A guide to Mission restaurants is a daunting prospect. There’s more variety than if Vegas and Epcot had a child, and aside from the strength in numbers, a ton of the places are great. So how can you make a guide to the city’s most restaurant-happy neighborhood? By trimming the list down to the ones that are unmissable in their own way, or representative of what can be found if you take a deeper look. Now go forth and explore them all.
It’d be tough to find another restaurant like Mr. Pollo in San Francisco. Two guys run the place, there are only eight seats for customers, and you get four courses for $30, all served out of an old chicken shack that looks like a garage band set up a restaurant. The portions are big, the arepas are great, and you’ll leave thinking about who you should come here with next.
True Laurel definitely has a laid back feel to it, but this bar takes its drinks very seriously and uses things like pine tips and orgeat syrup in their great cocktails. Come here with a date before dinner or with a cocktail-obsessed friend to make your way through the menu. They also serve bar bites, but they’re not as good as the drinks.
As a child, you probably imagined living in a house that was your favorite color. In the garage was a car of the same color and everything you ate was the same shade as your mailbox that shared a pantone with your bedroom shades. If your favorite color was green, you can at least live out the food portion of that childhood dream at Stonemill Matcha. They have a large selection of matcha drinks, from lattes to cold brew to the hand-whisked variety if you’re a hardcore matcha drinker. Stonemill also serves matcha pastries and larger items, like a solid katsu sandwich, if you want a full meal.
Dancing Yak makes great Nepali food and most everything on the menu is good for sharing with a friend or two. It’s one of our favorite places in the area for a casual weeknight dinner, but it’s totally acceptable to just stop in for some chicken momos, too.
Not a bar for dinner, but if you’re going to be eating at Trick Dog, do it late night and get a trick dog. As for the cocktails, the menu changes every so often, but odds are whatever you get will be delicious - sort of like when you got a mystery Dum Dum at the doctor’s office as a kid, but alcoholic and you know what’s in it up front.
You come here for pupusas, and the ones at Panchita’s are great. Thick corn cakes with meat and cheese oozing out of them - it’s not the lightest lunch ever, but you’ll be set for a while. We like the chicken, but no matter which filling you get, make sure to top yours with the slaw they keep in buckets on the tables.
This restaurant would get along fine if they only served the amazing Thai food that they do, but eating at Farmhouse kitchen is more like a party than a casual weeknight dinner. From the lively staff to the colorful interior to the homemade music videos that play as you eat, it’s hard not to have fun while you’re here. Come here with some friends after work, or to kickoff a fun birthday night in the neighborhood.
It’s tough to make an afternoon hanging out in Dolores Park any better, but finishing the day with some ice cream from Bi Rite could be the best way to cap it off. There’s going to be a line, but it moves pretty quickly and the ice cream justifies the wait. We like peach cobbler if they have it, but the salted caramel and ricanelas are amazing, too. They also have a separate soft-serve window a few steps down the block that serves two rotating flavors at a time.
We’re not saying this is our favorite burrito in town - that’s usually how fights start. But if you’re searching for your favorite burrito in SF, Taqueria El Farolito is never a bad call - we like the carnitas and the al pastor. You can also get quesadillas and nachos, and if you want to try all the meat possibilities, tacos are $3.20 per. FYI - it’s cash only, so come prepared.
Lining up the croissants from Tartine Bakery with any other croissants is like putting Yo-Yo Ma in the middle of a high school band. That’s how much better they are than the pastries you’ll find everywhere else in town. There will most likely be a line anytime after 8:30am, but whenever you go, fill a box up with everything in sight and don’t skip out on the gougeres. If you come for lunch instead, get one of the grilled cheeses. And a croissant.
Sometimes just calling yourself a bakery isn’t enough. Tartine Manufactory, the younger and even more ambitious sibling of Tartine Bakery, is a mecca of baked goods - as well as a random assortment of other delicious things (pasta, coffee, lamb meatballs). It’s also beautifully designed with incredible natural light at most hours of the day. Weekday meals here tend to be very chill, and the weekends have even calmed down a bit since it opened. Definitely get a loaf of bread or five to go while you’re at it.
A many-course tasting menu institution devoted to incredible versions of upscale Mexican food. This is a special-occasion restaurant, and the food is some of the city’s best.
The rare, super low-key breakfast spot in the Mission - if you come early. The bagel operation here is the best in the city, and if you like pastrami with your scrambled eggs, Wise Sons is here for you.
This city has a lot of bakeries, but the great ones set themselves apart by mastering what makes them worth crossing town for. At Craftsman and Wolves, it’s the devil within - a savory sausage and cheese muffin with a soft cooked egg baked inside. Their other pastries are great too, from the kouign-amann to the chocolate croissants, and if you end up there for lunch, the turkey melt is solid.
The menu setup at this place is a little odd - it’s mainly seafood and vegetable-focused and you order meat on the side - but the food is fantastic, the service is friendly, and the atmosphere feels more like you’re in a fancy beach town than San Francisco. Reservations aren’t impossible to get, but booking a few weeks in advance is a wise choice. They also take walk-ins if you’re willing to take a chance.
The Morris is not a place you’re likely to just walk past, as it’s hidden deep in the Mission, but it is a place you should absolutely visit anyway. We love everything on the menu here, from the smoked duck to the donuts, and the wine and cocktails are also wonderful. If we lived nearby (which might entail living at the public radio station, the main landmark closest to this place), we would come here all the time.
Cuban food isn’t exactly all over the place in SF, but it does have an excellent home in the Mission at Media Noche. The tropical space is beautiful, and the food is simple and tasty. The cubanos are awesome, but if you don’t want to eat a sandwich, they do a pretty great kale salad, as well as some quality rice bowls.
Yuzuki might be one of the most underrated restaurants in San Francisco. The immaculate Japanese small plates here will impress you with their careful construction and flavor. Get some yakitori and salmon rice and go from there.
San Francisco is a sandwich mecca. You might be fooled by the city’s dedication to “hiking,” “drinking water,” and other “healthy” things, but we can still appreciate a majestic meat and bread and cheese creation. At brunch, the fried chicken sandwich is the main thing you need to focus on, while the weekday lunch menu has a pretty stellar grain bowl, or roast beef sandwich, to satisfy all your needs.
Flour + Water has crossed over from being a great restaurant to being a city-defining one. When you eat the best pasta in SF, you’ll be mentally comparing it to your last experience here. The restaurant itself is laid back, but still feels like somewhere you’d go for a special occasion, too. Reservations are still tough to get, but you can walk in - showing up at 4:45 on a Tuesday isn’t totally necessary anymore, but there will still be people waiting in line. If you’re serious about pasta, they have a pasta tasting menu as well, but there’s nothing wrong with going a la carte.
If you happen to lack the patience or highly flexible “job” that allows you to be in the above line at 4:45, Barzotto is the much more laid-back option for stellar pasta nearby. Beyond bowls of carbs, there’s a great salad and some good vegetable and meat plates to share, as well as soft serve gelato we think about regularly.
A reasonably-priced, top-caliber Thai spot that you can usually roll into without worry of a wait. The menu is so gigantic that it might take 50 visits to cover it all, so get a head start now.
Not often would we say a restaurant is perfect for every meal for everyone, but Universal might be it. Weekday (Wednesday through Friday) and weekend brunch, plus an excellent, simple dinner menu make this a place we turn to again and again. There will absolutely be a wait on the weekends, but it’s worth it if you have an hour or so to hang out, drink coffee, and stare longingly at people’s beignets and sandwiches before you eat your own.
24th Street is where you go for inexpensive quality, and Torta Gorda delivers extremely high calorie-to-dollar ratios in the form of sandwiches. The “mega cubana” is literally too big to fit in your mouth, so we suggest you downgrade to something more manageable (if your tastes lean vegetarian, perhaps rajas, otherwise some variety of carne).
Perhaps you’ve heard of this place. As the name suggests, it’s in the Mission, hidden in the back of a divey-looking spot, and it does some of the spiciest and best Chinese food in the city. Also great for delivery, if you happen to be interested in eating this food without leaving your home/hacker den/friend’s futon.
Alba Ray’s is the closest you get in SF to feeling like you’re in New Orleans. The Cajun food is great, as is the crowd - which is here for a good time. Come for dinner or brunch, and don’t skip the cocktails.
Yes, you do need a cheese bar in your life. Devote your attention to eating cheese between two slices of bread, in any form. We like the cheddar and chutney, or the gruyere with salami and pickles.
A strong contender for the coolest restaurant building in town. It’s an old-school movie theatre, and the owners keep with the theme by projecting classic movies on the wall of the back patio. The atmosphere is hard to beat, day or night, and the food is strong - get fried chicken at dinner, without question. Even if you come here casually, Foreign Cinema always feels like a special occasion.
With less of a wait than Burma Superstar, Burma Love is our go-to spot for Burmese in a fun atmosphere. Good for groups, good for dates, good for everything. Make sure your order the tea leaf salad.
Taqueria SF is our favorite under-the-radar burrito spot. They take their time and do it right, maybe because they’ve been at it for almost 30 years. We recommend the al pastor.
Expect crowds here on weekends. Which makes sense - quality pasta and cocktails are a good mix. Go for the cacio e pepe.
Beretta is loud, the cocktails are great, and the burrata with honey on walnut bread is a perfect food. There will be a wait, but you and your friends will have a very good time if you stick it out. We’re partial to the small plates over the pizza here.
Bring carnivorous people to eat delicious Argentinian steaks at Lolinda. The high ceilings and pretty bar give it an edge over a lot of the other restaurants around, and the cocktails are great, too.
The Italian restaurant for those who don’t want to venture too far out of their comfort zone. The basics, like spaghetti and roast chicken, are well-executed, and if your major concern is making sure everyone in your group will leave happy, this is a good choice.