Follow Me Foodie to The Mission District in San Francisco!
The Mission: Tacos… in The Mission.
It would be a waste to miss out on Mexican food in San Francisco. Being from Vancouver, BC where Mexican and Latin food is limited, I look forward to it every time I’m in the US. Even in Seattle there is often better and more authentic Mexican food than what I can get in Vancouver. So when it was time for Follow Me Foodie to San Francisco, Mexican food was on the map.
It might sound unusual to explore Mexican food outside of Mexico, but San Francisco and the Bay Area is known for some of “the best” Mexican food in North America. Most of the Mexican and Latin eateries are located in The Mission District of San Francisco, so I set aside a day to explore it. If I lived there I would explore it more in depth, but given my limited time, I had to be selective.
In terms of the food scene, part of the area is widely known for its many restaurants and especially for their Mexican and Latin eateries. Mexican and Central American immigrants settled here in the 1940-1960’s and they introduced the neighbourhood to authentic Mexican and Latin flavours. Nowadays the district has changed and The Mission has become one of the young, hot, hip, “hipster”, and happening food scenes in San Francisco.
The issue of gentrification is apparent and debated, but it is a lively neighbourhood with eclectic culture and vibe. Some argue The Mission has lost its identity in the deconstruction and reconstruction of the area, but as a tourist it was harder to relate and sympathize. I appreciated it for what it is now although it is a shame I can not really compare it to what it once was. It has deeply rooted history, but the Mexican and Latin representation and food scene is still strong.
The restaurants that have opened in the last 5 or so years, as well as the ones that are currently opening, are more trendy, stylized and sometimes upscale. It is a whole new audience and food scene. The food culture in The Mission is growing, albeit a different direction from the original, and I would take the time to experience all aspects of it.
This article maps out the four areas of The Mission and gives a nice summary. “Generally speaking, the 24th Street area is the culturally rich heart of the Mission, the stretch from Dolores Street through to Valencia Street is young and upscale, the area around 16th and Valencia streets hops with nightlife and the industrial area near Bryant Street has some hip, trendy restaurants.” (SFGate)
I could easily spend a few days just exploring taquerias, pupuserias, bakeries or “the newcomers”. I had enough time to do two of the four (pupusas will have to wait until next time, and there are way too many new places to try) and I still scratched the surface. The Mission is a must visit for any food enthusiast visiting San Francisco and it is a good taste of what is to come on the West Coast.
Follow Me Foodie to Tacos & Mexican Food in The Mission!
First off, there is a lot more to Mexican food than tacos and burritos, but I had to narrow my focus. Not having a taco in The Mission would be like skipping a croissant in Paris, so I committed to tacos on this occasion. As I mentioned above, the area is full of Mexican and Latin eateries and they can not be compared. If I had time I would have tried them both, but I also had the Tasting Menu at benu that evening so pacing was key.
The photo above was taken at La Taqueria and it could not be more true. A taco sounds like a simple thing, equivalent to the American sandwich or hot dog, but there are things to consider when “judging” them. Sure, in the end it comes down to whether or not it tasted good and whether or not you liked it, but if you’re serious about your tacos than you won’t let the little things slide. These little details can set apart a good taco from an amazing one that’s worth going back for and recommending.
This San Francisco Chronicle article from Bill Addison sums it up better than I can. Note the name. You don’t have to be Mexican to know Mexican food, you just have to be familiar with it. I had to mention that because it really bothers me when people say “I have a ____ friend, so he would know if it was good ____ food”. Anyway, food is personal and based on experience.
Addison tried 300 tacos and 100 burritos in ten weeks to find “the best” in the Bay Area, so I kind of trust his opinion. What to look for in a taco and burrito still holds merit, but so much has changed in the taco scene since 2006 that his picks would likely need an update. He is now the food editor and restaurant critic for Atlanta Magazine.
I, on the other hand, didn’t have the same luxury to do the same (not sure if indulging in 300 tacos and 100 burritos is a “luxury”, but I would do it in the name of research), however I did try two places…
To be continued…
… sneak peek…
Carnitas Taco el Dorato or what Taco Bell calls a “Gordita”, but it’s not.