San Francisco’s Mission District and I have a love-hate relationship. In the six years I’ve lived in the city, I’ve frequented it for food, fun, and other adventures, yet have always been a bit annoyed by the prevalence of hipsters, hookers, and other hooligans. Recently, I found myself professing my love for the Mission during a culinary walking tour, so it’s decidedly more love than hate. Truth be told the Mission’s a melting pot of flavors, experiences, and adventures that I’ve come to adore. Here are ten places to check out in the Mission (and a map to tens more that I frequent for everything from gifts to good eats).
From my days at CHOW to an episode of foodCrafters, I’ve long sung the praises of Blue Bottle and I still adore their brew. But sometimes variety’s in order and that’s when I head to Four Barrel. Only a fraction of the size of Blue Bottle yet the quality is just as high, I’m especially a fan of the Ethiopian Wollego Leka Wato brew.
It’s a dainty, high-end boutique with pretty much nothing food related, but there are plenty of sweet treats at this Âboutique. From new and vintage housewares antiques to odd and strange tchotchkes and every trip something manages to find its way into my tabletop collection.
Started in 2007 by the BiRite folks as a means to bring the 18th street community together, 18 Reasons brings people together via food and classes. It’s a community center that’s rooted in flavor and whenever I have time, I try to attend one of their educational classes, such as cheese tasting, butchering demos, and preserving workshops.
I’m not really a cookie person but, when I get a craving, I head to Anthony’s. Credit is due to Tanya Melillo who first tipped me off about Anthony’s; I’m a fan of the candied pecan chip and German chocolate cookie and I always grab a few or a dozen whenever I’m in the ‘hood.
An itty bitty-sized kitchen boutique on the edge of the Mission, Pot + Pantry is one of my newest finds. I’ve visited them more frequently online than in-person where I spend probably too much time window shopping through their new and, in their words, gently used kitchenware.
Whenever I’m in need of a stationary fix, I head to Little Otsu, which has everything from handmade cards to journals and locally-crafted gifts.
San Francisco politics find no deeper divide than where your burrito allegiance lies. While I had the Pancho Villa chili verde burrito on a near daily basis when I first moved here, and while I’d go nowhere but El Tonayense for a taco or Taqueria Cancun for a torta, my allegiance lies deeply and strongly with Papalote when it comes to salsa. While at CHOW, we were so into their roasted pumpkin seed salsa that we reverse engineered it , and for me, there’s no better pairing than a carne asada burrito and than sweet, smoky, velvety salsa.
One of the newer and posher additions to the Mission’s vibrant 24th street, I’m drawn to Local because it’s as much of a food-lover’s gathering place (With a cookbook library and food labs) as it is a locally-focused food place with homemade soda and breads from Knead Patisserie.
Thanks to my childhood obsession with Archie comics, I always fantasized about life in the 50s when you could grab an egg cream at the local soda fountain. That became a reality when I first stumbled on this nearly century-old soda fountain on 24th street. For me, it’s all about the malted shake, but there’s a big enough menu that everyone’s sure to find her diner favorite.
Known first and foremost for the original owner’s, Gabriel Maldonado’s pan dulce, La Victoria has been a local gem for over 60 years. These days it’s more of a cross section of local SF food artisans with locally-roasted coffee by De La Paz, empanadas from El Porteno, and treats from Wholeseome Bakery.
Casa Sanchez had me at their thick and crispy chips. They’re my favorite of the Bay Area tortilla chips and their salsas are always fresh and spicy too. Some diehard fans have gone so far as to get a tattoo of the logo — a guy riding an ear of corn — but, if you’re not that committed, you can just order a temporary tattoo with your tamale.
And, yes, I still love the places I’ve covered in the past like Schmidt’s, Monk’s Kettle, BiRite, Mission Chinese, and Delfina, but thought I’d share some of my other faves for a change. For a complete list of places I’m keen on, check out the map below:
View San Francisco Mission District Tour in a larger map
Photo from flickr via ListenMissy!