With its rich Hispanic history, this 'hood's culinary scene certainly excels at burritos and authentic tacos, but it's hardly limited to them. So whether it's boozy brunch, casual street food, fancy cocktails, or small-batch brews, The Mission's got it, as well as a laid-back style and gritty charm sure to please even the most discerning of dot-com transplants' palates.
Editors Note: Our picks for The Mission proper are between 16th and 26th, because there's just too much choice -- sorry Outer Mission folks, we're saving all things south of Cesar Chavez, El Rio, and such, for another time.
Best for a group: Southern Pacific Brewing
620 Treat Ave
Massive and bright, it's got kind of a Whole Foods vibe: industrial, yet inviting. The long, tea light-bedecked wooden tables will easily fit you and 12 of your closest friends, where you can drink brewed-on-site beers and consume pounds of tossed-in-garlic sage fries with Aleppo sauce.
Best hipster hotspot: Mission Chinese
2234 Mission St
A novelty amid the numerous burrito joints in the area, this kitschy, creative Chinese place draws exactly the crowd you think it might. Get to know your neighbor at the communal table over spicy Thrice Cooked Bacon, or a bowl of Braised Pea Leaf and Pumpkin Soup.
Best tacos for under $3: Taqueria Vallarta
3033 24th St
Fresh, cheap, fast, and DIY. Pick your meat, add some fixin's, and top with a few pickled carrots for good measure. It's easily one of the best tacos in SF.
Best date: Urban Putt
1096 South Van Ness Ave
The small, 21-and-up course was funded through a Kickstarter campaign, and delivered on its promise of 14 tricked-out holes made from kinetic sculptures, robots, and San Franciscan tributes. Get there early for drinks (no booze on the course) so you're loose for those trick shots. If your Tinder date is a dud, no worries, games only take about an hour.
Best late-night burrito: El Farolito
2779 Mission St
There are plenty of burrito joints in this 'hood, but there's truly no better post-bar snack than a fat, consistently perfect Super Burrito with carne asada. Have half before bed and the other half as a recovery breakfast, or just eat it all right there while listening to the jukebox tunes.
Best for a special occasion: Bar Tartine
561 Valencia St
This may be on the bucket list of every self-proclaimed “foodie” in SF, but unlike “foodies,” the Asian-, Eastern European-, and Middle Eastern-influenced eats here elude labels. Expect plenty of house-made pickles and preserves, and although the menu changes with the seasons, the welcoming, rustic, and refined space remains constant.
Best hangout: Lone Palm
3394 22nd St
With white tablecloths, candlelight, classic cocktails, and Goldfish bar snacks to keep it real, it’s a low-key lounge without the dirty-dive vibe.
Best Peruvian: Limón Rotisserie
524 Valencia St
So you should get small plates of Pulpo a la Parilla -- grilled octopus, chimichurri, mashed potatoes, in aji amarillo pimento chardonnay sauce -- and Truffle Mac & Cheese (this is a share plate kind of place, after all), but the flame-roasted rotisserie chicken with aji dipping sauce is obligatory.
Best ice cream: Bi-Rite Creamery
3692 18th St
Follow the velvet ropes and winding lines to hand-made seasonal and organic small batches of the cold stuff. Creme Brulee and Honey Lavender are my staples.
Best boozy brunch: The Sycamore
2140 Mission St
Chorizo Benedict, people. Shredded quality cuts of pork are richly flavored with red spices, stuffed into sausage, cooked, re-shredded, and served under an egg on top of an English muffin with hollandaise sauce. Paired with bottomless mimosas and patio seating, you’ve got yourself a real nice little afternoon.
Best rooftop bar: El Techo de Lolinda
2518 Mission St
For a quintessential San Francisco experience, perch up here to watch the fog roll over the city. With a view this striking, the menu is an afterthought, but it shouldn’t be. A pitcher of La Paloma -- tequila, grapefruit, agave, lime, and soda -- is the move.
Best dancing: Make Out Room
3225 22nd St
Saliva swapping is not required, but is totally encouraged. The tinsel decor is charming, like a quinceañera hosted inside a discotheque. Music is usually Latin but, depending on the day, you'll hear anything from live ragatón to '80s throwbacks.
Best cocktail bar: Trick Dog
3010 20th St
Nominated for James Beard's hoity toity Outstanding Bar Program, its cocktails are so hot right now that there's even a limited edition bow tie collection named after the drinks: The Tasty Ties Trick Dog Collection. Twice a year the menu completely changes, and revolves around seemingly random themes like Chinese horoscopes and the Pantone color wheel. It's one of the 30 best bars in the country.
Best fried chicken for breakfast: The Vestry
777 Valencia St
Nothing soaks up last night's indiscretions like fried chicken and a few biscuits generously smeared with smoked jalapeño and bell pepper jelly! This surprisingly classy joint, in a former funeral home no less, is part of the historic music venue The Chapel, which means late dinners are available for show-goers as well. Side note: hit the patio on sunny days!
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Allison Murray is an SF-based writer and creator who loves to explore the unknown. Follow her on Instagram.
1. Southern Pacific Brewing620 Treat Ave, San Francisco
2. Mission Chinese Food2234 Mission St, San Francisco
3. Taqueria Vallarta3033 24th St, San Francisco
4. Urban Putt1096 S Van Ness Ave, San Francisco
5. El Farolito2779 Mission St, San Francisco
6. Bar Tartine561 Valencia St, San Francisco
7. Lone Palm3394 22nd St, San Francisco
8. Limón Rotisserie524 Valencia St, San Francisco
9. Bi-Rite Creamery3692 18th St, San Francisco
10. The Sycamore2140 Mission St, San Francisco
11. Pizzeria Delfina3611 18th St, San Francisco
12. El Techo de Lolinda2518 Mission St, San Francisco
13. Make Out Room3225 22nd St, San Francisco
14. Trick Dog3010 20th St, San Francisco
15. The Vestry777 Valencia St, San Francisco
We love Southern Pacific Brewing because you can sit outside in the sun while sipping your beer. However, if you have a backyard that’s even better for beer-sipping and sun-sitting, you can get a 2L growler and take it to go filled with one of the six house beers for the price of a pitcher ($11-$21). The only catch is you’ll have to buy one of their growlers, which will set you back $7.
Though Danny Bowien's since expanded with two NYC locations, the original SF Mission Chinese, which he opened inside a rundown Chinese restaurant in 2000, started it all. The creative Mission eatery takes an interesting spin on classic Chinese dishes. You’ll find the usual suspects like Mongolian long beans, ma po tofu, and sesame chicken, but the real showstoppers are his fun spins on classics. Kung pao pastrami, thrice-cooked bacon and rice cakes, and kung pao burritos are far from forgettable.
One of a handful of locations, this Mexican spot doles out some seriously tasty tacos and more, and if you want to sample their specialty, order the cochinita pibil, a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish of Mayan origin.
This maze of genius design features an unbelievable, realistic mini-golf course that's also an accurate portrayal of the city, as well as delicious eats like fried olives and chicken thighs, smoked pork sausage pizza, and boozy drinks served in adult sippy cups.
Figuring out which taqueria to go to in the MIssion can be tough, but you can’t go wrong with El Farolito, one of the neighborhood's OG burrito havens, which happens to also be within perfect stumbling distance of numerous bars and the 24th Street BART. The super burrito is where it’s at, with a hefty dose of rice, beans, salsa, guac, sour cream, and whatever delicious meat you choose (carne asada is a good call).
Bar Tartine sports a 15,000lb bread oven that churns out delicacies like a goat cheese melt alongside smoked potato salad, eggplant & white bean hummus. And, of course, the bar itself offers a selection of house-made cocktails, wine, and beer.
Candlelight, classic cocktails and white tablecloths, Lone Palm is a low-key lounge without the dirty dive vibe. And they have Goldfish bar snacks to keep things really real.
The menu at Martin Castillo's Limón Rotisserie is filled with a variety of small plates and, of course, flame-roasted rotisserie chicken (which you will order with a side of aji dipping sauce). And you should also probably get small plates of pulpo a la parilla -- grilled octopus, chimichurri, mashed potatoes, in aji amarillo pimento chardonnay sauce -- and truffle mac and cheese (this is a share plate kind of place, after all).
It's universally acknowledged among San Franciscans that Bi-Rite's ice cream is worth waiting for, which is why there is almost always -- at least on sunny weekend afternoons and summer evenings -- a line out the door. Owned and operated by two Bay Area natives, this popular Mission haunt makes small-batch ice cream in true artisanal flavors like honey lavender, orange cardamom, and the house specialty: salted caramel. The scoops are small, so your best bet is to order a double or a triple of whatever's on the seasonal menu.
The Sycamore is a Mission dive bar and day drinking destination. The bottomless mimosa brunch is $8 with an order of food, all of which is a) cheap, b) really good. There are four kinds of sliders and eggs Benedict, and the Maker's Mark bourbon-glazed pork belly donuts define sweet and salty goodness. An outdoor patio, board games, and free Wi-Fi make the Sycamore the kind of chill place you want to hang out at all weekend long.
A classy Mission Italian joint that specializes in dishing out a good slice, from their "Cherry Pie" with marinated cherry tomatoes, basil, and ricotta salata to their Clam Pie with cherrystones, tomato, oregano, pecorino, and hot peppers.
El Techo, the more casual version of the downstairs Argentinean steakhouse Lolinda, serves Latin American street food and pitchers of margaritas. You’re gonna want to get the chicharrones de carne, which come in half pound, one pound, or one and a half pound orders (in other words, you'll need to come with friends). These aren’t your basic sidewalk cracklin's -- these are massive fried chunks of roasted pork shoulder that you’ll devour with housemade tortillas, lime, salsa, and escabeche meant to be enjoyed alongside one of the best rooftop views San Francisco has to offer.
With the best dancing in The Mission, the Make Out Room has something for everyone. While most evenings lean towards more Latin tunes, depending on the night you'll hear anything from live ragatón to 80's throwbacks. And the charming tinsel decor makes the room feel like a quinceañera hosted inside a discotheque.
Brought to you by The Bon Vivants, Trick Dog in The Mission's a marble- and steel-adorned cocktailery serving drinks from a Pantone-inspired menu with names from favorite song titles, along with bar bites like beer nuts, pickles, and cracklins.
Under the same roof as the historic music venue, The Chapel, you can find an equally historic bar and restaurant in a former funeral parlor where you can stop for a burger before the show, grab a cocktail after, or claim a seat on the heated patio for brunch. Important note on said brunch: fried chicken with biscuits smothered in pepper jelly and bottomless mimosas are involved.