What used to be a low-key Mexican neighborhood in San Francisco, the Mission District, has undergone a culinary explosion. From innovative Italian to pristine fresh bread, the Mission's offerings have turned the neighborhood into a culinary wonderland. Luckily, it has stayed true to its Latin roots; there's no lack of tacos, classic ceviche, and blood sausage here. But as per usual, the choices can be overwhelming. To help you make the most of your eating day, here's a list of the best bites in the Mission District.
The best of Buenos Aires comes to San Francisco in the guise of this dark and elegant multistoried restaurant. The empanadas are crunchy and steamy and salads feature Argentina's beloved palmitos (hearts of palm). The real focus, however, is the meat. Beautifully charred cuts like flap steak, rib eye and bone-in are on offer, as are chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage) served sizzling on a big sharable plate.
While this intimate Brazilian restaurant may technically be just outside the boundaries of the Mission, its soul lives within it. Abundant bowls of feijoada, the traditional pork and bean stew, make you feel like it's Sunday afternoon at your grandmother's. You can wash it down with Brazilian beer or a wide selection of cachacas. Cod cakes or yucca fries can start off a meal and lead to traditional chicken stews. Live Brazilian music and dancers are also featured.
There’s nothing more Argentine than a tray of empanadas served fresh from the oven. All the better when there's a road map to guide you through the fillings (by crimp of the crust). More than a dozen meat and vegetable stuffed empanadas are on the menu here, including classics like beef with hard-boiled egg and innovative choices like kale with bacon, beets, and almonds. There’s even a breakfast empanada and traditional Argentine medialuna croissants to remind you of your last trip to Buenos Aires.
Tamales have been king at the Roosevelt Tamale Parlor for almost a century, and the neon sign outside has finally been restored to its full glory. Specialties include The Famous Round Tamal, filled with chicken, pork, or cheese and topped with gravy and cheese. Tamale plates can be mixed and matched, and other favorites like carne asada and fajitas are also on the menu. The narrow space is cozy and welcoming.
Venezuela is in the house at Pica Pica: Arepa Kitchen, where arepas rule the roost. Owner Adriana López Vermut comes from a family of restaurant owners and her father is a founder of Venezuela's Slow Food movement in Caracas. Arepa offerings included shredded beef, pulled pork, and grilled chicken. Guests can choose between classic white or sweet yellow masa. Vegetarian ceviche and empanadas are also on offer, and sweet corn crepes, or cachapas, can be filled with everything from beef to pork and tofu.