Mission District Food Tour by an Obsessive Completest

Phil Ventura

My dear friend Phil Ventura has been a favorite dinner guest at my table for years. He’s got an endless appetite! We talk about food while we’re eating it. He took on the daunting task of trying to eat at just about every restaurant in his neighborhood’s radius – The Mission District.  We swoon about dishes we tried together and shared a most memorable late lunch together when we once traveled to NYC and ate offal at one our favorite spots – Casa Mono. Here is more of diary of his eating tour than review.

La Taqueria – This place was my introduction to the mission years ago when Juanita shared it with me.  The chorizo quesadilla is still my favorite thing on the menu, it will leave you completely incapacitated, but it’ll take you to heaven first. No way will there be a bite left in your little plastic basket.  Having eaten at most of the Mission taquerias, of which there are an insane amount, I still rank this one the best, though El Metate will do and El Farolito on 24th and Mission (not the Alabama one!) is really the only option after midnight.

La Santaneca de la Mission – Best pupusas in the mission, hands down. For less than ten bucks you can get a plate of pupusas revueltas with crunchy cabbage topping and tangy red sauce that’ll make your eyes roll back in your head.  I’ve taken many friends here and it never fails to elicit embarrassing food orgasms. The wait staff is sweet and the fried plantains are an awesome cap off to the meal if you aren’t already leaned back with your pants unbuttoned.

Yamo – This place is not known for comfortable seating or excellent service, so don’t expect a second tiny glass of water to go with your food.  That said, everything on the menu is fucking delicious and there is nothing more satisfying than their house noodles with beef when you’ve got an empty stomach. Get a place at the tiny bar, stuff your face with food so tasty you want to cry, then get the hell out.

Pal’s Takeaway – The sandwich situation in the mission is pretty abysmal.  Luckily, there’s this tiny operation inside Tony’s Market on 24th.  It’s only open 3 hours a day and has three sandwiches on offer along with some sides.  The menu changes daily but the food is consistently complex and satisfying with lots of fresh, local ingredients and creative combinations.

Bar Bambino – I eat at fancy restaurants as well.  New ones are popping up constantly in this neighborhood and a lot of them, like Delfina, Farina, Foreign Cinema, Bar Tartine, Commonwealth, Beretta, etc. get talked about a hell of a lot already.  I feel like the only reason Bar Bambino isn’t as chatted up, despite the fact that it’s better than most of those places, is because it’s on a pretty sketchy stretch of 16th street.  It’s the kind of block that makes my relatives worry about my safety when they come to visit.  Still, I’d take the awesome pasta plates at Bambino over Flour+Water or Locanda any day.  And if you’re scared, head there during the day, there’s a cute outdoor area in the back.

Mr. Pollo – I got so freaking excited when I heard this place was finally opening for lunch.  However, you probably want to get there in the evening so you can stare at Manny Torres Gimenez working behind the counter.  He’s a cutie and when you order the 20 dollar (!!!) four course tasting menu, he’ll walk over and talk to you about each dish and how he picked the mushrooms himself while you make your best dreamy face.

Mr. Pollo

Mr. Pollo

El Gallo Giro – Simply put, best taco truck.  Super cheap, massive tacos with delicious, juicy al pastor and carnitas, or lengua if you like that creepy, bumpy shit.  Tons of fresh toppings and a spicy sauce to make your eyes water.

St. Francis Fountain – This is the haven for your hangover.  They seriously have a dish called the chef’s mess which is a mountain of potatoes and bacon with melted cheese.  Even in your deluded, morning-after state, you will not be able to finish this thing.  Most important, it is frequently staffed by some of the cutest boys in the mission.  A definite sight for sore eyes.

Humphry Slocombe – I am not a sweets person.  At all.  Give me a grilled cheese sandwich over a donut any day.  That said, how could I resist an ice cream shop sporting a flavor called Jesus Juice??  It’s red wine and coca cola, and it used to be my favorite until I literally ate a quart of it in one sitting.  Secret Breakfast (cornflakes and bourbon) is now my go to, but there’s always new flavors to make you feel fat.

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