Guide to Eating San Francisco's Mission District Bite by Glorious Bite
The Mission is one of the most eclectic and multicultural neighborhoods in the city, which makes it one of the most interesting to dine in (it isn't just burritos and tacos). Allow yourself plenty of time to walk up and down Valencia Street and 24th Street, two of the Mission's busiest streets, to take it all in. Consider riding a bike, since the neighborhood is flat and bike-friendly.
Foreign Cinema (2534 Mission St.)
One of the most atmospheric venues in the city, this Mission pioneer has a huge patio where films are screened on the back wall while you dine. The industrial chic interior still impresses after more than 15 years. The Cal-Med menu includes quality charcuterie, oysters, and their incredible fried chicken. The weekend brunch is one of the city’s best (they do magical things with eggs)and their Bloody Mary's have a cult following. www.foreigncinema.com
Dosa on Valencia (995 Valencia St.)
Explore the lighter cuisine of Southern India, which includes dosas (similar to a crepe) and uttapam (like a tangy pancake), fish and coconut and some incredible brunch items (like pani puri!). This spot is casual but urban, with a full bar, well-chosen wines and a California sensibility for quality ingredients. Dosa is a great option for vegetarians (try the okra and snap bean masala!) and people with allergies. www.dosasf.com
Lolinda (2518 Mission St.)
This spacious restaurant is built for groups and birthdays, and the dim lighting makes it right for a date, too. The Argentine steakhouse menu features a variety of meats and cuts from the grill (including the 26 oz "Gaucho" ribeye), with salads, Latin American small plates and good cocktails as well. www.lolindasf.com
Lolo (974 Valencia St.)
This lively Jalisco-style Mexican restaurant will hit you with a blast of color and playful décor. The cutting-edge cocktails then steal your attention, quickly followed by the inventive dishes made with seasonal and local ingredients, like the taco tropical, panko avocado taco, chicken tinga tostadas and tuna tacon. Brunch (vegetarian and gluten-free crispy chilaquiles anyone?) is also served Friday–Sunday.
La Taqueria (2889 Mission St.)
Anyone who comes to San Francisco and doesn’t experience one of the (off menu) “tacos dorados” at this benchmark taqueria is missing out. A crispy taco comes wrapped in a soft one, stuffed with your meat of choice. Get their superlative carnitas or carne asada, and whether you want it "super" or not is up to your appetite. Their atomic salsa verde is pure magic. Pro tip: You can also get any of their burritos“dorado” style as well.
Belmar Meat Market – La Gallinita (2989 24th St.)
If you want a true 24th Street experience, head to this Mission meat market that also serves tacos inside. The salsas are fiery and the meats are freshly cut (try the salty cecina and suadero). Try a trio of chorizo tacos and top them off yourself with condiments and salsa .
El Farolito (2779 Mission St)
Don't be surprised to find a line out the door at 2 a.m. at this Mission institution located right next to the 24th Street Bart station. Burritos, tacos and their special big fat super quesadilla "suiza" leave the crowds with full-bellied satisfaction. You can even get them served with a cold Tecate or giant margarita at the local dive bar of the same name next door.
Delfina (3621 18th St.)
A long standing San Francisco classic for Cal-Italian, you’ll find dishes that follow the Italian culinary ideology: simply prepared and letting the ingredients stand on their own. The spaghetti, trippa alla fiorentina (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!), and hanger steak are all local faves, but the seasonal dishes really shine. The city’s best panna cotta awaits at the end of your meal. Next door, you’ll find the much-adored Pizzeria Delfina (Neapolitan-style heaven), and on Valencia Street is Locanda, their Roman-inspired restaurant with a full bar.
Gracias Madre (2211 Valencia St.)
An organic, vegan Mexican restaurant is a dream for many, but one bite of the molé enchiladas (in housemade tortillas) should be enough to convince even the proudest carnivore, too. Same goes for the butternut squash quesadilla. The space is casual, with big wood chairs and tables, which is where you’ll be sharing the dulce de leche “ice cream” for dessert.
Californios (3115 Mission St.)
For those looking for one of the city’s up-and-coming gems, Californios is the ticket. This intimate and stylish restaurant features a modern tasting menu, highlighting ingredients and inspiration from Mexico and California. The multi-course menu is $97 and offers quite the exciting seasonal culinary journey, both playful and serious. Wine pairings are a smart choice since you won’t know what’s coming next—the menu is a surprise.
Wise Sons Deli (3150 24th St.)
Anyone craving superlative matzo ball soup, chopped liver or pastrami on rye needs to come to this Mission deli with everything made in-house. Dishes like pastrami cheese fries, pastrami and eggs, and their patty melt (with pastrami ground into the patty) will keep you returning. Open all day, brunch is popular, too.
Tacolicious (741 Valencia St.)
This is a Valencia Street spot that’s popular with a younger crowd (it gets boisterous - especially around happy hour). Weekend brunch is also a scene. Tacolicious offers well-crafted margaritas to go with a variety of tacos (like beef short rib, Baja-style fried Pacific cod, or potato and chorizo), chile con queso and other playful Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes.
Flour and Water (2401 Harrison St)
Wood-fired pizza and handmade pasta (from eggplant tortellini to hen polpettini) are the heart of the menu at this simple yet stylish Italy-meets-Northern California eatery. Pasta making classes and culinary education events happen frequently here, and a variety of private dining options, including the dough room and the central kitchen butchers block, let you watch your meal being prepared, while you down fine Italian vino and awesome antipasto. www.flourandwater.com
Central Kitchen (3000 20th St)
Locally sourced plates (which are meant to be shared family style) have created a devoted following for this Mission superstar. Stand-outs include the sea salt roasted whole chicken, with sides including charred summer squash with yogurt and black garlic. Start things off with a craft cocktail and the house-made sourdough loaf, served with cultured butter. For some serious indulgence, do the California vs. France wine dinner menu, where not one but two glasses of wine come with each course. www.centralkitchensf.com