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Sunchoke curry with halibut at Al's Place
Photograph: Courtesy Al's Place Sunchoke curry with halibut at Al's Place

The best restaurants in the Mission

From Mexican to Italian to reimagined Chinese, there’s a Mission District restaurant to satisfy every craving.

By Lauren Sheber

San Francisco’s Mission district is an undisputed culinary hub, generously dotted with restaurants. The fare ranges from beloved hole-in-the-wall taquerias to Michelin-starred spots spinning up haute Californian dishes. Whether you’re seeking authentic Mexican, old-school Italian, unpretentious French, or nouveau Chinese food, there’s a Mission restaurant to satisfy every craving.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to The Mission, San Francisco

Mission district restaurants

La Taqueria
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/John L. 

1. La Taqueria

Restaurants Mexican Mission

Owned by Miguel Jara for nearly 50 years, this modest Mission taqueria has rightfully earned national acclaim. Jara opened the spot in 1973 serving simple, authentic recipes cribbed from his mother and tasting tours across Mexico. La Taqueria has since been named a “classic” American restaurant by the James Beard Foundation, as well as the best burrito-maker in America by FiveThirtyEight. It’s known for quintessential Mission-style burritos, expertly rolled by Jara’s staff of longtime employees. That infamous concoction consists of pinto beans, meat, salsa, monterey jack cheese, and avocado, all smothered in hot sauce and bundled into a fresh flour tortilla. (No rice; that’s just filler that detracts from the meat, according to Jara.) The carnitas, which are slow-cooked for hours with orange, garlic, and salt, are the way to go. Regulars know to order their burrito dorado-style: seared on the grill for a crispy, golden-brown finish.

Tea smoked eel at Mission Chinese
Photograph: Yelp/Michelle T.

2. Mission Chinese Food

Restaurants Chinese Mission Dolores

Mission Chinese is easy to miss: look for the Lung Shan Restaurant awning overhead. The decor may be dated—wood paneling, red lighting, old posters, and a silk dragon snaking overhead—but the bold translations of traditional Chinese food are undeniably modern. Chef Danny Bowien opened the Sichuan-fusion concept in 2011 to immediate acclaim; he later decamped to New York to launch a second outpost. The dishes are tongue-tingling and flavor-packed, including thrice-cooked bacon and rice cakes (served with sweet tofu skin and bitter melon); matcha and ginger scallion noodles; sour chili chicken;  and kung pao pastrami, a meaty mash-up of home fries, peanuts, peppers, and onions. Beat the line by ordering to-go—the spot does brisk takeout business.

Photograph: Eric Wolfinger/OpenKitchenPhotography

3. Delfina

Restaurants Italian Mission Dolores

Delfina has been a neighborhood mainstay since before the Mission was cool. Owners Anne and Craig Stoll set up shop in 1998, offering fresh, unfussy Italian fare in an upscale setting. The decor is minimalist, with wood accents and industrial fixtures; all the better for people-watching out the wrap-around windows facing Valencia Street. Delfina is known for its pasta, including the classic spaghetti, made with plump plum tomatoes and deftly spiced with pepperoncinis, and the tripe alla fiorentina. Heartier dishes include grilled fish, roast chicken, and wood-grilled steak. The pizzeria next door offers pie combinations carbonara with guanciale, pecorino, scallions, black pepper, and a runny farm egg.

Lazy Bear
Photograph: Courtesy Lazy bear

4. Lazy Bear

Restaurants Contemporary American Mission

Lazy Bear began a decade ago as a super-serious supper club in the home of David Barzelay; today it’s morphed into a Michelin-starred, ticketed affair where seats often sell out a month in advance. Modeled after those original in-home affairs, diners are first invited to mingle in the restaurant’s loungey mezzanine for cocktail hour. Then they’re seated at two long, communal dining tables for a 3-hour, 14-course dinner while a crew of chefs slave away just across the open space.  Everyone in the restaurant is served at once. The eclectic menu is set every night—and frequently changes according to the chefs’ whims. Splurge for the beverage pairing (another $100 on top of the nearly $200 tasting menu), which consists of seven or eight drinks spaced out over the course of the meal, spanning wine, beer, and cocktails. Having a hard time snagging a dinner party ticket? Barzelay announced the opening of an a la carte spin-off, the Lazy Bear Den, in late 2018. That menu skews more casual, including snacks, skewers, and cocktail-friendly bites.

Al's Place
Photograph Courtesy Al's Place/Molly DeCoudreaux Photography

5. Al's Place

Restaurants Californian Mission

Chef-owner Aaron London is a Sonoma native, and it shows in his farm-fresh, NorCal-centric food. The restaurant itself is pristine, with high ceilings, white walls and tile, and a smattering of potted in the windows. The menu is divided into “snackles” (small apps), cold dishes, and hot dishes. London previously worked at high-end spots like Daniel and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and he adopted the same reverence for produce. Case in point: The “eat-with-your-hands” salad of baby lettuces, herbed avocado, and pistachio. The lettuce is delivered weekly from Blue Dane Garden in Grass Valley still potted in soil, then picked right before serving. Cold dishes might include cured trout or a a chilled green bean casserole served with burrata, tomato, and pickled padrons. Hot dishes are often fruit- and vegetable-focused, like a stone fruit curry with black lime-cod or goat’s milk grits served with shelling beans, grapes, and mushrooms.

Photograph: Aubrie Pick Photography

6. LoLó

Restaurants Mexican Mission

Entering Lolo feels like taking a vibrant detour into the markets of Mexico. The lively atmosphere matches the eye-popping decor, which includes wild floral wallpaper, neon paint, found-object light fixtures, and a generous smattering of kitsch. The cuisine is “Jaliscan-Californian inspired”—that means ceviche, fish tacos, empanadas, tostadas, and more—drawing on chef Jorge Martínez’s Mexican roots. (He and his wife, Lorena Zertuche, originally opened a pair of restaurants in Guadalajara before settling in the Bay Area.) Snag a seat at the bar to watch dishes being composed in the open kitchen.

The Morris
Photograph: Yelp/Tiffany P

7. The Morris

Restaurants American Mission

This 48-seat bistro serves upscale comfort food in an unpretentious setting. Owned by Paul Einbund, formerly the beverage director at Frances, the menu is inventive and a little fun, featuring items like a Chartreuse slushy, fried pork cracklins served with honey and cayenne, beef striploin with blue cheese and avocado, and buckwheat doughnuts dunked in a whisky creme anglaise. If you’re hungry, consider the smoked duck, which can be ordered whole ($120) or halved ($60).

Flour + Water
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/J. Annie Wang

8. Flour + Water

Restaurants Mission

Chef Thomas McNaughton’s longtime Italian restaurant melds Italian and Californian influences into a seasonal, ingredient-driven menu. The Neapolitan-style pizzas are baked in a wood fired oven—try the salumi pie, which is topped with Mission fig, speck, caramelized onion, gorgonzola, rosemary, and arugula. But the real draw is the pasta, which is house-made and changes daily. Splurge on the pasta tasting menu ($75), which spans a half-dozen varieties and can be ordered classic or vegetarian-style.

Photograph: Yelp/Chad S.

9. Californios

Restaurants Mexican Mission

This Michelin-starred Mexican spot is sleek, but unfussy, from the mirrored, unmarked facade to the neon art in the restroom. With its black walls, low lighting, and vibrant art, the decor matches the food: splurgy and surprising. Slip into the leather banquette or snag aspot at the bar for a view of the open kitchen. Chef Val Cantu’s decadent, 16-course tasting menu changes seasonal—expect heart-stoppingly rich dishes like lobster tacos, wagyu steak, and foie gras-garnished churros. The beverage pairing, which typically includes wine, beer, and cider.

Foreign Cinema
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Dave Whelan

10. Foreign Cinema

Restaurants Californian Mission

Though it’s been a Mission standby for nearly two decades, it remains one of the most stunning restaurants in town. The seasonal California fare is sourced from farms in Bolinas, Sebastopol, Healdsburg, and Olema, complemented by an impressive 2,000-bottle wine list. Inside, you’ll find an elegant expanse of marble, stone, and exposed beams under 18-foot ceilings. But the real draw is the outdoor patio, warmed by heat lamps and twinkling with string lights. The “cinema” comes in the form of the huge projector screen, where classic and contemporary movies play nightly.

Soft serve ice cream at Tartine Manufactory
Photograph: Ana Kamin

11. Tartine Manufactory

Restaurants Bakeries Mission

If you’ve only been to Manufactory for the line-out-the-door brunch, you’re missing out. The dinner menu consists of upscale comfort food, from roast chicken and fresh pasta to deftly dressed veggies and a daily-baked array of breads. Designed by architect Charles Hemminger—the aesthetic genius also behind Progress, Cala, and State Bird Provisions—the wood-on-white space is somehow both chic and calming. Giant orb paper lanterns glow overhead, glinting off the white Heath tiles and Doug fir beams.


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