A Short Walk Along San Francisco’s Mission Street.
Recently, on a pleasant warm sunny day while strolling down Mission Street as it plunges through San Francisco’s Mission District, I thought about some of the changes that have occurred in the area since I first arrived there in 1970.
For those of you who may be reading this and have never visited the City or are unfamiliar with it, the Mission district is now the barrio of San Francisco. Originally a working class district, peopled mostly by Irish laborers and later a few of the italian immigrants that did not settle in and around North Beach, in the late sixties it began its conversion into the barrio as the previous residents moved into the suburbs.
Mission Street, the districts “main street,” I have watched evolve from the low-priced furniture store district and shops servicing the white working class accompanied by a collection of seedy bars and local restaurants, to markets and shops to serve the residents of the emerging barrio.
Then as now, because of the relatively low rents, the area attracted few upscale restaurants. In the 70′s my favorite was La Traviata an Italian restaurant, During the early 90′s Delfinia’s opened on 18th street. It became Julia Child’s favorite restaurant in the City. It remains one of the City’s best if not the best restaurant. At the same time, Valencia, a street running parallel to Mission exploded into a gourmet ghetto producing some of the City’s finest places to eat. During the late 90′s, some nightclubs and associated establishments began populating Mission Street itself.
From the early 1970′s until now, the Mission was renowned for its latin dance clubs. I sometimes used to go to Caesar’s Latin Palace owned by a man who was a perennial candidate for mayor, running essentially to eliminate the regulations that inhibited his plans for his establishment, like remaining open all night and things like that.
Once a famous bongo player from Cuba performed at the club and Francis Ford Coppola decided to make a documentary about the musician. The night they were filming the documentary, I went to the club with my daughter Jessica who was about 7 years old at the time and her mother. Jessica had been dressed, at her request, in an appropriate costume, including a turban on her head. While I danced with her mother, Jessica decided to put on her own performance on the dance floor. He dancing became so torrid that the film crew and the band invited her on to the stage and her impromptu dance was recorded as a significant portion of the documentary.
As I continued my walk, I noticed that a differently named dance hall replaced Caesar’s Palace. I wondered what had happened to Caesar. I was sure he’d had stopped running for mayor by now having never garnered more that a few hundred votes in any election. Almost as soon as that thought passed into my mind, pasted on the wall was a sign urging the citizens of the mission group to vote for him for mayor.
Good luck, Caesar.
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