A guide to Mission restaurants is a daunting prospect. How do we best help you win at the most restaurant-happy neighborhood in town?
Our answer: by trimming the list to only the most worthy and essential places. Every one of these restaurants is unmissable in its own way. Now go forth, and explore them all.
We’re not going to pretend Tartine isn’t fantastic. It is. We’d just suggest you visit at 7:30 or 8am to avoid those horrible lines. Plus, the pastries are at their freshest then anyway. If you happen to be available for a weekday lunch, any and all of the grilled cheese options are what you want.
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 (buffalo milk soft serve, coffee, fried chicken). It also has a beautiful design 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 10-course tasting menu institution devoted to incredible versions of fancy Mexican food. This is a special-occasion restaurant, and the food is among the city’s best.
Tawla is consistently overlooked. It’s on the edge of the Mission, very close to the highway underpass (next to Babu Ji and across the street from Burma Love), and you could easily miss it if you weren’t looking for it. That would be dumb, because the Mediterranean food here is some of the best around. Good for a date, good for a girls’ dinner, good for eating delicious bread and dips with just about anyone you know.
That rare super low-key breakfast in the Mission - if you come early. Pastrami is a fine complement to scrambled eggs, and the bagel operation here is also the best in the city.
Modern art expressed through pastry. Their best ones are of the cubical variety (like the chocolate croissant), and the ones filled with ingredients you weren’t expecting (like the sausage-cheese-onion muffin stuffed with an egg). Besides stellar baked goods, CAW does a solid breakfast sandwich, plus a better-than-you-would-expect grain bowl and turkey melt at lunch.
The Mission can be a little overwhelming, and sometimes you just need a time out. Recharge, eat some lamb and fries, wash it down with some Greek wine and frozen yogurt topped with baklava, and you’ll be back at it. Or ready to take a nap. Both of which are acceptable options. If you want to go a little healthier, the salads here are hearty and very good too.
This is one of the harder tables to get in the city, but if you’re a planner who can remember to jump on a reservation a few weeks out, or are willing to go early or late and can get a spot, go. It’s deep in the Mission, but it’s worth the trip, because the beachy vibe, creative seafood-focused menu, and friendly service make for an awesome meal.
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 American menu here, from the smoked duck to the doughnuts, 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 the most underrated restaurant in San Francisco. The immaculate Japanese small plate preparations 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 our 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 here 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.
Reasonably-priced, top-caliber Thai food that you can usually roll into without worry of a wait.
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 breakfast 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. It’s one of the few (only?) places that was so impressive in San Francisco that they opened one in New York, too. 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.
Of the more popular burrito joints, Cancun is the one we like most. It’s not open as late as El Farolito, nor does it have the (unwarranted) national acclaim of La Taqueria, but it does have something better - an extraordinarily tasty burrito. If you want to induce an immediate nap, get the “burrito mojado,” slathered in guacamole, sour cream, and salsa.
Flour + Water is legendary for a reason: the pasta is unreal, the pizza and vegetable sides are also incredible, and it’s always a good time. If you’re an extremely dedicated carb obsessive, you could wait in line at 4:45 for a pasta tasting here. It isn’t a bad decision, we’ll tell you that. Alternatively, they serve dinner late, so it can be a good option for ending a night out in the Mission.
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 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.
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.
Taqueria SF is our favorite under-the-radar burrito. 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 and Jerusalem artichoke.
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 crew 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.