The Mission has some of the best restaurants and bars in San Francisco, but you don’t want your bank calling you every time you come here to eat, no matter how good the cocktails are or how far in advance you made a reservation to try some pasta. That’s why we love heading here for lunch - even if the options aren’t necessarily less expensive, you’re probably going to order less because no one has time for a five-course sit down meal while the sun is still out.
Whether you’re on your lunch hour or just want to take a quick break from Dolores, these are the best spots in the Mission to go for lunch.
When you want to eat lunch alone, Media Noche is a great place to do it. They have a decent amount of bar seating, so you don’t have to worry about getting a table, but more importantly, you’ll be able to enjoy your cubano sandwich uninterrupted. The cool tile and turquoise around this place make it feel kind of beachy, so if you’re looking to unwind a little before heading back to work, just looking around the space should help a bit.
If a sleepwalking mosaic artist came into Stonemill Matcha at night and broke all the cups to use as tiles in his or her work, we would still come here just for lunch. Not because we don’t care about drinking matcha, theirs is good, but the food is worth coming here for alone. The pork gyoza are great, and so is the matchazuke salmon served in matcha dashi, but the best thing here is the pork katsu sandwich. It can be a little tough to get seats, so coming with less people is definitely better than more.
Mau is a great spot for a casual weeknight dinner, but if it’s raining and years of Campbell’s advertising has conditioned you to want soup for lunch, this is where you should go. Their pho ga is the chicken soup you’ll wish you had as a kid home sick from school, but the real thing to get is the vegetarian bun bo hue, with spicy vegetable broth, mushrooms, tofu, pineapple, and thick noodles. If you want something small to snack on while you wait, get the five spice quail or bi chon chay with mushrooms and roasted rice.
There are sandwiches and there are sandwiches, and the salumi sandwich from Salumeria is definitely the latter. This is ciabatta piled with different types of cured pork, aioli, pepperonata, and red wine vinaigrette - it’s fancy enough that if you saw one of these at Don Giovani wearing those funny glasses, you wouldn’t be that surprised. Fortunately, you don’t need to go to the opera to get this, you can just drop in here for lunch instead.
There are great burritos scattered all over the Mission, but we’ll come here for a carnitas burrito or some overstuffed carne asada tacos anytime. If it’s been a slow morning though, our favorite thing here is actually the chorizo and egg breakfast burrito that they serve all day.
You can come here for a large plate of chicken tikka masala during lunch hours, but our choice while the sun is still out is to get an order of momos and call it a day. Both the chicken and vegetable versions are great, and the portions are large enough to hold you over until dinner.
Barzotto is where we go for lunch if we want to catch up with someone we haven’t seen in a while. This place feels like a sit down lunch spot, even though it’s all counter service. Plus, letting someone eat some of your pasta is the best way to get them to feel like they owe you a story. Load up on bucatini with pork and tomato ragu, and do your best to listen to them talk about how they changed from a sales role to a sales management role without spilling any sauce on yourself.
The Mission is full of great food that you can only get in the Mission, but that doesn’t erase the fact that sometimes it’s just a Souvla kind of day. It’s easy to stop into this Greek spot and know exactly what you’re going to have with no chance of anything going haywire. Get some lamb and juicy potatoes, and if the day also calls for it, order a frozen Greek yogurt and pick it up on the way out the door. You’ve made enough decisions today, and sometimes the easiest choice is the best one.
Most of the time, you’ll find us in line here early in the morning for bread and pastries, but they also serve amazing lunch at Tartine Bakery. You’ll have to wait in line, same as breakfast, but it’ll make the sandwich you get that much more incredible. Skip the open-faced croque monsieur and go straight for the grilled cheese instead.
Mission Cheese functions just as well for a quick solo lunch as it does for something longer, larger, and probably featuring a few glasses of wine. Get a fancier than average grilled cheese (we’re partial to the California Gold), or go big with a cheese flight if lunch is more an occasion to graze than anything else. The knowledgeable staff always has great recommendations, and if you’ve got nothing vital happening in the afternoon, they can recommend wine to go along with your board.
The long beer list is the number one reason to go to Monk’s Kettle, but if you were hoping to sit outside for a while, getting lunch here is a great call. They make a solid veggie burger and an even better beef version with good fries to go with either.
This is more of a quick stop than an afternoon hangout, but that doesn’t make Pica Pica any less worth coming to. One of these giant corn pockets filled with meat and plantains is more than enough to hold you over. The shredded beef arepa is your best bet, but if you want to try a few, they make smaller ones you can order in sets of three.
Torta Gorda is a heavy hitter. The tortas are indeed fat, especially the ridiculous Mega Cubana, and they are also delicious. It’s a simple space, with some counter seats inside and some picnic tables out back. We usually go with the rajas con queso or the carne asada. Get napkins. A lot of them.
Mission Picnic is an ideal spot to pick up a sandwich or a salad before heading to Dolores for an afternoon of sunshine and trying to hear your music over everyone else’s. We like the kale caesar and cobb salads, and the sandwiches are spot on too - the pollo pesto and smoked salmon are both good options.
We’re going to say it, El Castillito has our favorite burrito in San Francisco. The tortilla is magic, the cheese inside is melty, and the meat (especially the al pastor) is close to perfection. If you’re looking for a Mission burrito, this is the place.
Going to Farmhouse Kitchen for dinner is a little like eating at a New Year’s party, with khao soi instead of pigs in a blanket, but lunch is different. Not completely different - it’s calmer, but the food is still great and the smaller menu still has some of our favorites, like the Thai sausage and their monstrous beef short rib. But if you’re getting it to go, noodles are the right choice, and we especially like the pad see ew.
Papalote Mexican Grill
Slightly corporate compared to some of the other burrito options, but one of the better chicken burritos in town. On the taco side, the shrimp is where it’s at. Don’t scrimp on saucing up your food - Papalote’s salsas are fantastic.
Burma Love for lunch feels a little businessy, so coming here for lunch with coworkers is pretty ideal. Split a tea leaf salad with the group while you talk about whomever didn’t make it that day, and don’t forget to get the mint chicken. A lot of things here are light, so you won’t have any issues sitting back behind a desk for a few hours immediately afterwards.
We love Pakwan because it’s cheap and reliable for great Indian-Pakistani food. Order the tandoori chicken or lamb biryani, and revel in the fact that you’re getting a lot to eat and will have some change left over to put into your fund for whatever you’re saving up for, like a police scanner or a custom pug doormat.