One of the coolest parts of our trip to San Francisco was our visit to the Mission neighborhood, which I can only describe as resembling a barely gentrified Bowery: dirty, edgy, exciting, colorful, alive, with terrific food happening all over the place. Above was a vendor’s display of Mexican wrestling masks (I’m still a little peeved that Tim talked me out of buying a Nacho Libre mask for Conor; how great would it have been to see him running around the house wearing one of those and just his underoos? Although he probably would give his grandmother a heart attack).
Our very first stop was to the infamous La Taqueria. It was not a native who directed us to go there but my buddy Leslie–she told me it was always the first place she went directly from the airport. The place was packed, although apparently there’s a lot of debate among the locals over whether they’re burritos are supremo…all I have to say is that the people of San Fran are clearly spoiled if they can debate which of their awesome burritos is more awesome than the other. If I cloned and opened La Taqueria in New Jersey I’d be wealthy and significantly rounder in the midsection. We had two crispy tacos and a burrito filled with carne asada and everything. Basically the best Mexican food I’ve ever had outside of Mexico. It was even worth the $75 ticket we got for parking in a loading zone (does anyone have a cousin in the San Francisco parking department?).
Afterwards we took another recommendation from the fine people of Chronicle Books–who are based in San Fran and publish the most beautifully designed books–and walked to Humphrey Slocombe (is this name a dirty riddle?) for ice cream made with organic dairy. Tim thought the flavors were too out there, but he’s still in the dog house about the mask, I loved the flavors…
I had three scoops: Eton Mess with strawberries, Vietnamese coffee (my fave) and pistachio brittle. Amazing. And Chronicle has published their recipe book if you want to make their ice cream at home!
Next we stopped in at Wise Sons Deli, which is a hipster mediation on the Jewish delis which are ironically (and sadly) disappearing from their native land of NYC. I can only really think of a handful of authentic Jewish delis still in our area, but I love the Wise Sons incarnation: fresh baked challah, they smoke their own meats, they pickle their own vegetables, they even have a dish called pastrami cheese fries: french fries topped with pastrami, swiss bechamel, caramelized onions, russian dressing and pickles. Ridiculous.
My only disappointment was Tartine Bakery. Going there was meant to be a highlight of my trip,I absolutely adore their cookbook and owner’s aspirational stories about waking up at dawn to go surfing and then bake bread, or how to make your own yeast starter (two things I have yet to do but hey, you never know). Sometimes when you finally get to visit a place you’ve idolized for so long, it can never live up to the dream. The bread doesn’t come out until after 4 so I was too early. I thought the vibe would be surfer zen meets French country village patisserie, but it was more frantic airport food court meets after school bake sale. However, the banana tea cake–which I’ve made at home–was everything I hoped.
At one point we stumbled upon Clarion Alley (kind of like the one in Harry Potter! What’s that called??). Looking down the narrow pedestrian street, it appeared to be a graffiti gallery. I tried to convince Tim that the colorful murals were not a trap to lure tourists into dark passageways. He didn’t believe me, but then we saw a Scandinavian looking family with a stroller up ahead and we figured how dangerous could it be (we’d be faster than them). I’m so happy that we went down–the graffiti art was unbelievable.
My other favorite stop was the bookstore Dog Eared Books. I literally cannot walk past a small book shop in a new town without going in. I feel like you fall in love with a neighborhood when you hang out in its indie book shop. They also had a great selection of food magazines and journals.
And lastly was this delicious pina colada at Wo Hing General Store that tasted of frosty lime, pineapple, and coconut and I swear was served in a glass that my grandparents used to have…