Whether you have a whole day to spare or just a couple of hours, a self-guided food tour of the Mission district in San Francisco is a great way to get to know this neighborhood and its diversity while tasting a variety of great dishes.
Mission and Valencia streets are the two parallel main streets that run through the neighborhood and dictates its character. Alternating from one to the other lets you glimpse, if only just superficially, of the extremities and uniqueness of this area. It’s a hotly debated subject among the resident of SF every time the term gentrification is mentioned. Still, you can’t ignore it here as one street pretty much preserved the way it used to be, and the next changed almost beyond recognition. Can you guess which is which?
- How to do this food tour?
- Combine with a Mural tour
- The Stops
- Print & Take With You
- What else?
How to do this food tour?
How to take this tour is completely up to you. I do suggest walking with at least one other person so that you can share the food. That way, you will be able to try and taste more. You can take the full route or pick and choose the stops that intrigue you, taste the dish I recommend, or try something else you feel excited about. Think about splitting this tour into two tours – 15th st – 21st st in one visit and 24th st in another visit. At each stop, share something to eat and move on. It can be just a quick lunch or a snack, a couple of hours walk, a full day of exploration, or multiple visits. Whichever way you choose to go would do you justice.
Combine with a Mural tour
While exploring the streets, enjoy the vibe and spirit of this neighborhood, try to notice the contrast between Mission st and Valencia st, and what seems like different points in time. I also recommend combining this tour with Mural spotting around the Mission, which would be nice in-between bites. I added a Google Map with the tour route and Murals points of interest and some extra restaurants and nightlife recommendations. Check out the details on the map for what you should get in each spot.
Try the pork pupusa. It’s a cornmeal dough filled with cheese and slow-cooked pork, pan-fried until crispy outside and soft and a bit chewy inside. There are red salsa and lightly pickled cabbage on the table to accompany the pupusa.
Duc Loi Supermarket
Family-run market supplies a broad range of traditional Asian grocery items & Vietnamese deli fare. Order an Authentic Banh Mi and maybe a nice Cold Vietnamese Coffee.
Get their Mac & Cheese, Grilled Cheese, or the 3 cheese flight with a glass of wine.
Stop here and fill your nose with the thick chocolate smell, the place is a mini chocolate factory, and there’s always some tasting of their raw chocolate. You might want to try a European style hot chocolate. It’s a liquid cup of bittersweet chocolate, and you can add a homemade marshmallow on top.
If there’s no long line here, you’re in luck. Try one of their great boba drinks. We tried a coconut green milk tea with tapioca pearls and almond jelly at a 50% sweet level (the perfect balance and not overwhelmingly sweet). There are other branches of Boba Guys, but I believe this was the original.
Xanath Ice Cream
If you’re a fan of using a true vanilla pod, a stop here is absolutely a must. Stock up on vanilla beans by the pound (there’s also great extract). While you’re at it, you should try their vanilla ice cream. They have Mexican vanilla or Tahitian vanilla, which are made with a huge amount of vanilla beans using the full pods– it’s intense.
Try a traditional Mangonada if you never had one. The mangonada is a staple in Mexican communities. Usually consist of Mango Sorbet (here it’s made in house), chamoy—a savory condiment made from pickled stone fruit, lime, and Tajín, a lime-flavored chili powder. The cup is topped with fresh diced mango and a tamarind paste-wrapped straw that’s rolled in chili powder. Sweet, tart, and savory, this dessert is very refreshing. You can also find it in street festivals around the mission and sometimes sold by street vendors.
Smitten Ice Cream
A great alternative to Xanath (see stop above). This ice cream place has already opened several branches in the city and rightly so – this is an excellent and fresh ice cream made on the spot using liquid nitrogen in machines specially developed for them. Warning: Everything here is delicious. But a warm recommendation for one of their permanent flavors: chocolate. I am not a fan of chocolate ice cream, but this one managed to convince even me.
Sun Fat Seafood Co
Great variety of fish and shellfish, good prices. Check out the live oyster selection and pick a dozen to take home. My personal favorites are the Kusshi Oysters.
Taqueria El Farolito
So many taquerias in the area, but this one is my personal favorite. You should order the Super Burrito. Then choose which meat filling to go with it. My favorite here is either Beef tongue (Lengua) or Veal Cheek (Cabeza), but others love their steak (carne asada) or marinated pork (El Pastor). For myself, I ask to skip the rice (takes up room in there), and I request my beans refried. This is a huge portion so if you’re not comfortable sharing a lava-like concoction, go with the quesadilla, which is easier to share. Don’t forget the chips and salsas to snack on while you wait. Cash only.
If you need a good coffee break in this tour, there are numerous coffee shops in this route, but if you hadn’t tired Phil’s yet, this is their first original branch, and it’s a truly Californian experience. You can take it as a good or a bad thing, but the bottom line is that they make you feel uncomfortable and drink coffee with mint. Order the Mint Mojito coffee and give in to their vibe for the best results. Warning: probably not for you if you’re a coffee control freak.
It’s a small fish shop with some food to eat on the go. Get a plate of Sashimi (Hamachi or swordfish preferred) or a Hawaiian Style Creamy Poke and have a nice fresh and light snack to get you going to the next station.
Belmar – La Gallinita Meat Market
The family business of over 40 years in the Mission. Try their Cecina taquito- Salted beef a signature dish here. Also, on the weekends, you may find Suadero taquito available, which is worth tasting.
La Palma Mexicatessen
Mission icon La Palma Mexicatessen has been a one-stop-shop for Mexican and Central American foods for more than 60 years, but what they’re perhaps best known for are their freshly made tortillas and huaraches. A good stop to buy some specialties to take home. Try their Blue corn Huaraches, made of masa, and are stuffed with cactus, black beans, cheese, and/or meat and topped with salsa, avocado, and queso fresco.
Print & Take With You
|Stop Name||Address and Contact|
|1||Panchita’s #2 Restaurant||3091 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 +1 415-431-4232|
|2||Duc Loi Supermarket||2200 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 www.ducloimarket.com +1 415-551-1772|
|3||Mission Cheese||736 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110 missioncheese.net +1 415-553-8667|
|4||Dandelion Chocolate||740 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110 www.dandelionchocolate.com +1 415-349-0942|
|5||Boba Guys Mission||3491 19th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 bobaguys.com +1 415-967-2622|
|6||Fiestabowls||2290 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 +1 415-814-3351|
|7||Xanath Ice Cream||951 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110 +1 415-648-8996|
|8||Smitten Ice Cream||904 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110 www.smittenicecream.com +1 415-636-9852|
|9||Sun Fat Seafood Co||2687 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 +1 415-282-9339|
|10||Taquería El Farolito||2779 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110 elfarolitosf.com +1 415-824-7877|
|11||Philz Coffee||3101 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 www.philzcoffee.com +1 415-875-9370|
|12||Basa Seafood Express||3064 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 www.basaseafoodexpressca.com +1 415-550-2388|
|13||La Gallinita Meat Market Mexicatessn||2989 24th St #4133, San Francisco, CA 94110 +1 415-826-4600|
|14||La Palma Mexicatessen||2884 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110 www.lapalmasf.com +1 415-647-1500|
There’s so much more to do in the Mission. The next thing on my to-do list is write a Taco Crawl Food Tour, because there’s just too much to try in one visit. Plan ahead and check which stores and restaurants are open now for sit-down or for takeout only.
For best results, download the embedded map to your Google Maps app and take it with you, to help you navigate and have all the information in one place.
On the map, you’ll find all the tour stops, a murals tour that works great in combination with all this food, more restaurant recommendations if you’re staying for more than a day, and some of our favorite nightlife on the Mission.
What’s your favorite spot in the Mission, and what’s the must-try item there? Share in the comment and I’ll try to check it out and add it to the Mission Food Tour #2!