The Mission District is San Francisco’s premiere dining destination (though Hayes Valley is hot on its tail), with restaurants to satisfy every craving. Truly, we could go through an endless food tour of this sunny neighborhood, but when we narrow it down, these are the seven restaurants that consistently deliver great food and outstanding service.
Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
Family-owned and operated, Californios serves a 16-course tasting menu of elevated and re-imagined Mexican cuisine. For many it will only feel vaguely reminiscent of what they think of as Mexican food, but in way that surprises and delights (as evidenced by its two Michelin stars). The tiny 22-seat space is dark and luxurious and the service is consistently impeccable – reassuring, since you’ll be spending around $200 per person (with optional beverage pairings for an additional cost). A spot at the seven-seat chef’s counter provides a view into the open kitchen and is the best place for those who like to watch the action. However, these coveted seats are hard to come by, so plan ahead or put your name on the waitlist to be alerted when a spot opens up.
Delfina has been delighting Mission diners with its Cal-Italian cuisine for over 20 years and shows no signs of slowing down. The restaurant has an informal, friendly neighborhood feel, yet draws people from all over the Bay Area, which means that getting reservations at prime dining times can be tricky. The menu item that can’t be missed is their classic spaghetti dish, featuring plum tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and pepperoncini. It sounds simple, but it has a cult following in the Mission – it’s truly that good.
Foreign Cinema is a brunch staple in San Francisco for people looking to celebrate a special occasion with oysters, caviar and champagne in the heated courtyard, or just for anyone who had the savvy to make a reservation ahead of time. It’s always packed on the weekend, so you need to book in order to get your fill of the slow-cooked, brown-sugar-smoked bacon or the housemade ‘Pop Tarts.’ Though the California-Mediterranean restaurant certainly shines during brunch, it’s also a romantic spot for dinner where the aforementioned oysters can be followed by a cheese fondue, housemade clam linguini and grilled Kobe bistro sake.
Before all the fancy restaurants came to the neighborhood, the Mission was a food destination for one big reason: Mission-style burritos. Though there will always be fierce debate about which is the best taqueria in San Francisco, there’s no denying that La Taqueria is a must-visit for their unique, rice-free burritos. It’s a controversial move for some, but leaving out the starch allows for more room to stuff the burrito with their incredible fillings – perfectly seasoned carne asada, pinto beans that have been boiled and then fried, a slice of Monterey jack cheese, avocado, salsa, and hot sauce. Ask for it ‘dorado’ and they’ll sear both sides and make it crispy.
Lazy Bear is one of the hottest high-end tickets in the Mission district, providing a dinner party-esque experience. The luxurious night starts with drinks, ‘snacks,’ and mingling in the living room-inspired mezzanine, then diners are led downstairs and seated at one of two communal tables. There, the 15+ courses are explained by the chef responsible for creating the magic. The food is modern American and the menu is based on season and ingredients, which means the dishes are constantly changing. For those not looking for a full meal, the Lazy Bear Den has a late-night experience in the mezzanine where guests can enjoy the extraordinary wine list, cocktails, and an affordable menu of wine-friendly snacks and bites.
This charming neighborhood restaurant is the place to go when you’re craving great food and exceptional wine. Highlights on the food menu (which is full of hearty and nourishing dishes with a focus on using the whole animal) are the dumplings, signature duck that has been brined, aged, smoked, and then roasted, and the buckwheat doughnuts for dessert. The Morris has cocktails, but the wine list, curated by founder/owner and sommelier Paul Einbund, is the highlight. Let him help you choose a glass or bottle, as his wit, charm and knowledge make the dining experience that much more enjoyable.
You could easily walk into Tartine Manufactory for breakfast and happily stay until well after dinner. The 5,000-square-foot industrial space includes a bakery, coffee shop, bar, restaurant, and even an ice cream shop. During the day, the high-windowed space fills with light and runs as a counter service operation; at night, the restaurant turns into a full-service business with an option to make a reservation. The menus for each meal are extensive. Think egg sandwiches and smoked salmon tartines at breakfast, salads, soups, and flatbread sandwiches at lunch, and irresistible pastas at dinner. The housemade bread and pastries (including the famous morning bun) are available all day until sold out, and there are also grab-and-go options for those on the move.