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 consume them all.
We’re not going to pretend Tartine isn’t all that. It is. We’d just suggest you visit at 7:30 or 8am to avoid those horrible lines. Plus, many of the pastries are at their freshest then anyway.
The rare SUPER CHILL breakfast in the Mission, if you come early. And pastrami is a fine complement to scrambled eggs. The bagel operation here is also solid.
Modern art expressed as pastry. You won’t go wrong with something cubical, or something with ingredients you weren’t expecting.
A great open-air restaurant from the minds behind Flour + Water. Central Kitchen serves well-executed pastas and simply cooked meats, but what’s really memorable is the patio. This is actually one of the coolest places to eat brunch in the city, but they only serve it on Sunday. Make it a priority.
People tend to hit Radish for brunch, but we are just as into the lunch menu. The grilled cheese and soup combo is a favorite, since they keep the bread-to-cheese ratio in balance (don’t forget to add the bacon jam), and the burger and po’ boy are solid too. This is an especially key place for dining solo.
A strictly take-out operation, Mission Picnic makes excellent sandwiches that are ideally consumed while sitting in Dolores Park on a sunny afternoon. Our current favorites are the smoked salmon and San Franciscan, and for vegetarians the pesto mozzarella sandwich is on point. If you want to go the salad route, the deluxe cobb is delicious and unhealthy but still technically a “salad.”
24th Street is the move for cheap quality, and Torta Gorda delivers extremely high calorie-to-dollar ratios. The “mega cubana” is literally too big to fit in your mouth, so we might suggest you downgrade to something more manageable (if your tastes lean vegetarian, perhaps rajas, otherwise some variety of carne).
A f*cking cheese bar? Amazing. Devote your eating attention to cheese between two slices of bread. We like cheddar and chutney, or gruyere, salami, and pickles.
They’re called MISSION burritos for a reason. Taqueria SF is our favorite for the under-the-radar hole-in-the-wall experience. They take their time, and do it right. We recommend the al pastor.
Of the more popular burrito joints, Cancun is by far our favorite. 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 a truly gut-busting meal, get the “burrito mojado,” slathered in guac, sour cream, and salsa, Mexican-flag style.
The most corporate of our burrito picks. Papalote feels like it was almost Chipotle, but never quite got there. It’s probably for the best, though, because the quality here is much higher. Though chicken burritos are usually really boring, this one is a standout.
The most underrated restaurant in town. Immaculate Japanese preparations will blow your mind with their careful construction and flavor. Get some yakitori and salmon rice.
Bar Tartine is king among SF restaurants in risk-taking (see: experimental fermentation, breads made from “sprouted seeds”), and most of the experiments work. This isn’t a place to take someone who has four different food allergies or only eats cheese pizza, but for those with a more adventurous spirit, it’s wonderful. Brunch is a good play too.
This is one of the harder tables to get in the city right now, but if you’re an OpenTable pro or willing to go early or late and can get a reservation at Al’s Place, GO. It’s deep in the Mission but the beachy vibe, creative menu, and friendly service make for an awesome meal.
It’s unusual and refreshing to find a large (i.e. not impossible to get into) restaurant with tasty, inventive Thai food and fun tiki drinks. It’s a great place for groups, and a pro birthday move. There aren’t many places like Hawker Fare in town, so hold it close to the vest.
On the other side of the spectrum…you could wait in line at 4:45 for a pasta tasting. It ain’t a bad decision, we’ll tell you that.
A strong contender (perhaps the favorite) 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 kills it, day or night, and the food is strong — go fried chicken at dinner, without question.
Bring your strongest #MEEEEEATS game and get down with a lot of 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 worth your time as well.
With less of a wait than Burma Superstar, Burma Love is a relatively new go-to spot for Burmese in a fun atmosphere that doesn’t have “takeout operation” written all over it. Good for groups, good for dates, good for everything.
Any chain that commits itself to reasonably-priced, top-caliber Thai food has a warm place in our hearts. Lers Ros in the Mission is also a go-to because you can usually roll in without worry of a wait.
Beretta is loud, the cocktails are great, and the burrata with honey on walnut bread is straight-up perfection. There will be a wait, but you and your crew will have a very good time. We tend to be partial to the small plates over the pizza here.
The Italian restaurant for those who don’t want to venture too far out of their comfort zone. The basics (spaghetti, roast chicken), are well-executed, and if your major concern is making sure everyone will leave happy, this is a good choice.
Bright and buzzy and always a good time. We love Lolo and everything it has to offer. Get the fried brussels sprouts, tuna taco, ceviche, lamb sliders… actually, just get everything.
A capital-S scene on weekends. Makes sense — quality pasta and cocktails are a good mix. We vote Cacio e Pepe and Jerusalem artichoke.