Dave and I have been lucky enough to be regular visitors to the great city of San Francisco, CA. In our visits, we usually lean toward being near the water. But on our most recent visit, I created a Pinterest board of new places that I wanted to try. Through that process, I noticed that some of the better casual restaurants of the city were located in the Mission District.
The Mission District is located in the Central part of the city with the main thoroughfare being Mission Street. Known for the mission buildings that still stand today, the area has been a home for a diverse population that has brought their delicious food into the community. Probably most famous for the mission burrito, the area is melting pot of culture and cuisine. Bodegas share the street with boutique shops, young professionals mix with the Latin American community, and street art adorns corners across from upscale restaurants.
Taqueria El Farolito
Buzzfeed named their burrito the best in the country and Esquire Magazine called it a “life-changing burrito.” Here is a little from that article: “The original El Farolito opened in 1982 at the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. It’s a self-proclaimed hole in the wall, with no frills and no pretensions to being anything but a quality spot for great Mexican food. El Farolito stays open late, and on many nights, the line will snake past the jukebox blaring Mexican music, spilling outdoors. According to one manager, El Farolito becomes a Mission District afterparty spot once the clock strikes midnight. “A lot of people, young and old, come here to get a burrito after the bar,” he says. El Farolito is noisy, lively, and friendly, and they dish out burritos made in endless combinations. But there’s “no fancy presentation — it’s just a burrito wrapped in aluminum foil. We might not be the best place for a first date.” Unless your significant other is awesome.” (Esquire Magazine)
With hype like that, it was going to be a challenge to meet that expectation. It was a VERY good burrito, but I would not call it a great burrito. I would like to do a taste test challenge with some of the other well-known taquerias in the area, but I think that Texas has some mighty fine burritos too. Still, there is a history and a charm to the experience that was worth the stop.
A San Francisco bakery featuring breads by Chad Robertson and pastries by Elisabeth Prueitt, the gluten glory of this establishment means that you wait in a line for your treat. Everyday they churn out more than 200 loaves that sell out, and the baker who started it all is known as the Master of Flour with people reserving loaves days in advance. He has a book for sale at the store which describes the elaborate process that leads to the “best bread ever eaten” (Vogue). But it was not the bread that called to us on this visit. After a long flight and walking with backpacks, we had our eye on the sweet treats and a coffee pick-me-up. The coffee was served in a bowl-like vessel and the chocolate chip cookie was the biggest that I have ever seen. We were food crawling to a few stops, so it was just a sample of the fare, but everything looked good there. The ambiance looks like a Pinterest image that I would add to my “Style” board – and looks nothing like how I live. For a moment in Tartine, I was in a place where bread and sugar are good and my imaginary style felt at home.
Here is a little tip that I learned a while ago: give your husband something to have patience for. Dave did not want a burrito, nor did he want a sandwich, but he did want coffee and a good beer. So, I made sure to sprinkle in a little Monk’s Kettle into our crawl. Known as a gastropub, our visit was not about the food but the beer list. With a variety of rare options, it was not a cheap stop for us but the menu is fascinating for craft beer lovers and the food looked amazing (though we were still full from the burrito and cookie). I believe that I originally came across a mention in a Thrillist article about the best beer bars in the city. It was the perfect stop to refuel my sweetie, so that he would follow me to our last stop.
This little place has a cult following that has led to locations across the city and even delivery service. It is the sandwich that everyone loves. Honestly, I was really not that hungry, but I wanted one to-go so we could experience the taste bud magic. The line was a little daunting, and the menu was even more overwhelming. I understand that they have a secret menu of 50 options not on the menu wall, and then special variations are described on flyers and line the walls as you wait. With sandwich titles like the “Super Lesbian,” “Fat Bastard,” “Menage A-tois,” and “Stupid Eggplant Sandwich,” I needed a little help with my order and introduced myself as a sandwich virgin to the cashier. She helped us choose original bread and a spicy chicken option that we got to go, and the secret sauce was a must she said. There is no good seating at the Mission location, so getting it to-go was much easier. The small space was crowded and there was nowhere comfortable to stand, but the people-watching was interesting. We got a cab ride and checked into our hotel room… but when we finally got to experience our first Ike’s Sandwich, I totally got it. There is a unique flavor to the bread and “Ike’s Dirty Secret Sauce” that is like crack to the mouth. Month’s later, I still drool about it. We will be back.