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36 Hours in San Francisco
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FOR much of the 1990s, San Francisco’s Mission District maintained a precarious balance between its colorful Latino roots and a gritty bohemian subculture. Then came the overfed dot-com years. Rising real estate prices not only threatened the Mission’s working-class enclave, but also its status as the city’s center of all things edgy and artsy. Sleek bars moved next door to divey taquerias. Boutiquey knick-knack shops came in alongside fusty dollar stores. But prosperity did not sap the district of its cultural eclecticism. With a population that is about half Latino, a third white and an estimated 11 percent Asian, the Mission still remains a wonderful mishmash. Where else can you find epicurean vegan cafes, feisty nonprofits and a Central American butcher shop that, for a memorable time, anyway, had women’s undergarments in the window?

Friday

4 p.m.
1) ILLICIT TEA

It’s one thing to operate a pirate radio station, with foul-mouthed D.J.’s hopping from rooftop to rooftop to hide the transmitter. But the ever-defiant Pirate Cat Radio went and opened a cafe (2781 21st Street; 415-341-1199; www.piratecatradio.com). Now you can stick it to the man over a spot of tea or vegan donuts. The grungy décor and sparse offerings are true to pirate form — the fun lies in watching the illicit broadcasts through the smudged window.

6:30 p.m.
2) EAT WITH THE FISHES

Don’t let the trendiness fool you: the food at Weird Fish (2193 Mission Street; 415-863-4744; www.weirdfishsf.com) is actually terrific. Situated on chaotic Mission Street, this guppy-sized spot serves inspired dishes like sweet-and-spicy rainbow trout ($8), sautéed tilapia ($8) and something called the Suspicious Fish Dish (varies). Even the blackened catfish ($8), novel enough on its own in these parts, gets a bright makeover with fruit salsa. There are excellent vegan options, too, from yam, avocado and spinach tacos ($5) to pea shoots with ginger and soy sauce ($4). There’s often a line, but you can wait outside on the street, enjoying that singular pleasure of sipping wine beside a bus stop, which serves as Weird Fish’s de facto lounge.

8 p.m.
3) ACTING OUT

On a good Friday night, the neighborhood is theatrical in its own right. For more distilled drama, catch a performance at the Marsh (1062 Valencia Street; 415-826-5750; www.themarsh.org), a small theater devoted to small stagings. Award-winning productions have included “Squeezebox” and “Tings Dey Happen,” a one-man show about Nigerian oil politics. Seating is first come, first served, so buy tickets in advance ($8 to $50) and arrive early.

10 p.m.
4) HOT DIGGITY

It can seem that one hears indie rock or Mexican polka in the Mission, and little else. But the Savanna Jazz Club (2937 Mission Street; 415-285-3369; www.savannajazz.com) has live sets every night but Monday in its cozy, New Orleans-style room. Cover, $5 to $10. When the last chord is struck and you’re still longing for something late-night and local, discover the bacon dog craze on your walk home. Vendors sell them — a food best consumed in the dark — on the sidewalk along Mission.
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