings of five different handmade chocolates (including the classic fleur de sel caramel), afternoon tea and a “pastry happy hour” at 6 p.m., when all pastries are half off (try the Meyer lemon white chocolate tart).
The superstars behind the buzzy, beloved pizzeria Flour + Water, known for its delicate house-made pastas, inventive pies and excellent but laid-back service, last May opened Central Kitchen (3000 20th St.; 415-826-7004; centralkitchensf.com), a rustic indoor-outdoor restaurant spotlighting the best of Northern California ingredients — seafood, poultry, cheese, seasonal produce — and Salumeria (salumeriasf.com), an attached deli that makes pork fennel sausage and other cured meats. The chef and owners are longtime Mission residents — on the website, the restaurant describes itself as “of, by, and for the neighborhood” — and source produce and other goods nearby whenever possible. Next door is Trick Dog (3010 20th St.; 415-471-2999; trickdogbar.com), a signless new drinking establishment by the San Francisco bar-genius team the Bon Vivants, offering carefully calibrated cocktails and an industrial aesthetic of Edison bulbs, light fixtures with gears and frosted warehouse windows.
Perhaps the best example of this new/old zeitgeist is Local Mission Market (2670 Harrison St.; 415-795-3355; localmissionmarket.com): Unless it’s raw, the grocery store makes every baguette, sausage, pasta, olive, mustard and pickle it sells from scratch, in-house.
“From the very large to the very small, we do it all” is the motto of a co-owner, Yaron Milgrom, for the market.
It could be the neighborhood’s, too.